Due to a mix up with rooms some of our group had been staying in some apartments nearby and we watched them trudge up the road in the while waiting for our bus to pick us up. Despite the damp start to the day I looked forward to climbing Mt Kinabalu, a decent 4095 metres high and it can claim to be a growing boy - 5mm per year and it is the youngest granite massif on the planet at a mere 10 million years old. Interestingly it had first been climbing by a foreigner in 1851 by Sir Hugh Low, a British administrator, during a three week expedition. The paths are clearly better now, the record time to run up and down belongs to K J Burgada who completed the 17.4km round trip in 2 hours 39 minutes. Makes two days seem comparatively relaxed. After a superb buffet breakfast we felt well fueled up and ready to go. My pack had swelled with some of Eleanor's kit and when I saw the porters weighing scales I couldn't help but dump my 14kg bag on them to work out what my porter rates should be. Eleanor put up a spirited rejection of any such levy.
There was a choice of route to the overnight hostel with Eleanor, Mel and myself opting for the more direct ridge route while the rest of the group headed off to a longer trail which met up with ours at the fourth kilometer. Sepingey and Aldrin joined the three of us and we headed off up the trail. If pushed to describe the climb in only one word it would have to be 'steps'. An almost relentless plod up steps ensued. However, I was glad to have steps given that that implies a path; the jungle on either side of the trail would have been more on the three week time scale Sir Hugh Low had taken. However, the size of the steps came as a surprise. Perhaps a really tall guy was chief step cutter but it was certainly a good chance to stretch. Additionally even this early into our climb the effects of altitude could be felt, making getting a good lungful of breath a priority at each step. This all contributed to our modest pace, the first 500 meters taking 30 minutes. We weren't worried though, there was all day to make it and the jungle around provided some distractions. The rain however did provide a reason for more urgency and the ponchos were soon in action. These were only a partial solution with the humidity finishing the soaking that the rain had started inside our non-breathable ponchos. At least it was warm moisture I reasoned. I gave the rain a second chance when I pulled my poncho down over my backpack which had a pair of walking poles pointing up and now through the fabric of my poncho.
There didn't seem to be much in the way of animal life in the jungle, although they may have had more sense than to be out in the rain. We saw a crazy centipede, squirrels and a couple of red frogs. Oh and of course there was the other group just after the fourth kilometer. In fact we heard first and then bumped into a happy trio of Natasha, Julie and Steve. It seems that while Sir Hugh Low took three weeks Steve just felt like it had been three weeks since he was walking with two self-confessed hyper-Aussie chicks. Within only the briefest of pauses they marched on past and charged for the top, encouraged by Steve who seemed to sense the end was nearly in sight. With the rain maintaining it's damp crusade we plodded up after them and eventually made it to the hut and settled down to some hot chocolate. While we were relaxing the others gradually dribbled in, in some cases quite literally as the rain took up the beat with more determination. By the time most of us got to the showers they were sadly cold and much suspicion fell on Julie and Natasha who had been in first and raved about the wonderfully relaxing hot showers. After a buffet meal to stock up on calories we headed to our dorm room for some sleep. I had been told be a friend that the rooms at this hostel can be very cold and we had considered bringing a sleeping bag just in case. Well my experience is closer to being baked in an oven than a freezer. With twelve bodies to warm the room and only a tiny window for fresh air it soon became unbearably hot with all sleeping sheets abandoned in an effort to keep cool. I almost fell off my bunk bed when someone asked if we should turn the heater off - we had a heater on! That school boy mistake rectified we settled down for a short night of unsettled sleep.