(photo by Ashley)
On December 22nd, I traveled to Kundasang to climb Mt. Kinabalu with one of my families here in Sandakan. The family I climbed with is related to Gunting Bin Ladagan, one of the first local village-men to climb the mountain – so I’m not going to lie, I kind felt like royalty :). There were 30 of us during this two-day climbing adventure. The first day you climb 6,2k to Laban Rata. The climb was mostly rocky with some angles that seemed like you were climbing at 90 degrees and it felt more comfortable to bear crawl. It took me about 4 hours to reach Laban Rata, which better than average. Somehow out of the 30 of us I ended up being the first to reach the 6.2k marker.
After dinner a climber’s bedtime is 7pm, as you get up the next morning at 2am, eat breakfast and start your climb to the summit. If you stay on track, you will reach the summit to see the sunrise. This climb was nothing that I had mentally prepared myself for nor expected. All I could see is the stars above and maybe a step or two ahead of me with my flashlight. If you didn’t know the trail, which I didn't being a first-timer, it felt at times like I was going to fall of the edge if I didn't follow the rope that was right in front of me. The rope wasn't just there for a trail to follow, but for climbing support as well. There were parts during our climb that we had to go in single file and use the rope to help pull ourselves up.
After about an hour of climbing it longer starts to feel like a race on who can get to the top first, as everyone finds a pace that is comfortable for them. There were times it was just me and maybe one or two other people that were close by. A little past the halfway mark, my flashlight went out and that was the first time I wanted to give up. I started taking longer breaks, looking at all the stars above and the torchlight of others behind me. The air was getting colder and soon the feeling in my hands and feet felt like it was going numb. I kept looking at the top of the mountain, thinking I’m almost there, but the more I climbed, it just felt like there was no ending – and that was second time I wanted to give up. At this time, I was climbing with a friend from our group, as I had to rely on him for light. I kept asking God to get me strength and kept apologizing to my friend for having to wait on me. The last 1.0k seemed like the longest route – it was still dark, the top seemed like hours away, I was much colder than I expected and my confidence level was way down – that was the third time I wanted to give up. I turned to my friend and said, “I can’t do”. He stopped, walked to where we were side by side and said “Ashley, just relax and take it one step at a time”. At that point I told myself I can't give up!
By the time I reached the summit it was still dark. I was tried, cold and exhausted and the sunrise was only minutes away. We all gather together to try and stay warm and had our cameras ready.
(photo by Ashley)
The sunrise was beautiful and as the sun continued to raise the view of mountain, the villages below and the clouds within became clearer and breathe taking. Even though I was exhausted and wondering if this was really worth it, there was those few seconds where I thought I could do anything now! Some might say, 4,095m isn’t that high, but it wasn’t about the height, it was about conquering the challenge.