‘Congratulations!’, ‘Well done!’ rang out along the hallways of Talisman Malaysia’s offices in mid-June as the triumphant climbers from the Mount Kinabalu Expedition returned from their climb. Mount Kinabalu at 4095m is the highest mountain in Malaysia (and SE Asia) and a 4-day excursion from Kuala Lumpur. It was the second time that a Talisman Malaysia team has scaled the peak in support of charity projects in the communities that abut Talisman’s Kinabalu, SB309 and SB310 Production Sharing Contracts (PSCs) offshore Sabah, Malaysia. So far the team have collected over 60,000 RM (CDN $20,000) for the charity projects, more than double what was raised in 2013!
The congratulations in the office were a far cry from the mountain itself. No-one would say that Mount Kinabalu is a technical rock climb, but it’s a committing hike requiring physical fitness, an overnight stay on the mountain and managing the effects of altitude as the air progressively thins with elevation. We took a well-travelled route from Kuala Lumpur to Kota Kinabalu, transferring by coach and then starting our hike from the Timpohon Gate (Altitude: 1866m). Confidence and spirits were high as we shouldered our packs and headed along the trail. After an hour or two kilometers were travelled, altitude gained, and lunch consumed. The group spread out as we each fought or own battle with the trail, our bodies and the interminable number of steps. I found myself asking whether anyone has counted them…..I searched Google it appears no-one has.
Arriving at the Pendant Hut at 6.5km from the gate and an altitude of 3,270m above sea level we found our overnight bunks, enjoyed hearty dinner and a briefing about the program for the following day. Early to bed is required as the summit trek requires you to be woken at 2am to begin the summit trek. It’s dark and cold outside, so inside head torches were tested and a tool box talk about hiking in the dark took place. Once outside we resumed our personal battle with the mountain trail and 8 out of 9 team members made a very foggy Low’s Peak summit (4095m). Cold conditions on the summit (2-6 deg Celsius and a brisk wind) meant we didn’t hang around, so there’s no summit picture of the group. Wanting to warm our bodies in the now rising sun we descended from the summit plateau and re-grouped in the sunshine. This year we elected to descend to the Pendant Hut, not by the normal path, but by Via Ferrata. Via Ferrata (Italian for iron Road) are quite common in the European Alps, but this one is the first in Asia and one of the highest in the world. The Via Ferrata consisted of descending down the near vertical face of Mount Kinabalu using a wire rope and steps securely anchored into the rock, a new experience for all of us. Our guide had briefed us the night before, ensured we were all safely attached and actively intervened whenever our procedures deviated from best practice. In exchange, we all secured broad grins to our faces and enjoyed the break from the interminable path of descent that we would have followed otherwise.
On returning the hut we found time had been marching on, it was nearly 12, and cloud was encroaching upon us. Tropical cloud will bring rain it’s just a matter of time. A quick lunch, bags re-packed and we begin our descent. After 45 minutes the first drops or rain are felt, 30 minutes later we are getting very wet and there’s no let-up. By the time we reach the Timpohon Gate there are no smiles, we are wet to the core and chilled to the bone, just relieved at safely completing the expedition. A change into dry clothes, some fried rice, a coach transfer to the hotel in Kota Kinabalu and we are much more cheery bunch.
In conversation the next morning there are aching bodies, but recognition by everyone that they are different now. The battle with the mountain has moved our perception of what is possible. I can say that I am proud to have been a part of this team, every member was committed, acted responsibly and did everything (and more) that they were asked to.
The 9 team members were:
Fatin Wan Mohamed – Planning
Nguyen Thu Trang – Planning
Haslinda Idris Shaari – Finance
Norzilawati Mohd Nor – Kinabalu
Wan Mohd Fashran Wan Mohd Fauzi – Supply Chain
Ishak Shuhud – Projects
Riccardo Vercesi – Exploration
Richard Burditt – Drilling & Completions
Simon Molyneux – Exploration
We could not have safely completed the climb without 2 local mountain guides from Mountain Torq and the team of EK, Aiman, Zaim and Justin from Active Bugs Sdn. Bhd.