The Climb to Laban Rata

Kota Kinabalu Travel Blog

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Halfway up the mountain and looking dead

Early in the morning it was raining so heavy that the girls (Debbie and Lorraine) were having second thoughts about the climb. Still, we got to Kinabalu Park at 7:30am and organised for a guide, and for a porter to take our big backpack up to Laban Rata (the half way point). Our guide was a very helpful fellow named Kuintin, and the porter was very friendly too (actually all the staff on the mountain were very nice). We had to laugh at how small the porter was though ... our bag was bigger than him (but he was more than capable of carrying it).

The trail was a bit tough right from the beginning - before long we'd nicknamed it the "Never Ending Stairway" and Debbie started feeling pretty dizzy. The rain (which had cleared up earlier) also came back with a vengeance and didn't go away completely for the rest of the day. The rain made things a lot trickier - we all had to wear big ponchos that got in the way, all our clothes soaked through, and you really had to watch your step. Some of the trail was more like walking up a rocky mountain stream than a hiking trail.

In fact it was so wet that the guide warned us not to go further than Laban Rata if it was raining with the same gusto the next day ... and once we got a good look at the top of the mountain we could see why. There were streams/rivers of white water flowing all over the rock faces!

The trek got harder and harder, as the well formed stairs gave way to rocks, the track got steeper, and the altitude affected us more (dizziness, struggling for breath, increased heart rate).

At about five 5km in (the trail was 6km to Laban Rata, and another 2.7km to the summit), we were rewarded with an amazing view of the surrounding countryside, as the clouds surrounding us parted. But from there it got really difficult and the last 1km seemed to take forever. Debbie had a really bad cramp in her leg and had to take one step at a time very slowly. Plus we were all getting damn cold ... our clothes were soaked through (turns out there's not really any such thing as waterproof), and we hadn't dressed that warmly (we'd been told that it wouldn't be cold until after Laban Rata - how did we know it would only be 8.8 degrees C!).

Still we managed to make it by 3:30pm - about 8 hours after we left. We'd been one of the first to leave, and the last to arrive (a lot of people overtook us - including old ladies). Even more disheartening was seeing the porters carrying the Laban Rata restaurant supplies (one of them had a whole gas tank on his back, and was hardly breaking a sweat!). But the truth is I think we did very well to get that far ... especially seeing as we're not athletes by any means, and the weather was pretty awful.

Laban Rata itself was a bit of a marvel. A whole hostel and small restaurant perched 3300m up in the air. We hid a surprisingly nice meal (I'd been told that the food there wasn't very good), had the welcome hot shower we've ever had in our lives, and jumped into bed to keep warm, leaving our wet clothes to dry in the heated room ... except that they never did.

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Halfway up the mountain and lookin…
Halfway up the mountain and looki…