Sunday, August 14, 2005


Mt Kinabalu Oct 9, 2004 (Timpohon Trail)

These was the 3rd and 4th attempt in conquering the magnificient one. The 3rd climb was done on Oct 9, 2004 which is about 10 years ago since my 2nd climb (that time I was young, energetic and aggressive) and the 4th climb was just about less than one year after that. Both climbs was on different route, where the 3rd climb was on Timpohon trail-which is a monotonous route climbing up a steep trail (just like climbing the staircase). The 4th climb was via the Mesilau trail which is more scenic that cut across two mountain range before joining the main trail to the summit. In both the climb I face different challenges along the way.

This is the infamous group of 15 that were conquering the magnificient one on Oct 9, 2004 via the Timpohon trail. Everyone looks so excited for this group picture. We set out together, take photos along the way, chit-chat about anything that we can thing of, teasing each other to see who will hit the wall first and then stop for a while at the 1st km. Then after we broke ourselves up into groups where the fast climber are in one group and the slower ones in two other group. All the group will be accompanied with a mountain guide.
Off they goes and we wished each other good luck and will meet again at the Laban Rata resthouse. Along the way I was amazed with the weather, no rain and sunshine all the way. We took quite a fair bit of photos along the way and make sure to rest at every stops along the way. Eat some energy food, chocolate and refrsh ourselves with water. Kilometre after kilometre we go and our average speed was doing a kilometre in about an hour. We are not pushing ourselves but just relax, move in a very comfortable pace and enjoy the scenery along the way.

Finally, we reach the 4.5km mark where the GOLDEN TRAIL begins. From here, we still have about another 1.5km before reaching Laban Rata where the resthouse is and will put a nite there. We took a grou photo with all the actions and jovial mood. At this stage, our group are still very relax and enjoying the climb.

The climb from here are extremely steep and most of us are beginning to get tire. Our legs are wobbling and we make our steps. There are a lot more stops during this stage before reaching Laban Rata. Our group starts to break away among ourselves, each individual strolling at their own pace withe a gap of about 50m-100m apart. We called and encourage each other to continue and not to give up, because at this moment where your energy are all gone, the mental challenge begins. After walking for the next 1-1/2hrs, the group finally made it to Laban Rata.

I was the first among our group to reached at about 2.30pm, followed by the rest. By 3.30pm, our group had all arrived. The fatest group had actually reached earlier at about 2.00pm. We took some photos around the helipad area before adjourning to the Laban Rata resthouse restaurant to refresh ourselves and wait for the rest of the group which are still on their way. By 4pm, the whole group of 15 of us reached Laban Rata safely.

We checked into a dorm like room, which have five bunker beds that can that is able to accommodate 10 of us. The rest were put into another smaller room. Our room comes with a heater, so it was quite warm inside. Once everything is settle, we clean ourselves and actually catch up with some sleep since all of us are so tire. We need to conserve some energy for us to make it to the summit the next morning. After our well rested nap, we are all up and ready for dinner by 6.30pm. Before dinner, we actually get out to the balcony of the restaurant to get the sunset.
Sunset was beautiful and just couldn't imagine how will it look like when we are at the summit tomorrow morning. We all hope that the summit will be clear and not misty, otherwise we will not get a good view of sunrise at dawn.

After taking more pictures of the sunset at the helipad area, the group adjourned back to the dinner table of the restaurant and start ordering our meals. After our dinner, we sat and chit-chat for a while. By 9.00pm the group get to bed to get more rest because w ehave to wake up at 1.30am and start our ascend to the summit at 2.30am in order to catch the sunrise. Lights goes off by 9.30pm and most of us tried very hard to sleep. Most of us just cannot get to sleep so early and we end up chatting in the dark. The wind was blowing very strong outside as I can hear the sound of it. Finally we called it off and have to get some sleep otherwise we will be very sleepy when we get up early and head for the summit at 2.30pm. I heard some snoring and I knew some of us are already fast asleep. I still cannot get over sleeping so early but eventually I dozed off too.

The alarm clock rang at 1.30am and it is time to wake up, do our morning business and eat some light food to feel up our stomach. By 2.15am, the group are all ready to conquer the last stretch that is the summit. Our 3 mountain guides showed up on time and at exactly 2.30am we start our ascend. We walk for about one to one and a half hours in darkness (where the only lights are from our headlamp) before reaching Sayat-Sayat, the check point where the mountain rangers will check your name and registered that you have reach this stage. The next stage is where we will reach the famous Rock Face. We are required to hold onto the rope in darkness and trek across a 90 degree angle before we reach the summit plateau. Once on the plateau, you will be on an open area. For me, this is always the most challenging stretch where it is totally open with no shelter, the wind can cold coupled with the thin air. Breathing can be extremely difficult at this stage. By this time, the group of 15 of us was again broken up with the faster ones moving ahead and the slower ones behind. I am walking in pitch darkness together with two of my friends, with only the light from our headlamp that is guiding us. Step after step I moved on very slowly, stopping a while to catch my breath after every 10-15 steps. This continues for the next 1.5hrs until I heard screaming voices and by this time I know I am near to foot of the summit (Low's Peak). It is probably another 500m more before I reached the summit but in order to reach the summit, I have to practically climb all the way up on uneven rock face. The sky now has already brighten up but the surrounding is very misty and looks like we cannot get the view of the sunrise because of this. Along the way, there are already lots of people, some sitting on rocks, and some taking pictures. I reached Low's Peak and got onto the small platform, met a friend within our group which is still there and got him to take a picture of myself. Once on the platform, I told myself "Yes, I made it the 3rd time". Because it was so misty and cold up there, I wasted no time and started to descend back to the open area where the summit plateau is. I spent about 30mins at the plateau admiring the place and scenery while waiting for the rest to get down from the summit before we descend back to Laban Rata.

The plateau is magnificient and started to take more pictures. I manage to take a picture of the South Peak where she stands majestically with heavy misty surrounding her.
At this point we bumped into our slowest group that were on the way up, step after step and walk, deep breathing from all of them and together they moved on. We cheered them not to give up and said we will see them back at Laban Rata. After wandering around the area for anothe 15mins a group of 4 of us decided to make our way back and say goodbye to the summit. I said to myself "I will be back again next year". One last look at the summit and off we go, and along the way I continue to take more pictures of the plateau that I did not manage to get a glimpse on earlier because it was so dark then when I was climbing up. As we slowly descend, we could generally get a view of what we have gone through in the early morning of the day, and it was unbelieveable that we actually tackled all the tough terrain before reaching the summit. I continue to admire the scenery along the way and by 9.30am we reached Laban Rata. The first reaction is to get to the restaurant and have some rest before having our breakfast. Once done, we get to our room and clean ourselves up. We have to checkout by 10.30am, and today will be a long day for us because we have to continue our descend to the Park HQ before heading to KK town and spend a nite there. All of us are back by 10.30am, and wait for the rest to have their breakfast and clean up. We start our descend in a group of 15 together at 11am. It took us about 4 to 5 hours altogether before everyone reaches the Park HQ and continue our journey to KK town by bus. We spend a nite in KK town and the next evening we flew back to KL on a 6pm flight. It was sweet memories for all of us, and everyone was talking about the experience they gain in the plane. Once we touchdown at KLIA, everyone greeted GOODBYE to each other and we parted of own ways back home.

Take Nothing But Photos and Leave Nothing But Footprints

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Mt Kinabalu Aug 6, 2005 (Mesilau Trail)

In my 4th climb on Aug 6, 2005 where we have 12 climbers, the nite we reached the the Park HQ for overnite, it was very windy and cold and in no time after checking into our lodge, it started to rain very heavily. I told the team that we will have challenge tomorrow in making our way up to Laban Rata because the trail will be very wet because of the rain. The rain continues to pour till dawn and only stops at about 6am the morning where we are suppose to make our way up. Out of the 12 climbers, four of us are going through the Mesilau Trail and we need to put on our warm clothing and windbreaker because of the strong wind and cold temperature. We were informed at the Mesilau Security checkpoint that last nite, the wind was blowing at 100km/h at the summit and there was a guy who was blown off the plateau. That created more anxiety for us. We decided to snap our group photo and off we go in a group of 4 together with our guide. We also took a picture of the sign board that described the Mesilau Trail.

Since this was a longer route, we actually did a calculation that we need to climb for at least 6 hours before reaching Laban Rata and that means on an average will need to cover 1km in about an hour. Anything less than that will definitely slow us down. Due to the rain last nite, the surroundings were very wet and slippery, therefore we must be more careful along the way.

As we passed the signboard that shows the way to Summit trail, we were greeted with lots of green vegetation. The trail was wet and the surrounding was very cooling and windy. This was due to the downpour throughout last nite. The beginning of the trail was pretty challenging where it is uphill for almost 0.5km. Our guide told us that this trail is up and down, and cut across the mountain range from this end before joining the main trail to Laban Rata and then to the summit. We reached the 1st km, and take a short rest and drank some water so that we don't get dehydrated. As we check our timing, we actually was pretty fast in 1st km, covering the distance in only 45mins (instead of 1hr that we planned for). Maybe we are still fresh and energetic so we do not feel the strain even though the trail was uphill and downhill.

As we reached the 3.5km mark, we heard loud streams of water flowing and as we walk forward, there is a hanging bridge that connects to another mountain range. The waterfall and the streams are beautiful, and we were so tempted to just jump into the stream and had a swim. But this is not the time to swim, we need to cover a lot more kilometres and moreover the weather is still very chilly and extremely windy.

After stopping by for some photos, we continue our journey. As we moved forward, the group of 4 of us began to break up with the faster one moving ahead and the slower ones behind. We were probably about 100m-200m apart from each other. There will be 2 more kilometres before we reached Layang-Layang hut where we will join the Timpohon main trail and continue our climb to Laban Rata. This is where we will find the most interesting trail where it is gold in color, and that is why this stretch is called the GOLDEN TRAIL. By now I was alone on my own and was walking through an open area where on my left side of the cliff I actually have the view of KK town and on the right side of the cliff was the mountain range that I have just crossed after climbing for the past 3 hours. This place is extremely windy where I can actually heard cracking sound from the tree branch which was moving left and right because of the strong wind. I was filling a bit chilly and cold. I stopped at the rest hut for a while to wait for the rest of the group. But no one turn up for the next 3 mins and I decided to walk on because I felt even colder if I am stationery.

After about another 20 mins of walking, I finally saw the Layang Layang hut at the adjacent side and I know I have reached the junction where I will join the main trail (Timpohon). I rested for a while at the junction hoping to see my other group members to turn up. 5 mins had gone and no one show up and I decided to continue my last 1.5km stretch before reaching Laban Rata. This is the most challenging stretch where the tireness began to affect my body,my legs were not strong anymore and the trails are very steep and rocky (not even surface). The weather began to change when the fog and mist are setting in, coupled with very strong winds. I am feeling very, very cold and have to put on my ski mask and gloves because of the strong winds. Step after step, I moved very very slowly and at certain spot I practically had to hide behind some trees to shelter myself away from the strong winds. This is the worst weather that I have ever encountered in all my climbs. As the wind began to blow even stronger, I felt very chilly and I knew I have catch a cold. My body is tired and shivering, and my hands are numb even with the gloves on. As I continued my climb, the surrounding was becoming more misty and the wind is blowing as strong as before (if not stronger). At this moment I told myself "Choi, I think the weather had beaten you this time". I felt so weak by now that I practically had to drag my body all the way up, and coupled with the cold misty weather and not forgetting the strong winds.

I continued the climb suffering from coldness. At this point I thought I may have caught a cold and the altitude sickness. Body slightly feverish and feeling cold. I walked through the famous GOLDEN TRAIL, took some pictures for remembrance. This stretch is very unique in the sense that the color of the path and rocks are all almost golden reddish in color. I also spotted some mountain frogs which jumps very fast and I could not take out my camera in time to snap a picture of this creature.

By 4.30pm, I reached Laban Rata and because it was so misty, I cannot even see the rest house. As I walk nearer towards the helipad, I saw one of our team members from the group that ascend via the Timpohon route. He told me everyone had arrived safely. I was the first one from the group of 4, who ascend via Mesilau trail to reach first. I quickily get up to the restaurant and sit down to recover. I have never felt so bad and weak before. After resting for the next 10 mins, I bought myself a pot of hot tea to warm myself up. In the next 30mins, the 3 other group members made it safely to the resthouse. Once we have accounted for all 12 of us, we check-in into our dorm-like rooms. I just got myself changed with some dry and clean clothing and got on to bed and take a complete rest, hoping that I can recover in time by next morning for the ascend to the summit. The weather now had gotten worst, and someone from our group told us that the ranger had informed that if the weather continues to be like that and no improvement, chances of us getting up to the summit is very slim. Quite a number of our team members had complained about having a feverish feeling and headache, and I believed they are also suffering from altitude sickness and also the extreme cold and windy condition. We took a rest and woke up at about 7pm for dinner. Still no change in the weather condition and this time we could not even catch the sunset at the helipad area (compared to the previous 3 climbs). After dinner I adjourn to bed at about 9.30pm, hoping that the weather condition changed and my fever go away. At this time, we are still not sure whether we can ascend to the summit or not (under such bad weather conditions). Most of us woke up at about 1am to get ready for the ascend. I am still feeling weak, feverish and chilly, and I know I am not fully recovered after much rest. The greenlight was given by the mountain ranger at the very last minute, at about 2am that we are clear to ascend the summit but the caution is that the area is still faced with very strong winds. Only 7 of our group of 12 decided to give it a shot and the rest (and I was one of them) will remain at Laban Rata because of our fitness of not able to continue. I felt very bad for not making it this time but I consoled myself that I have been up there 3 times, and I must learn from this trip that I should never underestimate the weather and be more prepare the next time to counter bad weather during the climb. We greeted all our 7 friends goodluck, see them off their last stretch and went back to sleep.

In the darkness, I was woke up by some noises and suddenly heard someone coming into our room, and when I looked at my watch it was only 4am. 4 out of the 7 friends who went up turned back after the Sayat Sayat checkpoint. They said that the weather is unbearable and the wind is blowing strongly. Their body cannot take it and have to turn back to Laban Rata. The other 3 continued their journey up. After that, all of us got back to sleep and woke up at about 8am. We greeted our 3 friends who manage to battle the tough weather conditions to reached the summit and back at Laban Rata at about 10.30am. Once everyone had rested enough, have their breakfast and cleaned themselves, we checked-out and start our descend to the Park HQ.

I was feeling better now as we descend, no more fever and cold is gone. I took longer to recover in time for the summit, but nevertheless that was a well learnt experience that I will never forget and that is never underestimate the change in weather condition. As we descend, more photographs are taken and I always admire a tree that is along the GOLDEN TRAIL. It has always been there in my 3 previous climbs and stood steadily all this while. Along the way, we also bumped into some lady porters carrying some packages. I really admired them for doing this for a living and thought to myself that how lucky I am now.

We continued our descend to the Park HQ and by 4pm, our last person of the group reaches the base. We collect our certificates and continued our journey by bus to KK town where we will spent a nite there before flying back to KK the next afternoon. Once we reached the hotel, all of us check-in to our respectively rooms and some of us decided to go for our sumptuous seafood dinner at one of the restaurant along the seafront.

The next day, we spent sometime doing sightseeing in KK town and in the evening we flew back to KL. In this trip, I had actually learnt something very useful personally for me and that is never underestimate change and do not take things for granted. I vowed that I will be back next year to conquer the magnificient one again.

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