Waking up in our shared room on 22nd December (Shona and I sharing with the brilliant Irish Sharon and Aussie Emma), we headed for breakfast and safety briefings before driving to the trailhead for about 9:00am.
We were joined on the climb by local mountain guides: the 59 year old Supinghi ('Pingi'), young Billy and James, and our trip guide, Johmin ('J'). All amazingly fit, patient and capable guides who could not have done more to help us.
The hike started smoothly, with everyone feeling pretty fresh and the weather perfect.
Before too long, the group separated out to a pack at the front (including S and me), led by Billy - the guide with the wink and the Mohican.
A further group were a wee way behind, travelling with James, and bringing up the rear was the stalwart Tim - a chap suffering from progressive MS, with truly inspirational determination - who was back-stopped by J and Pingi.
Every half or full kilometre, small rest stops were provided, normally with toilets.
Before we joined the trail, such frequent stops seemed ludicrous, but it quickly became apparent how necessary they were.
The gradient was fairly severe. The terrain was either boulders, or big steps, and the going was relentless.
The stops were essential to rehydrate, eat and rest. And pee.
The day's destination was our bunkhouse, 6km up the trail and at 3273 metres elevation.
We all remained in good spirits despite the hard going and by kilometre 4, were well ahead of schedule.
We heard that Tim had fallen behind, but was supported both by the guides, and a couple of our team had held back to give him encouragement.
Spirits stayed high, and those of us in the front group made our 6km overnight stop by 2:30pm - about 2.5 hours ahead of target.
Tim made it in a few hours later to an emotional and rapturous applause from the team.
On arrival, we dropped our bags and headed out onto the lodge balcony to rehydrate and witness what was singularly the most spectacular sunset we've ever seen - from our vantage point above the clouds, we saw a molten skyline creating deep silhouettes of the mountainside; the red hues bouncing off a cloudscape dominated by a dark storm cell, periodically exploding with flashes of lightning.
Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: The Mountain - Mount Kinabalu.