Thursday, May 8, 2008

On the via ferrata

At the Kinabalu Park Headquarters, we were all busy admiring the beautiful flora and fauna to realize the daunting task ahead. Most of us were first-timers to the art of mountain-climbing and thus unprepared for the long journey ahead. Our stamina varies and one of my friend was having viral flu but he pushed himself on without complaining..i feel that it was quite admirable for him to do so as he conquered over his illness even.

After a brief soak at the Poring Hot Springs, we took a very restful sleep for the night at the peaceful Fairy Garden resort and departed for the Timpohon gate for the hike up the magnificent Mount Kinabalu. Standing at 4102m (or so), this beautiful mountain is supposed to be Southeast Asia highest peak (if we don't include Papua New Guinea into Southeast Asia). It's shape is easily recognizable anywhere in Malaysia and is even depicted on the Sabah's flag. This mountain and the surrounding park is Malaysia's first entry into Unesco World Heritage sites.

Geography lesson aside, we really enjoyed the hike up the interesting trail. We took so many pictures along the way and even had a hearty lunch halfway along the 6 km trek. The easy camaraderie among the 12 of us was astonishing considering that 90% of us don't know each other prior to landing at the KKIA Terminal 2.

At Laban Rata, we were greeted by yummylicious buffet dinner followed by the most beautiful sunset above the clouds. It was so surreal to see puffy white clouds floating beneath us as the sky changes colour like a chameleon. Makes us forget that our body was busy acclimatizing to the altitude. Not only that, most of us, including yours truly had no sleep at all despite the wonderful accomodation due to the excitement and altitude. After a few hours of tossing and turning in our sleeping bags, we 'woke' up groggily at 1 am for the final ascent to the summit to catch the astounding sunrise at the highest point in our nation.

I was so humble to say that all 12 of us made it to the summit. Although we couldn't take a picture together as we were rushing for the part 2 of this most amazing journey, I am sure that all of us would remember that our friend Khee Fatt actually proposed to Choon Foong on the summit. How romantic and memorable!

After making a very fast run down to the 7.5 km mark, I was able to join Dorcas and Jason for the descent via Low's Peak Circuit. This is the main attraction on the via ferrata and the fact that it is the world's highest gave me added impetus to fight the panic inside me as I looked down. Although I never had vertigo, the near 90 degree drop could make your knee go faint sometimes as we balance precariously and cling carefully onto the rock-face. After a while, I got adjusted to the height and techniques and enjoyed the descent tremendously.

Truly the experience was unforgettable and the view unrivalled anywhere else in the world. As I marvelled upon the Crocker range beneath us, I could only thank God for the opportunity to go down this mountain along this tough route. Without any of us knowing how time passed by, we were late and needed some form of 'rescue'..another trainer, Roland, had to join us so that we could reach Laban Rata faster as we needed to trek down to Timpohon trail and rain was approaching. I sincerely thank Roland from the bottom of my heart for helping me down this circuit :-)

Indeed, we were late and needless to say, the twelve of us comprises the last group making our way down to the Park Headquarters. By the time nightfall arrived, we were still stuck halfway down the mountain trail. Rain came down fast and the trail became muddy and treacherous. As one of our friends injured both her ankles, she had to be carried down by rangers. The slippery ground was hazardous and many of us slipped along the journey down.

Thankfully, we had our head torches with us and we made our way to the Timpohon Gate after much difficulties. I will never forget the teamwork and encouragement that shone through that day. We never wished for such hard condition as novices, but the little triumph that night will always resonate in our hearts. The selfless help and services offered by our mountain guides, Severinus and Jaldi, showed to us how the human spirit and kindness became the brightest light in the deep darkness in the heart of the jungle.


benson said...

wow! that's an incredible experience i would say.
the thought of my being there sends tickles down to my soles.
by the way, i saved your sunset image.

the cili padi doctor @ Lynette said...

it was initially scary when we looked down but the route is very safe and once we trusted the safety mechanism, it was much easier.

which sunset image? the one at laban rata? yeah, it's so stunning up there. go ahead lar, no probs..

will try to post up more pictures as i blog on..thanx for dropping by. cheers!