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"Climbing Mount Kinabalu is mind over matter"
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"Climbing Mount Kinabalu is mind over matter"

Geetha KanniahIn early January 2014, Geetha Kanniah, 18, a Commonwealth Correspondent from Malaysia, joined a team of amateur and experienced mountain climbers to hike up hills and mountains every weekend. Their objective is the Everest base camp, but there are important lessons to be learned along the way.

Our objective: to trek up to base camp Everest in 2016. But our short term goal: to climb Mt. Kinabalu-the tallest peak in South East Asia on Merdeka day (Malaysia’s Independence Day, 31st August).

We reached the summit a day late because of logistic problems in the journey from Kuala Lumpur to Sabah. At the end of my weekly practice, tired and exhausted, I always asked myself what I get from these excursions. I got my answer upon reaching the summit of Mount Kinabalu. I had experienced for the first time, the importance of mind over matter.

After a not-so-great but heavy breakfast we started off at the base with a briefing of the route we were taking up Mount Kinabalu in Sabah, Borneo. The guide briefed us on our timing to pace ratio, the wildlife, and local superstitions we had to abide by – no shouting, no stealing, no falling head-over-heels in love with the mountain. The guardian spirits would retaliate!

Twenty of us started our long-awaited journey. That excitement of adrenaline kept us going for six hours up the six kilometre route to our overnight lodge halfway up.

We took the Timpohan route, a naturally formed stairway. The rocks were spaced far apart. Each step was a hard pull on the hamstrings up steep elevations with challenging footholds in a rich and diverse ecology; green rainforest to muddy stretches and to dry barren land. As we climbed, I felt I was climbing out and above the clouds.

For the first four kilometres, the trek was manageable, yet tiring. Pass the fourth shelter and the mental game began, pushing through the fatigue and telling my legs to keep going.

It was the best feeling when I suddenly saw the roof of the guesthouse at Laban Rata. And slowly, the off-white square building too, and you know you’re done for the day. Sunset at 6pm sent us all to bed early, in a room of six people, on hard uncomfortable bunks. Without electricity, we used headlights to find our way in the bedroom and bathroom. What a sleepless night.

We started again at 3am. We struggled through layers of sweaters, zipped up our windbreakers, got our gloves on, switched on our headlights and off into the dark and unknown.

All I could see with the help of my headlight was my next step. When I turned around, I saw a trail of headlights and nothing more. The terrain was dry and the wind biting cold. Because we needed more oxygen in the thin air, we breathe through our mouths, and that made my throat absolutely dry. With so many bottles of water in our haversack, it was impossible to open even one because my fingers were so cold and I couldn’t remove my thick gloves.

The track was at an elevation of 80 degrees, which made it a lot harder. Every 15 steps, I needed to catch my breath. Some stretches were only a slight wedge on the mountain side, beyond which was a drop straight down the mountain.

phpmehkRnPMWhen we reached the plateau before the peak, I discovered four members had pulled out at Laban Rata itself. They had had enough, putting months of training (when we climbed hills and mountains every weekend) to complete waste. We reached the 8.5 kilometre mark and seven other teammates decided they’ve had enough. Breathless and satisfied with seeing the peak from 350m away, they discovered their limits. The temptation to succumb – to give up, to listen to my physical pains, my throbbing head, my reluctant muscles – was also so great. But my dad and I, along with balance of six member decided we could push on to the final 350 metres to Low’s peak.

It was the hardest 350 metres I’ve walked in my life!

My mind was telling me I couldn’t do it anymore. It no longer was a physical challenge, rather a mental one. I had to fight off that inner voice shouting “No more!” Slowly – step by step, deep breaths, thumping heartbeat, shivering cold fingers, trembling and wobbly knees, we ascended the last lap. Fifty metres to the peak, we crawled on all fours. Before I knew it, I was at the summit!

Magnificent! Awesome!

I looked around at the multiple peaks peering through the clouds. Shades of blue rose around the dry, grey rocky terrain I had just hiked up. I basked in the view, the chill air and my own glory. At that moment, at the summit, I learned that it all came down to one thing:

Mind over matter!

Photo – Geetha Kanniah

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About me:

I am a Malaysian who looks for adventure and thrill, and is passionate about sports. I enjoy tennis, swimming, badminton and most recently, longboarding. I also spend a lot of my time with my camera, capturing as much as I can, while documenting them on my blog: journeywithacamera.wordpress.com.

My travels give me the exposure to learn about the world. And to know and do more, I volunteer with different organizations, particularly in the marine field. My ambition is to be an explorer and to reach out to people.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?

To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/

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