Mount Kinabalu (Part
31, 1995 23:52
13:46 Mount Kinabalu National Park, Sabah-Malaysia ::
29 MAR 95
Mount Kinabalu is, at 4,101 meters and rising (at a rate of 5mm
annually), the highest peak in SE Asia (Thailand to Guam). As a matter
of fact, it's taller than Mt. Garibaldi, the highest peak in the vicinity
of Whistler. But Kinabalu has no glacier -- ice forms infrequently even
at the peak, the brochures don't say anything about snow -- and you can
hike up it in running shoes and a warm jacket at any time of year.
The hike requires two days, though there are cabins, huts and
restaurants-and electricity!-within an a couple hours of the peak. It
takes approximately 6 hours to reach the cabins from the ranger station.
You spend the night in the cabins and then wake up early for a pre-dawn
'assault' on the peak in order to catch the sunrise. The view is supposed
to include all of Sabah and extend to Kalimantan (Indonesia) and the Philippines.
The clouds start rolling in by 10AM daily, so the stay at the top isn't
We arrived here at 10:00 this morning with the intention of climbing
the first stage. As I sit here on the base hostel's verandah, watching
the mist rising out of the rain pummeled forest, I'm thinking I'm quite
glad not to be half way up the mountain. With luck, and a 7:30 AM start
tomorrow, we may acquire the high camps before the seemingly inevitable
afternoon rain. (It's rained pretty much every afternoon for the past
week.) This is important since neither of us deemed it necessary to pack
appropriate rain gear.
I think I'll bring the Toshiba up (wrapped in plastic, mind you)
just so I can whip it out at the peak. Speaking of the Toshiba, there's
an advert in last week's Newsweek for the T1200CT. This may be my next
notebook computer: 16-bit sound, double-speed CD-ROM, stacked PCMCIA type
II and III slots (insert up to 2 type II or 1 type III card). Apparently
there are video capture PCMCIA cards on the market. Last July several
people wondered whether I'd be transmitting 'electronic postcards'. Well,
the technology to do so is finally here, but I don't even want to know
what the price is. Still, I will have a look around for that video capture
21:37 New Hostel; Mount Kinabalu National Park, Sabah-Malaysia
:: 29 MAR 95
There are two hostels at the base of Kinabalu, with perhaps 150
beds between them. In the old hostel there is one guest, in a room all
to himself though last night that room was full to capacity with 8 inhabitants.
None of the other rooms were occupied. Tonight we are billeted in the
same way, with 6 other guests in an otherwise empty hostel. I don't have
a problem with this, except for the inevitable snoring person in the bunk
next to mine. <sigh>
Tomorrow should prove to be an interesting day. At 7:00AM we'll
meet with our climbing companions for breakfast. (You must hire
a local guide to climb Kinabalu-park regulations-and sharing a guide with
others is more cost effective.) Bart is a half-Chinese Dutchman and the
two English debutantes are Anne & Marie. Bart's been traveling these
past eight months all over Asia. Anne's parents live in Brunei and Marie's
just out for a visit. They flew into Kota Kinabalu and spent the last
couple nights at the Hilton partying with the flight crew. One of Anne's
questions this evening: "Have either of you ever climbed a mountain?"
Neither of them has but they've already written friends with the news
that they would "attempt" to climb Kinabalu. They've elected
to do it in real 'mountaineering' fashion. That is, they've hired a porter
to carry their gear. Should be very interesting.
17:21 Gunting Lagadan Hut (3,352.7 m); Mount Kinabalu,
Sabah-Malaysia :: 30 MAR 95
- Departure from the Power Station (1,829 m): 8:20 AM
- Arrival Gunting Lagadan (3,353 m): 1:45 PM
- Elapsed Time: 5.5 hrs
- Distance traveled: 6km. Rate: 1.091 km/hr
- Vertical rise: 1524 m. Rate: 277.091 m/hr
- Pack weight: Too damn heavy!
- Condition upon arrival: totally expended.
If I remembered any of my trig, I'd tell you what the average
degree slope was. It's about 1 unit rise to 4 units run making it approximately,
ummmm, 11 degrees? It felt MUCH steeper, and in sections certainly was.
Thankfully, a restaurant awaited us with hot Milo (chocolate
malt drink) and hot food.
Oh, how did the debutantes fair? They wisely packed very lightly,
one pack between the two of them definitely under 10 kilos, probably under
5. By the end we all seemed equally expended, possibly except for Bart
who recently spent 8 weeks trekking the Himalayas, he was only fairly
well exhausted. On the other hand, Bart had been experiencing some dizzy
spells as we neared the huts, probably brought on by minor oxygen deprivation
due to the mixture of exertion and altitude.
The morning began at 6AM, cool, bright and sunny with a fantastic
view of the peak from our Hostel. By 6:45 we were breakfasting, waiting
for the others to arrive. By 7:30 we were going through the scads of paperwork
required to make the climb: park entrance fee; accommodation arrangements
for the hut; disability/accident insurance for climbers; RM11.70 apiece
for the guide; list of gear stored at base. As is normal for this country,
each item listed represents paperwork in triplicate. This process was
not completed until 8:15 when we boarded the van that would take the five
of us and our guide 4 kilometers up the road to the Power Station.
The hike began, easily enough, on a downslope for the first few
hundred meters. We all knew this situation wouldn't last but I'm not sure
any of us were prepared for just how steep the climb would be. Cool as
it was, even at this lower elevation, I was sweating buckets within minutes.
And I sweated profusely all the way to the hut even as temperatures grew
cooler and cooler.
Still, it was a great climb with some fantastic views, until
the clouds started rolling in at about 10AM. Soon, we were shrouded in
mist as we ascended through changing patterns of flora. From rainforest,
to conifer and oak, to stands of thin, spindly bamboo, then to increasingly
diminutive, scraggly, warped high elevation trees until reaching Gunting
Lagadan, at the edge of the treeline.
Early on in the trip, Bart asked our guide to point out pitcher
plants along the way and he gladly showed us about a dozen or so, some
with bowls the size of George Foreman's fist, others delicate and smaller
than his thumb. A pitcher plant grows specialized leaves that form vessels
with flip up lids. The bowls fill with moisture and the plant adds something
sweet to convince insects it's a cool place to be. It's deadly and the
pitcher plant leeches nutrients from the insects that inevitably become
trapped in the bowl.
20:12 Gunting Lagadan Hut (3,352.7 m); Mount Kinabalu,
Sabah - Malaysia :: 30 MAR 95
Tomorrow we meet at 2:30, that's AM, drink some coffee and shake
the cobwebs out. Then at 3AM, in the pitch blackness of the night, we
and our torches begin the 'assault' on the final 850 m or so remaining
to the summit. Madness? Surely. But it's the only way to be there for
sunrise between 5:30 and 6 AM. If this evening's spectacular sunset is
any indication of the sunrise, it'll be well worth the stumbling in the
How do you describe a sunset? Everyone is familiar with the vivid
oranges, maroons, reds and violets, these offset by the charcoal grey
of the clouds and the washed-out-sky hue that trails up into neon blues.
But how many have seen a sunset from 3000 meters? The sky falls away from
you so the colours begin from below and reach up above. The ocean, a two
hour drive away, reflects the sky colour so that shoreline and cloud become
indistinguishable. Kinabalu is by far the tallest peak in the region and
what once seemed mountains from below are now diminutive hills channeling
the streamers of thick white mist that run between them. It is the thunderheads
that loom high while below the rain falls as a white veil backlit in orange
that colours hills, shore and low cloud that lie behind. The shoulder
of Kinabalu lies in the foreground, silhouetted against the sunset sky.
Along this crest sprouts a line of stunted, scraggly trees that thin to
barren rock in the altitude. It is a sunset like none I've ever seen.
It's on tape, but video is inadequate to the task.
9:27 Laban Rata (3,300 m); Mount Kinabalu, Sabah-Malaysia
:: 31 MAR 95
- Departure from the Laban Rata (3,300 m): 3:00 AM
- Arrival Low's Peak (4,101 m): 5:45 AM
- Elapsed Time: 2.75 hrs
- Distance traveled: 2.8 km. Rate: 1.018 km/hr
- Vertical rise: 801 m. Rate: 291.273 m/hr
- Pack weight: Much better - just the camcorder and camera gear.
- Condition upon arrival: expended and Frigid.
Time at the peak: 35 minutes.
- Departure from the Low's Peak (4,101 m): 6:20 AM
- Arrival Gunting Labadan (3,352.7 m): 8:00 AM
- Elapsed Time: 1.66 hrs
- Distance traveled: 2.7 km. Rate: 1.627 km/hr
- Vertical descent: 748.3 m. Rate: 450.783 m/hr
- Pack weight: As above.
- Condition upon arrival: Tired and wobbly legged.
23:20 Holidays Hotel; Kota Kinabalu, Sabah-Malaysia ::
31 MAR 95
- Departure from the Laban Rata (3,300 m): 10:05 AM
- Arrival at the Power Station (1,829 m): 1:25 AM
- Elapsed Time: 3.5 hrs
- Distance traveled: 5.9 km. Rate: 1.686 km/hr
- Vertical descent: 1471 m. Rate: 420.286 m/hr
- Pack weight: Loaded up with Toshiba and power supplies, first-aid
kit, etc. etc. etc.
- Condition upon arrival: Completely spent.
The short of it is, we all made it to the peak, commented on
how satisfying it was to do so (proving to ourselves the worthiness of
the hardship), scrambled, plodded and stumbled our way to the bottom wondering
if ever we'd reach it.
I'll fill this out a bit later, but right now there's this IDD
phone line in the room just waiting to transmit whatever I've got.
Continued in Part II
Patrick. -- Responses Sought --
If you compare the City with the Forest, you may begin
to wonder why it's man who goes around classifying himself as The