Leisure travel means differently to everyone, and if you love the adrenaline rush of adventure during your travels, Mount Kinabalu could be right for you. Being an avid traveller, I love challenges and hiking up the tallest mountain in South East Asia is something that I can do over and over again. To reach Mount Kinabalu, the journey starts off by flying to Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia.
Challenge Your Limits in The New Year
If you are going to Kota Kinabalu to enjoy the culture, food and the people, heading there anytime is always good. Nevertheless, the best months to hike up Mount Kinabalu are February, March & April as these are the non-monsoon period where lesser rain occurs. Touching down Kota Kinabalu, I would recommend resting one night in town before getting ready for that grueling hike. A simple inn would suffice for me. However, if you prefer to stay somewhere near the feet of the mountain, try Huda Inn Ranau that is located very near the Kinabalu Park entrance.
Of course, it could be more enjoyable to hike up Kinabalu with friends. I arrived in Kinabalu town and stayed the night in town with a group of friends. It wasn’t until after the second night that we started to ascend the trip to the peak. On the first day in town, take the chance to enjoy the local food. Another attraction for early risers is to visit some islands around the vicinity (Manukan, Sapi, etc.). Or if you have more days to spare, get a charter bus to go up to Ranau (you should visit the Poring Hot Springs or Kundasang War Memorial Park when you’re there), and stay a night there.
To prepare for the hike, here are some things I packed: a pair of clothes, a smaller bag, proper hiking shoes (super important!), a windbreaker, towel and a water bag. Being an avid photographer, I brought along my camera gear which totals about 5 kg. The total weight I carried was about 6 kg.
To reach the peak of Kinabalu, one can choose either Mesilau or Timpohon trail for the ascent. The difference is that Mesilau is a longer but more jungle trail while Timpohon is the opposite kind of trail — with lots of stairs. Also take note that since descending can only be done on Timpohon, it might be a better idea to experience the track up Mesilau during ascending.
Going up the trail, it was a good experience to observe the different fauna and flora along the trail. If one is lucky, you might chance upon the world’s largest flower, the Rafflesia, along the trail. One way to identify these flowers is by its pungent smell, which is a little like rotten meat.
Chances are, you would see more pitcher plants along the way. Those carnivorous plants are a common sight along the trail. I also got to see some unusual slugs, and a friendly squirrel who got to eat my Ferrero Rocher chocolate. This path really made a difference to my Mount Kinabalu climb, making it more exciting and less tiresome. Try to hit roughly a 6-hour hike to ensure you have proper rest before the real hike (wait… what???).
Before reaching Laban Rata (the base camp before the next hike up), there were several huts or pit stops for hikers to rest and get some drinks or food and maybe take a photo or two. These are good for first-time hikers and non-seasonal ones.
Finally, after about 6 hours of climbing, I reached Laban Rata around 5 pm. Dinner was provided for every hiker, and we spent a night at Laban Rata (price differs at the different inns). The guides then told us to get some rest after dinner, as the next climb would be at 2.30 am. The good news is that it is another 2 km — excellent! Yet, my joy was short-lived after finding it would take approximately 2 to 4 hours to conquer the 2 km distance, depending on stamina. If you are early, you’ll get the view of the sunrise as your reward, and of course, that’s all the motivation that I needed.
After getting the needed rest, it was time to get up at 2 am to start climbing the peak. Having a smaller bag came in extremely handy, as I could save some weight during the ascent by only bringing the basic necessities (raincoat, camera and water bag).
This last trail was a bit different with the rocky terrain. The climb was made harder with the elevation of around 50 degrees. What’s more, you are climbing in the middle of the night at a freezing temperature of around 6 to 12 degrees Celsius, a couple of thousands of metres above the ground — Laban Rata itself is already at 3,270 metres.
This trail had ropes along the way on the floor for guidance, so anyone could crawl up the mountain. Yes, it was a steep climb where I had to catch my breath at times. Personally, I felt the last stretch of the hike wouldn’t have been hard if it were not for the cold. One thing I was grateful of was the dry weather. I couldn’t imagine having to climb a slippery rocky slope.
After what seemed like a 3-hour-climb, I could see a glimpse of the peak, encouraging me to push myself faster. Upon reaching the summit, I sighed a breath of relief. Finally, an achievement unlocked! I could finally say that I have conquered Mt Kinabalu. Kinabalu’s peak, known as Low’s Peak, is recorded at 4095.2 Meters. The breath-taking view from the top is indescribable, with a soufflé of clouds floating around.
Here is a view from the top overlooking the clouds below.
Of course a picture with the post as a sign of reaching the top would be the best.
When one has reached the peak, try to keep a cool pose.
After 15 minutes of enjoying the warm sun rays, it was time to return to Laban Rata for breakfast before continuing our descent to the base camp. This time round, the trail was Timpohon which was the gruesome trail of steps. Walking down the steps slowly made my knees ache, so I did the unthinkable: I half ran down the steps. While not advisable, the little jumps gave my knees less pain. You may want to trek through this carefully though, as a steady footing is key to ensure your safety and minimise risk of injuries.
It took me three hours going down Mt. Kinabalu, while my friends took a little longer. After all the aches and pain I got from the climb, a trip to Poring Hot Springs was exactly what we needed. Until next time, Kinabalu!