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Saturday, 01 September 2007

The Wild Island of Borneo - Page 4

Written by Sherry Ott
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Borneo…maybe you’ve heard of it - but do you even know where it is? I’m sure that if I gave you a globe you’d all have trouble putting your finger on it. What if I told you that it is the world’s third largest island…and it contains three countries: Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei. At one time it was a wild place inhabited by headhunters, but it’s now a lush island in the Pacific near New Guinea and the Philippines. My curiosity with Borneo started about seven years ago when I was living in San Francisco. I was up late one night watching television. I came across the show “Eco-Challenge.” It was an adventure race that was shown on cable (before the craze of reality TV).


We raced around the river for 2 hours looking at monkeys and searching for crocodiles. Once the sun went under, we were treated to a strange site, Natural Christmas lights blinking wildly in the trees. They were fireflies. Growing up in the Midwest, I had seen many fireflies and like most kids I used to catch them and put them in jars, take them in my room at night and fall asleep with my natural nightlight. However these Borneo fireflies were different, they were the size of gnats and instead of a long flash, they had a very short flash and would blink in unison in the trees. There were thousands of them, coordinated like a symphony.


All of this river activity and rafting was fun, but the real reason why Russ and I were in Borneo was to climb Mt. Kinabalu, the tallest peak in SE Asia. Six months before I had attempted to summit Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa and had to turn back the night the rest of my group summitted, due to severe altitude sickness. Ever since then I had my eye on Mt. Kinabalu.


A view from the top - above the clouds!




I thought that even though I couldn’t make it up to 19,000 ft. (Kilimanjaro), I should be able to make it to 13,000 ft (Kinabalu). I had an intense determination that had been building since Africa.

However, I miscalculated one thing; it had been 6 months since I left my home in New York. I used to run 25 miles a week, and go the gym. During my vagabonding – I’m lucky if I run 6 miles a week and each month my fitness level deteriorates. As soon as Russ and I started up the trail, I knew I was in for trouble.

russRuss descending the rock face…it looks as if he is going to walk off the face of the earth!







Russ and I were paired up with an older man, Mick, from London. Mick was 64, he had a great attitude, and he knew nothing about the climb, as he had just signed up for it the day before. He said that a young Chinese woman had sold him on the idea of climbing Kinabalu. She told him that it was an easy walk and that she herself had done it 3 times. He observed that she was about 3 stone overweight – so he was at least skeptical. The three of us were assigned a guide, Francis, and off we went. I quickly made some observations within the first km of climbing.

1. I’m out of shape
2. Francis has the personality of a sock
3. Mick, at 64 yrs old, was going to kick my ass all the way up the hill
4. I wouldn’t see Russ again until we met at the lodge
5. I’m out of shape


rockThe literature about the climb said that a reasonably fit person could summit. It takes two days to make the 8.5km climb – the first is spent going up, up, up from 5000 ft. to about 10,000 ft. where you hunker down in the Laban Rata hut. On day 2 you are to get up at 3AM and start on the summit route in the dark. You make it to the summit (13,435 ft.) by sunrise. The temperatures around the summit are normally right around freezing and the wind is brutal. The same day you summit at 6AM – you also come all the way back down to the Park Headquarters where you start – covering about 8,000 ft. descent in one very long day as you end around 3PM.


(Page 4 of 8)
Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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