Climbing Mount Kinabalu, Part 4
After I realized I had to hike all the way down, over 8 kilometers, I realized I didn’t have much time to dillydally at the top. Time to get moving! As we started to make our way down I noticed something else. There were still a ton of people making their way up. Some looked defeated as we walked by them. Others looked downright mad. I wasn’t insulted because I knew how they felt. We stopped and chatted with a few of the people we stayed with the previous night. They were chipper, even though they missed the sunrise. No matter what, they wanted to make it to the top. Wishing them luck we continued our trek down.
Now that it was light out I saw all that I had climbed in the darkness. How in the world did I manage to do that? Trembling a bit I continued.
When we reached the stairs I had to laugh. Earlier in the morning, when I had to hold onto a rope, I said I would no longer hate the stairs. I lied. Now that the rope bit was past me (it wasn’t as scary on the way down in the daylight) I cursed at the stairs. The Better Half was ahead of me, still snapping all of the photos. At one point, the Better Half cautioned me that the stairs were slippery. The very next second I heard a crash. It wasn’t me that fell, but the Better Half. Poor thing. No major damage was done fortunately.
We made it to our lodging for a quick bite and to check out. During our second breakfast, it was around 8 a. m., we chatted with three other people. The woman who had said earlier that she wanted to skip the climb and sleep had actually turned around after the rope bit. The other couple having breakfast was the third group to reach the summit. They had to wait for an hour for the sunrise and said that it was freezing. All of us discussed how dangerous the climb was. The girls were more open about being terrified and said that on many occasions they wanted to cry. I had felt the same way. One girl exclaimed, “They really should warn you are scary this climb is.” At the time, it was clear that none of us were happy with our decision. Every one of us had heard how awesome the experience would be. We didn’t agree. It was brutal. And now all of us had to hike another 6 kilometers down. Several of us said our legs were shaking from exhaustion and worried about how we would continue the trek down.
I didn’t have long to worry about it. Our guide showed up and we were the first to head down. Our breakfast companions had to wait for the rest of their buddies to return from the summit.
The hike down wasn’t as strenuous as the hike up the previous day. The most difficult part was the fact that all the rocks were wet and slippery. We knew it was going to rain later in the day so we wanted to make it to the bottom before we got caught in the rain again. This meant I couldn’t stop as much as I wanted to. The closer we got to the bottom the more my right leg kept giving out. At times I thought someone would have to carry me down. They do have mountain taxis, which are porters who strap you to their backs and carry you down for a fee. We saw one mountain taxi the previous day and a child from our lodging had to use one after reaching the summit. I was determined to get down on my own. My right leg was determined to give out. We battled the entire time. Eventually I had to slow down. One of the couples we had breakfast with passed us. Not a good sign.
Then the rain came. Really? Hadn’t I suffered enough? My mood deteriorated even more. Soon I was hiking all by myself. Let’s just say I wasn’t the best of hiking buddies that day. I grumbled a lot. Each time I maneuvered my right leg down a step I groaned. Curse words were plentiful. The only thing that mattered to me was to get off the mountain. It wasn’t pretty, but I managed. And my apologies to the mountain for all my bad language.
By the time we reached the base I could barely walk. We collected our luggage that we had stored and waited outside for our ride. We had a five hour ride to our next destination. I was hoping I would be able to get some rest in the car. My driver had other ideas. It was the single most terrifying cab ride I ever had in my life. I may write more on that next week, but not sure I can handle reliving it.
A few weeks have passed now and I can reflect on my climbing experience. I’m glad I did it. At the time I regretted my decision—cursed myself really. Now I’m proud. One of the first things I unpacked on my return was the badge I had to wear around my neck to prove I had a permit to climb the mountain. I have it hanging by my desk. I did it. Would I ever do it again?
Not a chance in hell. But there are other mountains out there. We’ll see.