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Asia » Malaysia » Sabah » Mount Kinabalu
October 21st 2007
Published: October 27th 2007
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Day 207 (18.10.07)

(2 pages of pics on this one - make sure you see them all!)

We spent the morning catching up on some stuff using the cheap internet in Ranau and then managed to flag a coach down from the main road to take us to the entrance to the Kinabalu National Park which would be the starting point for our mountain climb. Mount Kinabalu, at 4095m, is regarded as the 'highest mountain in SE Asia' although it is actually the third highest mountain with others topping it in Indonesia.

Every year Mount Kinabalu hosts a climbathon where incredibly fit athletes run up and down the mountain. The record for the men is held by Ricardo Mejia from Mexico in a time of 2 hours and 37 minutes. We would be climbing it in a more respectable 2 days!

Half an hour later we arrived at the office and checked ourselves in. Accommodation for the climb is quite expensive and you have to book in advance as the climb is very popular. We were pleasantly surprised by the standard of the accommodation as we dumped off our bags and chatted to an English couple, Andy
Our hostel at the park headquartersOur hostel at the park headquartersOur hostel at the park headquarters

With Mount Kinabalu looming behind
and Cheryl. Anna and Kathryn arrived a little later and we all headed down to the 6pm briefing. It felt a little like school as we took our seats to be given information about the climb but the lady who gave the talk was really good and answered any questions we had. At the briefing we formed a group of 8 with Cheryl, Andy, another Brit Clare and a Polish guy called Piotr. This would mean that we could share the cost of a mountain guide, which you are required to have if you plan to walk to the summit.

It was noticeably cooler here and had rained almost continually since we arrived and we hoped that we'd have a dry morning to start the climb. We had a good dinner and went back to our digs to pack as little as we thought we could get away with into our day packs for the 2 day climb. We had an early night in preparation for a fairly early start the next morning. The weather seems to run like clockwork here with the rain beginning at around 1pm every day and we wanted to try and miss this.
Our groupOur groupOur group

L to R:Mark, Chrissie, Anna, Cheryl (front), Kathryn, Piotr, Andy, Clare

Day 208 (19.10.07)

Having sorted out our permits, guide and paid all our fees for the climb (around 17 pounds each) we were taken to the start point in a bus with our mountain guide, Edwin. We started the climb at about 8.40am (1829 metres altitude) and were aiming for Laban Rata approximately 6km walk away. Sounds like an easy walk but the reality is that this short distance takes an average of 4-6 hours to complete - just more than 1km an hour! Imagine setting the treadmill to that speed...

As it was a trek to the summit of a mountain it will not come as too much of a surprise to you that 99.9 percent of the walking was uphill. It is a very well maintained path with rest stops (covered seats, toilets and untreated drinking water) every 500m - 1000m. Setting off the first three km was pretty tough with intermittent steep steps and the occasional flatter section (but only flatter for about 10m!). It was amazing seeing the landscape and eco systems change as you climbed. Starting off with dense tropical rain forest at the start of the walk the vegetation becoming sparser and smaller moving through a mountain oak area through to alpine meadow. Beautiful all the way.

We were making great strides toward Laban Rata and our beds for the night, however moving up the mountain the following Km's got tougher. With steeper rocks and steps to climb there was no sign of any flatter respites, it was relentlessly steep climbing and to add to that we were now climbing in the cloud with water droplets settling in our hair.

With a feeling of camaraderie from other climbers both on the way up and coming back down, we were encouraged by the sight of (much) older climbers having summitted and now on their way down - well if they can do it!

The last km was probably the steepest section of the climb with us reaching the restaurant at Laban Rata at 1.15pm. It had been a really enjoyable climb so far but we gladly sat in the warm as we sorted out the key for our mountain shack and watched on as the rain started to fall - good timing. With no sign of the rain letting up we donned our wet weather gear and walked the additional
Anna and KathrynAnna and KathrynAnna and Kathryn

Celebrating making it to Laban Rata!
150m up the hill to Panar Laban, our hut for the evening.

The accommodation is not what can be described as luxury, it was a tin hut with three bunk beds and a small kitchen attached. With no heating and a door and windows that didn't quite fit fully, it was chilly but would be functional for the night. Having stopped walking and moved into cooler climes we all felt cold and decided to settle in with a group hot chocolate.

The chill was setting in (we are soft now that we've been away from English weather for so long!) and we wanted to get all our layers on so we went in search of a hot shower. We joined Kathryn and Anna in a quick visit to a neighboring (bigger) mountain hut where we cleaned up and got into our warm clothes before, with Anna diligently boiling water to fill our bottles for the walk tomorrow, we found that the kitchen was the warmest place to sit and settled in. We wanted to save some of our hot chocolate sachets for the following day so with no other option we drank multiple cups of hot water in an attempt to rehydrate and keep warm - mmmmmm not very nutritious but very warming!

We met a really nice group of med students from Australia when they joined us in the kitchen and we formed a large circle of chairs, covered our legs with blankets and put a steaming kettle on the floor underneath - toasty! We chatted for a couple of hours until someone called us to say that the rain had stopped and the cloud had lifted. All piling outside we had a stunning view of the valley below us with the sun dipping over behind the mountain. It was a truly breathtaking sight and made the tiring climb even more worthwhile.

After admiring the sunset, we retired to our room for a hot chocolate and an early night to bed - the earliest of the trip so far at about 7pm. We would need to try and cram in a few hours of sleep before setting off at a ridiculous hour the following day in an attempt to catch sunrise from the summit. It was freezing in our hut so we kept all our layers on, slept two to a single bed and took advantage of all the blankets we could get our hands on!

Day 209 (20.10.07)

After a sleepless night our alarm went off at 1:30am - yuck! Mark made a round of hot chocolate and coffee to attempt to bring us all around! No-one had had much sleep but we were all pretty alert in excitement and apprehension for the climb to come. We packed, put coats on top of the layers we had slept in, donned our head torches and met Edwin the guide at 2:15am. After a quick chat and gathering the last members of the team we set off on our summit attempt aiming to get there for around 5:30am for sunrise. We had approximately 2.5 km to walk to reach the summit and a climb in altitude of about 800m with the average time for completing this section being between 2-3 hours.

The walking, albeit steep, was stunning. The sky was crystal clear and we were surrounded with thousands of stars - it felt like we were walking right up into the sky. As we climbed we passed through gullys and forest with only the light from the stars and our head torches to
The rain stops at laban rataThe rain stops at laban rataThe rain stops at laban rata

...just for a little while!
guide our way. We took regular breaks to get our breath back (the altitude was starting to take an affect) and to admire the stars and the lights of distant towns incuding Kota Kinabalu 80+km away.

As we came to the edge of the forested path we started up a steep rock face where we had a rope to help pull ourselves up. The first 5 metres was steep and slippery, but it flattened off a bit after then taking us on a traverse of the granite rockslope. It was an exciting walk especially when walking it with only your head torch for light. Climbing the rock face we followed the rope, which both showed the way as well as providing a bit of support for the sections that were too steep for scrambling, until we reached a checkpoint where we had a snack break and showed our permit allowing us to continue to the summit.

The last couple of kms to the summit took us up a vast slope of barren granite and we climbed steadily following the stream of torch lights ahead of us and admiring the trail of lights of climbers behind us. Seeing the summit in the distance we knew we had nearly made it, just 800m more of the same sloping granite and the steeper final push and we would be there. As we climbed the temperature dropped further and further and we were glad of the extra layers we had put on.

At around 4.45am we took our final steps to the top of the mountain. Exhausted and elated we stood at the 4095m summit to see the first rays of daybreak on the horizon. It truly felt like we were on top of the world!

Commemorating our achievement with a pic on the summit (we had bought a can of lager with us but it was too cold up there to want to drink it and we worried about being unsteady on our feet for the climb down!) We watched (and shivered) as the sun rose spectacularly on a new day in Borneo - a memory that will stay with us forever.

The summit was frrrrrrreezing and however much we wanted to stay longer, by 5:30 ish we started on the descent back to Laban Rata. It was fascinating making the journey back in the light and seeing the path that we'd taken earlier. Everywhere you turned there was another stunning view.

Passing through the checkpoint and following the rope we were glad to have Edwin with us to guide us through the sections where you almost had to abseil backwards down the rockface - great fun. We reached Laban Rata just after 8am and cooked up some noodle soup and our last hot chocolate to give us some energy for the final trek down.

The going was tough and with tired legs it took a lot of concentration to not slip on the steps and rock on the path down. Taking our time we steadily made our way down with rests at all available stops. We really had to push ourselves for what we found the most tiring section of the climb probably partly to do with the distance we had already covered and partly mental - we had already achieved the summit and so the motivation dropped a little. Eventually making it down we went straight over to the cafe for some cooked food and a sit down before we joined Kathryn and Anna in catching a minibus over to Poring (about 45mins away
In our little hutIn our little hutIn our little hut

Trying to warm up on arrival at Laban Rata
in a minibus), still in Kinabalu National Park, and the promise of a soak in the natural hot springs.

Dumping our bags in our room and all having a well needed shower, we walked over to the local springs which weren't quite what we had expected. When we arrived we found a series of small baths (about 1.5m deep) arranged in 4's complete with a plug and hot and cold taps. Deciding that all four of us would fit in one of the baths we started to fill it. Unfortunately the taps were not as free flowing as we hoped and it took quite a while to fill our bath, however we had a great time chatting and eventually soaking our aching muscles from the walk.

Unfortunately there was nowhere within a 100km radius for us to see the Rugby World Cup Final (England v South Africa) especially as it was going to be at 3:00am local time, so Anna sent a message to her fella asking him to text us the score - it was the best we could do.

Shattered we fell into bed at - another early night 8:00pm - and quickly fell into a contented deep sleep! This would be a little less contented in the early hours of the next morning as the aches started to set in with a vengeance and every turnover was painful!




Additional photos below
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ready to go?ready to go?
ready to go?

2am...just prior to our ascent to the summit - don't we look excited!
Our group makes the summitOur group makes the summit
Our group makes the summit

Exhilarating, but bloody cold!
On top of the WorldOn top of the World
On top of the World

well, 4095m up anyway
We took beers to the top to celebrateWe took beers to the top to celebrate
We took beers to the top to celebrate

but it was too cold to drink them! A cuppa would have been better!


30th October 2007

Mountain climb
What a marvellous achievement! Still loving the blogs great to share your experiences. Settling in to new home really well. See lots of Mum and Dad. Love you loads. Primmy and Ped xx
1st November 2007

B.E.A.UTIFUL!!!
Wow! Your pics are amazing! And what a memory to take away with you! Quite jealous, yet also quite relieved that it wasn't me, being a wuss in me old age!! LOL!! Hope that you're having a fabuloso time wherever you are now (Oz I think?!?) You may be far away, but your most definately not out of our hearts and minds! ;oD Lovink chu both long time MWAH!!! Lvs Aunty M xxxxx
5th November 2007

You amazing people... or should I say crazy.. i would have hated the cold as you know!!! ha ha!!! Mising you guys like crazy.. keep the face booking up.... can't wait to see pics of Oz. Love you so much xxxx
18th November 2007

Dare to Conquer!
awesome guys! i'd climb mount Kinabalu , n it's a great experience. oh yea, what a beautiful n nice photo u snap. Enjoy ur journey! travel-world-adventure.blogspot.com

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