I have no idea how I ended up on the top of this mountain. I assure you, it wasn’t planned. The process of getting to the top of the mountain included several of my not favorite things: being cold, being cold and wet, being reminded how out of shape I am, being winded, being uncertain of my footing. And yet, here I am, looking like a misshapen elderly muppet beside the ridiculous haleness of Jim who always looks like this. Fuck him.
All I wanted to do was take a nice trip Malaysia – as you do – see some fish, eat some mystery noodles, maybe see an orangutan. Jim had other ideas, and I foolishly immediately signed on. We were going to climb Mt. Kinabalu.
Before you give us more credit that we deserve, the summiting of Kinabalu is a one-day affair: you start in the morning, and finish the next afternoon (rather rapidly if, for example, your flight for the other side of Borneo takes off at 4:30pm). Nearly everyone who tries it succeeds. Except for the poor girl we saw who had broken her leg and was being carried down in a wood stretcher and looked…uncomfortable. Or the 18 people who died on the mountain, less than a month after we did it, when an earthquake struck as they were climbing. As future posts will reveal, we have impeccably ominous timing more often than not.
It was however, the first mountain I ever tried to climb.
My early years found me participating in the rollicking sport of…reading. I can’t catch a ball, shoot a foul throw, do a pull up. At the time we climbed Kinabalu, in 2015, I couldn’t run a mile (I have since demonstrated on 3 separate occasions that I can run 13.1 miles while only occasionally weeping).
But what I lack in athletic ability or even general body coordination, I greatly make up for in sheer will (a skill which I later learned does have its limitations). I’m not a great, or a fast, swimmer, but I can swim forever. Out of spite.
I learned I struggle with altitude. I learned that my shoes had no traction. I learned that being miserable and bad at something and wet and cold was worth it for the “hey, I did a thing” feeling that came at the summit (before I insisted we start down the mountain because a) cold and b) completely worried about missing our flight).
My legs were pretty much out of condition for the next week. Walking down stairs was agony. So it was a good thing that I was underwater most of the next week. But I said to Jim at the top, “ok, Kili’s next.” And I spend time commiserating with my coworker David about trying our collective hands (feet?) at Denali and, eventually, Aconcagua. Me. Whose climbing experience prior to 2015 was that one time the power was out in the apartment and I had to walk 12 flights to get home.
Without getting all woo on you, I am finding that the most satisfying moments of my adulthood are the ones where I do something I can’t do. I urge you to consider doing likewise.