Climbing Mount Kinabalu

In the last several years I made two attempts to go and climb Mount Kinabalu. Booked and paid for well in advance (the Malaysian government limits number of climbers to 135 per day in order to protect this World Heritage site, so it is recommended to book three months before planned date) and then timing just didn’t work. I had to cancel both times. This was my third and the last attempt to try to get to Kota Kinabalu.
I was nervous about climbing Mt. Kinabalu. I went hiking several times in HK in the weeks before trip to Malaysia, but I was worried about altitude. At 4095m Mt.Kinabalu is the highest peak in South East Asia. I haven’t been anywhere that high in a long time (3 years since Mt.Fuji 3776).
We booked with Joanna through Amazing Borneo and chose 3D2N all-inclusive package. On the day of our climb we met with our assigned guide Joe at  8am at the Kinabalu Park Headquarters, registered for the mountain climb and after a short ride to Timpohon Gates started our 6km walk up through the clouds to Laban Rata Guesthouse. Scenery was beautiful. We we surrounded by lush green, humid forest with trees covered in moss. It took us 4hrs to reach Laban Rata (3272m).
It was a steady, tough walk uphill where the really hard part was last 500m before we reached guesthouse. Just then it started to rain and steps were not only high and slippery but steep as well.  We arrived in drizzling rain which minutes later turned into a wall of rain for the rest of the day. We felt sorry for hikers coming in after us. They were soaked and freezing.
Laban Rata Guesthouse was a nice surprise: clean rooms with bunk beds, shared bathrooms with showers (lukewarm water), very good food and nice space to spend rest of the day. I had a slight headache during afternoon. Luckily it was gone with a help of a painkiller. Until dinner (at 4:30pm) we spent time chatting with other hikers worrying about weather. It was pouring rain outside. Thankfully it stopped in the evening and the sky cleared. It was difficult to fall asleep at this attitude and at 7pm. When we got up at 2am I was full of energy, excited and ready for a walk up. We left after 3am for our climb to the summit (Low’s Peak) and after a while started passing fellow climbers who left much earlier. The climb up the summit wasn’t too difficult. It was pitch dark (with sky full of stars above us). Most of the way we followed the rope and a few times had to pull ourselves up the rope (waterproof gloves were a good idea). We put our warm jackets, hats and gloves 700 meters before the summit. We reached Low’s Peak after 2:20min and had plenty of time before the sunrise. As soon as it got lighter the views turned out to be spectacular. It was a truly beautiful sunrise. The hikers fell silent at the sight of the sun. It felt magical.
We assumed that the descent will be very quick.. We were very wrong. It was much slower than the ascent. It was slippery and very steep. We got down in 1hr40min to Laban Rata where we took our time eating a huge breakfast and then spent walking the torturous 2hrs50min all the way down the mountain. It was a slow and very careful descent. We kept in mind photos we saw at the guesthouse of tourists being brought down the mountain on the stretchers. When be arrived at the Kinabalu Park Headquarters at 12pm my legs were shaking.

Climbing Mt.Kinabalu-2First sight of Mount Kinabalu.

Climbing Mt.KinabaluJoanna and me.

Climbing Mt.Kinabalu-4Map of our route. We started at the Timpohon Gate.

Climbing Mt.Kinabalu-5Our backpacks. About 7kg each inc 1.5 liters of water each.

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Climbing Mt.Kinabalu-10‘Please move faster through this zone. Danger zone.’

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Climbing Mt.Kinabalu-11It rained for the last hour of our walk up to Laban Rata.

Climbing Mt.Kinabalu-15Dreamy, misty scenery.

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Climbing Mt.Kinabalu-173272m up done.

Climbing Mt.Kinabalu-19Photos at Laban Rata of some less fortunate hikers.

Climbing Mt.Kinabalu-20Rain and clouds.

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Climbing Mt.Kinabalu-23Happy at the summit.

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Climbing Mt.Kinabalu-27Waiting for sunrise.

Climbing Mt.Kinabalu-28Sunrise. Worth every single step.

Climbing Mt.Kinabalu-29Getting warm in the sun.

Climbing Mt.Kinabalu-30Low’s Gully in the sun. Love the shadow of the mountain on the sky.

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Climbing Mt.KinabaluOn the way down.

Climbing Mt.Kinabalu-33Granite rock.

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Climbing Mt.Kinabalu-35Looking back. This is where we were walking up in the dark following the rope.

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Climbing Mt.Kinabalu-37Start of a very long way down.

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Climbing Mt.Kinabalu-44Porters carrying fifty-kilograms loads of building materials, food, drinks walk up or even jog up the mountain once a day. Everyday. They still had energy to happily say hello and wish us luck.

Climbing Mt.Kinabalu-46Looking up moss covered tree.

Climbing Mt.Kinabalu-47‘You are successful Climbers’.

Climbing Mt.Kinabalu-2Pretty proof of my climb.

It was a very good walk, but way too long on the way down. Hard, but doable. We were tired and started to really feel our muscles two days after the climb. Actually, I could barely walk for a few days after..

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