Mount Kinabalu is not an easy climb. It’s mentally and physically challenging. Nevertheless, climbing it is something I want to do before I die. Sam, Kenneth, my wife and I set out for Mount Kinabalu in early August. I did not train for it but my 2 times a week futsal, jogging and rock climbing sessions should suffice.
Kinabalu Park is just 2 hours drive from Kota Kinabalu. My father in law loaned me his car. I love the drive to Kinabalu Park from KK City. It’s very scenic.
Although many people have climbed Mount Kinabalu in the past, it’s not entirely safe. There are cases where climbers lost their way and found dead or not found at all. Our entire trip was filled with the story about Ellie James, a young British girl who was found dead in the summit. She somehow strayed from the path and was found dead few days later not too far from the trails.
Before making our ascend, we stayed in a nice lodge at the Kinabalu Park. We were given 2 rooms with a common toilet, kitchen and a living room with a fireplace and cable TV! And we got upgraded for free!
I am ready!
It’s compulsary to climb with a guide. Our guide cum porter’s name is Rowdy. Some people call him the Kinabalu Dragon. Apparently, he carried a 60kgs person up the mountain before. Anyway, Rowdy was an awesome guide. He was with us all the time and never rushed or pushed us unnecessarily. There are porters who push or discourages climbers unnecessarily and some to the extend of abandoning the climbers.
Place to weigh about bags for Rowdy to carry. Kenneth weighing himself just in case he needs to be carried.
We took the Timpohon trail up to Laban Rata, the lodging area before heading up the Summit. The trail was fine. Loads of steep steps and rocks.
The only waterfall we saw on the way up
Rowdy and our 16KG bags
There is rest stop every 1KM.
Untreated water is available in every rest stop
Our pre-packed lunch provided by the resort
But as soon as we start moving, I was struck with altitude sickness. I had a piercing headache. I felt like my brain was being tortured slowly. I couldn’t move fast and had to stop a lot. The last steps to Laban Rata was toughest for me. I had to stop ever 10 steps but we made it to the top eventually.
There is also a stretcher in every rest stop. Just in case someone gets into trouble.
Tree started to change as we move further up
We stayed in Gunting Lagadan Hut. It’s a small hut with bunk beds and common toilets. There are no heater or hot water.
Many had resorted to boiling hot water to shower. The only good thing about this hut is that it’s just next to the gate up to the summit.
Food is served at the Laban Rata lodge. Surprisingly, food was not bad! I guess I was very hungry.
View from the cafeteria! We’re above the clouds!
We woke up at 2am to ascend the peak. We were ready for bed at around 7pm but most of us couldn’t sleep at such early time. I was already sleeping by 7pm due to my splitting headache. My headache subsided after I took paracetamol and slept.
We missed the Olympics badminton finals between Lin Dan and Lee Chong Wei. Luckily I missed the game otherwise I wouldn’t be able to sleep with disappointment after Chong Wei lost.
Before the hike to summit. Now we all know how the ladies look like in a tudong.
My headache began immediately after I passed the gate to the Summit. It became worst as we moved upwards. But it subsided when Rowdy asked me to take off my headlamp. It was an instant cure! Unfortunately, it came back when the vegetation started to disappear. Halfway through the journey, I started to have stomache. It was terrible. I had already had a big problem controlling my headache.
At some point, I felt like shitting in my pants and continue walking after that! Probably leave my undies there as a gift for archeologists excavating the place 10,000 years later. But I guess I still had some dignity left in me during such desperate time.
The sky was still dark. Rowdy is on the left.
The rope climb starts as soon as the vegetation disappears. It was okay for me since I used to climb outdoors.
I must say that my Adidas Kampung was awesome. It has excellent grip on the rocks. I didn’t even need to hold on to the ropes.
We moved very slowly due to my condition. We had to stop quite frequently and took long rests. Rowdy advised us to go slowly instead of doing it fast. It worked but we were so slow that we were the last to reach the summit!
We couldn’t get there in time to catch the sunrise but what matters is that we reached the summit.
The summit was all rocks. There were patches of vegetation and water puddles here and there. The floor was like broken tiles in various shades of grey. The wind was strong and cold.
The ultimate aim of this hike is to reach Low’s Peak, the highest point of Mount Kinabalu. It’s named after Hugh Low, the first person ever recorded to reach the summit. It’s fine if you don’t reach Low’s Peak. I was told that you are eligible for a coloured certificate if you reach a certain point after the Sayat-sayat checkpoint.
When I reached the point where we could elect to climb Low’s Peak, my headache was getting worst. I gathered all my remaining strength to move on. Within minutes, my wife and I were up on Low’s Peak. We were the last person to be up there.
We took some pictures before we descend from Low’s Peak. It was then my head felt like exploding. I thought I was going to die there!
We were the last people to leave the summit. We left together with the people who were taking care of Sayat-sayat.
View of Low’s Gully from Low’s Peak. Some British soldiers got lost while trekking Low’s Gully. Their ordeal was later made into a movie.
Descending Mount Kinabalu was a torture. It felt like forever. Our thighs, knees and ankles were killing us. We took about 4 hours to hike down! It was a mental torture as the journey down doesn’t seem to end. If I compare this trip and my 8 hours boat trip to Tioman island, the latter was mentally tougher but the former is physically tougher.
Once we reached the bottom, I had to drive back to the city. I almost felt asleep while driving. Zzz
To those who are thinking of climbing, here are some tips:-
1. It’s fine to hike with short pants and slippers to Laban Rata. However, you may risk cutting yourself if you slip and have blisters on your feet.
2. Training for such long hike is recommended. I play futsal twice for 2 hours a week, jog in the weekends and rock climb once a week. But I struggled to get to the top and get down.
3. Bring thick clothing as it’s extremely cold in the summit. A beanie is useful to cover your ears.
4. Adidas kampung helps but normal jogging shoes works. You can get Adidas Kampung at Pekan Nabalu.
5. Bring as much food (e.g. instant noodles) or beverages (e.g. 3 in 1 packets) if you can. It’s expensive up in Laban Rata. A cup of Horlicks costs RM12.80.
6. There is no instant cure for altitude sickness. Descending the mountain seems to be the best cure. Paracetamol may ease your pain but I heard it’s not recommended. Rushing up the mountain may cause or aggravate altitude sickness. Take your time to move up.