Page: Challenges of scaling Mt Kinabalu

Ecotourism Hub
   Eco Means of Travel
   KLIA-Leading in Eco-Standards
   KLIA-Next Generation Hub
   KKIA domestic hub
   Benchmark for National Parks
   What Ecotourism should be
Ecotourism Destinations | Malaysia
   Borneo Island | Ecotourism
   Imbak Canyon Conservation
   Colonial-styled Passenger Train
   Rhino Saved in dramatic rescue
   Climb Mt Kinabalu
   Challenges of scaling Mt Kinabalu
   Been there, done that
   Mt Kinabalu Climbathon
   Sepilok Orang Utan Sanctuary
   Sandakan's Many Charm
   Coral Reef in Semporna
   Sipadan Island
   Dive Permit at Sipadan
   Scuba Diving
   Best Diving Spots
   Protecting Sipadan
   Mabul Island
   Semporna kidnap
   Pom Pom Island
   Rare Whale
   The Finest Forests
   Shark Fin Ban
   Casino stops serving Shark fin
   Airline joins Shark fin ban
   Kinabalu Park World Heritage
   A Memorable Visit to Bako
   Semenggoh Wildlife Centre
   Birding Havens in Sarawak
   Segon Cave and Bung Brunggu
   Borneo Convention Centre
   Biodiversity | Sarawak
   155,000ha allowed
   Singer Dayang to Help Orang Utans
   Ancient Croc Effigies
   Potential Ecotourism Icon
   Peninsular Malaysia | Ecotourism
   Taman Negara
   Living off the forest’s bounty
   350kg Tapir
   Endau Rompin National Park
   Endau-Rompin Location Map
   Kenyir Lake
   Kenyir Lake Triathlon
   Kenyir Lake DFZ
   Rebirth of Kenyir Lake
   Frasers Hill
   Royal Belum
   Leaders In Destinations
   Rakan Royal Belum
   Save Temenggor
   Lessons in the Forest
   Cameron Highlands
   Looking for the Silk King
   New Route
   Sepetang Serenade
   Turtle Sanctuary Site in Kemaman
   Heritage Sites Malaysia
   Lenggong Valley
   George Town and Malacca Heritage Sites
   Kinabalu Park Heritage Site
   Mulu Cave Geopark
   Danum Valley
   Maliau Basin
   Bid for Unesco listing
   Valley of Heritage
   Ramsar sites | Malaysia
   Ramsar sites in Sarawak
   Events and Festivals Malaysia
   Most Searched Travel Spots 2011
   Indigenous Malaysian Tribes
   Indigenous Peninsular Malaysia
   Danawan Island home to Sea Gypsies
Costa Rica
   Retire Here, Not There: Costa Rica
   Costa Rica's Unspoiled Coast
Ecotourism News
   Open Zoo
   Rainforest Rock Festival
   Great Wall in Gopeng
   Belaga braces for tourism boom
   Tourism drops
   Palazzo Park
   Rainforest World Music Festival
   Focus on eco-tourism
   Kuala Gandah Elephant Centre
   Ecotourism Spotlight Award
   Tourism News
   Art Tourism Hub
   Shopping Hub
   Art Tourism
Forest Reserve
   2010 Year of Biodiversity
   The Belum Forest Reserve
   Pulau Banding Rainforest Research Centre
   Matang Mangrove Forest Reserve
   Plant Mangrove Saplings in Port Dickson
   FRIM’s first research station
   FRIM declared heritage site
   Forest Reserve News
   South Peat Swamp Forest
   Forest Reserve to grow Oil Palm
   Save the Rain Forest
   Demystifying Forensic Forestry
   Forest Reserve in Pangkor
   Forest Research Centre - Sabah
   Forest reserve gazetted in Puchong
   Rape of Lenggong forest reserve
   Development project in Forest Reserve
   SAFE Project
   Saving Temenggor
   Selangor Peat Swamp
   Vanishing wetlands
   Before it is Too Late
   Tree Cover-up
   Forests to Tree Farms
   Forest by the Coast
   The Green Initiatives
   Ecologic Label
   Rebuilding the Green Concept
   Sabah Intensifies Green Effort
   Going Google can mean Going Green
   City of Kyoto from Car-Centric to Walking City
   Turning Consumers Green
   Penang mulling over No-car Zone
   3Rs among Malaysians
   Independent Power Producer
   Roof-top Secret Garden
   Population and Food
   Never Drink From Plastic
   Water Footprint
   Think water conservation
   Bakun Dam
   Turning to Eco-tourism
   Bengoh Dam
   Water Concern
   Tap Water
   Water Worries 1
   Mini-hydro Plant
   Mekong River
   Mekong News
   Water Challenge
   Looming Water Crisis
Sustainable Food Source
   Eating Insects
   U.N. Urges Eating Insects
   Insects may be the answer
   Eat Insects
   Meat is Not Green
   Health Benefits of Eating Less Meat
   Vegetarian Athletes
   Catherine Johnson, Vegan Cyclist
   Vegan Athlete of the Year 2013
   Totally Vegetarian
   Veganism and the Environment
   Mongolia Nomads
   Antibiotics in Feed
   Butter is back
Wildlife Malaysia
   Carcasses of Tigers, Leopards from Malaysia
   Malayan Tiger
   Tiger spotted on road
   Save the Tiger
   Rare Photo
   Tracing Malaysia's Tigers
   A New Hope For Malayan Tigers
   The Conservation Of Tigers
   Why Tigers Matter
   Tiger Ambassador
   White Tiger Cubs
   Siberian tiger
   Natural Habitat for Tigers
   King of the Jungle
   Permits for Zoo
   Rainbow Toad
   Orang Utan
   Leave orang utan alone
   Orang Utans
   Save Orang Utans
   Orang Utan Island
   Orang Utan Reserve in the Klang Valley
   Fireflies Sanctuary gazetted
   Firefly Festival Taiping
   Crocodile Farm
   Marine Ecosystem
   Semporna marine life
   Shark Sanctuaries
   Drop in Shark Catch
   No to Shark Fin Soup
   Stop Selling Shark Fin
   Dolphins in Port Klang
   Golden Arowana
   Symbol of Prosperity
   The Unsung Heroes
   Save Bees From Extinction
   When Bee Stop Making Honey
   Honeybees need Help
   Help our Disappearing Bees
   Bringing back Honeybees
   Dung Beetle
   Wild elephant
   Uneasy feeling
   Sea Anemone
   Human-wildlife Conflict
   Perhilitan sets Trap for Panther
   Wildlife Act
   Illegal Wildlife Traders
   Rafflesia and Conservation Efforts
   new Rafflesia species found
   Cengal Besar
   Migratory Birds
Climate Change
   New directions for the UN
   Canada withdrawing from Kyoto

November 19, 2011

Challenges of scaling Mt Kinabalu


More than stamina and endurance, the journey up Mount Kinabalu in Sabah is a test of mental strength.

With the mid-morning sun on our backs, we departed from the Kinabalu National Park entrance on the southern boundary of the 4,095m mountain and began our hike in the tropical woodland.

I had never planned on climbing the mountain due to a fear of heights but I didn’t resist either when a Mount Kinabalu charity expedition came up. It was organised by McMillan Woods, a company that provides audit, tax and financial consultation.

The president – and charity underwriter – Datuk Raymond Liew had gathered 50 participants from the company’s international network as well as business affiliates such as Pathlab, ACCA and Chermaine Poo Productions. The initiative raised RM100,000 for charitable organisations such as the Sabah Charity Organisation, Kechara Soup Kitchen Society and the Malaysian Association of Help for the Poor and Terminally Ill.

“What we’re doing here goes beyond charity,” Liew, a trim 54-year-old, had remarked as he watched the team gear up earlier that morning.

“This is a practical exercise where we learn to serve others. In fact, our event spokesperson, Chermaine Poo, is with us despite two slipped discs in her spine. I find that inspiring,” he explained. 

Hanging tough:  Climbers abseiling down a steep incline towards Laban Rata after passing through the Sayat Sayat checkpoint. — Photos by Cheryl Poo

It would be a 6km hike to Laban Rata for a brief night’s rest, and then we would continue our ascent to Low’s Peak, a further 2.7km from the lodge. I had been cautioned on the effects of thinning air and advised that slow, deep breaths and keeping to a steady pace could help fight off nausea, drowsiness, fatigue and other symptoms of altitude sickness.

After the second kilometre, we started to feel our chests heaving as we traversed the mossy forest floor and hiked up uneven wooden planks, often without supporting rails. We took pit stops and chatted with the European and Australian tourists who were descending the mountain that morning. Ever since Sir Hugo Low, a British colonial officer, climbed Mount Kinabalu in 1851, thousands of tourists from around the world have followed suit.

The thinning air was getting to us, and by Km4, we were pausing for breath every few steps. The porters, though, had no problems, easily overtaking us despite the burden on their backs. We paid them a rate of RM8 per kg to carry our backpacks, which were bound into giant haversacks over their shoulders. Men and women alike were incredibly strong. Currently, 160 of these Bornean natives, between the ages of 20 and 55, earn their living from the mountain.

“You do this every day?” I asked incredulously.

“About once a week,” one of them replied.

They were a friendly folk, strong as horses and sure-footed as mountain goats. More than once my guide Joseph pulled me to safety when I slipped on the steeper tracks the next day.

The last kilometre to Laban Rata was difficult. The air had become so thin that we had to stop to catch our breath every few steps. My watch read 4pm when we staggered into the three-storey Laban Rata lodge that evening. The fitter participants had arrived an hour before us, including Liew, who raced up despite leg cramps.

At 3,273m, the air here was uncomfortably thin. Amidst the excited chatter in the cafeteria, I sank glumly into a plastic chair and tried to recall my reason for participating. I only cheered up when a sumptuous buffet dinner was served an hour later; everyone dug in like hungry wolves.

Over the next three hours, the remaining participants trickled in, including an exhilarated but feverish Poo, who was wan from the long day. After washing up in the freezing water, we hit the sack by nightfall. (The water heater at Laban Rata is indefinitely broken.)

At twilight, we were up to prepare for the remaining leg. I pulled on five layers of clothing to insulate from the biting cold. Save for the beams from our head torch, it was pitch black outside.

As we climbed higher, the flights of “stairs”, flanked by thick wooden “banisters” and coarse ropes, opened into a larger, steeper landing. Here, we had to climb using a loose piece of nylon rope, held to the ground by metal rungs, that stretched all the way to the summit.

“When you get up there, don’t look down,” a friend had warned me before the trip.

Despite a raging fever and two slipped discs, Chermaine Poo (left) managed to reach Low’s Peak.
Ignoring her advice, I became acutely aware that two fears accompanied me that morning: the fear of God, and the fear of falling off Mount Kinabalu. But truth be told, a beautiful sight opened up before me, too. Dawn was breaking and the morning mist was just beginning to lift. I could see white, fluffy clouds cascading over the horizon, over the bright city lights below. It was also terrifying – we weren’t harnessed in!

“Ahh ... kalau jatuh tu tak ada harapan,” one of the guides told me in heavily accented Malay. Slip, and that’s it. Gulp.

We passed the Sayat Sayat checkpoint, past which climbers are entitled to the famous “Mount Kinabalu certificate of completion”.

I learned from the guides that there had been mishaps before – hikers falling off the cliff or going missing for days, only to be found frozen. They were reluctant to say more beyond that, explaining that it would be bad luck to talk about such things.

It was particularly chilly that morning; one participant had a vial of liquid ointment in her pocket turning into ice. Having made the 8km mark, I was content to stay put as others passed me to climb a further 700m to the summit. The downpour the previous night had left the skies cloudy. We could see layers of cloud beneath us and the very sharp precipice we stood on. With the wind swirling in our ears, we snapped a few photos and then made our way down the same path.

As we descended, the morning mist cleared and gave us a better view of the valley below.

We arrived at Laban Rata for breakfast, then continued our way down. Going downhill was not taxing but it was tough on the knees so I moved at a leisurely pace, helping myself to the tanks of untreated mountain water at the rest stops. My legs were quivering by the time I arrived at the park exit gate in the afternoon.

“It was extremely cold. It was hard to move, and with every step, I wanted to turn back! But once I reached the rocky landing, I was able to savour the breathtaking view. I was scared and relieved!” Poo told me later that evening.

Participant William Arul, 55, remarked, “Scaling Mount Kinabalu in the darkness was helpful; the thick mist ensured that my focus was limited to what my eyes could see, which wasn’t far. And that made the journey (to the peak) achievable.

“It was a fantastic team effort by everyone,” said Liew. “It was an exercise that challenged our limits and ultimately, we did it in the name of charity.”


Ecotourism Hub
Ecotourism Destinations | Malaysia
Ecotourism News
Wildlife Malaysia
Glossary Ecotourism