“It’s only about another 20 minutes to the top,” said the guy coming down the mountain, However, nearly an hour or so later, head splitting migraine, the sound and feeling of my heart pounding in my ears, and having thrown up along the way, I made it to the top of Mt Kinabalu!
Mt Kinabalu is in the Malaysian state of Sabah on the island of Borneo. Mt Kinabalu is 13,435 ft above sea level and is the tallest in Southeast Asia. IT is still growing at a rate of 5mm per year. It was a beautiful area in which to climb due to the wide climatic range beginning in the tropical rainforest at the entrance to the mountain climbing area, to temperate climate changes at higher altitudes. Plants and animal species not found anywhere else in the world are fond on Mt Kinabalu.
“No technical skill is required,” as stated on the internet. It is one of the easiest mountains to climb, as far as easy mountain climbing goes. I didn’t even need to be an elite athlete to climb this mountain. I just needed the willpower to keep going up when my pounding head was telling me to immediately go the other way!
Anyway, donned with our backpacks of clothing, head lamps, water and snacks, we traversed our way up the mountain. There was an uneven amount of slippery rock, rock and wooden steps, and dirt paths dotted with boulders to jump over, or sit upon as we made our way, kilometer by kilometer, step by step, and sometimes even breath by breath to the top.
Few climbers are overcome with nausea and vomiting, and I guess I fall into that category, because at mile marker 4km, things went downhill fast for me. The altitude was taking its toll. There was nothing I could do to relieve the pain in my head, the sickness in my stomach, or the elevated heart rate, which was steadily pounding away in my head. Having skied many times in the Rocky Mountains with similar mountain elevations, I didn’t think the altitude would bother me, evident as I didn’t take any type of medication with me on the climb.
Finally, we reached the top of the mountain where we were housed at a lodge with cafeteria and dorm type rooms shared by others. There was no hot water, so a freezing cold shower was my only option, which I took. Still feeling horribly sick, I crawled into the bunk bed and tried to go to sleep. It was impossible as sick as I was, luckily the bathroom was just across the hall from my room.
They provided us with dinner, which I tried to eat, but I wasn’t fortunate to keep it down. The next morning was the same as I tried to eat breakfast. Not a good way to start the day.
Meanwhile, others were sick with altitude sickness as well. Little did I know until later, another lady was receiving oxygen due to the thinning air at the top of the mountain. Had I known that was an option, I may have tried that too. I was in desperate need of feeling better. It didn’t seem to help her though, so she was strapped onto a wooden plank and carried down the mountain at 1:30 am.
I can say our descent down the mountain around 9:30 am was a whole lot easier than the ascent. Once I made it to that same 4km marker that I met coming up, I was all of a sudden fine. I could breathe the fresh air and my head stopped pounding.
We made it to the bottom in a much shorter time than it took to reach the top and I was glad it was over. That could have really sucked if I had let it, but I think of the things in life that truly suck, like the death of loved ones, illnesses and such and I realize that was just a little effort, (ok, a lot of effort as it was physically exhausting) on my part and I was fortunate to be able to have had the experience. It was a beautiful mountain to climb and as long as you are not prone to altitude sickness, you should give it a try if you are in the area.