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Home > Treks > Kinabalu > Day 4 > 4.4
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Mysterious Sunrise through Piercing Wind

Mysterious Sunrise through Piercing Wind
 
 

SOMEHOW I managed to extract from the thin frigid night air the last burst of strength to give me the willpower to do whatever it would take to reach the summit. Once more I looked up and this time saw two small signs ahead of me. They looked very familiar from photos I had previously seen of the area. Then I realised this was the summit. I was now just ten metres short of my epic conquest!

Dawn breaks on the distant horizon
Dawn breaks on the distant horizon

I glanced to my right where a small patch of the eastern sky was beginning to go orange breaking what had been a long night. The sun will be rising shortly. Thank goodness because it was so bitterly cold up here. The wind was piercing through my thermal top and now I was regretting having left my thermal underwear at home. It hadn't occurred to me I'd need that in Borneo.

I climbed the remaining few metres reaching the summit with relative ease. I handed over my camera to Lianty who led me. He took a couple of photos of me before a couple of others in our group arrived. It was only then I realised I had actually been the first in our group to arrive. I collected my camera and went a couple of steps down the mountain to the shelter of some rocks. The others all arrived and had their photos taken before they joined me to watch the sunrise.

SUCCESS!!!
SUCCESS!!!

When everyone had arrived with Sapinggi at the rear, he asked who had reached the top first, and my guide Lianty pointed to me. Everyone cheered.

It was awesome having been the first in the group to arrive, although my main motivation was thinking that the others had all gone on ahead. However, as Sapinggi had said the other night, it wasn’t a race, it was a matter of everyone reaching the summit, and we had all successfully achieved that – or had we?

Dawn begins to break on Borneo
Dawn begins to break on Borneo

Where was Richard? He had been at the back of the group when we had left Laban Rata, but I had assumed he was at the back with some of the others. He was noticeably missing now. We all wondered where he was, but our guides didn’t seem at all concerned by his absence. It was a bit sad though that he wasn’t up here celebrating with us given all the encouragement he had provided us over the past few days. Then again he has been up here many times before the novelty would have well and truly worn off.

Posing with my group on the summit
Posing with my group on the summit

The eastern sky continued to lighten as the sun rose above the distant horizon. For the first time I now realised I was sitting just centimetres away from a rather flimsy fence with three thin wires running between the metal stakes. The fence was all that stood between me and a vertical drop into an eighteen hundred metre deep chasm that tore the mountain in half. This chasm separated us from a ridge of jagged peaks which stood above a large razorback of cloud. The level of the cloud was just below the distant horizon.

The sun rises between a gap in the clouds
The sun rises between a gap in the clouds

The rising orange sun poked through a gap between two humps of razor back clouds, under some purple alto cumulus clouds just a couple of hundred metres above us and appearing strangely low. The sun highlighted the purple clouds with fiery oranges and yellows. The distant horizon was glowing a fiery yellow colour in the thin band between the clouds.

Looking south, I could see the naked sooty grey rocks we had scrambled over, down to the flat rock surface below. I could see the large peak I had seen, the bare rock rising unnaturally above the dome. Beyond that to the left was a much smaller peak sticking erect like a horn. This was the famous south peak – the one I had missed. Further around to the right, on the other side of the chasm stood several mysterious crags shrouded by mist.

Fiery clouds
Fiery clouds

Looking directly past South Peak, I could see the mountains below. The tops of the rounded black mountains were standing above the woolly purple clouds occupying the valleys between them. Some of these mountains were over two kilometres high, and had seemed very tall from Manukan Island a few days ago, but they were now hardly ripples in the purple grey predawn forest so far below. I looked out beyond the mountains to see the lights of Kota Kinabalu ninety kilometres away seeming to be surprisingly close. It was still dark down there, and will be a while before they will see the sun rise. Beyond Kota Kinabalu was the vast purple grey ocean extending to the horizon some two hundred and thirty kilometres away.

Brilliant colours of the sunrise
Brilliant colours of the sunrise

Here on the bare rocky highest summit of Borneo, the sun had already risen, but the faint illuminating rays of the sun did little to warm us up in these frigid conditions. Most locals would freeze to death up here, but not Sapinggi or the other guides. They were tough in their element with their deeply weathered faces. Sapinggi in particular has lost count of the number of times he has stood here on the summit, but I guessed he had stood here to watch some three thousand sunrises since he started leading groups up the mountain in 1976. That was the year when I first started school.

Rainbow
Rainbow

As for me, this was my first time up here, and all the hiking I had done in New Zealand had done nothing to prepare me for the coldness of the exposed summit. I had never summited a mountain in the early morning to watch the sunrise. All my summits before today were achieved during the warmth of the middle of the day.

Looking out to the west, the wispy cloud apparitions beyond the mountain turned a vibrant but cold orange colour as the sun continued to break its way through the cloud behind me. There were two small peaks nearby, and next to one of them was a rainbow. Now I’ve seen many rainbows in my time, but they were always arches starting from the ground extending overhead. This rainbow was to its side. The peak stopped it from being a complete circle, but it was perfect from bottom to top on the right hand side. As the sun intensified the rainbow brightened and lengthened.

The dome, jagged peaks and the 1800m cliff
The dome, jagged peaks and the 1800m cliff

The peak surrounded by the rainbow was St John’s peak, famous for the legend of the Chinese Widow – or Cina Balu, one of the two possible origins of the name of the mountain. I recalled Sapinggi telling us the other night this large peak was the petrified eternal incarnation of the widow who frequented the mountain to look for long lost Chinese husband. Just as Sapinggi said in the telling of the legend, the peak faces the South China Sea which we could see far below us. The peak represented the widow cast eternally in stone forever awaiting her husband to return from China.

Today she was showing off her beauty with the rainbow on its side beside her like the flowing robes of a brightly coloured gown flapping in the wind. But that was nothing compared to an even more amazing phenomenon starting to unveil.

Shadow of the mountain extending 200km to the west
Shadow of the mountain extending 200km to the west

A vast blue shadow was now forming beside the rainbow. This was the shadow of the mountain extending over two hundred kilometres into the distance, pointing towards the west.

The spectacle was breathtaking. Here I was having conquered a mountain far higher than any in Australasia and viewing this amazing alien world so unlike anything I had ever seen before, and here I was sharing it with a group of newfound friends, all huddled together in near freezing conditions on top of this legendary mountain. No wonder the locals considered this to be such a revered place where the spirits of the dead would venture to.

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Date:

 

Location: Country:

 

Latitude: Longitude: Altitude:

19 May 2010

 

Mount Kinabalu

Malaysia

 

6°04'18"N
116°33'53"E
4095m ASL

 

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