Friday, April 01, 2011

Jungle ascent a peak experience in Sabah Borneo

As the first morning light creeps up the jagged peaks, the sky changes from black to icy blue and the stunning beauty of the landscape plummeting below me is revealed.

The cold biting at my fingers and face is forgotten as I marvel at the steep granite slope we have just climbed, then at the deep green lowlands and beyond.

When the Carpenters were warbling about being on top of the world, were they thinking about the peak of Mt Kinabalu?

Our adventure to "the top of the world" started two weeks before.

Upon arrival in Malaysian Borneo, we explored the enormous caves and vibrant jungle of Sarawak before soaking up the sun on the tropical island beaches in Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park off Kota Kinabalu, the bustling capital of Sabah.

Now my partner James Hutson and I felt ready to tackle the next challenge - and what better way to finish a holiday than by climbing a mountain? With its highest point (the formidable looking Low's Peak) reaching 4095m, Mt Kinabalu is one of the tallest mountains in South-East Asia.

Because of its relatively easy, climber-friendly terrain, combined with sensational views from the top, the Mt Kinabalu climb is one of the more popular, appealing to about 40,000 climbers (with a vast range in age and experience) every year.

Two days earlier we set out for Kinabalu National Park (a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to the famous peak) along a beautiful and exhilaratingly steep 90km drive from Kota Kinabalu.

On arrival at the park, we explored the many marked jungle trails and attended the information session provided.

The mountain unveiled itself in glimpses through the clouds until finally a full view of the peaks could be made out.

As I looked up at Low's Peak with poorly contained apprehension, I was transported back many months to when James and I were planning the trip.

How high? Oh, just over 4000m. No worries, I have plenty of time to train and get into peak condition, as the Climb Mt Kinabalu website recommends.

Now here I am staring up (way up) thinking that perhaps I should have got that full body endurance cross-trainer after all.

Deciding to save our legs for the next day, we have dinner and head straight to bed.

The next morning, after an early start and a delicious (though perhaps ill thought-out) three-course breakfast, we head to Park HQ where we sign to acknowledge there are dangers when climbing mountains.

We are given individual identity tags and introduced to our guide, Freddie. Time to hit the trail.

On the free shuttle to Timpohon Gate (1800m and the start point of our hike), I learn that Freddie has done this climb twice a week, every week for the past five years.

I reason that he could provide tips for a pleasant climb.

Freddie, as time would show, proved his weight in gold.

"Slow, steady, small steps and don't stop too often," he told us.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Jungle ascent a peak experience in Sabah Borneo

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