Going down

Mount Kinabalu Travel Blog

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We had set the alarm for 2am but the dorm full of aussie teens next door woke us up at 130am so we got up and dressed quickly, somehow forcing contact lenses into sleepy eyes at this early hour. Downstairs for some force-feeding of a few oranges and a little annoyed that the tea and coffee brewing away is not free, we met our guide outside and set off at 235am.

The first part of the summit walk was really slow going as pretty much everyone set off at the same time. The single file traffic going up the steep path was moving so slowly we were stopping every few steps. At a wider part of the path, our guide whipped around the people, showing us a sneaky path to get round the slower movers. Ahead of the hemmed in crowd now, we found our own pace and made our way up the steep rocky path.
I am not sure how or why but at this time of the morning in the cold and dark I felt totally alive and full of energy!

Once we got to the check point and the summit gate, we had our passes checked and then began the real fun part of the trek. We used ropes to pull ourselves up the very steep parts of smooth rock face, it was brilliant! We hurtled up pretty quick and very very suddenly the altitude hit me like a brick wall. My head went dizzy and heavy and I suddenly felt very sick. From here on up, we both began to struggle with the altitude and the thinning air. We took the walk up and across the rock face slowly and had plenty of short rests to rest our spinning heads. It became harder with this added difficulty but was still so enjoyable. In the gloomy dark of the early morning, we could just make out the outlines of some of the rock faces around, like the 'Donkey Ears' formation and, once we got to the 8km marker, the outline of the summit peak.
It looked deceptively close. Onwards and upwards, we knew we only had 700m to go but this last bit was the toughest. The last 200m scramble up the steep rocky track to the summit was a case of using hands as well as feet to pull ourselves up between the boulders, and there it was, the summit sign, with a handfull of people sitting around it looking very pleased.

As it was 5am and still about 45 minutes to the sunrise, we found a sheltered area on the side of the mountain and put on all the layers we carried up with us. Hats, scarves, gloves, fleeces, windproof coats, the lot. We snuggled up to keep warm as one by one, other climbers made it to the top. Looking down the peak, we could see the spots of headtorches glowing in a staggered line down the mountain.

As the sun came up we took up a spot to watch the beauty of the sun transform the valley around and light up the surrounding mountains.
Then came the obligatory photo of us with the summit sign. we had to wait in line, as of course everyone wanted this pic!! Then came the long trek down the summit trail back to Laban Rata.

The trek down to the hut was a lot of fun. Now we could see the incredible views all around us and the route we had just climbed up. The views really are breath-taking up there, and we were lucky that the mist had cleared from the previous day. The camera came out at every opportunity and with the steep descent, it was slow-going. The rope bit on the way down was good fun too!

Back at Laban Rata it was time to tuck into a good buffet brekkie and a good cup of tea. With our tummies happy, we quickly packed and then made our way with our guide on the 6km trek down the mountain back to the base.
This was the difficult bit for me. The steep stairs that were good going up were now incredibly hard and jarring on the knees. My rented walking stick took some of the strain but after a few kms the knees were really starting to hurt. The local porters who do the climb pretty much every day ran past us as different stages, how they don't fall is beyond me. Some parts of the trek were very slippery making the going even harder but we eventually made it down. The last 2 kms are pretty easy going, not very steep and an easier track.The last bit of the track was uphill, we knew this was coming from the day before, but this was rather painful!!! Then it was a short wait for the bus to take us back to base. What took us 4 hours to climb took us 3 hours to descend but thankfully a buffet lunch was included back at the headquarters restaurant.
Yippee. And we had achieved the climb to Mount Kinabalu!! Well worth it although the pain in the legs is only just beginning.....

Very recently the park facilities have taken a rather sharp increase in price. So the Lonely Planet prices are wrong at the moment as they have changed since the last LP was published. We paid the following, although a dorm bed would be cheaper. We booked and paid for the Laban Rata room at the Sutera Sanctuary Lodge office in the Wisma building in KK. The rest is paid in cash at the headquarters.

RM546 for 2 of us for our room (private twin), packed lunch for the climb, buffet dinner at Laban Rata, buffet brekkie at Laban Rata and buffet lunch at the restaurant near the headquarters.

RM85 for our guide for the 2 of us.

RM15 each entry fee which covers 3 days

RM7 each for compulsory insurance

RM100 each for climbing permit

RM33 for return bus fee to the power station/starting point for us both and our guide

RM10 per bag for bag storage at the headquarters

RM5 per walking stick!

Very very expensive, yes, but cheaper than doing it as a part of a tour from KK and more fun with our won guide at our own pace.

You don't need to bring a lot of food as you get given plenty and it is good food. Just some chocolate and a few snacks for the way up is good. Water can be topped up along the way, the water is untreated but comes from the spring on the mountain so should be OK. If you go for a private room as opposed to a dorm bed at Laban Rata, you get towels, soap, even a tooth brush! (although not toothpaste) so save on a bit of bag space!

We were going to stay in the park accommodation for a few nights before and after but a dorm bed is RM85 each (yes that's right) so we didn't.
We stayed just outside the park at D'villa Rinta Ria 500m past the park entrance. This was RM100 a night per room (with private bathroom and brekkie) and was OK. There are a few others dotted along the road.

Expensive, yes, worth it, yes!! Although our legs ache a lot...

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Mount Kinabalu
photo by: Deats