Sunday, 18 May 2008

Defeated by Mother Nature

No, it didn't happen. We couldn't reach the top.
Not because we gave up, but unfortunately because we had freaky weather and the summit was closed because it wasn't safe to go up there... Such a bummer...
But let's take it all from the beginning:

We left all happy on Thursday afternoon, up to KK, a 20 minute flight from here. We were all kind of giddy, this was it! Here is Claudia & myself:

We had all packed our own stuff in our backpacks, but Claudia was responsible for the First Aid kit - her bag weighed 5 kg more than the rest of the bags! We went through everything after dinner Thursday night, and made sure we had everything we might need. I must say, we had been really thorough with our packing, we had everything (F.e rescue whistles, snacks galore, tape (for broken shoes), knee protections, head lamps etc):

We got up early in the morning because we had pickup at 08.00, got ready and dressed:

We had a lush breakfast:

The funniest thing happened in the lobby of the hotel. Just as we are walking in to the restaurant, this guy shows up - and looks just as puzzled when he sees us, as we did when we saw him! Of course, we had to take a picture together:

Then we set off up to the Headquarters. It took about two hours from KK to the bottom of the mountain, and the weather got increasingly worse and worse the higher we got:

This is the view that met us, already at the Headquarters, or should I say - lack of view:

We arrived at the Headquarters at about 10.00, and got really surprised by how cold it was, already there! We all put on an extra layer of clothing straight away, and started getting a bit worried about how cold it would get even higher up. (We took off our jackets for this picture:)

Claudia trying out the poncho:

It took forever to register, and find a guide for us. As we were waiting some people came down the mountain, and we were very disappointed to hear that none of them had made it to the summit that morning.
Of course, we still had to climb, cause you never might know if we would be lucky and the weather might change, but it felt a bit disheartening knowing already from the start that we would probably not make it to the top.
Our guide talked us through the route a bit:

Then he said we could start, and he would catch up. He and his friend were also our porters, so we left them sorting out the luggage, and off we went. Here we are, all ready and suited up, it was really cold already here:

This was where we were going, to the rest huts at Laban Rata, a trek of 6 km:

Team Sweden:

Up and up...

... and up and up...

The further up we got, the colder it got. We were right in the clouds, so we didn't see anything. It started to rain, first it drizzled and then it rained more and more heavily - add to that the wind, and you are starting to get the picture on exactly how freezing it was!

The porters running (yes, some!) up and down the mountain were extraordinary! They carried so much stuff, not just peoples luggage but food and other supplies for the huts up on the mountain. Just look at this load, and he's such a little guy!

Part of the track. It was mostly rocky steps, but in some places due to the weather, it was just muddy trails, very slippery:

Tried to capture a bit of the clouds and rain:

We ended up splitting the team up during the ascent. Anna and I found a pace that worked for us, and we reached the hut at Laban Rata after 3h40, which was pretty good going! The others came in about half an hour later.
I don't have any pictures from the last bit of the ascent or of the arrival at the hut, because by that point we were so cold and frozen, we couldn't do or think about anything else than getting inside, away from the wind and the rain!
Here we are, in our room that we shared with an old guy from Penang (Malaysia) and an Australian guy:

Those porters/guides of ours, that were supposed to "catch up", didn't come until we had been waiting at the hut for half an hour! The only thing was, I had clothes in my backpack I had planned to put on sort of a bit up the mountain - so I did this climb in only two layers of clothes (my Team Swe-shirt and the rain jacket), with no gloves, warm hat or warm layer on top! I was BLUE, around my eyes and on my lips! So was Anna, we were sooo cold.
Finally the porters arrived with our things, and we could have a warm (it was supposed to be hot, but there you go) shower and get changed. We put on every bit of dry clothing we had! It was nice, but not enough.
We then hired sleeping bags, and actually sat in them like little caterpillars, while we had our dinner and drank enormous amounts of hot tea. The sleeping bags really helped, they were the only reason we started to get our body heat back. Here is a photo of the caterpillars:

This is the restaurant/reception/little shop at Laban Rata. It was supposed to be "heated", but in fact it was just heated between 20-21.00, so we were by then actually happy that we had started so late in the morning so we didn't have to spend too much time up there. We had dinner, and went to bed about 20.00, in time for the heating to come on. We all slept in all our clothes, in the sleeping bags, in the beds.

It was so funny, because several of our fellow climbers thought we were professional climbers! Someone had asked Anna & Maria "Which other mountains our Team had climbed?" and we realized at Laban Rata that others referred to us as "The Swedish Professional Climbing Team"! :) We think probably it was because we had our Team t-shirts on and looked kind of uniform, or maybe it was because of the fact that we were stretching before the climb? Maybe - it was purely because we looked the part so well!

Anyhow, we got woken up by our guide at 03.00 who said that the summit was closed, so we couldn't go up the last bit (a trek of about 2,5 km and rise of 800m). It didn't come as a big surprise, as we could hear the wind outside and it was really, really strong.
So we decided to go back to sleep, and then start the descent as soon as it got light in the morning.
We had our breakfast and then set off just after 08.00. This time around we were better dressed because of course, the weather were still as bad. I had two layers going up - but I had five layers on going down!
Unfortunately since we split up again and Anna and Maria set off in a faster speed, I have no photos of myself going down, because we didn't have any camera Claudia and I. Here is Anna though:

Here is one of the porters, carrying a bed:

Maria, in the clouds and the rain:

When we got back down (took me and Claudia 2h40 minutes) we had lunch at the Headquarters, picked up our certificates and then we were driven back to KK where we rested for a bit and all had lovely showers, mmm!

We treated ourselves to some really yummy Starbucks Coffee and some retail therapy, to make ourselves feel better for missing out on the summit. In the evening we had dinner with a friend of ours parents who recently had moved to KK - and some very nice wine with that. After dinner we went out to do some bar hopping, and had some very nice beers, and finally we ended up in a salsa club, and had some very nice cocktails and... shook the ache off our legs!

Considering the weather conditions, we have to be pretty pleased with our performance anyway, summit or not. It was freezing and the wind made the ascent very tough, so we are pleased albeit a bit disappointed.
All in all - it was a great weekend though! It was really cool to go away on a girls weekend a be really active - and get some drinks and dancing in to! Thank you Team Sweden - I had a fab time!


Dogeared said...

What a shame you couldn't go all the way to the top! I would have been gutted too - but it sounds like one hell of an achievement anyway! And mmmm Starbucks is good at any time (I love the caramel hot chocolate with cream and drizzle), but after the adventure and exercise you had, I can only imagine how good it must have tasted!

Well done!

Larssons said...

impressive no matter what. You sound so proud of what you have achieved and you should.
it's a different life from uk ;)