I Want to Climb a Mountain

Kota Kinabalu Travel Blog

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We had a four bed dorm at the hostel which should be perfect for us, but the fourth person turned out to be one helluva snorer!  He woke everyone of us during the night, but I’m a heavy sleeper as I’d proved back in Manila and so was the least affected of the three of us.  I still wasn’t exactly pleased with it though, but it bothered me less than the other two.


Grumpily and groggily we got out of bed and made our way to the bus stop to meet the others and go on to the National Park.  It was another brilliantly scenic two hour drive, but you could certainly feel the dip in temperature with the elevation.

  Once at the park, we attempted to book onto the climbing tours, but the whole thing seemed quite farcical.  We were given non-committal answers that simply made no sense from the park booking office.  Apparently there was a maximum of just four people per day who were permitted to climb the mountain in a day!  The maths just didn’t add up right.  So many thousands of people climb the mountain each year, and there isn’t even close to enough accommodation in the park itself to allow that number of climbers over a two day trek.  I just couldn’t fathom the logic behind four day climbers only. 


Without debating any further, we decided a better course of action would be to find a cheap place to stay just outside the park.  Once that was sorted we came back in and got talking to another American girl travelling solo, Jackie (California).

  She was quite keen to join us for some treks, and so we all went back into the Park Headquarters to see what trails they recommend and how long each would take.  All we got from them was “I can’t confirm” as an answer to literally every question, and so instead we thought we’re going to have to sort ourselves out. 


The botanical gardens were said to have a Raffelesia (the World’s largest flower) in bloom, so we went there only to find it was closed for the day.  Another option was to try a smaller trek, but given that it was very wet and the leeches would be out in force, that wasn’t a popular option for anyone.  We didn’t have many other options and it was starting to get a little late, so we went to get some food and hung out at the lodge.  We met a couple more guys from the UK, Dave and Chris (Brummies) and they were good company, and together we all passed the evening playing cards and having a few drinks, wrapping up warm in the cold of the mountains.


I had made a decision to get up as early as possible and have another go at trying to climb the mountain.  I’d already spoke to a couple of people who had done it in a day back in Kota Kinabalu, and so I wasn’t going to be deterred just yet. 




All eight of us got up early and went for a good breakfast.  Mack decided enough was enough and he would go onto Sandakan and do some tours from there instead, whilst the rest of us walked up to the Typhon Gate, where the climb to the summit starts and where you can take various routes back down to the park entrance.

  This was where I said goodbyes to Jennifer, Andy, Justin and Jackie, who were all going to go back to Kota Kinabalu, and that left just me, Dave and Chris. 


Typhon Gate is at 1866 metre of the 4,095 metre mark, and you can climb a little higher to a view point, but this is not up Mt Kinabalu.  We did just that, getting leeched in the process, but when we got there all we could see was clouds.  It was already too late in the day to get any decent views.  Apparently the only viewing times that doesn’t have excessive cloud cover are extremely early in the morning and last thing in the evening.  We came back down, but I still had an itch to see the actual entrance.  I got chatting to a couple of guys and they informed me, if I was up for it, for just 10 RM I can climb to the half-way point of the mountain, but have to be back before the gate is locked at 5pm.

  The Brummies agreed this was the thing to do, and so we begun our ascent to Layang Layang, a steep 4 km hike. 


It didn’t take long at all before I was soaked to the bone.  I found out quickly how steep the climb actually is as well, and I knew I was in for a tough day.  It’s amazing how excited you get when you see a check point marker saying you have done another half a kilometer!


Altitude sickness is a real problem as well for most inexperienced climbers such as myself, and the higher up we went, the harder it got for me.  Dave was like a machine and plodded on un-relentlessly, but I found the build up of lactic acid in my calves and thighs a bit much, and suggested we take it a bit easier.

  We were racing up on the whole and passing many climbers on the way, but when we took short rest breaks, it didn’t take long until I really felt the cold.  There were times when I was actually seeing spots!


When we made it Lyang Lyang it was 1:15pm and we had got that far in just two hours.  There didn’t seem to be much to stop us carrying on; no check for passes, nothing.  I was sure we could have made it to the summit with another three hours trekking.  If we had known about the gate and had started a lot earlier, maybe we could have made it all the way to the top, but given the gates closes at 5pm, that wasn’t a viable option for us.  We did continue climbing a little further, but because of the think cloud making all views completely obscured, there was little point pushing further through the pain barrier.

  We started our descent.


We got down so much faster than going up.  This obviously isn’t surprising as the air gets thicker at lower altitudes and of course it is down hill.  We didn’t need any rest breaks whatsoever and given that energy seemed to increase the further down we got, it wasn’t long before we got back through the gate.  We did sit down at this point and soon realised how tired we actually were.  Despite the cold, I’m sure I could have rolled over and slept!


We all went for some much needed food and then it was time to say goodbyes.  Dave and Chris were to go back to Kota Kinabalu, whilst I had chosen to go onto Sandakan.

  Unfortunately I’d missed the 3:30pm bus, and the next one wasn’t until 9:30pm, so instead I flagged down a minivan and got to Ranau instead. 


Hitch hiking was an option from Ranau and a guy pulled over to offer me a lift in the right direction without me attempting to hitch hike.  I thanked him for the offer, but chose instead to wait for the bus as I didn’t quite know where he would be stopping.  I felt content that I had the option of staying in Ranau if needs be.  Thankfully that wasn’t the need, and at 8:30pm a bus turned up, and I arrived at 12:30am to a silent Sandakan.  I chose to find a mid-range hotel after all the exhausting climbing and bad sleep in the hostels, and found one quickly with a big comfy bed, furiously powerful, hot shower, and a TV, not that that was required.  After a really good wash, my head hit the pillow and I was out like a light.

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