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Friday, July 11, 2008

2008 Mt Kinabalu - planning and organising

Mt Kinabalu. I was there last year.

I can't believe I signed up to climb Mt Kinabalu again this year. We decided to go by the Mesilau trail which is the longer route (2.2KM extra) rather than the Timpohon trail. Just before the christmas musical last year, I started collecting names for the Mt Kinabalu 2008 expedition. We were hoping to go in June during the peak season. By the end of the first day, I had 13 keen wannabe mountain climbers on my list. Unfortunately, Peter Lim's (also nicknamed as Messner) name was not one of them. He co-organised and co-led with KG during the September 2007 climb. Most of us found his presence comforting.

KG was the key person during this July 2008 climb. He appointed me as co-organiser to make his life easier. :)

By February we had 18 on our team, one of them was from Sabah (Mt Kinabalu is in Sabah). Airasia had a promotion in December 2007 and the flights to KK (Kota Kinabalu) were booked then. Our planned date was 18 of June, since there would be a full moon during that week. Airasia however didn't have good rates for that week. We ditched the idea of climbing during a full moon week and started looking for cheap flights on any Wednesdays of June and July. We finally found a cheap morning flight on July 2nd. Only 9 of us managed to get the RM6.00 promotion, while the others had to be booked at RM70.00. Taxes were at RM70 per person. To be fair to all, we averaged the flight cost and each of us had to pay RM101.60.

The flight back to KL were booked in February 2008. We planned to return on a Sunday, 6th of July. Usually, the airfare is more expensive on a weekend, especially on a Sunday. We had been monitoring the airfare in the Aisiasia website for about 2 months. Not willing to take anymore chances, I told KG that I was going to book the return flight by the end of February.

KG on the other hand was arranging for the heated rooms at Laban Rata, the mid point in Mt Kinabalu. He wrote an email to Sutera Santuary (the company that dealth with the logistics of the Kinabalu park) in December, but was told that it was too early to register for July2008. They did however sent us a quotation for the 3 nights and 20 beds we requested and boy-oh- boy were we shocked at the rates they quoted us. RM 15,814 for 20 of us meant that each had to fork out RM 790.70. How in the world did they come out with such figure? Last year, each of us paid RM 130 for 3 nights (meals were pay as you order basis). A few emails to and fro Sutera revealed that they had come out with a package deal for 2008. They have included all the meals in the package. We were thinking.. RM790 less RM130 = RM660. Wow, the meals up in Laban Rata was so expensive. So we asked them for a breakdown of expenses and told them to minus the breakfast at foothill and lunch when we descended from the mountain. The list goes like this :

Bishop Head Resthouse (at foothill) - RM 35
Dinner at foothill - RM 45
Packed lunch for 2nd day - RM 25
Dinner at Laban Rata - RM 45 X 2 nights
Heated bed- 1st night - RM 60 X 2 nights (Unheated beds - RM40)
Breakfast at Laban Rata-1st morn - RM 40 X 2 mornings
Set lunch - RM 40
Total - RM435

RM435 seemed more reasonable than RM790!!!

Okay, check this out. We booked earlier than the registration date frame. Sutera told us that 7 of us would have to stay in an unheated hut for the 2nd night. Hmm..... nevermind.

Over the following months KG had been deligently calling Sutera to find out if they had space in the heated rooms for the 7 persons who would have to sleep in the unheated hut.

24 June 2008, 1 week before the scheduled climb, Sutera wrote an email to KG saying that 16 pax would be in the Laban Rata Resthouse (heated), while the other 4 would have to stay in the unheated hut - Gunting Ladangan, about 200 meters away from the Laban Rata Resthouse. KG replied asking if they could do us a favour by putting the 4 together with the rest and it didn't matter if some of us would had to sleep on the floor as long as they provide the mattressess. They agreed without charging the extra RM20 to the 4 people.

That settles the rooms at Laban Rata.

Meanwhile, over at my side, I had to deal with the flights and hotel rooms in KK Town. We planned to stay one night at KK town after we descended from Mt Kinabalu. We planned to stay in KK Daya Hotel, same as last year's. As for the flight bookings, I had made altogether 8 flight bookings, called Airasia 5 times, spending more that 60 minutes on the phone with them. Airasia changed our flight time without informing me and I had to call them to reconfirm our schedule again. One person decided she wanted her flight from Sunday to Saturday due to family commitments.

We had 2 new recruits in March making the total to 20, the maximum number of people for our team. We wanted to make full use of the transportation in KK. We hired 2 vans, each had a passanger capacity of 10. We used this transportation company owned by Faustine twice last year and once in March this year. He is very friendly and realiable. Even with the 41% hike in petrol prices in April, he still charged us the old price.

In April, Aunty Chris, a 60-year old lady decided she didn't want to endanger her life by conquering Mt Kinabalu. She opted out. We had a quick replacement. The son of the new recruits. Many had wanted to join in, but we operated on a first come first serve basis and they had to sign a commitment letter. This commitment letter basically states that the climbers had to medically fit, undergo physical training regularly, participate in all training hikes organised by the group, work as a team, accept and obey the decisions of the Organisers, to pay all expenses for this event,.. etc.

2 weeks before the climb, someone opted out because of leave complications. We got a replacement within the next day. Her total airfare came up to RM415. Most of us paid RM240.60 for our airfares.

There were moments of joy and trouble during the 6 months of planning.

1) Trouble with Sutera
2) Trouble with Airasia
3) Concern for team mates who couldn't make it for the training hikes
4) Enjoyed the spending time with people during the training hikes
5) Enjoyed seeing the team interact with each despite of the age difference and generation gap
6) Enjoyed knowing everything before hand

That's all I can remember at the moment.

1 comment:

kg said...

Well, inspite of the hiccups here and there, the planning was rather FUN; more so when you have an able and cheerful co-organizer.. :-)