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Around the world travel, Backpacking, Borneo, Bucket List, Hiking, Kinabalu, long term travel, Malaysia, Southeast Asia, Travel

Climbing Mount Kinabalu



From KK, I made my way with Aaron and Monique (my climbing buddies) and Alex to Mount Kinabalu. As we got closer and closer to the mountain, I got more and more excited for the 2 days that lay ahead. (At only one point in time did I wonder what I’d got myself into.)

We checked into a little cabin at the foot of the mountain called Rose Cabin and immediately had to put on warmer clothes, but the temperature difference was welcomed and it was such a nice change from the humidity. We had a huge meal to prep ourselves for the climb and watched as the clouds outside gave way to an amazing view of the mountain at sunset. It was sort of a surreal view, almost like I was looking at a photograph, or a shot from a movie, and to think I was gonna climb that thing??

The following morning, we woke up early with anticipation. Whenever I have something like this planned, I always wake up early, before the alarm. It’s like the morning before a marathon- you’re excited and apprehensive, and you don’t really know what’s in store.

We had breakfast, sorted a taxi to the mountain, checked in, picked up our food vouchers and met up with our (mandatory) guide Deeana. On the first day, we had to climb a total of 6 kilometers and 11,000 feet in elevation to Laban Rata, where we would spend the night. The path was marked every half kilometer, and although it was tough – as in feeling like you are on a stairmaster on the toughest level possible, or climbing steps that were 4 steps rolled into one, the time went by pretty quickly.

After about 1 ½ kilometers, it was like my body began to understand what I was asking it to do, and found its pace. We stopped for about 20 minutes at 3km for a snack/water break, but other than that, we climbed straight for 4 hours that day. After lunch, we literally climbed through the clouds and somewhere between kilometer 4 and 5, we were afforded great upward views of the mountain face and what we would be tackling the next morning.

The hardest part of the first day’s climb was honestly the last 500 meters. To know that you are so close makes the last steps last an eternity. Your legs start to feel like they have lead weights attached to them and you start to ask how far 500 meters really is.

We were happy to arrive at Laban Rata, and immediately sat down on the deck to soak in the views. This was followed by a trip to our bunkbeds and a 90-minute catnap. We tried not to sleep too much though, seeing as we had to go to bed so early for our 2am wake-up call the following morning.

The afternoon was spent in the sun, snacking and waiting for dinner. It was like we couldn’t get food in our systems fast enough. We snagged a table on the outside deck and watched the sun go down and felt as the temperature began to drop. Good thing I rented that beautiful fluorescent green windbreaker from the Inn!

We were all tucked in bed by about 8:00 and willing ourselves to be tired when we heard a knock at the door. We thought we’d lucked out by having a room to ourselves, but our fourth roommate had arrived. He had hiked an alternate path up and therefore arrived later. He introduced himself as Lochman, and apologized in advance that he was a snoorer. We might’ve got some sleep, but he wasn’t kidding- he snored all night!

Still we were up at 2am and on our way to breakfast and on the summit trail by 3am. This was the coolest part of the hike. It took 2 ½ hours to reach the summit (only 2.7 kilometers away), but this was done by the light of the half-moon and the small torches we each carried. When you turned around to look behind, you could see a winding trail of white lights from all the climbers on their way up. To the left and right of us were rock faces and pinnacles that climbed into the sky, and straight ahead was the steep path leading to the summit.

The time went quickly and before we knew it we were sitting on Low’s Peak (an ironic name if you ask me), at 4,095 meters, waiting for the sunrise. It was bone chillingly cold, my hands were almost too numb to be able to handle my camera, and they were swollen from the temperature (and possibly the elevation). However, to watch the sunrise from above the clouds and to see the first glimmer of orange creep above the horizon line made it all worth it, and it offered some relief from the cold too.

We watched as the sun rose and cast the most amazing shadows of the mountain behind us, but after about 30 minutes, it was too cold to stay any longer, so we began our trip back down to Laban Rata. Hiking down took only one hour, compared to the 2 ½ it took to climb up. We were met with another full breakfast and numerous cups of Sabah Tea to try to fully warm up, and after about an hour here, we began the rest of the trip down the mountain.

The descent took about 3 hours, was much easier than the day before, but still tough on the knees. Still, each kilometer went by quicker than the last, and it was a great feeling to reach the bottom. The entire experience felt like it had passed in the blink of an eye, and it was a nice sense of accomplishment to be able to say “I’ve climbed a mountain.”

We were sore, tired and in need of a shower, but we headed over to the resort at the foot of the mountain for our last “included” meal. We horded ourselves on the buffet – it was shocking how much we all ate!

From here, we split ways with Monique, who headed back to KK. I had a few extra days to kill before my diving in Sipadan, so I opted to head to Sepilok’s Orangutan Rehabilitation Center with Aaron. We headed back to Rose Cabin, with hopes of taking a shower before leaving, but we learned the next bus would arrive in 20 minutes. We flagged down the bus outside the Inn and I just hoped that my neighbor wasn’t too offended by the fact that I hadn’t showered in 3 days. Trust you me, as soon as we arrived in Sepilok, I had one of the longest (and only hot) showers I took while in Malaysia (what a treat) and an expensive, but cold Tiger Beer.