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The Things We Carry!

Updated: Jun 21, 2023

I have gone hiking. I have taken the trolly up Pikes Peak, standing at 14,115 feet above sea level. I have taken the cable car up to Mt. Fancipan (10,335 ft) in Sapa. But I have never climbed a mountain before.

2 years ago, my friend invited me to climb Mt. Kinabalu (13,435 ft). I took up his invitation with no hesitation. I love the outdoors and I love adventure and taking risks. I looked up youtube and read up about how to prepare for the climb. What to bring? How to dress? How to prepare for all the emergencies that can happen on the way up? But most of the time, I was just mesmerized by the beautiful scenery captured by the blog writers, distracted from my aim to know how to adequately prepare for the climb.

I read that you can experience 4 seasons in a day; hot and humid as you begin your climb, cool and chilling as you reach the base-camp and freezing cold as you make the final assault on the summit.

Due to the drastic increase in altitude, climbers are advised to drink lot of water to avoid altitude sickness. I know what altitude sickness is like firsthand. I had a severe migraine on my first trip to Colorado Springs (6,035 ft above sea level). Each time I visit Colorado Springs, I made sure to give myself a day or two to acclimatise to the high altitude. Yes, being well hydrated helps to prevent altitude sickness.

Taking in all the advice other climbers suggested in their blogs, I packed my haversack with raincoat for rainy weather, t-shirt for hot humid conditions and windbreaker and thick clothing to braze the cold freezing temperatures. I packed energy snack bars and 2 litres of water as there will be no water or food along the way. When friends heard that I am going to climb Mt. Kinabalu, they were adding to the list of things that I should bring.

"Make sure you bring toilet rolls", one suggested.

"Bring mosquito repellant", another warned.

"Bring a poncho. You don't want to be wet in the freezing cold", someone insisted.

"Waterproof your stuff. You want to make sure you have clean dry clothes to wear the next day", another cautioned.

Climbing Mt. Kinabalu is unlike taking a trolly up Pikes Peak and taking a cable car up Fancipan. I did not know that Mt. Kinabalu will be such a tough climb. The marked path up the mountain is a steep one. At 49 years old, I feel like I was 30 years too late to climb one of the highest peak in South East Asia.

My haversacks that weighs about a sack of rice now weighs like 50 kg as I take each step. With thinning oxygen, every step was laborious. Gasping for every breath, I felt lightheaded. My heart throbbing like it's going to explode.

I regretted. I regretted accepting my friend's invite to accompany him to climb Mt. Kinabalu. I regretted packing so many things. What others suggested as crucial for the climb is now the ultimate stumbling block, weighing me down and wearing every muscles and expending every precious ounce of energy I direly need. I have packed too much to my own detrimental. I wished I packed less. I realized that what I have packed were not what I needed. And what I needed, I did not pack.

Life, like mountain climbing, brings with it its highs and lows with each changing seasons. Others who have gone ahead may warn of this or that. But what was true for them may not hold true for me. Their advice, though helpful for them become unnecessary burdens for me. One thing I learnt is that we tend to carry more than we need. Actually, we carry many stuff that really is not necessary.

We carry with us expectations we are not suppose to bear. We plan to say "no" but said "yes" instead because we want to be that obedient child. At work, we do things we do not want to do because we carry with us the need to manage our image. "Will my colleagues like me?" we worried. "Will my boss be impressed?" we strived.

We carry with us unnecessary guilt; broken relationships, missed opportunities, failed ventures that aren't entirely our fault. We blame ourselves longer that others blame us. We carry the burden to always measure up to what the society demands of us. We try to keep up only to find ourselves slipping back. We carry with us the burden of greed; thinking that having more will bring true happiness. But when we have more, the ecstasy last only but for a brief moment and what we have do not seem enough. And we want more. We end up chasing an elusive dream, like a psychological stone pressing on our chest, feeling breathless, trapped in a vicious cycle of despair.

However, the invitation of Jesus is simple: "Come my Beloved, Come!"

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