Les and I did a bit of climbing in Borneo (Malaysia). The first mountain was the volcano Gunung Api in Gunung Mulu National Park, Sarawak. This affords a view of the famous Pinnacles. This was probably the toughest trek I've ever done (discounting my oxygen problems on Volcan Cotopaxi). The altitude gain was 1710 metres over 2.4 km. This averages to a 45% gradient, on a very rough track. Add temperature and humidity and the mix is potent. We made it to the top in four hours, including the redoubtable Cynthia.

The second excursion was the granite monolith called Mt Kinabalu, at 4,095m the highest peak in Malaysia. We started at 3,289m, in darkness (with head-lights) at 2.30 am. Our guide set a brisk pace and we saw many "fireflies" both above and below us. These were other climbers: over 100 people set out that morning. Parts of the ascent required us to pull ourselves up by the fixed ropes. The climb is marked by a thick white rope, so it is impossible to lose the way. I got separated from Les and the guide but I found my rhythm and kept passing other climbers. To my surprise, I reached the summit before anyone else, at 4.30.

Les and the guide arrived a little later, plus hordes of other people. Now came the hardest part: waiting 90 minutes in 2 degrees C and a howling wind for the sun to appear, just before 6 am. My gloved fingers became numb. Les suggested I put my hands in my armpits and this helped a lot. Les had a headache and nausea from the altitude, while I just felt the cold. Mt Kinabalu is an unusual granite mountain and we were able to admire it for the first time on the descent.

The only reason we hired a guide was because he was part of the package, as we planned this at short notice, making it hard to book a place to sleep on the mountain. The cool but steamy walk up from the entrance gate at 1,866m to the hut at 3,289m took us 3 1/2 hours.

Tad Boniecki
March 2011

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