I did it! I climbed to the top of Mount Kinabalu, all 4,095 metres of it!
After getting up at six-thirty yesterday for breakfast of toast, lots of butter, and then scrambled eggs, lots of tea, and dry pancakes, we set off anxiously on our hike.
By the first kilometre we were all sweating, and my Albas Oil-infused tissues were coming in very handy as sweat wipes. My white t-shirt was clearly never destined to survive this trip, as it was already drenched. I tried to control my breathing like my brother Douglas and sister-in-law Claire say to when running and it seemed to pay off in the end, but a lot of the time I was drawing heavily for breath. I was paranoid about getting altitude sickness, and so stopped whenever it felt like I was going too quickly, just in case. I walked with Sue and Clare for a while, and then ended off the day with Kim and Kathryn, before just walking with Kathryn. Kathryn turned out to be an army dentist who also sweat a lot as we tackled the day-long hike, so we plodded along sweating all the way to the last five hundred metres when it suddenly got a little harder and the steps disguised as huge rocks got a lot bigger. I may have had the first sign of altitude sickness as I swear I saw the image of a backpacker in a drip on the stone - there's even a picture to prove it should anyone doubt me!
The never-ending last stretch put us both on our hands and knees as we clambered to the top, but we proudly reached base camp at about four-thirty, meaning we'd managed the lightning fast pace of 1kmph; Speedy Gonzalez had nothing on us.
After dumping our bags we excitedly bought far too much chocolate and a 12MYR cup of hot Milo, the most glorious drink when mixed with a little coffee whitener and sugar. Of course, had we known dinner was served from 5pm we may not have been so quick to indulge in the sweets and hot chocolate, nevertheless I forced down some noodles and rice at six before watching a beautiful sunset above the clouds and setting off to bed before seven, ready for the two a.m. wake up call to reach the summit.
I kept waking before the alarm went, before dosing up on a couple of Ibuprofen to ward off any possible back pain on the way up, as well as some Loperamide to ward off any possible toilet-based reactions to any of the food I'd eaten at Base Camp. The alarm went at two and marked the whole Base Camp waking up to face their fate; the floorboards pounded with movement, and we all stocked up on breakfast, though scrambled eggs and a bit of toast was quite enough for the two a.m. brekkie.
Head torches on, off we headed in search of the summit. The pitch black made me anxious and I often yelped as I searched for where to put my feet without plummeting to my death, but I just kept looking for the next step and following the person in front. The check-in base was appeared at four-ten a.m. and it was here you were doomed if you'd forgotten to bring your personalised registration card. I was glad to see mine was still around my neck and that it hadn't been a wasted journey.
The white ropes to the top were a little treacherous as I didn't trust their strength, as I'm not exactly a small girl, and I often stopped to catch my breath and reassure myself before carrying on, giving my burning calves a rest a little more often as the hills got steeper nearer the summit.
The last two hundred metres were full-on rock climbing with the white rope, well fairly full-on, as no harnesses were involved. I was fourth out of the group to reach the summit at five-thirty, just in time for the gradual sunrise above Mount Kinabalu; it looked just like the pictures in '1000 things to do with your time on Earth,' so I can tick that one off the list.
The cold eventually set in as we basked in our glory, and the leggings I had on, along with a jumper and Sainsbury's pink raincoat began to feel too thin, so the descent started in search of the sweaty glow that had kept me so warm yesterday. My rear end was a common method of getting down the mountain, along with strange Billy Goat steps; we made it down to Base Camp at eight, enjoying a breakfast of scrambled eggs and fluffy pancakes alongside lots of tea to celebrate our success.
The rest of the group arrived soon after, and by quarter-to-ten we were off down to the bottom of the mountain; we'd taken another route to the trail yesterday, adding an extra two kilometres to the basic route, but went down the normal trail on the way back, which meant it was extremely 'steppy', and made me extremely glad of the other trail, even if that was quite up and down. Walking six kilometres downhill was horrendous on the old knees, even if they are only twenty-three years old, and those who had had knee injuries and surgeries certainly felt the pain.
The final three kilometres were the worst, as the humidity of approaching sea level drenched us with sweat, and of course the steps continued. I eventually had my first fall about fifteen hundred metres from base, scraping my left calf on a wet step to produce a lovely bruise as I did so. The final steps to base were a kick in the teeth as they were uphill: six kilometres of walking down steps beforehand, and suddenly we were going up. I thundered up them, thinking if I can get to the top of Mount Kinabalu, I can certainly walk up a couple more steps.
More sweat tissues were used to wipe off the remnants of the walk as we waited for the rest of the group, but only eight of us appeared so we headed to the bus once the rain we'd missed subsided. We were driven to lunch, where the restaurant was down yet more steps! Tea, coffee, Teh Tarik tea, cold rice, and banana fritters were lunch, which wasn't great, but we were warm and sitting down, so who cares?
The others who turned up during lunch were all soaked, but most took it in their stride: Misog did not. Misog is the woman who told me to take the mountain in my stride and go at my own pace, only for her to reach the base camp two hours after everyone else then complain she was too tired to reach the summit. We were all tired, but we all got up and walked to the top. The three ladies over sixty all got to the top, and of course we all felt like giving up, but we didn't. Misog then set off down the mountain half an hour before everyone else, as she'd not actually done anything since the night before, but was still overtaken by every other person on the way down, hence the not being overjoyed when she arrived at lunch soaked and last. Ahh. Misog was not a happy bunny, which of course tickled the rest of us.
I hadn't gloated until she annoyed me later on, as all the way up to the summit I kept repeating the Baz Luhrmann 'Sunscreen' phrase 'the race is long, but in the end it's only with yourself', indeed in a week's time I won't care that she didn't do it, just that I DID!
It was then off to the bus at four to head to our hotel in the hills, where I had a lovely hot shower that was only affected by the ants who decided to join me. I didn't care too much though, as I had a 2MYR certificate to prove that I'd walked to the top of Mount Kinabalu.