Mount Kinabalu (Gunung Kinabalu) DAY 2: – Hiking Adventure #6

Day 2: Second Phase of the climb – Night climb from Laban Rata to the summit: the final and toughest part of the climb:
Above Laban Rata, the trail continues as a series of wooden ladders, fashioned out tree roots and branches, and smooth granite slopes. The final stretch crossed a jumble of boulders where a misstep could mean a twisted ankle or a fall. When the weather is clear, climbing the bare granite above the tree line is fairly straightforward. But mist and rain can blow in at startling speed. With visibility close to zero, climbers can easily stray into areas above cliffs where a false step can mean certain death – that was what our guide told us – so scary!

As there will be only one stop at Sayat-Sayat Hut for another registration, given a whistle for safety precaution and refilling your water, it is advisable for you to bring your own small water bottle.

The chain of events as follows:

  • Woke up at 1.45 a.m. and had breakfast at 2.00 a.m.
  • Started the ascent to the summit at about 2.45 a.m. (we were late because of last minute packing for the early morning climb). The guide told us not to bring the hiking sticks because we’d be using the rope to climb halfway through. I feel somewhat ‘handicapped’ without the sticks – so the next time I will definitely bring the foldable hiking sticks. And we wasted some time buying the ski mask at the hostel (it was below 5 degrees Celcius outside – and it’s colder than the average day because of the previous day’s heavy downpour). And since our shoes and most of our clothes were wet, we were freezing! But once we started the hike, we kinda got used to the cold – and plus the climbing helped to keep our blood circulating. We plodded on and on – since it was pitch dark, the walk seemed never-ending.
The starting part of the hike from Laban Rata to the peak
  • The rope part was the most challenging one for us – luckily it was dark, so we didn’t really freak out at that time. It was the descending part from the steep edges that was so nerve-wrekking. The best position is to descent backwards holding the rope and occasionally look on your left to ascertain the steps.
  • Finally, we reached the peak! (Didn’t look at the time as my watch was already spoilt from getting wet from yesterday’s rain – but it was getting bright on the horizon). It felt so good to take a break to catch our breath at the peak – and the sense of accomplishment of having finally reached the peak! Unfortunately though, the sky was covered with thick mist by the time we reached the peak- and we could not see the sunrise 😦 As it started to drizzle, we quickly started to descent from Low’s peak (the last thing we want is to get wet again!) and the guide told us to quickly descend as it becomes harder if it starts to rain heavily as we need to hold on to the rope at the steep edges when descending. Our biggest dissapointment – not taking any pictures at the peak. It was like “we arrived and we couldn’t see the sunrise and it’s already time to leave”.
Source: (didn’t manage to take any pictures as it started to drizzle)
  • Reached Laban Rata at 9.00 a.m. Took a quick breakfast and started our descent at 9.30 a.m. Reached the Timpohon Gate at 1.15 p.m.
  • Contrary to common belief, descending is worse than the climb. Hobbling down the trail with all that weight thumping on your knees and ankles can be excruciating (this is where wearing ankle and knee guards help a little to cushion the impact on your knees and ankles). That is when I fell down somersaulting like a chimp – just lost the grip since the path was slippery. Got hurt a little – but thank God I could still walk. I continued descending as to forget the throbbing pain on the back of my neck due to the fall.
Some of the shots on our way down (we took our time descending since we were still exhausted from the hike to the peak)
Carson Falls (about 500 m from Timpohon gate)

The cold and thin air is something one should take seriously- breathing oxygen-deprived air can cause altitude sickness (crushing headaches and nausea). Thank God we didn’t experience that – must be because we took it slow and steady – to acclimatize our body to the altitude. During our Mount Nuang hike, albeit being challenging, we didn’t have to deal with high altitude (which generally makes it more difficult to breathe).

The sense of achievement of having successfully scaled Mount Kinabalu can’t be described in words! Finally! Our dream fulfilled – we hiked up Mount Kinabalu – the majestic mountain standing tall and mighty in Kota Kinabalu. It has been a long journey – all the training prior to the hike has finally paid off. Throughout the hike, we persevered and kept going. I would say that the hike has definitely taught us some invaluable lessons. 

Lessons Learnt:

  • Survival makes you stronger – I never realized I could pull myself up using the rope – when the fear of falling grapes you, you hold on tight to the rope.
  • The most beautiful moments in life are often where we least expect them. In between of taking a break to catch our breath when ascending to the peak, we turned off our head lights to conserve the battery – and to our amazement the darkness revealed the beauty of the mountain. The stillness of the dark night is simply beautiful. And when I looked up, hundreds of stars were glimmering nudging us to continue our journey despite the fatigue. That was the most priceless moments during the entire hike – the darkness of the night on the mountains and the brilliantly shining stars. That’s why it pays to always keep looking up and looking forward! Hiking teaches us just that.
  • Hiking mountains teaches you to maintain focus and persevere – it also reminds you the triviality of some things that we allow to get to ourselves – all those small matters is certainly not worth our time – don’t sweat the small stuff!
  • We had to grapple with the fact that Mount Kinabalu is anything but a walk in the park. We spend hours miserably dragging our feet through the beating rain the day before. Patience is a virtue here!

We are definitely going to hike this majestic mountain again – this time, we will go on a non-monsoon season and make sure we take lots of nice pictures; and we will use a different trail – the Mesilau Trail – which is supposedly more scenic. I think Mount Kinabalu certainly deserves a second hike! 

Things to bring from Laban Rata to Low’s peak:

  • It is a night climb, usually cold and windy. So, bring plenty of warm clothes – wind breaker or jackets, long sleeves shirts, thick trousers or cargo pants and thick socks.
  • Headlight (is better than torchlight as most of the time after a certain point, you have to hold on to the rope in the dark).
  • Ski mask
  • Gloves
  • Water bottle
  • Raincoat
  • Some snacks
  • Camera 
Note: Supper before the ascent to the peak and breakfast after descending from the peak is provided at the Laban Rata guesthouse. Lunch is provided at the Kinabalu Park restaurant.
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5 Responses to Mount Kinabalu (Gunung Kinabalu) DAY 2: – Hiking Adventure #6

  1. Chinlay says:

    Congratulations geeta. the view on top is breathtaking. i was totally enchanced, just looking at the picstures alone. can only imagine the actual view u and alfred enjoyed :)p/s: i miss u la geeta, hope to see you soon 🙂

  2. AGAPE says:

    Yes, the pictures just tell part of the story – the actual experience was mind-blowing :)I miss u too la! So long didn't chit chat and makan together – meet up soon!

  3. sivanes says:

    hey geets, wonderful experience, keep it up gal!!

  4. Anonymous says:

    This post provides the light in which we can observe the reality. this really is very nice one and provides indepth information. many thanks for this good post.

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