Sunday, August 02, 2009

Sabah- Climbing Mount Kinabalu at 4095.2 meter

I'm going to continue where i left of the last i blogged about the Land Below the Wind.

* WARNING : This is a super duper long post with about 90 pictures. And i took a few days to complete the post. No kidding. It's that long! So enjoy reading slowly :)*

In this post, im gonna share my experience climbing Mount Kinabalu, the tallest mountain in Malaysia and some claim South East Asia although there has been some ongoing controversy about this. We took 2 days 1 night to climb the mountain, that's why it's a very long post cz i blog straight about the entire experience climbing Mt. K instead of separating it into a few posts.

Mount Kinabalu is the tallest mountain between New Guinea and the Himalayas and reigns over an astonishing variety of scenery. (source : travelMalaysiaguide where you can some other basic info about climbing Mt. Kinabalu as well)

True enough, there's definitely an astonishing amount of scenery and Mt. K is really one of the most accessible peak with no specialized mountain climbing skill needed to ascend it. However, you still want to make sure you are fit enough cz u will be hiking for hours, in rain and in cold and at some point, your leg muscles will soar so much that it will cry loudly to you and as though begging to you and you have to have the determination to push it going for more. It is a 8 km climb up to the peak of the mountain and we will only be able to rest for the day when we reach 6 km.

We left Bishop's Head at about 7.40 am and the sun was shining brightly on us. Personally, i was very happy to have the sun cz the temperature at Kinabalu Park is constantly chilly and after 2 nights in cold, i love the sun more than ever as it's rays quickly warm up my face and body. And it will make our climb much easier and quicker.

The scenery along the way was very tranquil as we were surrounded by so much greenery and fresh air, so much better than the terrible haze in KL. I enjoy looking at the countryside scenery as i take in the beautiful surrounding. When the van turn the corners, i occasionally caught a glimpse of the peak of Mt. K that we were going to conquer soon.

#114 (3.7.09)- Green hills with Mt. K in the background.. Refreshing sight

A morning market along the way. Sells mainly fresh vegetables, fish and clothes

We reached the headquarters at about 8.30 am (cz we made a stop to leave some of our luggage and bring only the necessary to climbed Mt. K at D'Villa Lodge. Apparently, we can leave our excess luggage there for free but if we leave it at the HQ, they will charge us!) Our trail will be Timpohon gate-peak- Timpohon gate but contrary to what the website wrote (it must had been outdated or we are cheated but less likely the latter cz that's the 'standard' price now), we paid about RM 100/RM 120 per guide.

We met both our guide there; Francis and Andi. Most of the guides are the indigenous people and mostly from the KadazanDusun tribe or also fondly known as the mountain people. The KadazanDusun is the biggest indigenous tribe in Sabah and they are said to be still protecting the mountain (thats why they work as guides) as they believe the souls of their ancestors are on the mountain. These people are like superman climbing the mountain. If we need 6 hours, they just need half of our time or even less. Apart from working as guide, they also work as transporters carrying gallons of water supply, kgs of rice, noodles, eggs etc up the mountain. Cause halfway up the mountain will be our rest house (Laban Rata) and the restaurant and that's how the restaurant get their raw ingredients ; manpower.

It is compulsory to hire a guide with every pax of 6 as they will be taking care of our safety (but most of the time we climbed on our own and they are just right behind taking their own sweet time to rest cz they need to be behind the last person so that they can ensure no one goes missing in the jungle of the mountain). They are also our potter and to carry your stuff, they charged RM 8 per kg. And they can also transport you up or down the mountain on stretcher if you pay them RM 100/200 per km. haha!

We can see the peak of Mt. K behind us. Excited to start ascending the mountain. We 3 girls and AP actually bought a 'tongkat' (stick) to helped us in our climbing. It is not the proper mountain climbing pole, ours were authentic Malaysia Boleh type. Made of wood and it was RM 1 per stick if i'm not wrong but don't belittle these tongkat powers. It helps a great deal especially when your legs start to gets tired and wobbly or at some slippery areas, the stick actually provides good support.

After registration, we were each given a name tag and each of us had a number. So, if you prefer not to call names in the jungle, you can call your friends by their numbers instead.

My name tag which we got to keep as souvenir.

A bus took us from the HQ to Timpohon gate where we officially started our challenge.

Every year, there's an international climbathon held at Mount Kinabalu. In the last climbathon, the male category winner was a man from Spain with a record of 2 hours and 44 minutes and the winner of the female category was a woman from France using 3 hours and 17 minutes! Imagine running up to the peak in such a short time. They must be really really fit!

Timpohon gate

This is Andi who was also my potter. He briefed us a little on climbing Mt. K and the various shelters where we can rest. At about every 1 km, there will be a rest shelter. Ah, something to look forward to at the end of every 1 km.

At every shelter, a huge tank of untreated water is provided. 100% pure mountain water. I don't dare to try it cz i don't want to risk getting diarrhea but DD tried it and he said the water actually tasted sweet.

And no worries of nature's call. There's also toilet provided. Although it is small and filled with muddy footprints, but aside from that, the toilet is surprisingly clean and I'm proud of that.

We had to hike 6 km to reach Laban Rata where we had our dinner and the needed rest. On average, it takes about 1 hour to hike 1 km. The first 6 km was really a heaven for naturalist as we were surrounded by the tropical jungles with various kinds of flora and fauna and panoramic views as we ascend to certain heights. But disappointingly, there was not a sight of the stinky Rafflesia. Although it is stinky, but i still wants to see it. The biggest flower in the world. Don't play play.

The beginning of the trail. Started our climb at 10 am.

Initially it was graded trail, very easy to walk with railings at the side.

There's also a pretty waterfall that further cools down the jungle. I remembered coming down from the peak, when i heard the waterfall sound from far, i was so elated cz i know it's coming to the end of the climb

We started off climbing in a group where everyone was still energetic. As time passed and we ascended higher and higher with dropping in temperature and thinning air, everyone kinda broke up into their own pace. Some can climbed faster, some slower. It does not matter really whether you are slower or faster, most important is keeping at your own pace and rate so that you don't get tired out so easily.

The graded trail soon joins jungle track and even steps like this was so painful to descend. Every step was killing me when i came down the same track the next day. Going up was like climbing stairs. Just that, it was flights of seemingly never ending stairs that can last for hours climbing it.

The first 1 km! We were so excited ok when we saw the 1 km board. At every km, they will have a signboard so that we can know where we are and how much we had achieved and this too, was something i really looked forward in the climb. It gave the boost. If not, walking and climbing will seem never ending in the thick tropical jungle. We used about 30 minutes only to get to the 1st stop which was really good cz subsequently, after i passed 3 km, i started slowing down and every 1 km seemed longer than the last. It's amazing that i still managed to keep it at about an hour per km.

At this point, still don't feel tired. In fact, it was pretty exciting cz now we are only 4 km away from our rest house. And then, you will start to think that 4 km can't be that hard right, after all we all ran marathons in school before and marathons are always at least this distance. But, wrong. Climbing 4 km and running 4 km is totally different.

As i'm not really a very flora or fauna person, i can only recognize some of the very common floras and faunas found. This is the Pitcher plant a.k.a periuk kera which captures mosquitoes.

There are a lot of squirrels around and they have no stranger anxiety at all. They took turns running to us, nibbling off bits of biscuits or chocolates crumbs and running back to their hiding place. This squirrel is feeding on a chocolate DD gave it. Soo cute. But, their tails are not really bushy. I always imagine squirrels to have really bushy tails. Last time in English class, our teacher always tell us stories about squirrels with big big bushy tail.

These are the KadazanDusuns with their loads of food and water. Still can climb faster than us. And not breathless at all. I think they can make 2-3 trips up and down Laban Rata in a day.

After some time, we reached 3 km! Half of the journey. It was close to 12 pm at that time and my stomach was already rumbling.

Honestly, i think there must be some mistake in calculating the distance between each signboard. The 1st km was so short and from 1km- 2km and from 2km- 3km, the distance was pretty much the same. But, from 3 km to 4 km, the hike seemed extra long. Maybe it was because we were starting to get hungry and tired, so the journey started to look longer but honestly, after hiking and hiking, we still cannot see any sign of the 4 km shelter or the signboard! And on top of that, it started raining and stone paths like this tends to get slippery and slows down the hike. Besides, the temperature started dropping and mist started forming. See those 2 blue-green plastic bag that Ed was carrying? That was our packed lunch. Very troublesome to carry it all the way actually but we needed the food so much.

Tall, tall trees forming canopies and blocking the sunlight

It was still raining when we reached the 4 km shelter. I was very happy that there was a nice place to sit and I finished up all the 6 pieces of bread. I was super hungry.

More misty and muddy road ahead.

From 4km to 5km, it took like forever and the path started turning more rocky. This was the only slightly steep area while ascending to Laban Rata. We can have a very panoramic view from this point. However, there was thick mist blowing so it quickly covers up the beautiful scenery below

The trees and the mist.. i just find them so quaint.

More steps to climb. Were very happy when we overheard a guide telling his climbers that it was less than 1 km to Laban Rata. It gave me so much energy just hearing that. haha..

This is Vladimir. He is a Russian about 60 years of age and at about 10 degree celcius, this guy was not wearing any shirt at all. Wow. What a fit grandpa.

It continued to rain and the track became rockier than ever with a lot of puddles of water. DD refused to buy a raincoat (don't ask me why O.O), so the only thing he was willing was to cover his head with a plastic bag to prevent his head from getting wet! Even his backpack was better covered than himself.

After the rain stopped, we spotted this tiny brown frog hopping across the rocks. It looked like it just evolved from being a tadpole not too long ago. We made more stops to rest and the view from this height are all very beautiful already. I did not take out my camera because it was raining again and i don't want my camera to get wet and spoil. Once bitten, twice shy!

Hohoho.. finally we made it to Laban Rata which meant we finally made it to 6 km. Time was 3.30 pm. We used 5 and the half hours to get to our pit stop. I was amazed with myself too. I thought I was being very tortoise but apparently, it was still ok *grin*.

There are actually 3 rest houses at 6km where climbers can spend the night but Laban Rata is the most popular one because only at Laban Rata, there are room heaters and most importantly, the dining area. The only restaurant here is in Laban Rata, so even though we will be staying at Gunting Lagadan, we have to have our meals in Laban Rata.

The warm and cozy dining area. There's a counter available where we can buy some souvenirs and also post postcards. So thoughtful. Dinner buffet only starts at 5pm and ends at 7pm so they also provide games such as Scrabbles and Monopoly to the waiting guests.

As i was drenched and sweaty, I was feeling very uncomfortable and I was attracted by a notice at the table we were resting stating that the water heater at Laban Rata is available from 2pm- 7pm. (Gunting Lagadan is from 4pm-7pm) Initially, we all planned not to shower as we thought that it would be very cold and hence, not necessary to shower. But as we sat in the dining area with the room heater on and I was hot from all the climb despite being drenched, I decided to take a quick shower while waiting for the rest to reach. But, beware beware. The water heater is a hoax. There's the red and blue tap but both also running ice cold water. NO WARM / HOT WATER. But as i was already undressed and i was really sticky and all, so heck, i showered the quickest i ever showered, like mandi kerbau practically but it was simply amazing and refreshing. However, if i had waited another hour or 2, then i'll probably not have the courage or determination to shower anymore.

Gunting Lagadan Hut. This was where we stayed for the night as Laban Rata was already fully booked. To booked for accommodation, one actually need to book about half a year in advance. Or well, Mt. K had been fully monopolized by certain company, so you have to book through this company at higher price for accommodation in Laban Rata. Gunting Lagadan have no room heaters provided but the rooms and overall condition was still ok. Small but quite clean and adequate for a night sleep. However, the hut is about 15 minutes walk from Laban Rata.

Our dorm style room - basically very small, not much space to move around with 2 double decker beds side by side. Our room is situated next to the male bathroom and basically, I couldn't catch much of a sleep the whole night. Aside from the freezing cold, it was very very very noisy. We tried to sleep at 7 pm and maybe i dozed off for a while but only to be awaken by flushing sound of the toilet, sounds of rushing water from the tap, footsteps, shouts, you name it, I heard it which was very disturbing.

Before we go to sleep, we walked around enjoying dusk from our hut. That big chunk of rock is actually the peak of Mount Kinabalu. It was so close yet so far still.

We were already halfway above the clouds at this height. Very relaxing just standing outside in the chill air, taking in the surrounding with the last ray of sun bidding us good night.

That green roaf building is actually Laban Rata.

We woke up at about 1.30 am in the morning because at between 2am - 3am, that's the usual time we had to start climbing to be able to catch the sunrise from the peak. There are actually several peaks but the peak that we were able to access to is Low's Peak, also the highest peak of Mount Kinabalu.

# 115 (4.7.09) - Preparing to set off. It is very important to keep ourselves warm as the wind at the peak are very strong and temperature nearing 0 degree. Some other climbers who climbed Mt. K a few days back mentioned about snowing at the peak, so believe it anot, i was very hyper hearing about it. Imagine witnessing snow for the 1st time in your life in Malaysia itself and at the peak of Mt. K! The thought itself was exhilarating.

I'm pretty much a cold intolerance person, in other words, i cant tolerate cold well, so if you are like me and was wondering how much clothes you should wear to keep yourself sufficiently warm, my suggestion will be four layers of tops, 3 layers of bottom, 2 layers of socks, winter hat and winter gloves. Yeah, sounds alot but i think it's just nice. haha.

Tops : Long Johns, thick turtleneck, windbreaker (a must because of strong wind at the peak) and a winter jacket (the marshmallow type)
Bottoms : Long Johns, jeans and track bottom
Socks : Preferably long socks and not ankle socks so that the socks wont slip and make you uncomfortable during the climb
Gloves : Better get leather one or what we did was we brought along surgical gloves (the rubber type) and planned to wear it over our gloves so that our gloves wont be wet and make our hands cold. Ugly but practical k. :p

Oh, don't forget head torch too. Because we climbed in the dark, so a head torch is quite essential and much more convenient than hand torch.

In the dark and cold, we were too lazy to walked down to Laban Rata for our supper because we eventually will ascend to the peak again from Gunting Lagadan. So, I just ate some mini Chipsmore and started our final 2 km climb. It was very dark and we could just see a little ahead of us and the air starts getting thinner and thinner. We had to ascend slowly to acclimatize so that we can reduce getting headaches or breathing difficulties.

The second half of the climb was more rocky, in fact it was all rocks as we got closer to the peak. There were less plants and trees along the way and at some point, there were a few steep ledges that requires us to use the rope. As i climbed, i started sweating so i removed my winter jacket but i still needed it at the peak later on.

Halfway to the peak. Climbing in the dark and with reducing amount of oxygen was making me going really 'kura-kura' and every step was like a thousand miles. I could feel aches in both my leg and i was getting easily breathless and my toes were starting to hurt too. I can really hear my toes crying out to me with every step i take. Each step is so painful yet the chunk of rock that i had been seeing from afar for the past few days drew so close that i knew i can't give up. Half the time, i just depended on DD to 'drag' me along as he walked.

Look at the rocks in comparison to the people. Even though Low's Peak was clearly visible, but it's so near yet so far. Still had to walk like so far before you can even get to the foot of the peak.

Low's Peak. With my tortoise steps, I did not managed to get to the peak in time to witnessed the sunrise. We were so so close to the peak already when we saw the first ray of sun.

We were at the South Peak when we saw the first ray of the morning sun. It was about 5 am at that time. I think if you want to see the earliest sunrise in Malaysia, Mount Kinabalu will be the place to be.

Saw the rainbow anot? We usually sees the arch of the rainbow but here we actually saw the end of it where it's vertical. The rainbow only lasted a few minutes but it was such a lovely sight.

Lou was the only one who was at Low's Peak in time to captured what Mt. K boast to have : the most beautiful sunrise in Malaysia. Even without watching from the peak, the sunrise was lovely and looking from his pictures, yes, i can just imagine how beautiful it was especially when you get to see the golden yolk of the sun. From the rays of sun slowly peeping across the horizon to the golden yolk making it's way through the clouds before shining majestically across the blue sky.

The majestic sun certainly did not disappoint us. Beautiful aint it?

St. John's Peak (4090.7m) aka the Gorilla's Face peak (ok, i made the 2nd one up because you can see the gorilla face right?) basking in the first glow of the sun and the rainbow. The same rainbow in the pic above.

As the sky started turning bright and our head torch no longer necessary, we continued climbing our final steps to the peak. Basically, there were ropes to assist us and it's more to having determination and perseverance (if health permits) getting to the peak than needing mountain climbing skills. I remembered looking at the peak from St. John's peak and wondered if i should just stopped at where i was and be satisfied because my toes was really really hurting but i reckoned i would regret it later on in my life to be there yet not there, so with the pain, i just moved on. It was very painful ok but totally, definitely worth it.

Finally, at LOW'S PEAK (4095.2 m above sea level), the highest peak of them all as well. It was 6 am when i finally reached there. The sun had already rise and there were alot of people around. Many were also descending already. But, the view from here was amazing. Simply beautiful beyond words. The feeling of standing above the clouds, looking at the sky and the clouds below you was simply breath-taking. I always love looking at the sky and clouds beneath me from the airplane but being there, and standing above them all gave me a very satisfying feeling no words can describe.

Yes, We made it! We made it!

Me and Suzie with the amazing view behind us

Nice anot? Heard of sceneries that can take your breath away? This one certainly took mine away!

Now for all the other peaks in Mt. Kinabalu.

Mount Tambuyukon

From left most : St. Alexandria's peak, Oyayubilwu peak and St. Andrews/ Dewali's peak

King George's Peak

Victoria's peak

Ugly Sister peak

Donkey Ears peak

I think this picture is very much postcard worthy.

JW's camera and Lou's butt spoiling my pic!!

South peak (3921.5 m) aka as the RM 1 peak cz this peak is the one on the back of all our RM 1 notes. :)

The famous South peak on RM 1

After staying about an hour at Low's peak, we started making our way down the mountain. Breakfast ends at 10 am, so we wanted to make sure we get there in time to fill our growling tummy.

I looked extra fat with the extra amount of clothes i put on :p

As we descended, the sun was shining very brightly above us and now we can see clearly the surroundings and i realized that walking in the dark is way less scarier.

Along our way down to the Sayap Sayap checkpoint, we were still surrounded by all these magnificent peaks

Stop for rest. Seriously, we all just took our own sweet time going down the mountain

At certain point, we could just sit and 'slide' down with our butts. As it was declivity all the way, i wished i could just rolled down. That would be so much faster and less painful! haha

Our guide who went up with us to the peak was so much faster than us that he found himself a cozy corner to take a nap while waiting for us to tortoise our way down the mountain.

It's not that bad coming down especially when you have scenery like this to feast your eyes on

At the Sayap-Sayap checkpoint. When we passed this checkpoint, we were given an option of whether we want the certificate anot. Making it to the peak will enable us to have a colour one (RM 10) and the rest will be black and white (RM 1).

Clouds clouding part of the mountain

We literally walked beside the clouds

This is the hardest part during the descend as we had to use the rope for assistant and the slope was quite steep. Only some people like the guides can walked down without the rope

This is where the rope ends. I was so relieved ok. I don't like the rope. After this there is no more rope which means no more steep ledges

Some flowers among the rocks

We did managed to had our breakfast but not at 10 am. By the time me and Dd got to the restaurant, it was already 11 am. Luckily, there was still food left and i just ate and ate and ate because i was so damn hungry and tired and the thought of descending another 6 km was so unwelcoming. When the deep heat started to wore off, that's when the actual muscle pain came in. My legs felt like they can use some 1000 days sleep. And my toes were swollen already especially the big toes on both leg. But still reluctantly, at about 12 pm, we had to continue our journey down the mountain because the uncle that was picking us up from Timpohon to KK town was meeting us at 3.30 pm.

I seriously tortoised my whole way down slowing down those that came down with me. Every step was getting more and more painful. On straight path, it was still bearable and not so bad but going down steps was killing. I had to used the tongkat to support my own weight while taking tiny tiny steps down like an old woman with severe osteoarthritis going down stairs. Seriously, it was that hard to walk with both your toes severely inflammed.. And to make things worse, it started drizzling at first, then raining heavier and heavier till there were puddles of water everywhere.

Initially, i wanted to keep my shoe as dry as possible but after a while, i couldn't care less. It was raining so heavily and the stones were slippery and the tracks were muddy. In the end, my shoe and socks were soaked wet.

Rain, rain go away. Come again another day.

And because it was raining so heavily, there were so many earthworms along the way down. Big, fat slimy juicy earthworms. Honestly, i never seen fatter, bigger or longer earthworms.

This is the red gangster earthworm because it is the bad one. It eats other earthworms.

The black pitiful earthworm. Because it is eaten by the red one. Francis and Andi was following us and the both of them was excitedly collecting the red or black earthworms along our way and they kept telling us they wanted to do an experiment. Suzie asked them what the experiment was and when they spotted the next black worm, they released the red one they had caught and immediately both the red and black worms were running. The black one obviously running away from it's predator and the red one chasing after it's prey. But the red one was faster and it ate the black one right there in front of our eyes. The way it ate it's victim was just like how snakes ate their victims. Gross.

Other than that, all the way down it was just the rain hitting against us and extremely painful toes. We finally made it again to Timpohon gate at 5 pm and i was uber uber relieved to be able to sit and rest and take off my shoes! Not smelly one.

This is what we called the Kampung Adidas. It is the best shoe to climb Mt. Kinabalu according to the locals. It is made of 100% rubber and the grip was pretty good. (because got like football spikes at the sole) It had been comfortable all the way except during the descend. I wonder if it would make any difference to my toes if i had changed shoe.

I was still savoring the morning happenings in a dreamy daze as we sat in the van leaving Mount Kinabalu on our way back to Kota Kinabalu town. Unbelievably I did it to conquered Mt. Kinabalu. I was pretty amazed and impressed with myself at the same time. :)

That evening, we saw a 2nd rainbow. This time it was a double rainbow. Perfect nature's creation to end our amazing day. Can you spot them? Both rainbow A and rainbow B

This is the colour certificate i got.

Souvenir from Mt Kinabalu. As a consequence, both my big toes were swollen, red, tender and warm. All signs of inflammation. And my toe nails became cynosed and as a consequence, it peeled off later on. :(

I remembered before climbing Mt. Kinabalu, i was constantly thinking of what to bring, how much to bring and if it was ever enough, so i will list down a list of stuff i brought along with me climbing Mt. K and hope it helps you future aspiring climbers too. :)

1) Backpack with raincover (if not you will have to put everything in your bag into a big plastic bag to prevent them from getting wet from the rain as 90% it will rain one)
2) Raincoat ( RM 2 one will do just as fine seriously)
3) Change of clothes for 1 nite (what clothes to wear? that depends on how well you can tolerate cold.. see my list of clothes if you cannot tolerate cold)
4) Towel, shampoo etc (if you plan on bathing but don't say i did not warn you)
4) A small pouch for the climb to the peak (so that you can put your wallet, camera etc unless you want to put them all into your pockets)
5) Water (unless you want to drink untreated water)
6) Power bar/ Chocolates ( I only brought a small bar of Cadbury with me and it lasted me and DD all the way because i don want to eat so much chocolate and drink so little water. But, you can bring more as very fast hungry one)
7) Plastic bags (you never know why you need them)
8) Medications like Panadol in case you develop headache or fever
9) Counter pain/ Deep heat
10) Plaster for cuts (however there's no leeches so no nd to worry about that)
11) Camera, phone charger etc
12) Head torch
13) Sunblock/ insect repellant (although there's no mosquitoes too)

Hmm i think that's all that I brought. And whatever else that is necessary to you. If I remember any more items, I will include in the list later.

It was certainly a very valuable experience getting to the peak of Mount Kinabalu, our tallest mountain in Malaysia. The climb was not too difficult but challenging and not as easy either. I'm just super happy we made it and I did not give up despite the pain. I felt so proud of myself for achieving the goal of climbing up Mt.Kinabalu.

Anyhoos, it is a super long post rite? I told you so. Hope you guys enjoy reading though. Well, for now, anyone volunteer to give my dear legs some much needed massage? :)

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