Oscar M. Lopez conquers Mt. Kinabalu
It was another dream come true for Oscar M. Lopez (OML)
. Making things happen is in his genes. The seed took root years ago from a picture he saw of Mt. Kinabalu in Sabah, Borneo. It took shape as he was conquering the tallest peaks of Luzon (Mt. Pulag), Visayas (Mt. Kanlaon) and Mindanao (Mt. Apo).
OML inspired those who heard of him on the slopes and went out of their way to shake his hand. “So, you heard of an 81-year-old loose on the mountain?” he would quip. He led 23 other men and women of the Lopez family, Lopez Group and First Philippine Mt. Everest Team through five grueling days on the trail, around seven hours daily on the go, to climb and descend from Sabah’s rooftop. Even as the air thinned and the climb got more arduous, his limitless supply of adrenaline and chutzpah paved the way.
Getting to Kinabalu took years through a long and winding road. Cresting the country’s tallest peaks required numerous training climbs and country treks to test endurance, strength, stamina and will power. The ever-present Mt. Everest Team provided expert support, invaluable advice on pacing and avoiding altitude mountain sickness (AMS) and a good dose of stories and mirth to divert our minds from the ordeal.
Art Valdez said this was the toughest climb yet in our collective experience with OML. It wasn’t just the distance and the steepness, it was also the altitude. We Mt. Kinabalu Team
witnessed climbers with AMS, a fractured foot and wobbly legs that gave way. We were constantly on the alert for AMS, characterized by shortness of breath, dizziness, severe headaches, vomiting and/or hallucinations. We acclimatized by stretching our climb to five days, four nights and took prescribed medication to help our bodies adjust to the thin air.
Sutera Sanctuary Lodges provided excellent accommodations at Kinabalu Park, in addition to Laban Rata (which it also operates) six kilometers away, and 2.7 kilometers away from Low’s Peak. At 10,800 feet, the temperature fluctuated between four and five degrees Celsius.
On May 20, after three days on the trail, nine of us awoke at 2:30 a.m. We carbo-loaded, put on our cold-weather gear, headlamps and walking sticks, and departed to link up with OML and 14 others who stayed at Sayat-Sayat, at the seven-km. mark. He would not be denied his day, reaching the top an hour before we did. The whole Mt. kinabalu team
During our descent, a heavy downpour turned Kinabalu’s granite wall into a massive water feature. Instant waterfalls cascaded directly at some of us still on steep slopes or dangling on rope with freezing hands. Once, lightning caused the power line along the trail to spark as we were walking by. But by the grace of God, prayers for an accident-free climb that took 17 kilometers and 14,712 feet, from start to finish, were answered.
OML and his band of merry climbers proved once more that when one puts his mind to it, kaya ng Pinoy
(the Filipino can). Commitment and focus enable achievement— it’s 1% inspiration, 100% perspiration and a stubborn attitude. No challenge is too daunting if one is truly bent on succeeding, whatever the undertaking.
Next stop? Probably Mt. Everest’s base camp in Tibet.(Rafael M. Alunan III)
Excerpted from To Take a Stand, the author’s column in BusinessWorld.
Read also: Mt. Kinabalu Diary