Low's Peak and Timpohon Trail - Mount Kinabalu, Sabah Borneo
DAY 3 - To Low's Peak
2.00am - preparations for the final ascent
Got up to the noise outside. Climbers were preparing for the last leg of the climb. The gates open at 2.30am and we didn't want to be late for the sunrise at the top. The night was chilly and after a quick breakfast of toast and coffee for me, we were off.
We were a little late ~ the last group to leave and ended up at the gates at 2.45am . There was a long queue ahead of us. We waited for some time. The rain had stopped and the night skies were looking good, not much cloud cover. Our climb up the wooden steps were excruciatingly slow. I recanted my checklist :
1. gloves ( I bought 2 sets : a pair of fingerless gloves so that I can click away on my camera and a set of pvc gloves to keep my hands warm and also protected when climbing the rockface.
2. wind cheater
4. torchlight ( I had a hand held one which was not as effective as the headlamp- the latter free your hands to climb)
5. cameras - manual (in case if the weather jams up the digital mechanisms), shower proof(I was determined to take that one shot and even the rain cannot stop me!!), digital, videocam (as close as you can get to being there - the video shots turned out pretty ok)
6. extra pair of socks
9. sun block (can get quite sunburnt at the top)
10. mobilephone (there's signal at the top for 019 and 013 users, but sometimes when it's cold, the phone may not work..)
3.30am - the rockface climb
After the bottleneck at the wooden stairs.. climbers moved faster and about 300m+ later, arrived for the test.. climbing the rockface. A strong rope aided us along and up onto ledges. This mind you, was done in darkness. This is why the headlamp is a better choice. Single filed, and hugging closer to the rockface for fear of the unknown in pitch darkness we made over the rockface and boulder, ending up at the Sayat Sayat checkpoint. All climbers have mount kinabalu pass tags. The ranger at this checkpoint has to register everyone attempting to reach Low's Peak and this is when the pass is required, so don't lose or leave it behind at Laban Rata. This is also where you can stop for a drink of water. There's a tap just at the gates.
It was taking twice the effort to breathe. Every 20 steps or so, a rest was required. There was another 1.5km to go and we had to make it to the peak by 5.30am. I became a little anxious of the time and made an effort to surge ahead. In darkness on the plateau, it's best to follow the rope guide. Choi, our organiser was alongside me. As we climbed higher, I turned around several times to gauge how high we had climbed based on the lights at Laban Rata.there was a row of lights snaking its way towards us. There were more climbers below, making haste to catch the sunrise. And I thought we were the last group to climb??
5.30am - Low's Peak
Choi and I, we made it just as the sun peeked through the clouds in the horizon. After 2½hrs of darkness, the early cool rays of the morning sun are a welcome for all at the peak. The hues of this cold, windless morning in May turned from a cool yellow to a warm orange and in no time the shadows on the peak seeped away into the cracks on the plateau. The chill was there mind you. I had past my backpack containing the anorak to Biling earlier before the climb and he was no where to be seen. He had to help Karen up the remaining 1.5km. I was freezing and was pleased that I kept my gloves with me.
The view from Low's Peak and its surroundings is spectacular. In the distance we could see Kota Kinabalu. The clouds were below us - thick and as white as cotton. It was perfect. I've completed my task. I got that priceless videoshot of Mount Kinabalu 's sunrise. Only having realised that I had achieved my task, my energy level dropped to a heady low and desperately needed a bar of chocolate to replace the energy spent on the adrenalin pump. As usual, someone in the group had spare chocs.
At the peak were a group of Japanese men and women who came to mount kinabalu to celebrate their college alumni gathering. The youngest in the group being 56 and the oldest 72yrs old. They made it and after a session of photo clicking, they whisked down the plateau with such vigor that many of the younger climbers ie me could not match.
Almost anybody can make it to the top of the mountain. It takes willpower, a lot of pacing, some stamina, prior preparation to maintain a fitness level; and good weather helps a great deal. Those who are a little unsure about their health will be advised to go for a medical check-up.
The magnificent landscape at the plateau and summit makes one wonder about its creation. Mount Kinabalu is a young mountain. 9million years ago, the area was just a piece of flat land. Whilst strange creatures walked the surface, hundreds of metres below at the earth's crust, a layer of granite was solidifying. Due to the earth's violent movements, the granite massif pushed up to the surface. As the mud and sandstone layers above the granite massif eroded with the winds and rains, the peak eventually became exposed. During the Ice Age, 10,000 to 100,000yrs ago, ice capped the summit. As earth began to warm up, the glaciers at the peak melted, great avalanches occurred, causing striations, grooves and a range of geological tattooing on the granite. Climbers can see such evidences on the rock surfaces
10.30am - the descent : Timpohon Trail
After a quick snack of Maggi mee and a steaming hot mug of tea, it was time to make our way down. Our last group photo at the helipad and we were off. I wasn't looking forward to the descent at all. I was already feeling the uneven pressure weighing down on my knees as I made my way down the Golden Trail. But the morning weather was uplifting. i slapped on more sunblock, put on my sunnies and braved the arduous trail downhill.
Instead of back trekking down the mesilau trail, we were to take the Timpohon Trail down. This trail is the most climbed trail on Mount Kinabalu . It's easier to get to from the Kinabalu Park . There are shuttles to/fro the Timpohon Gates, only 4km from the park. The shuttle costs only RM15 per person per way. Timpohon doesn't really give the climber a chance to recover. The climb is a continuous trek. Unlike the mesilau trail, there's no valley or ridge or plateau. It's all the way up. This really was an endurance test. I was so glad to have taken the 'alternative route'. Halfway down the trail just before the Layang - Layang Hut at 3.75km, it started to pour. Climbers passing us on the ascent looked pretty miserable. Only 2 hrs into the trek for them, the rain has just about washed out their determination. Karen had regained her stamina after having taken a nibble on a choc bar, a short distance down from Laban Rata and was nowhere to be seen. The energy boost and her AMS conquered, she skipped her way down the trail and I didn't get to catch up with her anywhere along the trail.
As the rain continued, the trail got slippery and seemed uneven. My low energy made it a little more dangerous as my gait became sloppy - Tripping over roots, missing steps. My walking stick definitely was a lifesaver.
After 4hours of trek in the rain, I finally stepped onto the platform at the Timpohon Gates. Made it! My two days on the mountain. The 8hours on mesilau and then another 7 hours up and down the peak and finally 4hours from Laban Rata to timpohon gates. It was worth it! The prize of making it to the top . a perfect May morning with spectacular sunrise display, beautiful view of the world below and being on top of the world!!
All lodging on Mount Kinabalu are very difficult to book due to the limited quota of climbers allowed to overnight on Mount Kinabalu.If you book directly with the park booking counter, you will probably get a much more discounted package price as compared with travel agents. And all this is subject to availability. Also, different travel agencies have different pricing for similar climb packages and it is for you as a climber to do as much research as possible before making your choice on which agent to go with or to take your chance and book a space to climb whilst at the park's booking counter itself.
By Public Van
To Kinabalu Park ~ There's a van that leaves for Kundasang Ranau at 7.00am daily from TERMINAL BAS BANDARAYA (UTARA) or City bus terminal (North). Costs RM15 per way
From Kinabalu Park ~ The public van leaves for Kota Kinabalu from across the road outside Kinabalu Park Kinabalu Park (please reconfirm with reception counter)
you can book a seat with the transport available from the backpackers hostels. They provide a return trip for RM45 per person.
To Kinabalu Park ~ Costs approximately RM 160 per taxi from Ranau taxi stand (next to Merdeka field)
To Kinabalu Park ~ Costs approximately RM 300 per taxi from hotel lobby
From Kinabalu Park ~ Taxi reservations at the Kinabalu Park reception counter