Trekking Mt Kota Kinabalu, Sabah Feb 2014

This is my second time summiting Mount Kota Kinabalu.  The first was back in March 2011, almost 3 years ago.  I recall training real hard for the climb and most of my friends would probably still remember the ‘crazy’ thing I did.  Diving straight after a climb was definitely no fun.  By the end of my  first diving day, I could hardly walk straight.  Yes it hurts, real bad.

A last minute trip, I made my booking a week before the climb with Amazing Borneo. I was impressed with their response time and arrangements made even though I was alone. I guessed they made this trip possible at such short notice. It was the Chinese Lunar New Year and I had  a long break before work kicked in again.  Since I had gone up via Timpohon Gate previously, it would be via Mesilau Gate this time.  Having been blessed with trips and holidays that lasted more than a week most of the time, this seems like a really short holiday.  The intention was to stay away from the city area and go hide myself away in a place where I would have minimal human contact.  3 days 2 nights climb and a last night in the city before I head back to Singapore.

Mesilau resort was surprisingly quiet and peaceful, just the place I needed.  Probably because it was off season, there weren’t many people around.  I realised that I might actually be having a dormitory room all to myself.   I would have four beds to choose from. 😉

Mount Kota Kinabalu, Sabah Malaysia
Arriving at Mesilau Resort
Mount Kota Kinabalu, Sabah Malaysia
search for my dormitory room

I was the first to arrive and I was told that there would be another  6 guests in the same dormitory but in a different room.  I guess some company during the night would not be too bad.  Leaving my stuff in the room, I took a short walk around to know get to know my surroundings.  The Mesilau nature centre was very informative and the old caretaker was kind enough to extend the opening hours for 10minutes for me.  He was also an excellent guide, providing very good and detailed information.  We had a good chat.

Mount Kota Kinabalu, Sabah Malaysia
visitor center and restaurant

It was a beautiful day and I could see the majestic mountain line clearly from the carpark.  The lodges at the resort were lovely, resembling little cottage cabins.  If I had a group of friends, I guessed it would be lovely to be in one of these.  It was around 5pm in the evening and it was actually getting chilly.  As reluctant as I was, I decided to head uphill back to my room to grab a jacket and some water.  Found a short trail that I could go on for the evening before it got dark.

Mount Kota Kinabalu, Sabah Malaysia
amazing views
Mount Kota Kinabalu, Sabah Malaysia
Kogopon trail, a walk around the resort

I returned from my little trail walk to find that the other climbers have arrived.  5 ladies and 1 young chap.  The group was extremely friendly and really easy to get along with.  During dinner, they invited me to join in and we had a good time getting to know a bit about one another.  Unfortunately, the waitress who was helping us take photo accidentally deleted a folder from my camera and I lost the photo she took of the group too.  I realised it that night when I wanted to download the pictures into my laptop.  Didn’t really want to be too hard on the poor girl so I made no mention of it.

I had wanted to have an early night but I kept tossing and turning.  The night was cold and I woke up a few times to go to the toilet.  I wasn’t really sure what time it was before I finally managed to get some sleep.

6am and the alarm on my handphone went off.  I had already packed the night before, so it was really just getting myself ready.  Breakfast and it was time to go meet my guide.  I was pretty eager to set off and get going. This route would be 2km longer than via Timpohon Gate, so I was worried that I would not be able to make it to Laban Rata before dinner.  I had heard a lot of stories how some people take a much longer time on this route.

Mount Kota Kinabalu, Sabah Malaysia
all set to go
Mount Kota Kinabalu, Sabah Malaysia
start of my climb

Climbing on the traverse did make a huge difference.  The view was fantastic and it was a beautiful sunny day with clear blue sky.  Perfect setting for photo taking.

Mount Kota Kinabalu, Sabah Malaysia
view from hiking on the traverse

My guide was a quiet guy even though he did ask me a few times if my backpack was too heavy for me to handle.  I needed the training for my trip the following month, so I was very insistent and perhaps, a little stubborn, in carrying my own load.  I had set off a few minutes earlier than the ladies from the resort but it wasn’t before long when one of them, together with the young boy caught up with me.  Its good to be young, that young. 🙁  I knew I had 6km to cover before we reached the fork where Mesilau Gate route meets Timpohon Gate route., leaving the last 2km up to Laban Rata.  Counting down was one of the easiest way to slowly make my way up.

Mount Kota Kinabalu, Sabah Malaysia
counting my markers
Mount Kota Kinabalu, Sabah Malaysia
clear blue sky

While Timpohon route was marked by the endless steps, going all the way up, Mesilau had a few downslope sections.  I got a bit worried when we kept going downhill for quite a long section.  This meant that I would need to make up for this eventually.  Now I could finally understand why this was supposedly the tougher route.

Mount Kota Kinabalu, Sabah Malaysia
ups and downs

The little waterfall was a refreshing change to the landscape and of course it made a great photo taking spot.  One for me and my guide.

Mount Kota Kinabalu, Sabah Malaysia
taking a breather
Mount Kota Kinabalu, Sabah Malaysia
blue sky and clear water
Mount Kota Kinabalu, Sabah Malaysia
crystal clear waters

Spotted these tiny flowers on a tree near the stream.  The tiny bright pink and white flowers stood out among the greens.  They looked so pretty.

Mount Kota Kinabalu, Sabah Malaysia
pretty stuff
Mount Kota Kinabalu, Sabah Malaysia
getting higher up

As we go higher up, the air got thinner and it became harder for me to breathe.  Each step was getting harder.  By now I was walking in the clouds and the vegetations around us had changed too.

Mount Kota Kinabalu, Sabah Malaysia
walking in the clouds
Mount Kota Kinabalu, Sabah Malaysia
and the vegetations change

My first time sticking my finger in.  My guide was laughing at me when I said it would close up and eat up my finger.  He took the first and I put mine in to another big fat one.  Myth busted. 🙂

Mount Kota Kinabalu, Sabah Malaysia
they don’t bite

And finally, I reached the fork.  If my memory served me correctly, it was steps all the way up now.  From brown rocks to granite rocks, I was tempted to start counting steps.

Mount Kota Kinabalu, Sabah Malaysia
reaching the cross junction

After the fork, the markers now read distance from Timpohon Gate.  so no worries, I wasn’t heading in the wrong direction.

Mount Kota Kinabalu, Sabah Malaysia
the last 2km
Mount Kota Kinabalu, Sabah Malaysia
catching up with the girls

By now, I was beginning to feel the weight of the load on my back.  Baby steps, I know I can make it.  1km an hour and I was still right on target.  And finally,  the familiar sight I was looking forward to – Laban Rata rest house.  Previously, I stayed in Pendant Hut and I could remember the agony when the guy at the registration at Laban Rata pointed that out to me.  It was at least another 200m uphill and it meant coming back down for dinner and going back up to sleep.  Yes, 200m  suddenly seem like a monstrous figure when you were that tired.

Mount Kota Kinabalu, Sabah Malaysia
a familiar sight – Laban Rata rest house

Thank goodness, I had a room at the rest house this time.  No more walking in the cold.  I had a good dinner with the ladies.  They were quite surprised when I told them I was going to take a bath.  Or rather they probably didn’t take me too seriously about it.

Mount Kota Kinabalu, Sabah Malaysia
Laban Rata

There was apparently a shortage of water so the shower wasn’t exactly working well.  water was just dripping down and yes, it was cold standing under the shower head waiting to wash out soap and shampoo.  Another group of girls were also showering and I could hear them screaming about the icy cold water.  I felt so good and refreshed after the quick shower.  It was worth bearing with the cold.

A view I wouldn’t want to miss and a scene that remained fresh in my head even after 3 years.  Sunset at Laban Rata is not something you want to forego.  Everyone was crowding to get a good picture.  Always love the sunset colours, so warm and beautifully layered. The oranges and golds with fluffy white clouds.  This is the view from above.

Mount Kota Kinabalu, Sabah Malaysia
sunset in a sea of clouds
Mount Kota Kinabalu, Sabah Malaysia
beautiful colours in the sky

Satisfied, I took some hot dessert and filled up my water bottles.  I was heading back to the room to pack my stuff for tomorrow.  Changing to a tiny summit backpack.  This time I was sharing the room with 3 Japanese and thankfully, they all decided to rest early too.  I set my alarm at 130am.  Meeting my guide for my summit climb at 230am.

Surprisingly the rooms were rather warm even though there was no heater.  I guessed perhaps more stuffy than warm.   I had to wake up and remove my sweater and jacket before I could get back to sleep.  Pendant Hut was a lot colder even with a sleeping bag.  I didn’t think I sleep much though.

After breakfast, I met up with my guide and it was back to climbing.  Always nice to climb in the dark because when you looked back, all you could see are the bobbing headlights of the other climbers.  I left my guide behind at Sayat Sayat checkpoint so he could do his prayers.  It was easy for him to catch up with me anyways, so I continued on as I didn’t want to miss sunrise.

The early morning winds were cold and as we got higher, we were totally opened to the elements.  The wind was strong.  I was only concentrating and focussing on my breathing and moving slowly upwards, taking a step at a time.  I was so glad I still managed to summit before sunrise.

The usual, the summit photo must be taken. 🙂

27. The summit
I made it!! (Low’s peak)
Mount Kota Kinabalu, Sabah Malaysia
At the top
Mount Kota Kinabalu, Sabah Malaysia
a view to remember

What goes up must come down.  5 hours down Timpohon Gate and I made it in time for lunch at the park headquarters and the coach back to the city.  I spent a night at Palace hotel and took a little walk around town. Not realising how tired i really was, I fell asleep with the TV on at around 8 or 9pm.  It was a deep sleep taking straight through till morning.  Just in time for a good breakfast before heading to the airport for my flight back to Singapore.

Goodbye, KK.  I know I’ll definitely be back again. 🙂

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