霞女之旅

Xia's Journey

Torture-bration on Mount Kinabalu ~ Summit Climb & Descend

on December 19, 2013

<<< Cont’d from Torture-bration on Mount Kinabalu ~ Ascend

Getting ready for Summit Climb

I struggled to pull myself out of bed at 1.30am reluctantly.

Many of my dorm mates were popping Panadols and Aspirins.

I could now understand why some of my friends did not manage to continue with the summit climb on the second day.

Getting to the accommodations at 3000+m was already a party popper because with those hours of trekking on the first day, fatigue, cramps, blisters and altitude sickness had set in and by the second day, the body is now a wasted piece of meat.

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It was agonising to pull myself out of bed at 1.30am. Whole body was aching… Fatigue, cramps, blisters and altitude sickness had started to set in.

Supper / Light Breakfast

At 2am in the morning, we had supper as they called it, with bread and hot beverages ~ only coffee and tea though.

They didn’t have Milo and luckily, I brought some.

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Last chance to carbo load before the summit climb. Brought my own Milo and had a piping hot one to warm up the body before the climb.

All Geared Up

I was all geared up in a thermal top, a long sleeve T-shirt and a light-weight down jacket.

I wore a pair of tights underneath my waterproof fleece pants and donned on two pairs of thick socks.

With a beanie, headlight and waterproof ski gloves, I was all ready to scale the 4095.2m mountain.

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Super Kiasu with; Thermal top, a long sleeve T-shirt, a light-weight down jacket, a pair of tights underneath my waterproof fleece pants, two pairs of thick socks, a beanie, headlight, a pair of waterproof ski gloves and my waterproof Goretex Merrell trekking shoes.

Summit Climb

Looking up, the entire sky was adorned with bright glistering stars. It was breath-taking.

Groups of climbers had already started their summit climb and there was a long queue in front and behind me.

Although I had my headlights on, it was still a challenge as I fiddled my way around in the darkness, battling the strong cold winds, climbed up the steps, crossed streams and at certain points, we had to wait in line for our turn as the path was small and narrow.

I was exhilarated when I came to the end of the steps, but I didn’t know the worse was yet to come!

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Fiddling my way around in the darkness, battling the strong cold winds, climbed up the steps and crossed streams.

300m of ‘Death Stretch’

We reached this 300m stretch where we needed to hold on to the ropes and walk sideways like a crab.

There was only about one feet wide walkway and right beneath our feet was the edge of the cliff.

When I looked down I could see the street lights near the mountain.

We were literally at the brim of death!

One momentary loss of concentration and it’ll send you tumbling down the mountain, and at that time, nobody would be able to save you – not your teammates, not your mountain guide.

< See Spectraoflife.com for more pics too >

Crab Walking

I did not have any images of the 300m ‘death stretch’. Image from spectraoflife.com – Imagine holding this rope and walking when it is pitch dark at 3am in the morning. If you refer to the video at the end of this blog post, its at the 2:30 to 2:50 segment. That snippet would give you a better idea of the 300m ‘Death Stretch’. Look at the worried face at 2:50. Haahaaha… : D

It was one’s own vigilance to keep you alive.

Never have I come so close to death. Many of my friends who had never been on it felt that it was very much exaggerated, but that was exactly how I felt!

And I knew I was NOT the only one that felt this way after a chatting session with my dorm mates.

If you refer to the video at the end of this blog post, its at the 2:30 to 2:50 segment.

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To be alert and vigilant even when it was pitch dark.

After that stretch of heart-stopping 300m, it was uphill with more steps and ropes.

Lots of arm strength is needed in this climb as you would need to hold on to the ropes to pull yourself up the slopes.

Upon reaching Sayat Sayat Hut, we had to present our climbing pass for registration.

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Finally reached Sayat Sayat Hut ~ the 7km mark.

Thereafter, it was very much ‘walking’ upslope on ‘flat’ ground.

It was relatively ‘easier’ as compared to the earlier part of the climb.This was the 8km mark where many would stop after seeing the climb to the summit.

The climb to the summit was about 100m but it was steep and fraught with difficulties.

It was more tempting to give up then to go on.

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The summit is so near, but yet so far… Walking upslope on ‘flat’ ground, this was very much ‘easier’ as compared to the earlier part of the climb. This is the 8km mark where many would stop after seeing the climb to the summit.

However, considering that I had struggled 7 hours uphill the previous day and started out at 2.30am that morning, I decided not to give up without a last fight.

I went on all fours, climbed up the rocks, pull myself up with the ropes and managed to get to the summit at 6.45am!

13 R1

Went on all fours, climbed up the rocks, pull myself up with the ropes and managed to get to the summit at 6.45am !

Boy… Was I so proud of myself for achieving this… I’ve reached the Million Dollar signage…!!

And as Sir Edmund Percival Hillary, the first man up on Mount Everest so aptly puts it, “It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.”

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F I N A L L Y got to the summit… But the sun had already risen by the time I struggled up at 6.45am.

Getting up the summit was half the battle won, getting down was another. It didn’t even occur to me how would I get down after I went up. Perhaps, I didn’t even want to think about it. Many of the natives were ‘hopping’ from stones to stones to get down. I didn’t know how they did it, but I went down carefully, slowly and surely.

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I’ve gotten to the summit, now, how do I get down ? Haahaa… : p

I arrived at the bottom of the summit and started to make my way back to Sayat Sayat Hut. I needed to reach Sayat Sayat Hut before 8am to be able to do the Via Ferrata activity. I tried to quicken my steps and arrived Sayat Sayat Hut at 7.59am! Everyone else had already geared up and was on the way out. I quickly donned on the safety harness and helmet to catch up with the rest of the team.

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Suppose to reach Sayat Sayat Hut before 8am but yet still have time to sit down and take pictures…?? Wahahaha…. ; p

Abseiling down the Mountain

It was a short stretch of walk until we came to a segment where we had to ‘abseil’ down the mountain.

OMG…. It didn’t look that frightening when we trekked up in the dark, but now that I saw it in daylight, my legs went jelly.

We do not have any safety harness to attach to the rope and we were just holding on the rope to abseil down with our bare hands.

Just behind us was the cliff and it would be free fall all the way down.

Ohh Goshh… Pak, one of the Jurong JC guys commented that this was the first time he had so little confidence in his arms. It was indeed…!! Because one slip of the arm could cost you a leg or your life.

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‘Abseiling’ down the mountain. OMG…!! (Picture derived from Google Image Bank).

The ‘crab-walking’ segment and this ‘abseiling’ segment were the two most frightening segments in the entire trek. If you could get past these two segments with ease, the rest of the trek would be just a breeze. Personally, I would not recommend those who are afraid of heights to do the summit climb, especially so with these two segments.

Via Ferrata Walk the Torq activity

Since I was the last to arrive at Sayat Sayat Hut, the Via Ferrata Walk the Torq trainer walked me through the abseiling segment.

He advised that the Via Ferrata Walk the Torq activity would be even steeper and more arduous than the abseiling segment that I had just completed.

Judging from the short walk that we had, he reckon that I would take 3 to 4 hours to complete the Via Ferrata Walk the Torq activity.

From past experiences, some of whom who did the activity ended the task at 1pm and by the time they descend, they were too exhausted and ended up walking down the mountain in the dark, cold night and arriving the gates at midnight or wee hours in the morning.

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The Via Ferrata activity trainer reckoned that I would need 3 to 4 hours to complete the Via Ferrata activity. He gauged that my dorm mates would return at 10.30am. My dorm mates walked through our doors at 10.35am…!! Goshh… Thankfully, I did not insist on doing the Via Ferrata activity. I shudder to think that I would need 3 to 4 hours to complete the Via Ferrata activity.

Although I had paid (RM$300) for the activity and had very much wanted to do so, my rationale told me that I should Not.

I had spent 6 hours getting to the summit and down (slightly past Sayat Sayat Hut only).

If I were to spend another 4 hours on the Via Ferrata Walk the Torq activity, I might get too worn out to descend and may spend up to 8 or 10 hours doing the descend.

In all, I may very well have trekked 20 hours within the same day!

I did not think I was able to push my body beyond the limits and decided to let it go.

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From Pendant Hut, we saw our dorm mates on the Panar Laban rock face doing the Via Ferrata activity. At that point, all 4 of us agreed that we made the right decision by forgoing the activity.

It was one of the rare decisions that I had no regrets making.

My advise is that unless one is physically VERY FIT, one should not attempt to do the summit climb, the Via Ferrata and the descend within the same day.

It should preferably be extended to a 3 days 2 nights package with the climb on Day 1, the summit climb and Via Ferrata activity on Day 2 and then the descend on Day 3.

That would allow the body to recuperate and rejuvenate some cells before stretching the muscles again.

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A Via Ferrata image derived from Google Image Bank.

I got back to Pendant Hut at 9.45am and met three of my dorm mates from the Jurong Junior College group.

3 of them had pulled out from the Via Ferrata activity as well and we started sharing our experiences.

I soon realized that I was not the only one who felt that way. We began forming our small little ‘support group’.

Have a look at the below video from YouTube to have a better idea of the Via Ferrata activity. I am glad I did not insist to go on it. I would most probably be peeing in my pants !

18

A Via Ferrata image derived from Google Image Bank. The 4 of us really had no regrets that we did not do it.


The Descend via Timpohon Trail 

I started my descend at 11.15am.

Less than one hour into the descend, my ankle bones were heavily blistered from my 6 month old Merrell trekking shoes. It was extremely excruciating.

My soles were sore from the gravel and stones which had given intense foot reflexology to my feet.

My toes sting with every single step I take as they help to control my equilibrium when going downhill.

Contrary to what I had imagined, my thighs, knees and calves were the least in pain as compared to the soles of my feet.

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Met this porter on my way down. Can you imagine the load he was carrying.

Unlike Mersilau trail with a wide variety of ‘obstacles’, Timpohon trail was very much steps, steps and more steps.

It was relatively much easier as compared to Mersilau trail.

In terms of difficulty level, personally, I would rate Mersilau trail a 7/10 and Timpohon trail a 3/10. But of course, this is only based on my personal judgement and fitness level.

There was no lunch provided during my descend but thankfully I had two energy bars to help me get by.

I was scheduled to have Tea Break at the restaurant near the Kinabalu Headquarters, but as I had exceeded the time required, there goes my Tea Break… 😦

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Timpohon trail was very much steps, steps and more steps.

Counting down every single shelter, my battered soles managed to drag my body to arrive Timpohon Gate at 5.30pm, just before nightfall. I am so proud of myself!

By now, I could no longer feel my feet. They had been numbed from the pain. My only wish was to get to the hotel as quickly as possible and hang up my feet.

Donny (from Horizon Borneo) has been waiting outside the gates since noon.

As we were leaving the mountain, it began to storm (not drizzle, not rain, but storm!).

I was thankful that I got out of the mountain just minutes before the downpour.

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Saw this Carson waterfall on my last lap just before arriving the Timpohon Gate.

I shudder to imagine that if I had insisted to go on the Via Ferrata activity, I would still be navigating my way down at this juncture, in the cold, in the dark, in the storm!

We stopped by at a petrol kiosk for a toilet break whilst I grabbed some snacks and cup noodles for dinner.

Every single energy has been sapped from my body and the last thing I wanted to do was to walk down the streets to grab dinner.

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Managed to achieve my target by arriving Timpohon Gate at 5.30pm, just before nightfall. Battered Soles to a Better Soul… : D

Report Card

(A) Ascend via Mersilau trail to Pendant Hut : 9am to 4.15pm (7 hours 15mins)

(B) Summit Climb from Pendant Hut : 2.30am to 6.45am (4 hours 15mins)

(B) Descend to Pendant Hut : 7am to 9.45am (2 hours 45 mins)

(C) Descend via Timpohon Trail : 11.15am to 5.30pm (6 hours 15 mins)

TOTAL : 20 HOURS 30 MINUTES

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Took me 20 hours 30 mins to complete the entire climb.

Steps Collage R4

Report Card of 20 hours and 30 mins climb.

After Thoughts

Many times during the summit climb (on the second day), I didn’t think I could make it to the summit and worse, I didn’t think I could make it back alive!

It may sound exaggerated (as tons of others had done it), but that was exactly how I felt!

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Didn’t think I could make it back alive, but I did…!!

Abseiling down the mountain with no safety harnesses and holding on to the ropes and walking sideways like a crab with only one feet wide walkway, one momentary loss of concentration will send one tumbling down the mountain.

It was free fall. Nobody could save you, not your team mates, not your mountain guide… It was one’s own vigilance to keep alive.

Many times, it was more tempting to give up than to proceed on, but since I have come this far, I decided not to give up without a last fight and persevered on.

After getting to the summit and down and trekking at the brim of death, I can’t help but resonate with Sir Edmund Percival Hillary, the first man up on Mount Everest who so aptly puts it, “It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.”

At the end of the day, you will soon realize that the battered soles had turn you into a better soul !

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Mersilau Trail is very much a more difficult trail as compared to Timpohon trail. Hence, they even award climbers using this trail with a Certificate. (Sorry, no special cert for climbers using the Timpohon Trail… Heh heh hehh…)

Tips for the Climb

Needs :-

– Waterproof Trekking shoes with good grip. My soles burnt like hell after 2 days of climb. Some sites commented that the mountain guides uses Kampung Adidas and that was the way to go. My mountain guide was wearing a pair of Kampung Adidas too, but do consider that he’s so well seasoned with the ground that he could be wearing any type of shoes and not have any issues. I was wearing a pair of good Merrell trekking shoes with thick soles but yet my soles were excruciating. Certain parts of the climb would require you to cross over streams or waters. A waterproof pair of shoes will serve you well.

– Dry Fit apparels for the climb on first day and when descending. I was soaked to the skin with the Dry Fit apparels, cannot imagine if not.

– Ponchos for wet weather. Dry season on Mount Kinabalu : Feb to Apr, Aug & Sep. Wet season on Mount Kinabalu :  May to Jul & Nov to Jan.

– Isotonic water or sachets of Hydration salts. There is a tap at every shelter to fill up clean drinking water. Bring sachets of Hydration salts if you would want to reduce baggage weight.

– Energy Bars / Bananas for that extra boost. Trust me, you’ll need them!

Needs for Summit Climb at 2.30AM :-

– Thermal and lightweight waterproof ‘winter wear’ for summit climb on second day.

– Waterproof gloves as you would need to grab the wet handrails and ropes in the wee hours during the summit climb.

– Headlight is a MUST as you need to free up both your hands to hold on to ropes during the summit climb.

– Beanie to keep the head and ears warm.

– Masks to keep the nose warm and to prevent dripping.

– Heat packs if you prefer additional warmth. Better to be warmer than colder.

– At least 1 litre of water despite that it is cold and chilly in the morning when you climb.

– Energy Bars to keep you going (especially when descending from summit to accommodation).

– Cap and sunshades to block out the glaring sun when descending from summit to accommodation.

General Tips :-

– Bring / Buy a trekking pole from the office (RM 5) for additional help.

– Store excess baggage at Kinabalu Park HQ at a nominal fee of RM 10 per piece prior to climb.

– Do not attempt to do sunrise, Via Ferrata activities, descend and catching a flight on the same day unless you are physically VERY FIT and confident that you will be able to do so with ease.

– Depends on fitness level of individuals, start training early ~ 4 to 6 months before the climb.

– Train on outdoor rugged terrains; i.e. Bukit Timah Hill at least two times a week, climbing the hill at least three times each session.

Lastly, be vigilant, keep safe and have fun whilst you can. Do not be afraid to fail, be afraid of not trying. All the best. Hope this blog post was able to provide you with some insights into the climb  🙂

Here’s a good 4 minutes summarised Youtube video on the climb up Mount Kinabalu.

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3 responses to “Torture-bration on Mount Kinabalu ~ Summit Climb & Descend

  1. Hi Xia,

    Congrats on completing the climb! I am sure you will feel a sense of accomplishment and effort is worth well spent on the countless training!

    And yup, I do remember all those scary climb moments. To me is not that scary in the dark as you can’t see anything! But when it is morning when you climb down, the view is magnificent yet equally scary. You might be also wondering how you managed to climb up in the first place! haha

    Nontheless, good job! so any planning for other mountain climbing/trekking? 🙂 haha

    • xia says:

      Hi Spectra of Life ;

      Thanks lots for popping by… It was indeed scary and surreal that I managed to conquer my fears. In the dark, it was scary cos’ we couldn’t see how high we were. In the morning, it was scary x 1000 cos we saw how steep and how high we had gone…!! My goshhh…. I really did wondered how I managed to get up there and if I really did get up there with my own efforts in the first place. Haahaa… 🙂

      Hmmm…. After the KK climb, I think I’ll put off all other mountain climbing / trekking for the time being till I’m ‘fully recovered’ from the ‘trauma’ of the climb. Haahaa…

      Yourself ? Any climbs coming up ? 🙂

  2. […] Torture-bration on Mount Kinabalu ~ Summit Climb & Descend Christmas Sleigh to Tanjung Balau » Dec […]

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