Climbing Mt. Kinabalu (Part 2 of 2): The Summit Assault
Call time was at thirty minutes past two o’clock in the morning and Laban Rata Guesthouse was already busy. The night of sound sleep and excitement certainly brought up the adrenaline levels of the trekkers. We had our supper at the restaurant and by three in the morning, we were off for the final 2.7 kilometers to the summit. It was dark and freezing. But the darkness was able to hide the scene and the trail which would probably scare off or intimidate a lot of climbers had it been in broad daylight.
It was a perfect day for summit assault. The sky was clear and millions of star showed up. But it was freezing and the air was thin. The first part of the summit assault was quite easy albeit tiring, thanks to the stairs and the hand rails. But the latter part proved to be a real challenge, specially on the summit plateau when the trail turned to steep granite rocks. There are ropes to guide and help the summiters although I find it easier not to hold going up.
Slowly, we managed to move closer to the summit, past the South Peak which I thought was Mt. Kinabalu’s highest peak. The dark sky was already turning violet as I battle the last few meters of the trail to the summit of Low’s Peak which is composed of huge rocks and boulders. I exerted the all the strength that I saved for the final stretch and went past beyond my personal limit just to make sure to be on the summit before the sun breaks. And finally, after almost three hours, I reached the summit of Mt. Kinabalu, 4095.2 meters above sea level.
I sat in one of the few empty spaces of the small and densely populated Low’s Peak, careful not to stumble nor fall and watched as more trekkers crowd the summit. Slowly, the sun broke into the sea of clouds and its much awaited warm rays finally touched our bodies and provided some heat that we needed. With the beautiful sunrise, sea of clouds, clear skies and gentle winds, it was indeed a perfect day on the summit. The scene was heavenly surreal and I couldn’t help but be amazed of everything, of every single detail of that momentous event.
I waited for few minutes for my buddies Ken, Den and Trabs while enjoying the scene on the small space. More and more trekkers arrived and I could barely move so I decided to go down and meet them at the foot of the boulders, around 200 meters below. Trabs and Ken were there, Den was having a quick rest with our guide not far away. I decided to join them again on their assault. The crowd started to dwindle on the summit, and after a while, we realized that we were the only climbers left on top. It was perfect because on that very moment, on the summit of Mt. Kinabalu at 4095.2 meters above sea level, the closest to heaven that we could get for now, Ken proposed to Den and love filled the air. It was sweet and surreal.
We spent some more minutes to savor the moment, the scene and the celebration of love. I don’t know if I was just already numb but the body pains and restlessness faded. The summit of Mt. Kinabalu is one of the happiest, sweetest and most beautiful places on earth!
Our journey wasn’t over though, and we were only halfway of the accomplishment. We still had to endure the hardship of going down the mountain on the same day to finally say that we have survived Mt. Kinabalu.
The trek down from the summit to Laban Rata Guesthouse specially on the granite trail was quite scary but relatively easy. We reached the guesthouse just in time for the last few servings of breakfast and by noon, we left Laban Rata for another trek down on an unfriendly weather and trail. Our knees and legs were already complaining, every step was heavy.
Finally, after four-and-a-half hours, we reached Timpohon Gate, jubilant and proud! We were not totally physically prepared for the trip but we made it.
A van was already waiting for us at the gate and brought us to the Park Headquarter. It was almost dark and we haven’t had our lunch yet, only packed meals were left for us at the restaurant but they were all good, thankfully!
There were no more public bus or taxi going back to the city so we settled for a car that charged us 200 MYR.
We were all tired but we still managed to laugh and smile as we recall the moments in Mt. Kinabalu. It was a two-hour trip to the city so I opted to take a nap. As I close my eyes, the beautiful and vivid images of the summit floated in my mind. Now I understand why a lot of people are dying to see its summit. Given a chance, I will definitely go back again to experience everything. Oh Mt. Kinabalu, you are such a beauty!