So it took me a few months to finally finish my post on my experience as a first-time Mt. Kinabalu climber. This is a tribute to my ever-supporting partner-in-crime, I mean, partner-in-life, because upon descending Mt. Kinabalu, she was the one who was more determined to finish this life-threatening challenge.
As I mentioned before, the descent took 7 hours. We left Laban Rata late; in fact, James Lee had to shoo us away just so we could reach the base in time for dinner (or earlier, at least). Before leaving, however, we prepared for our descent by me eating a lot of breakfast (I mean a really huge breakfast I sampled all dishes) and Love wrapping her oh-so-weak knees with Omega painkillers and a bandage. We also purchased wooden sticks, 2 for each of us, to help us balance during the descent. We vowed to take this sticks home to Manila. Luckily for us, we did. Yey! James Lee, the ranger, made sure we were prepared enough and bade us goodbye.
Since it was relatively early (though late to some experienced climbers) and a lot of climbers were hiking the trail with us, we were more than eager and motivated to descend those steep steps of Mt. Kinabalu. The trail had gotten so steep that you wouldn’t be able to see the next step from where you were standing at. However, we still managed to stop and take more pictures than the previous night had allowed us – at first. With the fog, the cool weather, the great scenery, the hikers we met who were climbing and descending the trail – we predicted it was gonna be a better day.
There were a few personalities worth mentioning though because they made the descent even more fun. One was an old man who could pass as our father who had two (or was it three) lads accompanying him. We thought, “Hey, we can descend faster than him, I bet!” But we got so relaxed the first few stops we were surprised we missed him on the next stopovers! Now where did that old man go? Did he finally succumb to his weakness and had to be brought down using a stretcher? That I did not want to think of. I’d like to think he was just a faster hiker than us.
Next off: Two gentlemen – one experienced, one who was not. These two dudes were so funny cause they asked if we still needed our wooden sticks. The experienced hiker wanted to buy our sticks for his friend who was so flushed from their hike they had to stop and rest before even reaching the next shelter. Haha. He immediately defended himself by saying he was more of an office guy. We only said one thing – “Yeah, so are we.”
Finally, there was a group of 7-8 (maybe 10) year-olds who were climbing the trail as part of their expedition. I had to look at Love out of sheer surprise and astonishment as to how these kids could even muster enough strength to do the hike. They must have started early, like 8am early, for them to be at this point in their climb. One kid looked like that ubercute chubby kid from “Up” and when Love saw him, his face was so red, he rested his chin on his stick, and suddenly said, “I’m so tired.” Now, isn’t that just adorable?
These climbers were definitely more disciplined as we were. As soon as we left Laban Rata, people were already arriving at that very same place. And all of them were astounded with our 13-hour climb from the previous night. Yup, we are record breakers indeed.
As with the previous climb, the first 3kms were relatively easy. My knees started to gave in after passing the 3km mark. By giving in, I mean that every step down felt like my patella was going to protrude from my skin. I had to go down really, really slowly for fear of seeing my bones pushing out of my body. Now it was Love’s turn to lead the way and encourage me to finish the trail. She constantly checked if I was okay – looking back and waiting for me if she thought she veered too far away from me since I had to stop and rest in small intervals. I also had sores in my hands due to holding my wooden sticks so tight for support.
Of course, our not-so-useless mountain guide ought to be mentioned still. Fortunately for us, James Lee, the ranger, instructed him to wait for us and check on us if he starts to descend faster than a speeding bullet that we could no longer catch up with him. He also carried most of our heavy luggage, with additional costs, of course. As we were slow climbers, we were also slow descending hikers. We had to let fellow hikers pass us by since we don’t want to ruin their momentum. There really is a certain adrenaline rush when you have a big group hiking with you and that made us descend with the same speed, even for a short moment. Then it was back to slowing down due to the insufferable pain of my knees.
We knew we were close when we saw the falls. It meant we were less than 500m to Timpohon Gate and I tried my very best, of course with words of encouragement from Love, to walk and thankfully, the trail became easier. Not much of the steep steps anymore as with the previous ones. And there it was – like an apparition from heaven – the deadly steps that led to Timpohon Gate. By that time, it was already 6pm and yes, we were the last ones to arrive – AGAIN. Before climbing the steps to Timpohon Gate, I rested for what seemed like forever because I never thought I could walk another step again. Then it started drizzling. To my surprise, Love was already at the gate. She really was determined to finish this hike. So I had no choice. I climbed. Every step begging for this hike to end. And it did. We were going to see our families after all.