The roof of Borneo: Mount Kinabalu

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May 12th 2011
Published: May 10th 2011
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From the depths of the ocean to Borneo's highest peak..... it's been a very busy few days! 

After 2 days diving and an overnight bus, we arrived at 4am at the park HQ of Mount Kinabalu. We managed to catch a quick nap on the office sofas before trying to organise our paper work, a guide and a way of paying! It was all rather rushed as we only decided the day before (whilst diving at Sipadan) that we wanted to climb the mountain, and a difficult phone conversation with the park headquarters then proceeded! We wanted to climb a couple of days after diving to give ourselves a rest but the only space available was for the next night which meant a long day of travel and then an overnight bus to get there! We deliberated for a short while but decided to go for it as we were really lucky to get a space at all as all the guide books recommend booking months in advance. The deciding factor when it comes to climbing the mountain is whether or not there is accommodation available; there is only one rest house (Laban Rata) and so they have a monopoly over every one, so unless you want to do the whole trek in one day you have to stay the night and you have to stay there. It is therefore also extremely overpriced, probably the most expensive nights accommodation we have both ever had anywhere in the world! It is also dorm room accommodation so really bad value for money! However, we didn't really have a choice in the we handed over the money and away we went! 

We climbed the mountain over 2 days; The first part was a 4 hour climb to the rest house where we spent the night before beginning part two, the accent to the summit.

Day one was a 6km trek to 3272 metres high Laban Rata. The trail was stunning, it was like a walking geography lesson; as the air became thinner so did the trees and as we moved up the mountain we encountered so many different habitat types. At the bottom during the first kilometer the vegetation consisted of dense tropical jungle, it gradually became sparser as we got higher and then the mosses and lichens began appearing along with ferns and pitcher plants which were pretty cool. Although the trek was only a mere 6km, every step was uphill which made the task a lot more challenging. We managed to walk it in 4.5hours (including lunch and water breaks), which we were happy with considering we had no sleep the night before and that we had to leave our guide halfway as she couldn't keep up! When we arrived at Laban Rata resthouse, we stocked up with a decent sized dinner (which it should have been considering the price) and got some well needed rest; we were asleep by 7pm!

The next morning we awoke at the unfriendly hour of 2am for breakfast after being told that we should be leaving for the summit at 2:30am. However, this was not the case as 2:30am is the time that the slower individuals should leave. The both of us, along with a German guy called Matthius were the last to depart the facility at 3:45am, and along with our guide we began the windy stretch to the peak. Head torches were needed as it was pitch black and the terrain was difficult to navigate, but this was one of the highlights of our walk as it felt rather adventurous clambering over rocks in the darkness with the wind howling past! At parts a rope was needed to haul ourselves up the steeper sections which was actually a welcomed break from all the stairs! We reached the summit (4095) in 2 hours, overtaking many people on their hands and knees crawling up the rocks! The view from the peak was incredible but we couldn't stay long as it was freezing up there, we were so glad we'd brought gloves with us! It was pretty amazing slowly seeing where we were as the sun started to rise - up until then we had no clue as to what our surroundings looked like! 

After a few quick pics we began our descent which was pretty hard on the old knees. By the time we'd got back to Laban Rata our legs were like jelly and shaking like mad! We rewarded ourselves with a big breakfast before setting off again to complete the trek. We made it down in just under 3 hours and then ate our third meal of the day! The buffet food waiting for us was a great way to refuel and we made the most of it, each having 3 separate meals and then desert! Despite the painfully sore legs the next day (the stairs at our guest house made us want to cry) and the huge cost involved, we are so glad we did it, it will be one of those experiences that stays with you forever, it's also cool to say we've climbed the worlds 20th tallest peak! Nice!

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