Spe­cial mo­ments on top of Mt Kin­a­balu

The Borneo Post - - HOME - By Ce­cilia Se­man re­porters@the­bor­neo­post.com Septem­ber 17, 2017

CON­QUER­ING Mt Kin­a­balu to­gether was not part of Karen Ping Paren and hubby Des­mond Ong’s dream list when they tied the knot on Sept 9, 2006.

Both from Miri had climbed Malaysia’s high­est moun­tain in Sabah be­fore but not as a cou­ple – un­til Na­tional Day this year.

Karen, 36, an in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy of­fi­cer with Curtin Malaysia first climbed Mount Kin­a­balu in 2000 dur­ing her univer­sity ex­pe­di­tion; while Des­mond, 40, a con­tract­ing and pro­cure­ment man­ager with Sarawak Shell, has done it with friends twice be­fore – in 2003 and 2010.

Their dream of con­quer­ing the iconic peak to­gether came true on Aug 31, 2017. In the wee hours of the morn­ing on that day, the cou­ple made their as­cent along with Des­mond’s elder brother, Christo­pher, 41, and moun­tain guide Mo­ham­mad Aidil.

Karen told the­sun­day­post the climb was a real test of grit, es­pe­cially after the trails were badly af­fected by the 6.0 mag­ni­tude tremor that took 18 lives – in­clud­ing four moun­tain guides – on June 5, 2015.

Pro­posal and prepa­ra­tions

Karen said a few months back, she asked Des­mond whether he wanted to climb Mount Kin­a­balu for the third time – but the first with her – to cel­e­brate their 11th wed­ding an­niver­sary, and he said yes.

Des­mond then in­vited Christo­pher who loves ad­ven­tures, two weeks be­fore the climb and he too said yes de­spite not be­ing men­tally and phys­i­cally pre­pared and hav­ing no ex­pe­ri­ence scal­ing the coun­try’s high­est moun­tain.

Re­gard­less, their idea was also to prove that with a strong mind­set and a good Malaysian-style break­fast, they could make it to the top.

Both Des­mond and Christo­pher were, in fact, phys­i­cally fit for the climb – ex­cept Karen.

“I trained for two months, go­ing for the Canada Hill or Lereng Bukit Stair­case Chal­lenge, weekly hik­ing at Canada Hill, work­outs at Core Re­ac­tor PT Stu­dio Miri and join­ing 5km to 10km marathons in Miri.

“De­spite my prepa­ra­tions, strict di­et­ing and pre­vi­ous climb­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, it was a very tough trek up and I al­most gave up half way. But in the end, I’m proud we were able to cre­ate a spe­cial mo­ment by plant­ing the Malaysian flag at the Low’s Peak, the sum­mit of Mount Kin­a­balu (4,095 me­tres),” she beamed. The ad­ven­ture The trio ar­rived in the cap­i­tal Kota Kin­a­balu from Miri on Aug 29, some 48 hours be­fore the climb, hop­ing to go straight to Kun­dasang but were caught in a very bad traf­fic jam at Sepan­gar, pos­si­bly due to flooded roads.

Karen said they turned back to KK for an early din­ner at one of the restau­rants there. When the traf­fic im­proved, they set off to Kun­dasang, reach­ing Kin­a­balu Park, Malaysia’s first World Her­itage Site, at 9.40pm and stayed the night at the Hill Lodge.

On the se­cond day, they started early at 6.30am and got to see and en­joy the “ab­so­lutely beau­ti­ful sun­rise” and “heav­enly scenery” around Kin­a­balu Park.

After the manda­tory regis­tra­tion – and a quick break­fast – at 9.09am, they con­tin­ued their jour­ney to Tim­po­hon Gate, the pri­mary en­try point for the climb, 5.5km from the park head­quar­ters.

The 6km-trail to the La­ban Rata plateau with its welle­quipped rest­house at 3,500 me­tres was spec­tac­u­lar, yet chal­leng­ing as it was rain­ing heav­ily along the last 500 me­tres.

Karen said at that point, they were con­stantly nagged by the thought of want­ing to give up but quit­ting with only 500 me­tres left to the La­ban Rata table­land would have been a bad move as it meant walk­ing back an­other 5.5km – in the rain at that!

“We were soaked when we reached La­ban Rata at 3pm – and gosh! – hot drinks and Maggi Curry cups never tasted so good,” she re­called.

After an early din­ner at 5pm at La­ban Rata, they tried to catch some sleep for the early climb the next day.

They had to skip show­er­ing be­cause the heavy down­pour ear­lier had ren­dered the so­lar­pow­ered wa­ter heater un­ser­vice­able.

“So rather than risk­ing an Alaskan-like shower ex­pe­ri­ence, we ‘dry-cleaned’ in­stead,” Karen said.

“We went to bed at 8pm but didn’t sleep much, toss­ing and turn­ing most of the night. The ex­cite­ment and ex­treme cold pre­vented us from get­ting our beauty sleep.”

On the third day (Aug 31), be­fore they knew it, the clock had struck 1am and they had to get up. With sighs of both res­ig­na­tion and re­lief, they got ready for the task ahead.

An early break­fast at 2am was fol­lowed by a short brief­ing at 2.45am. The real chal­lenge At 3am and with the mer­cury hov­er­ing at eight de­grees Cel­sius, Karen, Des­mond and Christo­pher, un­der the guid­ance

of Mo­ham­mad, be­gan their climb to Pen­dant Hunt, about 46 me­tres away.

The real chal­lenge be­gan after they left La­ban Rata. Karen said she al­most gave up due to the al­ti­tude change and cold tem­per­a­ture. She started feel­ing dizzy and tired, and hav­ing pain in her palms and feet.

“I had mixed feel­ings – want­ing to give up, at the same time, forc­ing my­self not to quit, think­ing back on all the prepa­ra­tions made, and the sweet mem­o­ries I will have for­ever of climb­ing and con­quer­ing Mount Kin­a­balu to­gether with my hus­band,” she re­lated.

Karen said she bat­tled like never be­fore to keep go­ing. De­spite the odds – “the crazy tem­per­a­ture and ex­ces­sive sweat­ing in her palms and feet” – she made it through.

“Thanks to my hus­band for lend­ing me his shawl and Christo­pher, his gloves, and, of course, Mo­ham­mad, our guide, who lit­er­ally towed me to the sum­mit,” she re­called. At the sum­mit The climb this time was even more chal­leng­ing be­cause of the new route of an ex­tra 1km to the top after the earth­quake two years ago.

It was only after the gru­elling four-hour climb from La­ban Rata that they fi­nally reached the sum­mit – Low’s Peak – at 7am.

“But the end re­sult – dear Lord, it was the most won­der­ful feel­ing ever. We loved the in­de­scrib­able view, the lung-ex­pand­ing fresh air, the per­fect soli­tude and, of course, the sat­is­fac­tion of con­quer­ing not only Malaysia’s high­est peak but also the third high­est in South East Asia,” Karen en­thused. In­spir­ing mem­o­ries She said the gru­elling 10hour jour­ney from Tim­po­hon Gate con­stantly re­minded them that with grit and a dash of “ad­ven­tur­ous in­san­ity,” they could con­quer every­thing they dreamed of, adding, “No mat­ter what life throws at you, we must never ever lose faith in God and our abil­i­ties to achieve suc­cess in life.”

Karen stressed the suc­cess­ful climb was ex­tra sweet as it was achieved to­gether with the love of her life and her beloved broth­erin-law on what she de­scribed as an epic date – Aug 31, 2017.

“We are su­per happy to share our ‘his­toric’ climb on the 60th Na­tional Day and cel­e­brate Malaysia’s achieve­ments in the re­cent SEA Games, be­sides our 11th wed­ding an­niver­sary.”

Des­mond said he was proud of his wife and his brother for their per­se­ver­ance.

“Thank God, all of us made it to the top. It was more chal­leng­ing be­cause of the new Ranau route after the earth­quake.

“There was also the sad feel­ing of re­mem­ber­ing the 18 peo­ple who per­ished. Our prayers are with them,” he added.

Christo­pher chipped in, “Look­ing back at our achieve­ment, we can’t be­lieve it our­selves – a mem­o­rable feat that has given us rea­sons to achieve more in life.”

De­spite my prepa­ra­tions, strict di­et­ing and pre­vi­ous climb­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, it was a very tough trek up and I al­most gave up half way. But in the end, I’m proud we were able to cre­ate a spe­cial mo­ment by plant­ing the Malaysian flag at the Low’s Peak, the sum­mit of Mount Kin­a­balu. — Karen Ping Paren

Kin­a­balu Na­tional Park The iconic moun­tain is part of the Kin­a­balu Na­tional Park cov­er­ing some 753.7 sq km and with a bi­o­log­i­cal di­ver­sity that has cap­ti­vated sci­en­tists and climbers the world over.

Mount Kin­a­balu was closed to climbers after June 5, 2015, earth­quake and par­tially opened on Sept 1, 2015.

Since the launch of the new Kota Be­lud trail, there has been an in­crease in the num­ber of climbers.

In 2015, a to­tal of 33,414 climbers (19,426 Malaysians and 13,988 non-Malaysians) were recorded, ac­cord­ing to statis­tics from Sabah Parks.

Last year the to­tal climbers rose to 37,805.

The na­tional park was listed by Unesco as Malaysia’s first World Her­itage Site in De­cem­ber 2000 for its “out­stand­ing uni­ver­sal val­ues” and its role as one of the most im­por­tant bi­o­log­i­cal sites in the world.

Huge boul­ders on top of the moun­tain.

Karen and Des­mond at La­ban Rata with Mount Kin­a­balu in the back­ground.

The Mount Kin­a­balu trail map.

Karen’s cer­tifi­cate for scal­ing Malaysia’s high­est moun­tain.

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