Mount Kinabalu ~ Kinabalu Park, Sabah Borneo
Not knowing much about mount kinabalu or how to go about getting there, I took the easy way out and jumped at the chance of taking a trip with friends of friends. There were to be eleven of us on this climb - A few confident veterans and the rest of us pretty unsure if there was time to turn around and head straight home or endure the next 2days climbing, climbing and then chucking out our knees skidding down the mountain.
A day to day account will ease the odd, persistent reader into what to expect on this personal trip of endurance and quiet victory (or maybe not)
Day 1 - Preparation. Day before the climb
The rest of the group was to arrive on Thursday and I was to meet them in KK (Kota Kinabalu). I had already been traveling quite a few days around Sabah - up north to stay a couple of days at the Rungus longhouse and down south for a ride on the North Borneo old steam engine and then further on to the Klias Wetlands for a bit of proboscis monkey spotting in the wild. Having seen the mountain from many angles whilst traversing up and down the roads of Sabah, I was certainly having 2nd thoughts. It's 4095m (13,435 feet) above sea level. It's the highest mountain standing between the Himalayas in India and Wilhemina in Irian Jaya and still growing at the rate of 5mm (1/4 inches) a year. What was I thinking?!
I was certainly not in the least bit prepared for any endurance test - no 10 mile jog, no gym work, no cardiac exercise. Ok yoga, once a week but that really isn't enough, or is it?
The group had taken an early Air Asia flight out of LCCT (Low Cost Carrier Terminal) in KL (now known as KLIA2). To everyone's relief, it was not terribly delayed and they arrived at KK airport on time, give and take 1/2hr.
Before driving off to the park, we stopped by at Tong Hing Supermarket to stock up on some food and drinks having been told that dinner and breakfast will be on our own. Energy bars, chocolates, biscuits, gum, fruits, maggi noodles and bottled water were obvious choices to take with us. I bought myself a pair of nail trimmers, having heard horror stories of climbers bruising their toes because of unkempt nails, especially when coming down steep steps.
Our journey took 2 hours to Kinabalu Park . The first 45mins or 90km was good. Nice straight roads and good views. Then the turning off at a small town called Tamparuli got a little tougher. The roads began to twist and turn .and soon my tummy started to run its course too.
As we turned into the park, out in front of us stood the most awe inspiring landscape i've seen in Malaysia . Mount Kinabalu towering above. All else was forgotten. Its sheer size, its stark appearance - One has to be there in person just to be humbled by nature's creation.
At the Sutera Sanctuary Lodge reception and office about 1,563 meters (5,128 feet) above sea level, everyone welcomed the cool mountain breeze and fresh air. Well, at 1,563m already covered from the long, winding drive - with simple mental math it worked out that we only had another 2/3 of the way to go. Didn't seem all that tough.
Sir Hugh Low and other adventurers had a much tougher time with the task of travelling upriver, trek through thick Borneon jungle which has now given way to agriculture and housing, and scaling up the most treacherous part of the mountain that we no longer have to. Ok, with that mentally instilled - the balance was starting to tip over to 'definitely gonna make it'
The Kinabalu Park lodging is a great place for an overnight stay before the early morning climb. We stayed at the Kinabalu lodge with 4 bedrooms and thankfully.hot water for a much needed shower. A few of us stayed at the Garden lodge which has 2 bedrooms. The lodges we stayed in have fireplaces, dining rooms, TV rooms, kitchens and hot showers. Firewood can be purchased from the Reception office at Kinabalu Park HQ.
Just before sunset, I took a quick lookaround the other lodgings at the park vicinity. All were located a short walk from each other. The refreshing scent of the montane forest made the walk seem tireless. There are a variety of accommodation at the park from hostel dormitories to lodges like the one we stayed in (Kinabalu and Garden Lodge) and even the Rajah Lodge with 3 bedrooms, fireplace, kitchen, dining
Vistas from these lodges in the late evening are spectacular. One can just about make out the silhouette of mount kinabalu in twilight, stars litter the sky and up in the distance you can see the twinkle of lights from the Laban Rata Resthouse just 2km from the summit.
Dinner was at the resort's liwagu restaurant . A beautiful building with outdoor and indoor dining, a lounge area, a small but informative gallery upstairs, conference rooms and a souvenir shop.
Sitting out at the patio at night is an entomologist's dream. The dim lights attract all forms of winged insects and other wondrous creatures as does the early morning when ornithologists will have the most fulfilling breakfast with a piece of crisp toast in one hand and binoculars in the other.
For those with less enthusiasm but with interest all the same, there are slide shows at 7.30pm on Monday, Friday, Weekend & Public Holidays . This introduces a bit about the park and the climb. Or go on a guided walk held at 11.00am everyday.
If you've left something out from your packing list, try this shop. They have rain ponchos, balaclavas, gloves, snacks, batteries, torchlight and even ski or trekking poles. To go with an evening by the fireplace back at the lodge, this shop also sells a small selection of wines.
But not everyone who visits the park climbs Mount Kinabalu . Many visitors actually stay at the Park for the trails, the cool weather..and the scenery. But book for accommodation in advance though. there are only 30 units of lodges and 48 dorm beds available.
For those with an early start the next day, best to have as much rest as possible. The next day will be a loooong day. Those too excited for sleep, there's TV.
Mount Kinabalu - Mountain Fees & Packing List
Mount Kinabalu is not a difficult mountain to climb. The trails are well defined, and ascessible. However, sustaining injury or losing one's way is a high probability if proper care is not addressed.
What climbers have to look out for:
1. before the climb
Make sure to book for your bed at Laban Rata before you arrive at the park. There are only a limited number of beds = 160 beds and are full most times expecially between June till December.
health check :
do not climb if you have heart disease, hypertension, chronic asthma, peptic ulcer, severe anaemia, diabetes, epileptic fits, arthritis, palpitation, hepatitis (jaundice), muscular cramps, obesity, and other sickness that may be triggered by severe cold, exertion and high altitude
carry first aid kit : keep some rehydration salts, handiplast, panadol/aspirin, plasters, insect repellent, mosquito oil, nail trimmer, deep heat lotion
anorak, wind cheater, rain poncho, balaclava, woollen cap, extra pairs of socks, towel, gloves (leather/pvc), sweaters, clothes for warmth (temperatures can drop to -°C at the peak and wind chill may high), slippers, a pair of seasoned trekking shoes (preferably light weight)
headlamp, cameras equipment and films, ski/trek poles, sunglasses, water proof bag for camera, toiletries, tissue paper / toilet roll
some leg and cardio workout before the climb will be good. Yoga once a week may not be enough. It all depends on the individual.
energy bars, chocolates, nuts etc
for those staying in the other cabins at Panar Rata, a selection of quick fix meals may be a good idea
2. during the climb
keep to the trail
drink as much liquid as you can to reduce the effects of altitude sickness
carry a walking stick, It helps
headlamp is most suitable to free your hands during the climb up the granite rock
respect the mountain. The mountain is regarded a sacred place for the local tribes. A highly publicised disregard by tourists: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-33105624
3. after the climb
a good soak at the natural hot spring tubs at Poring Hot Springs
All lodging on Mount Kinabalu are very difficult to book due to the limited quota of climbers allowed to overnight on Mount Kinabalu.