Mt Kinabalu

I organised a team building climb of Kinabalu during October 2011 – The following report is a write-up from the the Kongsberg Maritime Subsea Newsletter on the climb.

In October 2011, a joint team from FUGRO Survey Pte Ltd, Singapore and Kongsberg Maritime’s Subsea departments in Horten and Singapore offices, travelled to Sabah, East Malaysia to make an attempt to climb South east Asia’s highest mountain.   At 4098m above sea-level, Mount Kinabalu is known locally as ‘The revered place of the dead’.

The climb took 2 days.  The team started at an altitude of 1800m on day one.  A stiff climb up a rocky path, through the many different layers of mountain vegetation, ensued.  Finally after an exhausting 6 hours the climbers reached the sanctuary of the Pendant hut, and could rest and rehydrate.  The Pendant hut is situated at 3290m.  At this elevation the climbers were starting to feel the effects of the altitude and the reduced oxygen.  After a brief few hours’ sleep, they woke at 1:00AM and geared up to make the final push for the summit.  The mountain gods were happy on this morning, the weather was crisp and cold but beautifully still with almost no wind – perfect climbing conditions.

The climbing immediately got steeper.  With head torches fixed to their foreheads, using the fixed ropes for safety, they slowly climbed higher up the granite fortress of Mt Kinabalu’s summit cone.  With every 100m ascent, the climbers felt the effects of the reduced oxygen more and more.  With screaming lungs and burning legs it was with immense relief that they finally reached the summit at 6:40AM.  Just in time to see the morning sky erupt in light and one of the most incredible sunrises unfold before their eyes.

Getting to the summit of a mountain is only halfway.  The team chose to descend by the ‘Via Ferrata’ route, back down to Pendant Hut.  The Via Ferrata leads you literally, straight down a cliff face.  Using holds bolted into the cliff face, and taking extreme care to ensure they were always connected to the safety lines, the team slowly inched their way down the steep exposed rock for 1.5 hours.   After arriving back safely at the hut and a short stop for a well earned breakfast,  a brutal knee jerking  4 hour’s of descent down  steep steps to the base of the climb followed.   A tired but happy group of climbers finally arrived back safely in the township ok Kota Kinabalu at 6PM that night to celebrate the climb.

The trip was a success in many ways.  Not only in that all climbers made it to the summit and down safely, but also in the relationships that formed during the journey.  John McGregor from Fugro states:  

It was good to get out of the office environment and spend time getting to know each other a little better in a situation that, with the exception of Grant Rawlinson, was completely new to us. The weekend was challenging, enjoyable and there was great camaraderie, all of which contributed to us gaining a much better understanding of each other, both in a personal sense and a corporate sense. It’s always easier to communicate in Business if you have this extra level of understanding. This will definitely help with future communication between our two companies, particularly when it involves technical subjects.

Start of the trek - before the sweat begins!

The route

Plenty of steps and rocky paths on the way up to the huts on day one

Rehydrating and eating in Labuan Rata hut

Ascending in the dark up the fixed ropes.

Stene Forsund with the shadow of Mt Kinabalu behind him

Henning Tolleifsen, John McGregor and Frank Wilhelmsen on the summit.

View back down as we begin the descent to the Via Ferrata

Henning comes down the fixed ropes from the summit after watching a glorious sunrise

Stene Forsund checking out the view from the top of of the Via Ferrata

Starting down the short version of the Via Ferrata

Coming across the final rope bridge

Most people get sore legs on the way down - lots and lots of steps

Post climb celebrations in Kinabalu

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