Mount Kinabalu climb day 2 – The Summit

Mount Kinabalu Travel Blog

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Mount Kinabalu climb day 2 ��" summit.


2am wake up call!  Plan of the day is: 3 hour ascent to summit, 20 minute rest at sunrise, 1 hour descent to lodge and then 4 hour descent to base camp.  Sound daunting?  It is.


We assemble with Wilfred and politely refuse a cigarette with him and head off, miner’s torches glowing.  Immediately we bottleneck on a set of stairs with loads of other climbers, one small step at a time.  This isn’t horrible for a pace but you want to see sunrise so you are a little worried.  People are dropping out left and right now from altitude and muscle ache so Wilfred kicks us up a gear and we get into passing mode.


Once the stairs are done you’ve got another 1.5km or so of rock face to tackle.  This means a guide rope tied to the rock and you walk along it.  In a couple of spots it is dicey with a small ledge but nothing too bad.  At the time it is pitch black so you imagine yourself inches from a deadly fall but it isn’t really like that.  The angle of ascent is tough though and legs are tiring and breathing is getting tougher.  You can’t see the top so you just keep going blindly.  We don’t stop much except to show our passes at the final gate and look down on the villages all lit up miles below.


The final 500m is a scramble up a rocky outcropping.  This is the summit.  People are up there so you can see it and they’re waiting for the sunrise.

  It is freezing up here so gloves and hat are a must.  Get there too early and you’ll be chilly for sunrise.  Wilfred planned it great so we got a photo with the sign, and found a spot on the rocks to wait 10 mins for sunrise amongst 30 or 40 other hikers and many mice scurrying around.  The light starts to flicker on the horizon and before you know it you’re on top of Southeast Asia watching the sunrise.  It is gorgeous.


Snapping photos are fingers are freezing and after another 5-10 mins we need to start moving again for warmth.  Short lived but well worth it!  Wilfred kept to himself and chain smoked fags until we were ready to go.


The descent down the rock face is much more visible now and less scary than the climb up.  Descending down though seems harder for me as my thighs are really starting to burn.  I never though I’d say this, but I was looking forward to the wooden steps again!  Crazy talk I know.


It takes about an hour to get back to lodge and we plan with Wilfred to depart at 9am.  We have 75 minutes to eat some toast, take a nap, pack up and go.  Waking up was tough and putting sweat soaked kit back on tougher, but the show must go on.

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Wilfred rocked up looking chipper as ever.  We were a bit tired but ready to go.  You might have guessed we didn’t hook onto ropes at the summit for the Via Ferratta.  It would take a man more fit than I to willingly put himself through that for another hour, it seems like torture.  We weren’t fussed because we mainly booked the tour just to get the lodging.


We maintained a fairly rapid pace on the descent making great time.  We were on track to do it in 3.5 hours, skipping every other rest stop and really only stopping to fill our water jugs.  Lunch would be in Kota Kinabalu and that was good motivation.  The descent is a lot harder than the ascent and I found myself looking down rocky stepped trails and wondering how the hell I thought it a good idea to climb up them.


There is some pleasure in seeing the grimacing faces of other climbers on their way up and knowing you looked the same.  We stayed dry the day before because we got up there quickly, but you could tell some of these folks would not be so fortunate.  When asked about rain and views and how much further, we were all smiles!


Wilfred’s mobile phone was much more advanced than his mountain gear and he was able to call our driver 2 hours away from the base to get us picked up.  The driver refused payment for the outward journey until he took us back so you can imagine neither of us trusting the situation much.  We made it to the gate for the last little uphill section that was a real killer, dropped our sticks off and waited for the van to get us.  It was already raining now and I was in a tired trance not really able to think about anything but stairs.


As the van dropped us off our cab driver ran into sight obviously recalling our faces like a bounty hunter (I couldn’t have picked him out in a line-up).  The drive home was uneventful but if you imagine how much faster you can drive downhill then you can understand the velocity at which we propelled ourselves down the foothills.  To be fair, we smelled so bad I’d have done the same.  Next stop, Shangri-La for 2 night of recovery before we got Boracay for a week!

Mount Kinabalu
photo by: Deats