Monday, January 25, 2016

Solo Female Backpacker - Climbing Mount Kinabalu

Intense and awe inspiring, Mount Kinabalu is the 20th most prominent mountain in the world and the most exciting, challenging, and humbling experience I have ever had.

Day One

Nailed it. Bag is 50% clothing, 50% snacks

Just about to leave my hostel when the head chef calls me back and asks where I'm going. In his soft, old grandpa voice he speaks slowly:

"Ooooh. The mountain... You know people died in June? ... Nobody saw the quake coming... 7am, just after the sunrise... Schoolchildren, you know? ... No warning... Nature can be cruel..."
And then, with a Professor Trelawney type snap of voice he said:

"Do not leave your guide, Miss Kirsten. Never leave your guide. Stick to him, and don't leave him."

My van horn beeped outside and I bid Hostel Grandpa adieu, thanking him for his advice and simultaneously trying to shake it off.

Made it to the Kinabalu National Park without adventure and was met by my guide, Joe. This made me instantly happy as he had the same sense of humour as a Joe from home, albeit with a goatee, which made for a good team straight away!

Time to get cracking. We quickly went through the chat of families, work, sports, and travelling, and then got down to the funsies of learning about the nature which surrounded us. The hike itself goes through 7 separate ecological strata, each clearly defined with completely different animals, insects, plants, trees, and ground!

First up was rainforest, and my gosh it was spectacular. Jurassic Park Extended Edition crossed with Tarzan, then HD it all and times it by 7. Just incredible! Next up was jungle, much thicker and denser and a rougher ground surface. Steps upon steps, we kept climbing and climbing, taking quick rests at the shelter points every half KM or so for some water.

The best thing was how deserted the trail was. We tag teamed at the rest stops with a Finnish guy who introduced himself as having done Kilimanjaro last year so "this will be very simple I think".

The first 2.5km went by on adrenaline and happiness, chatting away with Joe and kicking up a fair pace as he answered my endless questions about plants and climbing and trees and so on. Reaching 3k was a struggle, though, as my thighs and calves figured out this wasn't going to stop for a very long time yet and that they were not prepared for this! Still, we powered through the sandstone layers, the limestone layers, and the red clay type layers, taking in the astounding beauty of the whole park and occasionally running to an edge to look into the abyss of vine covered landslides, as Joe pointed out where the old trails used to be.

Lunch. HAAAAAALLELUJAH praise the sweet baby Jesus and the makers of roast chicken sandwiches.

Next up: metamorphic rock and the mother of all step sections, so I took full advantage of a carb-load session. 

Met up with Kilimanjaro at the shelter point and offered him half my Nature Valley as he looked so roughed up. We sat on a boulder watching the clouds roll over our first real view of the mountainside in all its glory, sipping on our water and munching away.

 "This is nothing like Kili, man. Y'know, Kili you go slow, 6 days, moving slow and taking each change in the landscape slow. This is like, crazy! There's no stop! It's 7 strata! Right there! Crazy, man..."

We munched away in silence after that, sizing up the boulders on the section ahead.

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