Friday, July 25, 2014

Mount Kinabalu Trek - our toughest trek ever. Day 1 - Arrival.

A lesson learned - Never under-estimate a mountain.

"Hey, let's go climb Mount Kinabalu," Wai Kit mooted the idea sometime end of 2013. "It's a very popular trek.  I've done it before years ago when I was very unfit, and I suffered.  Nowadays it takes 6 months advance booking to secure a place."

Contents [Click on the respective days to jump to that story]
Day 1: Arriving at Kota Kinabalu
Day 2: Trekking- Timpohon to Laban Rata
Day 3: Trekking- Laban Rata to Low's Peak & back to Timpohon
Day 4: The Real Meaning in Climbing Mount Kinabalu!
So enthusiastic was the take up...

This initial rush of euphoria gotten everyone so excited that Gerard decided to bring Colin along, Wai Kit decided to give Jing Qian a chance at the peak, and Serene and I, as always just dragged our five children along - Questal, Fann, Zheng Ang, Ah Sing and Ah Li.
Even Ah Chua got so caught up in the enthusiasm that he just closed one eye and signed up. Of course Kai Sing, Kc Tng, Patrick Papin, Francis and Darric were the first few to inked their names.  Chee Wai, Chin Yao and Jeffrey also took the leap.  Finally, not long before the departure, David Low finally decided to throw in his trekking shoes and join the fun.

Wai Kit, in his feeble attempt to keep every one on track on the reality of this trek, reminded all on one of his regular postings that there will be a stretch where we will need to grab on to ropes and move along ledges on the face of the cliff.  The enormity of this seemed to escape some of us, me included... until the moment came during the actual climb.

Two weeks before the trek...
 "It's two weeks before the trek.  It's time to start doing some training to condition those muscles..." another attempt by Wai Kit to drill some sense into us.
Most of the members on the team were active athletes who were not new to endurance sports. Several were triathletes and Ironmen, a couple were marathon runners, and amongst us we also have our regular gym master blaster KS.  Many of us pride ourselves on being very active endurance cyclists who have experienced tough races and events.  And the vast majority of us have had prior experiences in mountain trekking, both in the Himalayan ranges and in South East Asia.  Even the children have trekked in Nepal.  So we were all readied.... so we thought.

So the plan was pretty simple. 

Day 1
We would fly to Kota Kinabalu on the two hour flght.  All of us, except for KS, Wai Kit, JQ and Ah Chua (who flew by Air Asia later in the afternoon) were on the Silkair flight arriving 11am.
 We would stay in two Kinabalu Homestay terrace houses, each house holding about 10 of us in the four odd rooms.

Day 2
We would leave at 5:30am and be transported by our minivans on a 2 hour journey to Kinabalu National Park, a Unesco Site.  

We would start our trek from 1800m altitude from the famous Tipohon Gate to the tiny guesthouse at Laban Rata at 3200m, a trek of about 6-7 hours.  We would have an early dinner, and an early sleep in a communal bunk with many other trekkers, to wake up and gather at the cook house at 1:30am.

Day 3
The plan would be to start trekking up at 1:45am to push for the summit at 4095m, before sunrise at 6am, a punishing and unrelenting upward climb.
After summiting, we would descend rapidly to arrive back at Laban Rata around 10am, for breakfast for around one hour, before embarking on the 6-7 hours trek back to Timpohon Gate.
Our day will end with a sumptuous seafood dinner, follow by a well-deserved rest back in the Homestay houses in Kota Kinabalu.

Day 4
Fly home, with aching thighs.

Day 1: Changi Airport Terminal 2
At 6:30am on 25th July 2014, we all gathered for breakfast.
The Aunty forever poon pee pee... What trek?

Don't see Ah Li small small size smile smile.. her endurance
was really damn good.

ZA did very well during Nepal.. What about Mt K?
Cheeky looks, but wait till you see them climb!

A Triathlete will forever be steady as a rock.
... and the Ironman as solid.

... A shy father and a son of few words.

Finally happy to be able to climb with Patrick Papin & Kc.

Smiles abound. And I saw no signs of worry for what was to come.  

The only thing that caused a ripple of worry that morning was when our son Zheng Ang's trekking boots decided to call it a day.  Not one.  But both sides.  Shit.

A Video of the son's opened shoes...

Frantic search of the shops in the airport failed to reveal any retail outlets that sold trekking shoes.  Our best plan of action was to attempt to buy from Kota Kinabalu.

Briefing by Jackz at Kota Kinabalu Airport
So we arrived.
And this guide called Jackz who has done Mount Kinabalu 85 times gave us a briefing on the do's and don'ts.
Patrick Papin, Jeffrey Wong, Ho Chee Wai, Serene, Ah Sing all paying undivided attention to Jackz...
David Low was so excited about how he was going to 'Moutain-Goat' this Mount Kinabalu...
Still very relaxed...

It was Deja-vu all over again for our Ironman Darric Tan.
Lunch was at one of the local delights.  Short and sharp.  A little stuffy and hot place called Yee Fung somewhere in the older part of Kota Kinabalu. Photo by Colin Tan.

The guys just ate whatever noodles they sold.  Photo by Colin Tan.

A short search in one of the shopping malls of Kota Kinabalu after lunch confirmed our fear.  There was simply not enough selections of trekking shoes to find one which fits the young man.  The decision was made to resort to buying the RM8 Kampong Adidas the next morning.  These Kampong Adidas were local rubber shoes that the locals wore to walk in the mountains.  Apparently they offered very good tractions.  But we really didn't know what to expect. 
Kinabalu Homestay!
NICE! Nice... houses.
Actually these terrace houses that we gotten for our Kinabalu Homestay was really not bad at all. Spacious and clean, with nice toilet and shower facilities with towels, and kitchen and extra mattresses all provided for.  At S$150 per house per night (to house 10 persons), it was very reasonably-priced.
A shot of the room by Colin Tan.

A nice shot of David enjoying the wifi in the spacious living room. [Photo: Colin Tan]

The 21 of us had two terrace houses in to adjoining streets for ourselves. The only thing was, the neighbourhood was not entirely nice and clean.  There was houses that were occupied, and there were houses that were in a mess, empty and uninhabited.  And wild dogs and domesticated dogs roam the lanes. But we really couldn't ask for more. 

Dinner in the little restaurant on the other side of the Highway.

While waiting for Kai Sing, Wai Kit, JQ and Ah Chua to arrive on their evening flight, we struggled to cross the Highway to the other side for a nice meal of sweet and sour pork, kai lan, fried rice, noodles.. and the works... Again, all thanks to our Chef Francis for his ordering skills.
Photo taken using the Panasonic Lumix FT5 at very high ISO. Just for record purpose of our dinner here across the Highway.
[Do click on the photo above to see a much better version taken by our good team member, the Nuclear Physicist, Jeffrey Wong.]

What? The dogs snatched Ah Sing's left trekking boots...?!?!?!
 Yeah... what better ways to start a trekking trip.  First, ZA's trekking boots opened up in the airport.  And then, after dinner, we realised that Ah Sing's pair of (really) brand new trekking boots which were left on the front porch, had its left side 'stolen' by one of those stray dogs in the neighbourhood.  I discovered it missing when I walked back to the house.  Ah Sing really couldn't believe her bad luck. Gerard, Ah Sing, Ah Li and I  grabbed our trekking sticks and headlamps and went out to the neighbourhood streets to search for her boots, among furiously barking dogs.  But despite turning through several shoes and boots strewn all over the road, we could not find hers.  Ah Li was trembling in fear as we walked "Papa, I am very scared. I am very scared..." Poor thing..
No choice, looked like Ah Sing was also going the way of the Kampong Adidas.

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Mount Kinabalu trek Day 2: Timpohon to Laban Rata