Saturday, June 8, 2013

Climbing Mt. Kinabalu

While looking through the weekly ABWM (Association for British Women in Malaysia) advertisements and announcements one day, I noticed an opportunity for climbing Mt. Kinabalu ( with The Shelter Home, a local charitable organization, and thought that it might be a fun and challenging experience. 

I had been thinking for some years about hiking 200 miles of the John Muir trail and climbing Mt. Whitney (, the highest mountain in California during my 50th birthday year. Since Mt. Kinabalu is just a bit lower than Mt. Whitney, I thought that climbing Mt. Kinabalu could be the trial run for next year’s half century birthday trip for me.

Joe was totally supportive of my desire to tackle KK (Kota Kinabalu) as it is fondly called. So, once I decided that I would take on the challenge of climbing Mt. Kinabalu, he transferred over the required funds (2000 RM ~$700) to cover pretrip training, food, air tickets, hotel, touring/busing around Kota Kinabalu, and guide fees for the climb up Mt. Kinabalu. Soon I began getting enthusiastic emails from the organizers, Roland and Edwin. I began raising money for the climb and a few weeks later the official training regimen started:

4/7     Bukit Gasing                             (I missed this hike)    

4/14   Bukit Gasing trekking 1hr         Leader: Guat Mei

4/21   Bukit Gasing trekking 1hr          Leader (Bukit Gasing hiking expert)

4/28   Batu Caves up/down steps         Leader: Edwin 

5/5     Gunung Nuang                          (cancelled due to Country elections)                

5/12   Batu  Caves up/down steps        Leader: Roland 

5/19   Gunung Kutu 5-6hr trek             Leader: Loong Fei

5/26   Directions from our great and wise leaders: REST... No more heavy exercising, just keep fit. Our family went to Tioman Island to rest...

5/29   Started low dose Diamox (altitude sickness pills) which made me a little lightheaded; Air Asia flight from LCCT airport in KL to Kota Kinabalu airport in Sabah, Borneo, Malaysia; lunch at Chinese restaurant, coffee tasting, checked in at Paragon Hotel; 2 hours free to wander around; dinner at tourist restaurant with Chinese food and tribal dancing; back to room by 9pm; (roomie already asleep ; )

5/30   Wake up 4am, early breakfast in hotel; hop on bus and drive 1 1/2 hrs to Mt. Kinabalu park entrance; arrived 7:30am, just after sunrise, took pictures, registered, and began hiking at 8:35am (Selamat Mendaki-Happy Hiking!); my hiking group was Annette and Neal along with our Malaysian guide, Shaftik who carried 5-7kg for each of us (8RM/kg-it was worth it!!!); nice hiking, all uphill, no real switchbacks, and lots of stairs w/plenty of greenery all around; happily, no leeches and perfect weather; arrived Laban Rata lodge at 12:45pm-rain started soon afterwards; checked into dorm w/3 other women; took shower one limb at a time in freezing shower-brrrr!; early dinner at 5pm; to bed and sleep at 7pm wearing clothes for climb to the summit early the next am ; )))

5/31  Alarm woke us at 1:47am (by request of Hayley); quick face wash and bathroom break; small breakfast (couldn’t force myself to eat more); headlamp and rain jacket on; set off at 2:35am w/Annette and Shaftik-no sign of Neal; clear weather again, thankfully; slower pace this am since climb is even steeper, in the dark, with much of it by rope ladder; although climb was slow and seemed endless, I pulled ahead of Annette and reached the summit at 5:25-5 minutes before mountain top sunrise; lots of people on the way up the mountain w/bouncing headlamps-196 people allowed on the mountain each day; stayed at summit for 1/2 hr, granite rock faces now well lit, hands cold; glad climb down is in the light because of potential for slipping, views are incredible; decided not to take my heavy DSLR camera on this trip b/c of the weight and worry about rain, so took pictures with my point and shoot; arrived Laban Rata lodge at 8ish for another bigger breakfast and 1/2 hour nap before the final descent back to Tampohon Gate (where we started); unfortunately, the rain descended upon us shortly after we started and stayed with us the entire trip back with the last 1km being in a downpour; arrived at our entry point at 2:30pm-30 hours after beginning-w/13 hours of hard climbing; had some transportation issues, but finally got shuttle to our lodging at Pine Resort, very close to the park at ~3:30pm; had warm shower; got settled; nice BBQ set up for our group on hotel grounds; last group of climbers straggled in around 7pm (dark!)-totally wiped out, all but 3 or 4 of our 39 climbers made it to the summit; to bed at 9pm.

6/1   Gorgeous view of Mt. Kinabalu this morning from viewing deck at hotel; could barely walk to the buffet breakfast this am, legs so sore-quads, knees, and calves;  more pictures in front of hotel of our group; onto bus for tour back to Kota Kinabalu; made several stops along the way to wet market, canopy bridge, souvenir shopping, and finally a late lunch near the airport; to airport by 5:30 for 7pm return to KL; all in all an amazing experience with a great group of people. Can’t say I’d do it again, though...perhaps another mountain on another day...

sorry the photos are out of order-hope you enjoy them anyway ; )

flying into Sabah

our bus tour guide in Sabah, Baldwin

Leader, Roland, in front of our bus

Chinese dinner our first night in Sabah

my dinner companions

Radziah and me at dinner

even more dinner dishes...

some of our group with dancers

just before starting the climb

Mt. Kinabalu

our group: Annette, Neal, and me

Selamat Mendaki (happy hiking) at the entrance to KK

ahhhh...made it to the top at 5:25am,  just 5 minutes before sunrise

views on the way down...

on the way down

on the way down

alpine foliage within granite crevices

on the way down

above the clouds...

more alpine foliage

gorgeous views

loved all the granite

climbing buddy Annette and me

if it looks steep, that's because it is!!!

alpine foliage

the valley laid out below us-spectacular!

last checkpoint before climbing the summit, another hour or more...

leaving the checkpoint

using the rope ladder on the way down

Laban Rata dorm lodging

moss covered tree, reaching out it's limbs

gorgeous views from viewing deck at Pine Resort


some of our group at the summit of Mt. Kinabalu

getting ready to start the climb

at the airport after the climb

the canopy bridge

heading back to airport after climb

some of our group


our very large group

Pei Leng relaxing with a beautiful view of KK on day after climb

me,  Mimi,  and Janet

our group, post climb

still needing support after the climb

sunrise at the base of KK the morning of our 1st day

me in front of Mt. Kinabalu before climbing

entry gate

on of the guides carrying his group's packs...

my hiking buddy, Annette

an example of some of the climbing we did...

nature art

mountain flower

regular elevation and distance signs kept us current with our position while climbing

me and Hayley, one of our marathon runners

always good to see another sign showing progress....

good signage showing us the way to Laban Rata

almost there...

other types of stairs...

LOVED the fog rolling in, however, it usually brought rain quickly on it's heels!

more lovely fog

our route up the mountain

up we go...

fog and blooming foliage

looking up at the mountain top from our lodgings at Laban Rata

alpine foliage

reception at Laban Rata

dining room at Laban Rata

on the dorm room ceiling-direction for prayer for Muslims...

sunrise at the summit

granite crevices

care to have a try...

alpine foliage

can't believe I climbed up some of these areas in the dark!

earthworm wriggling in a small pool of water near the summit

on the way down

climbing down with Annette

granite rockface

you can do it, just follow the rope....
alpine foliage

beautiful flowering plant

across the street from our first hotel in Kota Kinabalu