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Kinabalu 2010: Why We Need Heroes

Oct 3- 7, 2010:

I think it’s important to have heroes in your life to inspire you and to get some of your creative energy validated.

In many ways two of my biggest motivating influences in my younger and adult life have been my father, and Sir Chris Bonington respectively. Chris led a life revolving around mountains. He led expeditions, climbed at a high level, consulted on leadership with business schools, wrote books, and lectured extensively. My own life since the mid 90s seemed to parallel his – not in terms of the incredible skills at which he climbed, but in the same vein, creating a life of climbing mountains by challenging routes, blazing new paths for Singapore mountaineering, and then leading a life of transferring these lessons to organisations and individuals.

We met in 1995 when I helped organise the 1st SIngapore Mountain Festival. By then Chris was probably the best known British mountaineer, and author of over a dozen books. He filled a 300-seater auditorium. In 1999, I had the pleasure of meeting him again in Seattle. In 2009, we both spoke of our uniquely different leadership experiences to a full house at the British Club in Singapore. After this, we planned a fun trip to go to Kinabalu. It was really a rare opportunity to climb with someone who had had tremendous influence on my climbing leadership style, as well as fascinating personality.

David Lim and Chris Bonington having a climb at Climber's Lab, Singapore

Chris arrived with his brother Gerald, and Gerald’s climbing buddy Tony Dunn. For the next few days, we hiked up the summit trail, stayed at the Pendant Hut, courtesy of my longtime climbing friend Wilfred. In the past 3 years , he has invested a large amount of time and money to establish a unique via ferrata route on Kinabalu, called MountainTorq (see below).

We then bagged the via ferrata routes (there are 2-3 variations), followed by some technical rock climbing in the afternoon. We retired to the refurbished Sayat Sayat Hut at 3660m, ate , rested and just enjoyed being ‘out there’. I had not been to Sayat Sayat since the multipeak expeditions I led in the mid 90s. Then, we either tented, or stayed in the rate infested hut while sallying forth each day to climb the numerous technical peaks on Kinabalu’s western plateau such as Kinabalu South ( 3900m), Ugly Sisters (4000m), Victoria Peak ( 4000m), amongst others.

At 76 years of age, Chris showed how it could all stil be done. His view was that Kinabaly had a full 10 years’s worth of great virgin routes to climb,and the granite rock quality some of the best he had seen.

The following day, we tagged the summit. My 8th time, Gerald and Tony’s second time, and for Chris -his first. We descended to the park HQ immediately afterwards with Chris beating me soundly to the bottom by a full 2 hours. If that is not humbling, and oddly inspiring , I dont know what is. Perhaps the best part later were the beers and slap up seafood dinner in town. Thanks very much for our hosts Wilfred and I-Gek for putting together everything.

I have to get Wilfred back on an expedition one of these days…..

More pictures soon!

L to R: Wilfred, Chris and me, having tagged the summit, October 6th, 2010 Chris sending a 5.9 on lead -some nice slabby technical routes just above Sayat Sayat Hut Tony Dunn, and MounainTorq leader, John, just before we completed the route at dawn


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