The last stretch was a particularly grueling one for the team. Having woken up at 2am, after five hours of continuously interrupted sleep, with no access to breakfast food, which was being served 150 meters south in the main lodge and feeling sore from the previous climb, the team was less than fit to move on.. or rather, up! In a brief talk, Victor, our prime guide, reminded us of the distance remaining, and asked us to remain quiet as not to disturb the spirits.

Jacko was coughing, Nirmz cold, Rama scared of heights, and the rest, well, they were on something or another. Irrespective, everyone set their head-lights, no pun intended, on and started climbing.

Despite the steep steps, darkness and depleting oxygen, the climb was tolerable; things started turning ugly when the ropes appeared. The rocks were getting rounder, more slippery and stood at a steeper incline due to weathering. This called for strong rope anchored to the rocks with large metal hooks. We had to abandon our walking sticks and use our hands to hang on to the rope with dear life. The rope was for the reminder of the climb our umbilical cord.

This rope climbing went on for what felt like eternity; dark skies above, wind chill factor of 100 kilometers per hour and less oxygen than an ant’s lugs require made for conditions that would bring The Terminator to tears.

Then, a booth appears out of nowhere to signal the entrance to the summit. This was an encouraging sign for the novices among the group. Regardless everyone was happy to show their badge of honor and sign in the book of Mount Kinabalu Summit for having reached this far.

The climbing continued as the sun began to rise; something that prompted Kermi to get her second wind and call on the rest of the KK-12 to “hurry up, we want to reach the summit before sunrise”! A task that was virtually impossible given that by this time, Nirmz was hugging the rocks, and getting wrapped in the Outer space blanket, Jacko sat firmly on a rock that wouldn’t be shaken by her sever coughing bouts, Rama raised the flag of victory and declared she made it as far as her Ticker can take her, Hussein threw up everything he ate and smelled the past week and billy goat had traded in mountain climbing natural abilities for a massive asthma attack.

Amidst the growing desire among the KK-12 group members to halt the climb, Slave Driver appears to rally the troops; he tries his Gym motivation, it fails, he tries humor, that fails too, he screams a little about something or another, failure again. Finally, Slave driver says a few words about the reason the KK-12 embarked on this journey and reminds the KK-12 of the true beneficiaries of this effort and walks away.