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Mountains and Monkeys

Sepilok, Malaysia

It may come as a surprise to some, but we've actually survived to tell the tale of Mount Kinabalu, so here it is!
We arrived at the foot of the mountain on the 7th Feb, and after a day of acclimatising and getting used to the bitter temperatures we thought we'd left behind in England, we hit the mountain. On the 9th, we met our guide at the park headquarters and got a bus to Timphon Gate (the start point) ready to begin the climb. It was 7.20am and the cold air, along with nerves woke us up. Although the mountain didn't look half the size of Everest, a valley circled the mountain which meant we had to go down before coming up. The first few kilometres were tough as the terrain was constantly changing which made it difficult to reach a steady state. The psychological impact of this was that we felt a bit out of our depth and soon realised that we may have bitten off more than we could chew. Although it was tough on the legs and lungs, every now and again there was a break in the dense foliage which revealed a fantastic panoramic view of the surrounding hills. These brief stops provided us with a much needed break, and as we ascended further, they became more and more frequent. At the 4km point, we felt the air becoming thinner, and our lungs were working overtime to try and compensate for the lack of oxygen. As we were attempting to climb the mountain in a day, we had been warned that we had to reach the 6km point within 4 hours or else we would have to come back. We kept an eye on the time, averaging about half a kilometre every 15 minutes. With the gradient ranging from around 40 to 70 degrees, we knew we were doing awesome. The hard work was beginning to pay off, and we reached the 6km point of Laban Rata in 3 hours, an hour ahead of schedule. Tihs gave us a massive increase in confidence, and although our legs were feelng extremely weak, for the first time we started to believe that we were actually going to make the summit. After a quick bite to eat to replenish our energy stores, we set off again with only 2.7km between us and the summit. However, the trail of steps we had followed this far soon stopped, and were replaced by sheer rock with a safety rope lining the ground, should we slip or fall. As the trail became steeper, the air became thinner, and although we dropped down to only covering 500m in 20 minutes, we were doing fantastic for time.
Then, our guide, Arnold, dropped a bombshell. He said that the times had been changed and that we only had until 1pm to reach the summit and get back to the 6km rest point. This meant we had less than an hour to cover about 2km of the steepest part of the mountain. He then said that we didn't have time to reach the summit but we would go a little further before turning back. We were devestated. We had climbed to arounnd 3,500m above sea level, and covered nearly 7km of terrain, only to be told we wouldn't make it. We were defeated by time rather than our physical ability, which added insult to injury. Nevertheless, we had come this far, so we decided to get as far as possible. We scrambled up the rock faces with what little energy we had left. We had been climbing for over 5 hours now, with breaks of about 15 seconds every 10 minutes. As we reached the 7.5km checkpoint, before the ascent to the summit, Sara's body couldn't take her any further. She was breathing heavily and her legs began to shake with fatique. I was ready to stop as well, but Sara encouraged me to go furter. I was sucking as much air as I could, the concentration of oxygen at this height was less than I'd ever experienced, and every muscle hurt. The guide stood about 20m ahead, and I put my bag down and, equipped with only a bottle of water and a Guvners shirt, I headed for the top. The pace was fast, and the guide navigated up the rocks with ease. I found myself counting 20 steps, then resting for a few seconds, then taking another 20 steps. Everytime I saw the mountain level off, I pushed through to reach it, only to find that it disappeared as soon as I got to it. I soon reached the 8km point, 700m from the summit, and was 4971m above sea level. A small dip seperated me and the summit, and it gave me a massive boost. But it wasn't to be. The guide said we were out of time, and had time only for a few pictures. I came back down to meet Sara, and we both felt defeated and frustrated, to have come so close only to run out of time. We realised we should have done it over two days, but we had given it our all and didn't regret trying to reach the summit in a day. We had climbed higher than we had ever climbed before, and this was enough to make us proud of ourselves and each other.
The decent was the same as the ascent but in reverse! However, we made it down in 3 hours, even though it seemed to last forever, and the torrentail downpour didn't help. It seemed as though the way down was twice as long as what we covered on the ascent, and we couldn't believe that we had walked so far uphill. By the time we reached the bottom, our knees and thighs were in agony, and we just wanted to sleep. Unfortunately we had to walk another 500m back to our resort! Drenched, freezing, and completely shattered, we had tea and hit the sack.
The following day we picked out broken bodies up and headed to Sepilok, home of one of only a few Orang utan rehabiliton sancturies in the world. After checking into Sepilok Jungle Resort (which is amazing and has a swimming pool, jacuzzi, gym, and a spot for fishing!!!)
The sanctuary was 5 minutes walk from the resort, and yesterday we spent the day there. The pictures we took do far more justice than writing would, so we'll put some pictures on instead! It was amazing to see these apes in a semi-wild habitat. We saw three females, two of whom had newborns clinging to them! It was a once in a lifetime experience that we thoroughly enjoyed, and we hope you like the pictures!
Were hoping to take a river boat down the Sungai Kinabatangan River, where we've been told that were garaunteed to see an abundance of wildlife, including the rare Proboscis monkey, crocs, elephants, snakes, and hundreds of bird species, maybe even a wild orang utan!

Sorry to those of you who have been worrying whether we're alive or not, inernet cafes are as rare as wild orang utans over here! So don't worry! No news is good news!!

Lots of monkey love,

Kayvon & Sara x x

permalink written by  Kav & Sara on February 11, 2009 from Sepilok, Malaysia
from the travel blog: Round the world trip!!
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Wow - well done on the climb, i would never be able to do that !! :)

You both look like your having an amazing time, I enjoy keeping up-to-date through your blogs!

Stay safe and enjoy the rest of you travels


permalink written by  Vicki Healy on February 12, 2009

Hi Chris Bonnington here.

Well done you can both join the Fruit Cake Society, an exclusive mountaineering club with members such as Sir Edmund Hilary, Joe Simpson and me.

When you got down did you say to Arnold "I'll be back"?

permalink written by  theebs on February 12, 2009

great post! very useful information,
thanks for sharing!

permalink written by  Travel Information For Every Destination on February 12, 2009

hey guys! glad to hear your safe and sound. gosh im so proud of u, that climb sounded very challenging (something i could not do lol- due to lazyness not lack of ability ha :P)- well done for mastering it, thats awesome.
i'll keep checking for the pics, enjoy the monkeys :) lots of love mandrew Smithers xxx

permalink written by  mandy smith on February 12, 2009

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