Typically, Disco and I were pretty unprepared for our latest climb. We had all the gear and post Annapurna were feeling fit but what we didn’t realise was that we had, inadvertently, signed up for some actual mountaineering!
Adam, Disco and I flew to Kota Kinabalu from KL on Thursday afternoon and, after a two hour bus ride, began climbing the mountain at 0920 on Friday morning. Adam had sorted the entire excursion with a company in KK called Downbelow and they were really great. All tourists have to climb with a guide and ours, Yadiz, was super nice. He pointed out lots of flowers and fauna and was always checking that we were well. The climb to our base for the evening was not far, 6km, but it was steep and sweaty work. Luckily, we reached our bed for the night before the heavens opened and managed to stay relatively dry. That’s when things got interesting.
Pre- dinner we were given a safety briefing regarding the via ferreta, called Walk the Torq, which we had the option of doing after reaching the summit. The walk from the base camp to the summit was steep enough and required holding onto a rope (see above) but the via ferreta was a completely different beast. This would require wearing a harness and traversing along steel wire rods using carabiners. We were not required to do it but had paid for it and the safety briefing was a practice at using the ropes and carabiners. We decided to wait and make a decision in the morning as to whether to do it. But, in the back of our minds we were thinking this would be a good blog post!
The climb to the summit began at 0245 and we reached the top at 0530 in the dark and perched on a rock to watch the sunrise. At 4096m we were well above the clouds and although it was not a clear morning the sky was incredible: beautiful pinks and oranges. We took a fair few photos then began the slow descent to the checkpoint building up our nerve to tackle the via ferreta. We had proven that we could walk the walk but could we walk the Torq?!*
*credit to Adam Simson for that lovely little play on words.
I don’t remember, in my adult life, being so scared as I was before beginning this. Not since my first ever day of teaching when I had to tackle sex education with 9×4 do I remember being terrified. I quietly wept as our guide tied me into the harness and volunteered Disco to lead the way.
It was just the three of us in our group, Charlotte from Shanghai, us and our instructor. Disco was in the lead but then we turned and the instructor led for the latter half of the expedition when we had to climb the heli ladder, a ladder suspended off the side of the mountain that was like a helicopter ladder. It took 2 and a half hours in total.
Climbing Kinabalu was fantastic fun and conquering via ferreta made it even more rewarding.
Footluce and Disco’s high: the summit, literally and figuratively.
Disco’s low: headaches.
Footluce’s low: there were loads of rats at the summit- they follow me everywhere!