By Renan Ozturk
The team tops out the wall and tags the summit. Thanks for checking the posts from the field out here in the Borneo alpine! ~reo
Conrad and I left the portaledge camp and headed up ropes fixed above the dangling home the previous day by Mark & Alex. The breakfast pitch fell to Conrad on this day. Looked like a straight forward corner crack, I couldn't really tell or see much of his progress from my hanging belay that was tucked neatly under an overhang. Expletives precluded large blocks, suitcase sized chunks spun passed my protected stance offering a gauge of our altitude with the time the crash took to audibly rebound. As if the blocky loose nature wasn't enough the temperature began to drop & the radically overhanging nature of our cliff began to fail in it's protective aspect from precipitation. I wondered if Conrad had his shell layer as I dug through the haul bag for every available layer. Many items later I was still engaged in belay aerobics to stay warm, blocks occasionally rained from above and the rope kept moving upward. Upon completion of my cleaning the pitch both of us were, excuse the expression, 'pissed wet through'! The storm was picking up momentum so I declined to take the line further and we retreated to camp. Alex & Mark had dropped down to work on free-climbing a lower pitch and were already in their ledge. We thought they had landed dry and were relaxing in their shelter, they were of course drenched but thought we'd made it down dry. The storm had reduced our communication to walkie-talkies even though there was merely six feet between us!
Our first real rain day! Not bad really being only 5 degrees from the center of the sun's orbit in a region renown for 'rain every day'. Feels far from tropical in our 12500ft base camp, thermals and gore-tex have been de rigor, specially today.
Our base camp is at the head of Easy Valley, two tents and a portaledge perched on a ridge above said valley toward the North and the main trail up to Mt Kinabalu below, to the south and our original access route. Flat ground is a rare commodity as thick brush takes all the pockets of soil leaving us a couple of flat-ish rock terraces.
The route has been progressing well all the necessary trinkets and tools have been hiked and rappelled down to the base plus we have five pitches climbed thus far. Being such a large team it has been easier to divide and conquer. Conrad & I ferried loads the first day while Mark & Alex began the steep quest. Yesterday was our turn on the precipitous granite and today (third climbing day) has us wondering their progress. As per sod's law (Murphy's in the US) the weather held while Jimmy, Mark & Alex rappelled into the valley then the clouds cut loose soaking everything. Could be a very interesting day or perhaps the seriously steep nature of the cliff will protect their progress. Yesterday Conrad experienced some rain while engaging his lead but I only heard it from the safety of the belay station. The climbing was moderate aid climbing, nothing too death defying, hard placements/moves yet sufficiently interspersed with good gear. Following today's team's effort the plan is to commit to the wall with portaledges & all necessary accouterments to live on the vertical plane.