George Mallory, the famed English Mountaineer and one of the first few to attempt to summit Mount Everest, famously said that he wanted to climb Everest “because it is there”. While he may have said it out of ire from the repeated questions, that retort would probably hold true for many Malaysians scaling Mount Kinabalu each year. After all, we have one of the highest mountains in South East Asia right on our compound. Why not?

Having climbed the majestic mountain, I’ve found that there is more to Mount Kinabalu than its physical challenges. There are many things that we can adopt in our approach to life and work as well.

One Small Step … 

… is better than no steps. Imagine this: You’ve walked for what seems like an eternity. Your muscles are sore and your lungs are burning. You’re mentally berating your own stupidity for attempting this. That flat rock seems like a perfect place to park yourself for a minute…. or 60. Not a good idea.

There will also be some days when you’re just not “feeling” it. When staying in bed seems like the better option by far. When you go into work and everything feels tedious. We all have those days but whenever it strikes, keep moving. Take a small step, then another. Get up, get dressed, have breakfast. Any step, no matter how big or small, is better than being stationary.

Look Up 
I’ve also realised how impactful it is to look up and enjoy the moment. When dealing with the mostly jagged terrain of Kinabalu’s trail, the natural tendency is to keep your head down, focus on your steps and fall into the monotony. It becomes boring, routine and tiring.

Just like how easily we can get caught up in something – that job we’re at for the past year, that project that has stretched over the past few months, that deadline staring at us – don’t forget to lift your head.

Up on the mountain, seeing the stars spilling over the dark skies were enough motivation to keep me moving. Whatever situation you’re in, remember to look up, see how far you’ve travelled and enjoy the view.

 The Peak Is Not Everything

When I went for my first climb, my sole intention was to reach the peak. I had longed for the euphoria and sense of achievement that would accompany the magnificent view. I was half right – the view was breathtaking but the euphoria was fleeting. It was quickly replaced by the daunting realisation that I had only done half my climb. Rookie mistake, but not uncommon. Our perceptions about success and achievement have to some extent become rather distorted due to various media plays. Success (or rather the journey to it) is often simplified. Hard work and patience are understated, when in fact it is the biggest part of the journey.

I’ve learnt to realistically set my expectations. Just like the climb, hard work and patience will precede success, but they are not mutually exclusive. On some days, you’ll work your way up within reach of the summit, only to have it rain on you. It’s all part of the experience and when that happens, I’ll just have to try again some other day.


By Teh Sue Fei