April 2009 Kota Kinabalu
We've arrived and are starting the logistic arrangements for three
weeks of life on a jungle big wall. Should prove quite the test of
all our abilities in having six of us sharing the precipitous
Must say I'm very glad for the collective experience of our team, I
landed last night after a very quick home turn around following
Patagonian time; awoke on the plane feeling a tad disorientated
wondering where I was heading on a couple of occasions.
Apparently it rains every day here in Malaysia, luckily hasn't just
yet but undoubtedly I'll start the cycle having documented such?
Feels very hot n' humid which I think makes for a tougher transition
for the team members fresh from winter, time in the summer
hemisphere for me will hopefully have me more acclimatised.
Acquisition of food, water bottles and fuel is the order of the day.
We left the city and spent the
afternoon watching clouds rip across Mt Kinabalu from the National
Park head quarters. A gracious day as far as the locale is concerned
being as though it didn't rain. Unfortunately we had many logistic
hurdles before climbing can be engaged. As far as remote expedition
climbing goes, especially in cases of new exploration, making it to
the base of the objective with all your gear is the biggest crux.
Today the team has briefly split with Renan taking the rear guard to
ensure our final loads are picked up by the porters while the rest
of us hike to Easy Valley and try to recon the journey beyond.
Thanks for checking it...stay tuned for more dispatches from our
13,000ft camp on Kinabalu's summit.
The team made it up 6000ft vertical through six ecologic zones to
base camp on a high ridge of Mt. Kinabalu. Although flat sleeping
spots are non-existent and there is only a small pool of collected
rain water, it is one the most awe inspiring, above the clouds camps
we have ever experienced. We also got a look at our first ascent
objective and are blown away by its size, steepness and beauty!
The team starts the wall! Mark and Alex on day 1 and Conrad and Kevin on
day 2 push up the big-wall. Also Jimmy gets some high-angle photography
and Alex bags a first summit free-solo.
This is the lo-res version due to lack of solar power for the satellite
modem and laptop. Thanks for watching & best regards from our rainy
From our base camp high above the route morning routine involves
dropping a similar distance into the valley then climbing up the
opposite side. After coffee, of course, the team rappels 1200ft to
begin a jumar to the high point and press the route further. Thus
far we have seven pitches fixed: All overhanging with the ropes
dangling far from the cliff. Back down at the end of the day then up
the ropes back to camp has been the routine. Tomorrow (April 16th)
we're heading up to commit to life on the vertical plane and stay en
route until concluded. Hauling all necessary food, water,
portaledges and necessities for an estimated four days of
precipitous living! We're all psyched and ready for the transition.
The commute from base-camp on the
ridge is over: the team commits to the wall. Life in the vertical
world is based out of two hanging portaledges. Kevin and Conrad push
the line higher into virgin terrain as Alex, Mark & Jimmy drop below
to free climb pitches previously aid climbed. Alex shows how free
climbing on first ascents, climbing without pulling on any
mechanical devices, is a bold progressive climbing style.
The rain has been torrential with only a small solar window each
morning, so video size remains small.
Conrad and I left the portaledge camp and headed up ropes fixed
above the dangling home the previous day by Mark & Alex. The
breakfast pitch fell to Conrad on this day. Looked like a straight
forward corner crack, I couldn't really tell or see much of his
progress from my hanging belay that was tucked neatly under an
overhang. Expletives precluded large blocks, suitcase sized chunks
spun passed my protected stance offering a gauge of our altitude
with the time the crash took to audibly rebound. As if the blocky
loose nature wasn't enough the temperature began to drop & the
radically overhanging nature of our cliff began to fail in it's
protective aspect from precipitation. I wondered if Conrad had his
shell layer as I dug through the haul bag for every available layer.
Many items later I was still engaged in belay aerobics to stay warm,
blocks occasionally rained from above and the rope kept moving
upward. Upon completion of my cleaning the pitch both of us were,
excuse the expression, 'pissed wet through'! The storm was picking
up momentum so I declined to take the line further and we retreated
to camp. Alex & Mark had dropped down to work on free-climbing a
lower pitch and were already in their ledge. We thought they had
landed dry and were relaxing in their shelter, they were of course
drenched but thought we'd made it down dry. The storm had reduced
our communication to walkie-talkies even though there was merely six
feet between us!
The team tops out the wall and tags the summit. Thanks for checking
the posts from the field out here in the Borneo alpine!
Mt Kinabalu Expedition
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