FHM's 100 Great Adventures 2009

Posted by , 01 July 2009

Climb the world's highest ladder

Looking back, the world’s highest anything was always going to be a problem. Yet before actually standing in 30ºC heat staring up at Borneo’s Mount Kinabalu, I hadn’t appreciated that the planet’s loftiest ‘via ferrata’ (Italian for iron way) might be tough to get to. Cue carnage.

A haphazard, embarrassing mission failure that makes Captain Scott’s Antarctic expedition seem ‘well planned’. Or ‘adequately clothed’. It sounded simple. Walk Mount Kinabalu’s Low’s Peak Circuit – a 763m-long mountain path, equipped with fixed cables and ladders, that allow crap climbers to traverse sheer rock-faces after only minimal instruction (my safety briefing lasted 20 minutes). Only problem? It sits 8km up a mountain path and some 3,800m above sea level.

And while guidebooks say Mount Kinabalu is the planet’s easiest mountain to climb, by the time I reach the 6.5km ‘rest house’ my heart is booming audibly. In fact, it feels like it’s pushing my eyes out. Add in altitude sickness, sunburn and multiple cramps, and if, say, you were a perilously unfit Scottish alcoholic, failure would probably be an option.

Well, I am. And it was. In short, I failed. Sorry. I flew all the way to Malaysia, then gave way – collapsing at 3,300m and unable to go on. Apologies, then, to both my colleagues and the readers.

I can offer only this in support: I asked my climbing companion Duncan what the via ferrata was like. “Best thing I’ve ever done,” he reveals. “But it is hairy in places – the worst being the wafer-thin suspension bridge. It’s hellish – dangling 3,600m above ground.” And the vertical cliff face descent? “Not as bad as you’d think. Kind of like wing walking, just without the wing.” Sounds nice, eh?

Do it: £350; mountaintorq.com

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