Climbing stage 1 begins.
Waking up in the early morning at about 5 am, in the chilling mountain drizzling cold is not the most favorable experience. The soft mattress and warm blanket just too good to let go. But still, we were already prepared in less than half an hour, everyone was worried that the rain might get worse. The team reorganized at the main office and later on went to the restaurant for breakfast, also part of the package. After a good breakfast and some hot drinks, we gathered in front of the open space and meet our guides. As the regulation specifies that each guide are allowed for 6 people, we had to pay for 3 guides overall.
The rain had subside a little but it was still making us wet and cold, normally at this time of wet season, rain falls in the morning and late afternoon as the guide said, therefore we should plan to reach Laban Rata between that time. An estimate to reach Laban Rata, the point where we would be stopping for the night before we continue the climb again, is about 6 hours which equates to 1 km per hour walk.
From the main office, transportation is needed to get us to the Timpohon gate, the point where we will start the walk . The drive took us about 10 minutes up hill again through twisting and winding roads. The time when we started climb was at 09:07 am. We were supplied with a lunch pack of sandwiches, an apple, 2 hard-boiled eggs, a bottle of water.
At the gate, there were 3 porter, an old man in shorts, sneakers and T, he was with two other younger guys. The three of them were busy arranging and securing their load onto their flat support ready to transport goods to the mountains. The man with his two sons was carrying supplies for the check point at Laban Rata. He had been doing this work for 20 years and his son is now literally following his foot steps. It is amazing seeing them at work. His calf muscle had been shaped defined and contoured to such a form that anyone can just imagine and see the strength their legs have.
It didn’t took them long before they overtake us and leave us behind.
For every 500 meters or so.. there are resting huts, equipped with toilets, water containment tanks, and benches. Here we can take a break for a while. Taking break too long however is not recommended by the guide as the climb is more difficult to resume if the body rest too long and cools down too much. The cold environment does have an effect to the body, as we would need extra energy to cope with the cold weather, compared to when we are at warmer climate.
Time 09:40 am, we reached the first hut… conditions wet and damp and the shoes were getting wet. Not a downpour or storm, but the humidity of the air is well felt plus the cold temperature, makes the body cold on the surface but warm in the inside. The mouth feels dry but there was no thirst, still I just keep taking small sips just to keep the mouth wet and to avoid other complications.
The initial climb, for the first 1 Km was mostly steps, it was stepping uphill on the man-made staircase all the way. Uneven steps, bulging rocks slippery surfaces and puddles of water, makes the already challenging hike even more gruesome. There was not many exchange of words between us, intent on the track ahead, you could almost feel the energy and enthusiasm everyone was submitting. As expected on the first hour of any physical activity, the body will need to adapt to the environment. A different environment to all team members, but being humans, the most adaptive species on earth, the transitional period depends on one susceptibility.
At 11:30am, almost afternoon but instead of getting warmer, it is getting cooler.. at this point I should have considered wearing thicker clothes to keep away from the cold conditions but tried to ignore and hoped that the body can adapt. At a certain point, I started to feel the cramps in both my legs. It forced me to stop regularly and apply some ointment for relief and made my walk slower. I was among the last behind my group, while the others was far in front.
At 01:00 pm, after 4 hours walking, I just ignored the distance traveled and how much to go. For reasons of psychological and because I just wanted to experience the walk and enjoy the scenery. It was all greens and mist damp air, but a new experience none the less. At a certain point, there were squirrels that were so tame that they even walked on laps to get the food from the feeding hands, it was strange at first, but could it be due to the number of visitors that these wild animals have had with humans.? The terrain gradually change after a while, where at first there were soils and thick bushes, big tree and woods, later it turns to a more open and rocky like terrain, yellowish color, with uneven surfaces that are roughly shaped.
Plants also begins to change from what we normally see in tropical forest, and presents themselves in a different way. Interesting to see anyway and had the chance to photograph some of them. Wish I had the chance to photograph more, but since that I was lagging behind, that intention had to be forgotten.
Time 04:00 pm, walking and climbing, suddenly I saw that we were over the clouds. It was hard to describe, the feeling of accomplishment was there but it was just not right yet. After 7 hours walking with worn out almost cramp legs, we all made it to the last resting hut before we reached Laban Rata. The check point was there in sight and we took a breath of relief. Enjoying the scene for a brief moment.
stage one complete..!
Finally, we arrived at the end of stage 1 for the day. I was relieved, tired, cold and glad this was over.
Dinner was next on the agenda, 7 hours had passed by and the only meal I had within that time was the lunch pack given back at the buffet restaurant earlier this morning, yearning for all of us to the restaurant.
Entering the restaurant, I didn’t know what to expect and guessing that the eating cafeteria would be like some dormitory canteen or something, but I was taken aback, honestly, by the interior and venue. It was nice and cozy, and I’d have to congratulate the management on doing a good job in maintaining an admirable condition. Considering how far the place is up here and the amount of work they would had to put up in bringing supplies such as raw material, gas tanks for cooking, not mentioning staff management and maintaining services standard. I asked one of the waitress and she said she goes down the mountain once every month during her shift rotation, for her rest days.
The food was very nice, don’t know if it is because of the hunger or altitude, but I enjoyed it very much and had 2 plate of refills.
After that early dinner, we enjoyed the background for a while, chat with new acquaintances and get to know some of the other climbers in a friendly atmosphere.
The rest house where we were supposed to sleep for the night before starting again at early morning was situated some 200 meters further up.. So we head to our rooms after everyone had their meals. The rest is much-needed and I would need to recuperate as fast as possible from my earlier climb to hope for success reaching the peak. Basically 6 hours is all I had.
We were lucky we managed to catch the glimpse of sunset today… I was just lucky to be able to reach and in time to see the amazing sunset with the rest of the team. As expected, every one took out their camera and begin snapping away the beauty of nature, seen 10,000 feet high.
A very quick bath (the water is cold as the heater broke down), change of clothes and some rub of ointment on the strained legs muscles, recharging the battery and phones and camera, we were all off to bed after 8, we planned to start again at 01:30am next morning. Which gave us about 5 hours of sleep. Besides from tiredness, the only obstacle that can hinder our progress was a downpour. The guide could call-off this expedition and all the effort would go to waste. Everyone was praying that won’t happen..!