Monday, June 23, 2008

[Day 1] Timpohon Gate – Laban Rata/Pendant Hut

First thing I noticed upon arrival at the park was a group of Japanese climbers getting ready to board the mini-bus. Jewel and I proceeded towards the park office to arrange my climb. I was told by Jewel to just relax at the lobby for she will take care of everything. I got an ID/Permit (that I didn’t notice that I have a name on it! I just found out when I was relaxing at Pendant Hut). After a few minutes, we then went to the operations office to meet my guide, Nani.
We boarded the same bus with the Japanese group to Timpohon Gate, the start of the trek. At the gate, I showed my ID/Permit to the ‘gatekeeper’ to let me pass. My trek started around 0900hrs. Nani asked me what training/s that I did to prepare myself for the climb… I told her about my trail runs and my mountain biking weekends. She gave me one good advice for the climb: “Walk slowly, don’t stop, and enjoy the climb.” So, I did what she said.
I, with Nani, was trekking with a Belgian couple (Diether and Ruth) and with their guide from the start of the trek and towards Laban Rata.
On the trail, I was talking profusely with Nani, so she won’t feel detached from me. I would tell stories about mountain climbing in the Philippines. She noticed that I wouldn’t get tired greeting other climbers we meet on the trail, even guides and porters. I even told Nani that I have previously planned a Mount Kinabalu climb in 2005 and that I was eyeing to explore the Eastern Plateau via the Bowen’s Route.
After some hours of walking and taking pictures of the trail, the view, the flora, the wildlife, and some climbers, we arrived at Laban Rata by 1230hrs. Nani asked me how many hours did we walk. As I reviewed the pictures, I tallied it up to 3hours and 30-minutes. She told me that it was a fast climb and congratulated me on our speed. Nani told me to take my lunch before we go to Pendant Hut. I bought Mee Hon Soup for both of us (RM15.00/order). At the balcony of Laban Rata, I met an English couple (I thought the lady was French because of her complexion) that I would share jokes after dinner.
After the filling meal, we then went to Pendant Hut, the home of Mountain Torq, the company that is offering the Via Ferrata on Mount Kinabalu. I was met by numerous Mountain Torq guides in the hut and showed me where I would sleep. Nani then went back to Laban Rata, where she and other trekking guides stay for the night. She will be back on Pendant Hut by 0300hrs to fetch me for the summit climb. William, my Via Ferrata guide, told to me to meet him at the lobby by 1400hrs for the Via Ferrata instruction. I did have 45-minutes to relax before the training… Zzzzzzzzzz…
By 1400hrs, my alarm went off and I was surprised to see two new roommates, Sam and Fiona, an English mountain biker couple. They signed-up for the ‘Walk the Torq’ (the introductory Via Ferrata) with the Mount Kinabalu climb in the Borneo tour package; they would eventually skip the Walk the Torq, so they can descend earlier.
I met William at the lobby and we started the Via Ferrata training. After some equipment overview, we went outside (the rock face between Laban Rata and Pendant Hut) for the hands-on Via Ferrata sequence. William then pointed to me the Via Ferrata route that we will take tomorrow. He is certain that we would finish early because I was the only one that he will take on the route tomorrow. William will be meeting me at the top-edge of the Sayat-Sayat Slab headwall by 0630hrs tomorrow.
By 1700hrs, Sam, Fiona and I went down to Laban Rata to have our free buffet dinner. We shared a table with Diether and Ruth. The two couples were very amazed with how much I have eaten. They just ate salad, a sandwich, some legumes, and some rice meal. I ate two platefuls of everything on the buffet table. Hehehehe…
They asked me when did I placed my reservation for the Mount Kinabalu climb and they were very surprised to know that I just signed-up for the climb a month ago. They told me that the latest reservation they placed was six months ago. Laban Rata Rest house is fully-booked until December of this year and anybody who will be climbing with a short notice would be staying at Gunting Lagadan Hut, or worst, would be setback a few weeks or few months more.
After dinner, I went out to the balcony again and had coffee with the English couple I met earlier. Sorry, I forgot their names. We were making fun of other climbers in the Rest house. I was telling them that most Asian climbers would smell minty from the liniment they are applying on their body and Europeans/Americans/Aussies would smell tangy because of sunblock. Then the girl took a sniff at me and she said that I smell good and I don’t smell like liniment… Hehehehehe…
By 1800hrs, I was back at Pendant Hut. I just read some climbing magazines and took pictures of the sunset. I also prepared my pack for tomorrow’s summit climb and the Via Ferrata.
I hit the sack at exactly 2000hrs.

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