In a high spirit of mountain climbing this year, I made a decision to conquer Mount Kinabalu without much planning at least half year ahead. I took an easy way to jump into the decision a month before the actual climbing. There were only two of us since no one seems interested to join us due to cost of hiking hiked tremendously.

We were pretty confident to make it to the top, the only reason made us worry was the weather; low temperature and windy. Since we were new to this expedition, we took 4d3n, in which we used one day before for preparation and one day after for resting. Our two days climbing was all about endurance test on our knees and legs especially on the way skidding down the mountain.

At last, we made to our promised but the weather empowered us on our aim. A victory or not?

Mount Kinabalu 2009

We made our way to Kota Kinabalu Airport Terminal 2 via AirAsia. Traveled in the morning and reached by afternoon, then get picked up by tour company representative, who has arranged everything for us. A night at Zen Garden, Kinabalu Park, 5,000 feet above sea level is a little luxury in our way.

The mountain is located at 4,095 metre (13,435 feet) above sea level. We stayed at 5,000 feet above sea level with temperature around 16 degrees.

Day 1 Airport to Kinabalu Park

Both of us were certainly prepared for any endurance test. We had some similar kind of test in the past. To think of it, at least we have 5 hours of hill-hiking experiences. I do Yoga once a week, is it enough?

The flight had taken two and a half hour from KL to Sabah capital city. We brought for lunch before headed to Kinabalu Park in 2 hours.

On the way to our accommodation, we stopped by for light refreshment. We were briefed about Sabah culture and its population. The first hour the road was good, only after turning off to small town called Tamparuli (originated from temporary or Tempat Lori), it got little tougher. Roads began twisting and turn right and left, soon my stomach felt the same way too.

The agent told us that the weather forecast said that this week thunderstorms in Mount Kinabalu summit, so asked us to be prepared the raincoat.

Soon after we turned into check-in our room, I stood in front of the most inspiring landscape I’ve ever seen. Mount Kinabalu view. One has to be humbled by nature’s creation, a place with much of heaven’s vicinity.

We both welcomed the cool mountain breeze and fresh air together with windy blow to our skin.

The adventures might much tougher ahead as I thought, but my mind was tipping over to “I shall make it to the top“.

The Kinabalu Park is a great place for an overnight stay (recommended) before the next day morning climb, instead of getting on after your flight. Our stay at Zen Garden was awesome with much needed rest we got and hot shower! We tried to settle our body with high altitude pressure and temperature.

Dinner was at the resort itself, steamboat dinner. A separate building with indoor dining and souvenir/convenience shop together.

As we have our early start the next day, a big mission for us, it’s best for us to have as much rest as possible.

Day 2 Kinabalu Park HQ to Laban Rata Resthouse (6km)

By 6.00am, we were wake up to prepare for breakfast at 7.30am. Considered too early right? East Malaysia sunrise was a bit earlier, that’s why the morning market can start their business at 5.30am!

The adventure started at 8.30am and we were picked up by a van and wound its way up the road towards the Kinabalu National Park (Sutera Sanctuary Lodges). It looked like the place was resting on a bed of clouds, floating between lush jungle and sky. The mountain right now is so mysterious to climb. I started feel very excited…I love Mount KK.

Young and old were all mixing together for the challenges with their own guide. Mount Kinabalu is South-East Asia’s tallest mountain with height of 4,095m, doesn’t required any climber to have mountain climbing skills to ascend it. It’s accessible via trek and scramble, although some are short and steep. Most climbers will take 2 days to reach the top although it can be done in few hours. Overnight break on the mountain can rejuvenated our body and at the same time enjoy the scenery of ‘heaven’ at closer on eyes and heart.

At the park entrance, we were greeted by mountain guide cum porter, Azuwan was waiting for us, first impressions count. He quickly weighing our bag and voila, 8kg equal to RM64 porter fees (RM8 per kg). We have two bags, one for the porter and the other left at the foothill with nominal fees, RM10 per bag. Kinda expensive…huh.

Tags were given out to us. Without the tag, no one can go beyond the final station (hut) to reach the top. The tag was cost us RM30 (Malaysian) and considered as climbing permit.

I was given a map from Timpohon Gate to Laban Rata. She stressed that normal hikers would take 1km per hour. 6km means 6 hours. We have to reach by 3pm. Once we reached Timpohon Gate by a van, we were offered to buy a walking stick, cost us RM3 per stick. Stick is very important to divert the energy used on our foot to hand. Hence, less pressure on our legs to push up our body on stair climbing. Useful and wise choice.

We began our climbing journey at 9.30am.

The surrounding area visibility was so poor due to cloudy rain. I couldn’t see the mountain beyond the trees.

The starting point was downwards and upwards all the way. It’s very similar to Gunung Datuk hiking. The ground was a bit wet but rocky on some surface. Muddy at some terrain due to wet weather. We thought raining when the wind blew, but being told that it was a mist with tiny water.

The view at KM0.5 mark. It just boosted our energy to further. One can’t feel anything with first KM. The guide always stays with the slowest in the group in case help is needed.

Some porters did a very good job in transporting the goods of 10-30kg up to the mountain per trip.

The clouds/mist covered the mountain. We reached Hut 1 – Kandis Hut.

By looking at the mountain, I thought of typical rain forest, yet in fact, the mountain has 4 climate zones. From rich lowland tropical forest through to rhododendron, to the coniferous forests, to the alpine meadow plants and finally to the stunted bushes of the summit zone. The top were purely granite rock. So fascinating!

At KM2.5, I informed my family and Darkness One about my progress. They were pretty impressed of my effort and cheered me up further.

At KM3, we were still going strong. The time was about 12pm. We’re behind the original time line. I was not really in a rush to get up immediately, being told by the guide to slowly walk. Haha. It was the perfect opportunity for me to take some pics of the forest trail and its flora.

This really was an endurance test. At Layang-Layang Hut at KM3.75, we regained our stamina by having our lunch pack given. A bite on chocolate bar to keep the body warm…in fact I was wrong. I got sore-throat instead.

At KM4.5 was where the Mesilau/Timpohon junction met. It was raining and I confirmed that too. The water drops were heavy. We put on our raincoat and walked miserably in the rain.

Uncle also joined the tough and adventurous K.K climbing.

I was looked for taking pictures of all the huts along the KMs. I may not come here again if I reached the top successfully. I don’t want to think about the any mishap foresee as I don’t want my dream to fall back.

I was glad I trekked at my own pace. The air was beginning to thin and my breath got shorter and shorter. Altitude sickness can happen to anyone.  As the rain continued, the trail got slippery and seemed uneven. My walking stick definitely was a lifesaver.

The pitcher plant.

From that point onwards, the vegetation slowly started to change from low montane into the beautiful plants, trees and shrubs emerged and all over the mountain. Whoever appreciate the mother’s nature would thought of reaching the heaven.

It was the LAST hut, another 0.5km to reach Laban Rata.

What a view.

Simply breathtaking.

We were getting colder and hungrier. We arrived at Laban Rata at 4pm. It took almost 7 hours to reach there.

The Laban Rata entrance was at the back of the white building. I stopped by to take some pictures. The time was still early for dinner, expected start at 5pm. Whoa…so early. Our mountain guide help us to check-in as we were exhausted but managed to smile and walk steadily. He informed us that he will meet us around 2.30am later.

We noted and immediately go for wash and change in our bedroom.

There were 4 bunkers beds in the bedroom. We were given Dorm Room 2 and share with another foreigner couple. Talk about bathing, there were not even one hot water taps were working. Majority of peoples there either NOT bath at all or bath in icy cold water. So unfortunately, we were being told that the electricity was cut off due to storm previous day, only light was available. NO heater and NO hot water? WTH.

There were only two bathroom for each (ladies and gent) (another two rooms for toilets).

After setting ourselves with icy shower, we went down to the place where we registered to have our dinner. Dinner’s food was fine as we just need the food to replace our lost energy so that we have energy for tomorrow’s climb.

At 7.30pm, we prepared for our good sleep for next day challenges. I was a bit dizzy and found myself start fever. I took ActiFast Panadol and few hours later, my condition was getting better. A restless night…

Day 3 – Laban Rata to Summit Trail (final ascent)

My alarm buzzed me at 1.30am, gave me some ample time to prepare. I did my breakfast at 2am and flag off at 2.30am as promised. I did a few hours sleep. She didn’t sleep much but stay awake most of the time.

The gates opened at 2.30am. The night was chilly and after a quick breakfast of toast and coffee for me, we were off.

We started our final leg to the peak. It was quite windy due to midnight rain night. I keep my limited energy to push myself to summit. The rain had stopped and the night skies were looking good, not much cloud cover. Our climb up the wooden steps were excruciatingly slow.

At KM6.5, I felt tired, but I told myself continue no matter what. We were left behind the other group. I saw their head light moved far away from us. It doesn’t matter for us as we definitely move to the top, just in case of timing issue. We reached Sayat-Sayat hut at 5am. The last hut before reaching top, I filled up my water from the tap.

Tags need to be shown at the Sayat-Sayat checkpoint to gain entrance to summit. The rock-face climb required a strong rope aided us along and up onto ledges. It was done in darkness, mind you? That’s why we need headlamp to assist us. As we climbed higher, I turned around several times to gauge how high we had climbed based on the lights at Laban Rata.

In darkness on the plateau, it’s best to follow the rope guide. We needed a minute rest for every 5 minutes climbing.

The pouring started touch my face and my hand. It was a bad sign for climbers. It was getting heavy and stronger. Wind blow stronger at high speed. According to our mountain guide, the weather forecast had told them that typhoon might hit Mount Kinabalu peak at 5am. They advised climber to descend quickly before the typhoon get stronger.

Leaving me no choice but to descend to nearest hut. Typhoon rain never stop after an hour. We were advised to descend back to Laban Rata. That’s mark our end of final ascent to peak. Arggggghhhh…….!!!!

At 8am, we reached Laban Rata exhaustively and aiming less. I promised our mountains guide to start descending at 9.15am to catch with 2pm time line for Hot Spring.

We packed our bags and headed down to the dining room for breakfast. We ate lightly.

At 9.30am, we started descending. The ground was still very wet and we could see the rain water racing down in between the rocky road. The scenic surrounding was greater as we descending. It has its own beauty.

Absolutely a very scenic view I ever seen.

I found that all the way down were steps. My left leg was crawling pain. I got to step down slowly. After 5 hours trek downward, I finally stepped onto the platform at the Timpohon Gates.

Yes. Finally ended! My two days mountain exploration is completed. The 7 hours up from Timpohon, 5.5 hours up and down from summit trail and 5 hours down to Timpohon was worth it.

Although we not able to reach to the top, a perfect climbing experiences had gave me confident in future hiking. I believe I’ll be back again.

A bit slipped of the time caused us not able to get into next Poring Hot Spring. A bus fetched us to Kinabalu Park HQ. We collected our certificates, luggage and lunch at HQ.

We proceeded to 30-min Foot Reflexology as promised by our tour agent. After that, we check-in to Kinabalu Daya Hotel for rest.

The room was nice and not roomy as expected. We clean-up (after 10 hours down-hiking) and Zzzzzz…

Day 4 Free and Easy at Kota Kinabalu town

We woke up at 6am (sun light was shining us already). Our breakfast started at 7am. I forced myself to wash and prepare for early refreshment.

She was hungry because she slept early and skip dinner due to too tired.

After our breakfast, we went to well-known Gaya Street Market, which located nearby us. The market is opened once a week, that’s why it’s called Sunday market. There were so many things to see.

We bought some stuffs and walked around until the weather is damn hot. We got back to room and packed our luggage. We checked out at 1pm and put our heavy luggage at the reception counter.

We walked to nearby mall (Wisma Merdeka) for our lunch and time killing. At 5pm, tour agent came to fetch us to airport.

We waved Goodbye to Sabah and Mountain KK. I love Sabah. We will be back.

Our flight boarded at 6.30pm and we arrived at LCCT at 9pm. Back to home sweet home at 11pm.

Postnote: I never been to Mt Kinabalu and always wanted to go there. One month before the actual date, I felt nothing. No worry on stamina nor preparation. I was calm. After climbed 90% of the mountain and forced to turn back due to bad weather (typhoon), I know my revisited trip is absolutely YES and ON next year. Mesilau Trail is my next target (2.2km longer). I will be more prepared and well presented for myself.

We booked our flight at cost of RM107 (return flight) from AirAsia half year ago. We were undecided until one month before the departure date. Luckily the bed are still available for two of us. Fuiihh. The quotation sent by tour agent was RM925 per person (incl additional stay at KK town on Day 4). The rate is consider expensive and much expensive than I ever thought of. When I think of once in a lifetime, I’m willing to pay for it. All meals are included. We have no way to worry about it.

Also I heard that Mesilau trail is much more beautiful and scenic. It got nice trek of montane forest, past streams and on ridges. OK, my next target, CONFIRMED. I took this opportunity to challenge myself to greater height. It might be slightly more expensive (guide, porter fees and transport),  but I’m fine with it. Also prefer to stay at Mesilau Resort for convenience. Thanks.