Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Mount Kinabalu - A journey armed with courage

WHY do people climb mountains? Because it’s there, some would say. Mount Kinabalu in Sabah is no exception. Thousands climb it every year.

In his novel Maskerade, Terry Pratchett writes: “A huge mountain might be scaled by strong men only after many centuries of failed attempts, but a few decades later, grandmothers will be strolling up it for tea and then wandering back afterward to see where they left their glasses.”

It’s an overstatement for sure, but with the number of people that have scaled its heights of 4,095m, it can’t be that hard, no? Having been there over the Merdeka holiday, I’d say that it wasn’t difficult — at least in terms of hiking or mountaineering skills — but it certainly wasn’t easy either.

I made the trip with 20 others in a fundraising campaign called Klimb Kinabalu 2017, organised by the National Cancer Council (Makna). Our group comprised Makna staff, volunteers and individuals connected to the organisation, along with four employees of sponsor AirAsia.

The plan is to reach the summit a.k.a. Low’s Peak on Merdeka Day, Aug 31. Meanwhile, fundraising began on May 19 and will continue until Sept 16.

Unfortunately, I didn’t reach the peak. Despite my best effort I was still too much of a couch potato and I missed the 5am cut-off time at Sayat Sayat (the last checkpoint before the top) by five minutes. But I feel blessed to have made it that far, and I’m already planning to try again.


The Kadazan Dusun people of Sabah consider Mount Kinabalu sacred. And after the 2015 earthquake that took the lives of 18 mountain guides and climbers, I felt there was an extra sense of poignancy to the ascend, as well as wariness.

Death and disaster can strike anytime, but that shouldn’t stop anyone from living their best, healthiest lives.

Chan Chee Kun, 47, from Ipoh, Perak was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer in August 2015. On the night prior to our climb, he told us: “I was feeling very low for about six months after that. But then I went through some things and I started to read.

“In one book, the author said, ‘I have this disease and it means I’m going to die. But everybody is going to die sooner or later. Just that my chances of dying may be faster than yours. But perhaps, also, your death may be faster than mine’.”

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