Mount Kinabalu climbing experience, part 3
When they turned the lights out I knew right away I wouldn’t fall asleep. First, I was cold. Actually, my feet were freezing and since my socks were sopping wet I couldn’t put them on. Second, one of our bunkmates was snoring. Third, another bunkmate had a cold, which included a hacking cough and constant blowing of his nose. Fourth, someone else kept getting up and leaving the room. I assumed he was having stomach issues, but never clarified. Seconds ticked by. As did the minutes and hours. Before I was ready, they were waking us up. 1:30 a. m. and I didn’t get a wink of sleep.
As I sat down for a cup of tea and some toast I learned that no one, besides the snorer, had slept. One woman admitted she briefly considered staying in bed and skipping the climb to the summit. I had the same thought and confessed. Secretly I wanted her to say, “Let’s do it.” She didn’t.
Our guide arrived at 2. It was time to begin the final ascent. Surprisingly, my legs felt good. I was ready. 2.7 kilometers—no problem!
I put my wet boots on and my headlamp. The temperature was cold, but not uncomfortable. I stopped to gaze at the moon. Seriously, we were climbing in the middle of the night. How fun!
Right away we started climbing stairs. Great, more effin stairs. There was a stream of climbers. I passed some. Many more passed me. No worries, the guide said I had plenty of time to get to the summit before sunrise. One step at a time. At first I struggled with my headlamp. I couldn’t get it to point down at my feet so I could see where I was going. It took some finagling, but I worked it out.
Stairs and more stairs. I was sick and tired of stairs. Suddenly the stairs were gone. Now I had to hold onto a rope. Why do I have to hold onto a rope? What? They wanted me to hang from the side of the mountain holding onto a rope so I wouldn’t crash to my death. Were they flipping insane? And it was pitch black out. What happened to the stairs? I missed the stairs. I would never complain about them again.
Photo taken later in the day to show the steepness.
Slowly I inched my way along the rope. Many of us were terrified and stopped constantly. The muscles in my upper body burned. Yet fear kept me holding on. Even when someone pulled the rope too tight, smashing my left hand against the rock. I knew there was blood, but I couldn’t see the damage. I could only feel the pain. I didn’t want to let go of the rope.
We got past the rope bit, and the ascent wasn’t as tough. There was a slope, but at least I didn’t have to pull myself up by a rope anymore. Not all of my problems disappeared. I hadn’t expected the altitude to get too me. I used to live in the Rocky Mountains. I thought I would be fine. Yet I found that I was getting dizzy and couldn’t breathe. Each step was a struggle. I reached a point where I could only walk ten steps and then stop. Each time I would count the steps and then rest. Over and over I had to do this. When I stopped I would look back and see a line of headlamps. So many people were behind us slowly moving forward. The sight was incredible to see. Surreal even. However I couldn’t take any photos. Actually I should mention that for this part of the climb I didn’t have my camera. All the photos in this post were taken by the Better Half, who wasn’t struggling at all. Yet at the time it was still too dark for photos.
Soon I can see the top of the summit.
Photo taken after the sunrise.
Thank goodness. I concentrated. Ten steps. Ten more. Yet I didn’t seem to get any closer to the top. It was like someone was pulling a carpet and the top kept getting further and further away from me. Frustration set in. Anger. I wanted to turn around. Looking back I realized how far I had come. And how far I had to travel back. Swearing I continued the trek. Ten steps at a time. The dizziness got worse. I started to see flashes of light. Shaking my head I tried to focus on the ground in front of me. Ten steps.
It started to get light out.
Time was ticking if I wanted to see the sunrise. I needed my body to forget the pain. Forget that I was gasping for air. Just move forward. That was all it had to do. That was when the mental bit sprung to action. For me to finish what I started I had to think I
Our wonderful guide
could do it. Success depended on tiny actions, the rest was mental. Not saying a word to anyone I followed my guide. He showed me where to put my feet. My mental powers moved my legs in place. The summit was rocky. There were times I was on my hands and knees pulling my tired bones up. Now I don’t remember feeling any pain. Maybe I didn’t feel any at the time. I just kept moving forward. One step at a time.
Then I saw it. The sunrise. Isn’t it beautiful?
What? I wasn’t at the top. But I pointed to the sunrise. I was watching the sunrise and it was amazing. I looked down at all the poor climbers who missed their opportunity. I made it. The guide pointed up. There was more to actually reach the summit. I waved the preposterous idea away. For me this counted.
All the specks you see are people still making their way up.
Not for the guide. He literally pulled me off the ground. Groaning I followed. It wasn’t much further, but I did make it all the way to the top. Yes! The view!
It was 6 o’clock in the morning and I was standing on the top of a mountain. Most people were still in bed, but I just climbed a mountain. I was a superhero. I looked down triumphantly.
Oh shit! I still had to hike all the way down. Over 8 kilometers. And our ride was picking us up at the base of the mountain at 3 p. m. I had already climbed for 4 hours. I had at least 6 more hours to go before I could call it quits. I wanted to cry.