The training prior to climbing
Last year around this time, dad conquered mountains after mountains of Malaysia to prepare himself for his Mt.Kinabalu trip in October 2016. Climbing Mt Kinabalu was dad’s dream and nothing was going to stop him even if that meant going against mum’s will (trust me on how many times he has differences in opinions with mum because of this). From her point of view, she was concerned of his safety considering the many casualties that have happened there before.
The blessing in disguise
The night before daddy’s big day, mum and I were down with dengue. Both of us were admitted to the intensive care unit as our white blood cells count were as low as three. Dad, a goal-driven breadwinner of our family who holds a sense of responsibility towards the well being of our family, pulled out from the expedition at the eleventh hour. As much as mum was relieved that dad didn’t go for the trip, she said it was a blessing in disguise for dad, stating that it was God’s way of protecting him from danger –hence the reason for why mum and I were bedridden so that he couldn’t join the expedition.
Maeve Gretson quoted “No one has the power to shatter your dreams (except God), unless you give it to them.” Of course, dad remained steadfast to his commitment to conquer Mt. Kinabalu the following year. In January 2017, dad started his rigourous trainings. From the first training claiming he has climbed stairs equivalent to 13 floors of a building, to the last training a week before the trip, he had climbed a total of 245 floors. Each time he proudly announced it, I couldn’t relate but the best I could relate was climbing 20 floors down a building when there was a fire drill which I’d almost passed out upon the last flight of stairs. I guess it was the burning determination in him to ensure he was fit enough to fulfil his dream.
Dad bought an expensive hiking boots two months in advance solely for this long awaited trip. Instead, he didn’t wear it. He wore an old casual hiking boots of Uncle Aaron’s. Unfortunately, the 3-year-old boots gave way when its sole fell apart the second day. Given no options, dad worn the same boots except that one side of it was bundled around by its shoelace to keep it together for the five-day climb. What sillier mistake can one man make than forget his hiking boots? As much as the shoes have served its non-owner well, Dad was too embarrassed to even take a photo of it for memories. Besides realizing the importance of doing a virtual to-pack-list, his most valuable lesson from this incident was not to let a moment ruin your mindset.
No number of training is ever enough to climb one of South East Asia’s highest mountain. Despite many stating that it was not so difficult to hike up till the peak and even if the weather was superb (not windy, not cold, no rain), at 4,095 meters above sea level, be prepared to expect the unexpected. “After going through it, we realized that our training could not even be compared to climbing this mountain,” dad said. He was delusional enough to think that his 245 floors of trainings were sufficient. At least he wasn’t the only one who thought so. I thought so too. I mean who wouldn’t. Its 245 flight of stairs. Not two or twenty-four.
The thin mountain air as dad hiked up higher made his lungs burned as he grasped for breath with each heavy steps. He said there were moments he actually questioned why is he doing this? “When you look at the steep slopes, you wouldn’t dare to climb, you legs would go wobbly,” he added.
Acute mountain sickness (AMS) is the effect on the body of being in a high altitude environment. Symptoms usually start 12-24 hours after arrival at 2,440 meters above sea level, including headache, dizziness, fatigues, shortness of breath, disturbed sleep, loss of appetite, nausea and malaise. Dad was lucky that the Panadol he took had better effect on him than the rest of his team members. “I told him to sit down, take a deep breathe, do not think about the headache, just focus on your breathing,” dad proudly told the story of how he was the hero who saved a boy who claimed that the pain was agonizing and his head almost ‘burst’.
There was more hiatus a day before the final hike to the peak when an unfortunate incident occurred to their captain- the heroic captain who leads a team of 11 people. That morning, the captain was awaken by an excruciating pain at his back. When he tried to move, it was close to unbearable. As captain announced that he would not be following the team to complete the final peak, dad asked me to imagine the sudden uncontrollable fear that swept across their minds. He broke out in cold sweat thinking to himself “if the captain is not going, who is going to lead us?” “It is as though a troop of soldiers go to war without their general warrior,” he further explained to me the situation. True.
The Indian boy down with a fever
Down with a fever, the boy kept pushing himself and was determine to reach the peak. He finally did with the cheers and support from his team members, of course 3 hours later after the rest have completed their mission. He could have easily given up as he was clearly unfit to climb, but that’s not if he has promised his corporate boss that he would have his company’s flag on the peak. A man of his words, he now had photos as evidence for it.
The 69-year-old lady
At the age of 69, one has to be both mentally and physically extremely fit to take up the quest of climbing Mt. Kinabalu. The British lady is an avid-climber and it is her third time conquering this mountain. Ain’t no mountain too high for her, ain’t no age too old for her to stop climbing. And no way she is going to let discomfort defeat her. She was sick on the last day, as a consequence of taking a cold shower. All pale and weak, all members were worried for her wellbeing and whether she would be able to continue the journey. At 2.30am on the same night, much to the awe of the other climbers, she sprung back to her feet and overtook all the team members by a fair bit. Dad said she was the definition of making the impossible possible.
All 13 of them made it to the peak at different timing without serious injuries and hindrances. Taking into account of all the hard work, concerns and persistence, all of them were overwhelmed with joy for completing the journey. In fact, life is like climbing the mountain. Everyone goes by different speed. There are some who climb faster than the rest, some slower. But, what matters is when we are on the right track, eventually reaching our destination.
On their way of descending the mountain, they came across hikers climbing up with heavy backpacks. A little mischief and proud of their achievements (they are allowed some bragging rights after all) they greeted those people who were making their journey up “good morning, just a little more” or “delicious lunch awaits you up there” or “would you like me to carry your backpack for you” knowing that they wouldn’t.
Satisfied with his achievement, dad showed me the colour certificate he had been ‘awarded’ for finishing the climb, adding that his captain who did not finish the climb, was only awarded a black and white certificate. The certificate is a symbol of his victory for reaching the peak, and may be to some it depicts his strength. The lanyard, which was once soaked in sweat now dried up, is a precious souvenir to him too. However, these souvenirs were just tangible items to keep these beautiful memories created with his team members intact. A translated Chinese proverb “Depend on your parents when you are at home, rely on your friends when you are out” was his biggest take away. The encouragement and support were the reasons all 13 of them successfully conquered this 4,095m mother beast of beauty.
“Will you climb Mt. Kinabalu again, dad?”
“No.” “May be Mt. Fuji the next time.”