Better late than never, eh!
The climb was 2 days and is the tallest mountain in SE Asia at 4095 m, the climb was 8.7 km to the summit, and we were going to be climbing this........hmmm!
Griff and I were preparing ourselves mentally for the forth coming physical pain we were sure to endure, but decided last minute that it would be best to share our pain with 2 australian girls Allison and Linda which completed our group. Our guide was called Epson and he was a legend, he didn't say much but definately knew a thing or two about climbing mountains.
On day 1 we had to get to Laban Rata 6 km up the mountain where we would stay the night. So on day 1 we got up around 6 am and had a biggish breakfast, and started our climb at 7.45 from Timphoon Gate, at first we started to go downhill which we knew could only mean one thing we would have to compensate in steepness when we to start go uphill. At this point we are all already sweating due to the humidity. Then appeared a long steep line of steps as expected, but the entire first bit was just all steps, giant sized steps actually. I was always on the look out for smaller rocks in between to make the steps more suitable for someone that is 5"4 which seemed to help a bit. After 1 km we got to the first shelter (break point) I think it took us 45 mins, and we were all thinking ok if we can do 1 km this quickly then we should be at Laban Rata in no time. How wrong we were, we were still overtaking people but we were also getting obviously slower, and started to stay for longer periods at the shelters. This was not only a welcome break for us to have a sit down and catch our breath, but also a bit of enertainment as the wild squirrels were quite happily being hand fed. So we experimented with our food, and apparantly they like eggs but are quite fussy and only eat the egg yolk. They are also a big fan of chocolate as I found out, when the last square of my chocolate bar rapidly disappeared beside me, the cheeky squirrel stole the wrapper and all and then they had a little fight about it. It was quite cute to know that squirrels share my passion of chocolate too, although I'll make sure they wont get any off me next time, lol!
So we plodded on to be rewarded with some magnificant views as our heads popped above the clouds, although I think the altitude was starting to affect Allison, as she nearly passed out at the next stop. But after a slightly longer stop, some food and water she looked and felt a lot better. The last 1 km seemed to last forever, we were constantly out of breath, sweaty and tired but eventually we got to laban rata, where we collapsed on to the chairs and ate our lunch.
That evening we were treated to our reward of some spectacular views of the swirling silver clouds just below us, which were amazing beause they seem to move and change so quickly as we found out later on. We went to bed around 7.30 and got up at 2 am to start the summit climb at 2.30. So armed with our head torches we started the cold climb in the dark. Only 30 mins later after passing through the last check point did we hit our first big hurdle, the monstrous amount of rain that those earlier pretty clouds decided to throw up on us. The rain was so persistant that it hurt and we all quickly became cold, and all the guides were told they had to stop and wait to see if the rain stops. At this point we are all getting colder coz we aren't moving and about 20 of us are jam packed into this tiny bunk bed hut to get out of the rain, wondering if we are going to have to go down the mountain without reaching our ultimate goal 'the summit'. Luckily for us the rain stopped, and we were given the option to carry on, we said yes and got going, but about half of the other groups decided not too. This wasn't really too surprising considering that mini waterfalls were now running down the steep slabs of granite on the mountain side, and needess to say our dry feet were no longer dry and and our hands were like ice. Linda though was worse off as she didn't bring a rain coat and she was completly soaked through, but our guide Epson was so kind to give her his, ans so we continued. I found this part hard as I felt like I wasn't getting enough air in my lungs and often had to stop to catch my breath, but eventually the dark and wet mountain started to become lighter which pushed us on to get there for sunrise. Finally 2.5 hours later we got to the top in time for sunrise, we were all feeling elated but humbled as we stared out at across the world below in amazement that we did it!
We didn't stay at the top for long as we were completly exposed to the elements and we were starting to get very cold very quickly, so we started the long and painful climb down (it took us almost just as long to get down as it did to get up). By the time we were half way down I started to feel the pain in my legs but I think Griff suffered the worst as he didn't have a walking stick to help him down (being a man) so he really started to hurt towards the end. Finally we made it down and where we were so thankful to be walking on flat ground again. It was an amazing experience, incredibly challenging easily the hardest thing I have done and we also made 2 good friends. It was awesome!