FRET NOT THE FERRATA
by Laura Aguirre
Upon the drive up winding roads amidst the mountain mist we could see Mount Kinabalu peeping through the clouds.. I had no experience in mountain hiking, all I knew was that the excitement and positivity to reach that 4072mark was on full throttle.
Two bottles of red-bull and water, a fanny pack full of chocolate bars, nuts and a pair of walking sticks, we took off on the great Timpohon Trail, with blood boiling with excitement, itching for adventure and thirsty for experience.
The damp air kissed our cheeks as we took easy steps along the way. We stopped by the second Pondok (hut) to have our lunch, with some friendly but polite squirrels. The mountain guide advised us not to rest for too long as it will be harder for us to get back the momentum when we continue our journey. So we rested for no more then 5 minute on each hut along the way.
We soaked in the sights and sounds, wildflowers greeted us along the way as we made that 3272m mark at Laban Rata where we will seek refuge for the night. We got settled into our comfy bunk beds at pendant hut, a cozy lodge that echoed of summer camp vibes. Shortly afterwards we were briefed on our ferrata activities, the what goes where, musts and donts and dos. We were thoroughly taught how to work the rods, cables, how to tackle obstacles.
After the briefing the only noise that followed was the rumblings of our stomachs. We satisfied our big appetites with a hearty buffet lunch above the clouds. We took a stroll around the area and relished in spectacular views until we retired into the warmth sleeping bags.
We got up to an early 2am wake up call and into the smell of toast, jam and coffee circulating the air.
I threw on 3 layers of clothing, had my headlights securely fastened to my forehead and gloves to keep my fingers from turning into ice, the journey of “so near yet so far” continues! It looked a lot like a trail of ants slowly making way to a giant piece of candy thrown down from the heavens. Ants glowing with white light.
A narrow path lead us to a steep granite wall requiring us to lean a little to the left while tightly holding on to a rope. I looked down over my right shoulder and saw the tiny specks of light coming from the a valley that was still asleep, and there I was, almost 4 thousand meters high being swallowed by vast clouds.
After a series of “almost there” “no turning back now” “imagine the sunrise from up there” “You didn’t go shopping for all this proper attire for nothing” , I got to Sayat-Sayat check point, the last check point before we take proceed to the summit. The peaks seated majestically in the near distance, a silent uyet commanding presence. Did I mention that Sayat-Sayat point is also where the World’s Highest Toilet sits? How can one not resist to pee in there!
With all the energy and optimism I could muster, I unwrapped another chocolate bar, took one big gulp of water and carried on my quest to the peak.
6:15am, 4072m high, I am dusting the soles of my feet on the grand terrain of Low’s Peak with dawn creeping in behind me. Magnificent golden hues melted me into a pool swoon.
The way down back to Sayat-Sayat point was no piece of cake. There was a cut-off time of 8:00am that had to met, or else I couldn’t join in on the Ferrata activity. As soon as I got there, we rested for a few minutes and jungle trekked to the starting point. We got our gears on, next thing I know I am strapped on the walls of Mount. Kinabalu, looking down, I felt like so small, in a big way. The exhilaration kept me going, cable after cable, hooking and unhooking pin after pin, it was the greatest challenge. I conquered my fear of heights, defeated my doubts and fed my faith in travel.
Witnessing Low’s peak trumpet through the divine dawn of day upon ascend was a lot of beauty to digest at one time, but dangling along the granite walls of Mount Kinabalu upon descend was the pinnacle of my fleeting youth.. A kind of splendor that sliced me right open and moved me in ways unimaginable.
Strapped to a verticle slab of rock, no prior experience, small and humble, I am dangling off the walls of Mount. Kinabalu with a spectacle of all sorts of glory laid out before me, waterfalls in all its antiquity and majesty.. the raw elegance of Mount Kinabalu’s hidden plateaus.
I’d say, Fret not the Ferrata indeed. You have never really lived until you have had your forehead touch the sky!
WE CAME, WE SAW, WE CONQUERED
by Mariana Lim
I made it to the summit of Mount Kinabalu, and not only that, I got another chance to put my stomach into knots during the Walk the Torq Via Ferrata. A total experience of its own at Mount Kinabalu.
Climbing Mount Kinabalu has always been this wild fantasy I swore I’ll do one day. And when my sister and I finally signed up, we had no idea what we were in for, not to mention adding the Walk the Torq activity into our climb. We were 2 amateurs going to do the climb in a span of 2 days and 1 night. A day to get to Laban Rata, a night of rest and heading towards the summit the very next day. We made our way from Kota Kinabalu City to Kinabalu Park early on the first morning, reaching Kinabalu Park at roughly 8am. We had a simple packed breakfast, met our guides, put on some extra socks and went on our way.
On the ride to Timpohon Gate it started to rain. And by the silent glances we exchanged with one another I think the guides had sensed our anxiety. They broke the silence, jokingly rejoicing for the rain. Said it was better than the afternoon heat breathing down our backs. Which bought some relief to us. We had a short briefing at the gate, where the guides told us that in order to do the Walk the Torq, we had to reach Laban Rata before 3.30pm. Which was their cut off time.
Ready, set, go. The pressure was on.
The rainy weather had added some mysterious beauty to the summit trails. It was misty, gloomy, and wet but being it the rainforest, the trails seem to thrive in this weather. The greens were gleaming, little streams forked from the hills into the trek and light clouds of mist hung above low valleys. It was wild, it was vast, it was beautiful and it was serene.
Reaching Layang-Layang mid-way point, the landscape changed drastically. The tall forest trees were noticeably shorter. Luminescent green was now a cold grey.
The final kilometre stretch was brutal. The air was thin, my knees was killing me. And I actually contemplated which would hurt more;- to finish this final 1 km ascend or to do the 4km descend down.
We reached Laban Rata at 3pm, just half an hour shy of our 3.30pm cut off time. It took us 6 hours to reach Laban Rata, not too bad for a rookie. We were going to stay a night at Pendant Hut, our accommodation for the night. Once reaching Laban Rata, we registered into the cabin and got ready for the Walk the Torq briefing. It was short and informative, a quick hands-on trials on the simulated railings. It gave great insight to what we would be expecting the next day.
After the briefing, we headed to Laban Rata Restaurant and dined amidst the clouds. We watch the sunset over Kota Kinabalu through the warm walls of Laban Rata, before retiring to our quarters in anticipation of tomorrow.
2am, that was call time. In pitch darkness we were all set, bee lining for the summit. We had our headlights on, scarf up to our noses and 3 layers of everything we had. It was a silent walk and the altitude sickness was starting to set. I wasn’t too sure if it was just nerves or if it was the sickness that had gotten my stomach in knots, but next time I’ll be sure to bring some altitude sickness pills.
It was already in sight, less than 200 meters away. Low’s Peak standing in the warm glow of the morning sun. But the knots in my stomach had other plans. It decided that it had had enough. I may not have made it to the very peak of Mt Kinabalu, but I sure made my mark in a puddle or two by its peak, the famous 8.5km mark. I told my sister to carry on, that this was as far as I could go.
The guide and I waiting opposite the South Peak, keeping shelter from the harsh brush of wind. Doing her final ascend on Low’s peak, my sister made the victory for the both of us. We now had yet another cut off time to catch. We had to be at Sayat-Sayat Hut before 8am for the Walk the Torq activity.
It amazing what you’ll see while descend the mountain. Fields, villages, farms and rolling hills stretches right below the granite slopes and onto the horizon, they all go unnoticed while ascending in the dark.
Once we reached Sayat-Sayat Hut, we met with the Mountain Torq Trainee for our very next adventure. I felt much better, and couldn’t possibly forgive myself if I let the opportunity to do Walk the Torq go. So I strapped on, harness and helmet at the ready, and took on the granite walls of Mount Kinabalu.
It was exhilarating to say the least. Extreme circumstances, with all safety measures assured. Scaling down the near vertical walls of Mount Kinabalu was surreal. Looking over my shoulder, it was panoramic view of everything I had overcome the day before. It was overwhelming, truly an experience lost for words. An experience I’m glad I successfully did, despite the setback of my summit conquest.