When Mindy looked at Mt Kinabalu from Kota Belud, my home as a teacher in 1971-72, and said “it looks kinda big to me” I didn’t really give it a second thought. After all I had climbed it 4 times in the 70s and what’s a few decades later got to do with it?
Plenty, that’s what. Now 3 days after the climb and my quads and calfs are finally not screaming as I opt for ramps over steps whenever possible. All the accolades and positive comments about being 70 and “oh, you look so fit and great work climbing” were appreciated so the fact remains. I WILL NEVER CLIMB MT KINABALU AGAIN!!
Feels good to say that and to realize that if needed my body can do what’s needed but I now have a new appreciation for moderation in such things. Last night we met a couple here at the Nature Lodge in Sepilok (famous for the Orangutan Rehabilitation Center), rather youthful (30s I imagine) they reached the summit before sunrise (6 am) and were down at Park HQ 3 hours later….6.5 hours that took Mindy and I 15 hours. Without the hiking poles that Mindy urged me to bring along, the downhill steps and drops would have been much more difficult, thanks dear.
Suffice it to say, task accomplished, great photos to share, one grueling story to tell and one great lesson learned.
Witnessing the damage from the 2015 earthquake where 16 climbers and 2 guides were killed by an avalanche was shocking and awe inspiring. The exposed rock broken from the mountain face was bright white under the weathered outer covering and the giant and smaller boulders rolling down the southern face of the summit must have been terrifying at 7 am on June 15, 2015. Our guide Roger Eban (a local Dusan gentleman who has climbed the mountain hundreds of times) will always remember that day even though he was not on the mountain at the time the quake struck.
The boulder below broke off of the mountain face above and rolled down the mountain. Hundreds of these large and small boulders killed 16 Singapore School kids and two guides climbing on fixed ropes near Panar Laban where we spent the night before the summit push. The mountain had a very different feel to it since the last time I climbed in 1973.
By far the best part of the climb was the relationships that were formed with Roger and Julien Derian our new friend from France. When I heard that we had a 27 year old French climber in our group I was concerned that his pace would quickly separate our group and cause problems. Julien not only stayed with us, he was a gentleman, very supportive of our slower pace and we became close friends in a 3 day span which included our post climb dinner and hot springs bath at the Poring Hot Springs 45 minutes around the mountain.
Both he and Roger were very interested in being part of the ceremony to honor my son Chris as the third and final remembrance of leaving his cremains in holy spots during our journey. To me this was the most significant memorial as it was the location I had always wanted to bring Chris to and show him the place where I had so many life altering experiences. He also asked me many questions and enjoyed my stories about my time in Sabah. After reaching the summit (Low’s Peak) about 7:30 am I choose a flat rock not far from the summit where we could have privacy and the view was powerful to the south and the west toward Kota Belud. I shared my piece about Chris’ life and then Mindy, Roger and Julien all added their parts. Roger had also lost a son to a complicated medical problem at age 14 and he powerfully shared his emotions with us. The experience brought us all much closer together for the rest of the slow descent to the National Park HQ.
Julien speaking during the remembrance…he is one year younger than Chris.
The view from our remembrance rock….enjoy the view and remember Chris’ life, struggles and joys. I’ll always be your Dad and love you forever.
Heading down the final 6 km seemed like forever but as we got closer to the park HQ the thought of food, a cold beer and getting to Poring Hot Springs drove us forward. Again, thank you Mindy for having me bring and use my hiking poles. On the way down they were essential for saving my knees.
Before leaving the National Park I received the Kinabalu Park patch
for my collection to sew on my rainbow disc bag and as the clouds cleared and the mountain view opened up there we could clearly see the donkey ears and the route we climbed earlier that morning and it only took 15 hours of body effort. I was so mesmerized by the moment, the camera stayed in my pocket.
And so our journey continues to Sandakan, Sepilok and the Orangutans center, the Kinabatangan River Nature Lodge and the Tabin Wildlife Reserve as we experience more of the magic of this place called Sabah, the Land Below the Wind.
Enjoy a few more photos of the mountain beginning with our early morning ascent – most climbers start from the lodge at Panar Laban at 2:30am (day two of climbing) to try to catch the sunrise at the peak. This means many hours of climbing in the dark by flashlight.