Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Mount Kota Kinabalu - Finale!

Actual Event Date - 3rd to 7th April 2014

*this is definitely not my honeymoon ah*
Pictures taken with iPhone 5s

It was exactly two years after my first ascent in 2012. Similarly, I did nothing close to a training for the torments, and relied heavily on my young and energetic physique. Little did I know that 2 years of aging do make significant differences to stamina. Too late to realize that, we counter the fatigue with steady pace and stronger mind. Well, it worked for us this time, and conquered Mount Kota Kinabalu, finally!

The first year's experience was terrible as heavy downpour hindered our progression and brought cold to a whole new level. The ascent along paths with gushing water was so tough that I kept having flashbacks of my 24 years of life then. I guess it was the extreme conditions that spurred muscle man to propose that very year too, as he said during the proposal that the urge to spend his life with me got stronger after the trip. 

Awwwww ;) *snap out from the romance* Anyway, this shall mark our final trip to Mt KK *determined*

I hope the itinerary and tips from our personal encounters across the years will help some peeps out there to better plan for your trips;)

Mount Kinabalu
Trek to summit: slightly more than 8.5km
Summit (Low's Peak): 4095.2m
Raban Lata resthouse: 6km mark

  • Pack light. 
  • Bring 2 sets of trek attire (singlet/T shirt and track pants/ three quarts) for ascent and descent. No need thick clothing as you will be constantly moving, generating body heat. 
  • Uniqlo waterproof outdoor jacket/windbreaker - got it at S$49.90 during sales
  • For summit climb, we packed along 4 heat packs for a couple, small backpack (your haversack will be left in your room), Uniqlo heat tech top and bottom, a long sleeve top, long track pants, wind breaker, beanie and gloves from Daiso. No need for expensive gloves as rope burns may spoil them. Hence you may use and throw the Daiso ones away after that. Additional jacket may be ideal for those who can't really take cold. 
  • Additional set of pyjamas and other necessities you may need (medicines, travel size toiletries etc) 
  • Snicker bars and M&Ms are optional energy booster during the climb, they worked great for us. 
  • Rent walking stick at HQ at 10 Ringgit per stick
  • Must have = head lights for summit climb and a pair of good grip sports shoes. Rubber shoes that have fantastic grip are sold at the headquarters @ 10 Ringgit, they are normally known as "Kampong Adidas" lol! Not pretty but durable, at least for that 2 days.
Image from climbingMtKinabalu.com
Off we go to a defy gravity climb!
Defy Gravity Climb Decal spotted during the trip!
Arrival Day
We arrived in KK via Air Asia, and stayed at Gaya Centre Hotel, Kota Kinabalu. We booked our Mt KK package through Amazing Borneo for 3 consecutive years and have been rather pleased with the guides. We left our trip's accommodations, meal plans during the climb and all transfers from point to point in Amazing Borneo's good hands and need not worry about the frills. The only flaw was the admin co-ordinator being quite a muddlehead. Our invoices got amended a few times before we got the correct sum. Well, the miscalculations were to our benefits actually (cheaper than it supposed to be) but conscience got the better of us (and afraid she missed out certain accommodation plans or what not) so we alerted her on the sum discrepancies for a few rounds. Apart from that, the actual trips had always been a blast with awesome and responsible guides. Thanks for Daph for organizing though!

 For the Nth time, we visited our favourite Bah Kut Teh place yet again!

三色奶茶 - 3 colours milk tea

Tips: We bought 2 bottles of 1.5L drinking water per couple for the upcoming climb. There are water refill points at the Grace Hostel (base lodge) and Laban Rata (lodge at 6km Mark), so 2 is a good gauge. We used one bottle of water for wipe down at Laban Rata, as the temperature is way too low for a good bath. This is applicable for Asians from tropical climates. The caucasians we met along the way had no problems with the temperatures at all. 

We had another round of beers before we called it a night.

Day 2
We checked out at 12pm with the Amazing Borneo's van and driver waiting for us at the lobby. We set off to Grace Hostel and stopped by local coffeeshops for lunch.

Floating Mosque at Kota Kinabalu. Picture from SabahTourism.net
We passed by the floating mosque on a Friday and witnessed the bustling state of the attraction. It was a an enchanting sight, but we did not alight to view the mosque.

Old School blue metal shutters
Amazing Borneo's Van

Lunch was supposed to be some famous local noodle dish but it was closed that day, so we settled for whatever we could find next door. The noodles were flavorful, but too heavy for my liking.

We moved off and came to a local village near the base camp for some honey pineapples and magnificent scenery viewing.

"Sound of Music" feel, 有没有!=P

Busy flipping through the photos

With that, we moved off to Grace Hostel. The hostel was decent, and was cleaner than I had expected.

Temperature here dropped to air conditioned room standard and got cold after a while, but we could still manage the cooling weather here with T-shirts, shorts and windbreakers.

The living room at Grace Hostel
Spacious balcony outside our room
Long walkway to the other side of hostel, and the male/female bathrooms, with heater.
Our bedroom, us and the friendly bus guide.
Dining Place - Balsam Buffet Restaurant. Pretty nice at evening
 Day 3 - Actual Ascent
We set off at 8.30am after grabbing light breakfast from Balsam Buffet Restaurant and collected our packed lunch that comprised of sandwich and apple. Not exactly a fantastic meal but enough to keep us going. Summary of climb:

HQ --> Laban Rata Resthouse at 6km (trail distance)
Laban Rata --> Summit at 4095.2m above sea level
Summit --> HQ

Trail Map from Amazing Borneo's website
Set off from Timpohon Trail, all happy!

Taken at the start of the climb, hoping that we'd look this fresh when we return the next day. haha fat hope.
Mount KK is nothing but relentless flights of steps. Below is a compilation of different types of steps and trails that you should anticipate at Mt KK. The steps were gradual and look more man-made for the first 2-3km, but they start to transform into rocks and boulders from 4km mark onwards. Just when we thought the route seem depressing at a point, flowers begin to sprout along the path, making the journey a little more pleasing. Finally, when you see a flat ground, it means Laban Rata is slightly more than a stone throw away (less than 5mins)! 

While we were climbing the merciless stairway to heaven (if you consider sitting above the clouds as heaven), a sneak peek of what I'm climbing towards was necessary to keep myself moving.

Peeping at Mt KK from 3km mark (I think)
Oh yes, squirrels were common sight at the rest stops. They were so fat from the food that they pick up from different climbers.

There were 7 rest stops along the way (refer to above map) and they would be the motivations to move faster, trust me. The shelters are equipped with toilet facilities, and disposal bins. Apart from the mud stained floors (inevitable since there are climbers everyday), the rest stops are pretty decent and well maintained. 

At 5km mark, the view caught our eyes with its fast moving clouds and clear sight of the mountain. Too pretty to not share. Clouds moving from right to left:

A video that captured everything, with our sincere comments on raincoat at the background =D

The climbers at different markers. Though tired, we enjoy every bit of the journey with great companions:D

With every bit of energy, we ran towards Laban Rata when we see the flat ground and this signage. Like, FINALLY we are almost completing one third of the journey!

  • Keep walking, try not take too long a break at rest stops as your energy may deplete faster when you rest for longer while. 
  • Mind over body
  • Hydrate yourself as you go to minimize altitude sickness. Wet your lips and take sips of water rather than gulping down a water parade. The latter may give stitches
We reached Laban Rata at about 2pm, dry! Good weather and good pace, at least for us.

There are 2 lodging options at 6km. Laban Rata and Gunting. We've stayed in both before. From experiences, I'd advice to book the trip early and get accommodation at Laban Rata as Gunting requires another 10 mins climb in order to get there. What makes Laban Rata more convenient is the location of the ONLY dining hall - it's right below your room! You only need to go down a flight of stairs during dinner time or to refill your water, and it's especially consoling at 2am when you need your light breakfast prior to the next phase of climb.

Happy Mt KK climbers!

The comforting views at Laban Rata -
With average temperature of 6-14 deg C, it's super cooling to stay out at the balcony with fast moving clouds and a cup of hot coffee or tea. 
Laban Rata Balcony

Views from Laban Rata
Look like some Switzerland or New Zealand farm stay, but no, this is from Mt Kinabalu 6km lodge.:)
 Clearly looks like heaven isnt it:)

We had our rest at the lodge, caught some sleep before getting ready for summit climb at 2am. Lodging was 2 double deck beds, decent. Buffet dinner served at Laban Rata was surprisingly nice. Not sure if we were really hungry or we simply love the food and Sabah Tea. Oh yes, towels were provided at Laban Rata. No heater though.

Day 3 - Summit Climb and Descent to foot hill

After grabbing light breakfasts, we set off for sunrise chase.

The summit climb was slow as air get thinner as you move up. We donned on our head lights and moved in a steady pace. The paths were very different from earlier, mostly boulders and steps at first, and steady plateau with a thick rope guiding climbers along the route afterwards. There was a 'rope course' segment where climbers need to use their inertial energies to run up the slope with the rope, and climb sideways along the rocks in order to get to the other side - all in the dark. Trust me, things worked better in the dark, you don't get to see the heights at least.

There was a newly implemented rule when we went this time, that climbers have to reach checkpoint at 7km before 5am to continue the climb to summit. Those who failed to do so would need to U-turn and head back Laban Rata. If you start your summit climb promptly at 2am, and keep a steady pace (need not be fast, just steady at preferred pace), you will get there. We reached checkpoint at 4.15am.

The checkpoint and rope course when sun was out.

We weren't the quickest, but we managed to reach summit at the right time, without needing to wait further for sunrise:)
 iPhone 5s inside a zip lock, hence the blurry picture

The summit was pretty narrow and often people get overly excited when taking victorious picture with the board. Hence, cordoning ropes were present to keep climbers within the safety zone (as reflected below where Daph was posing). It was pretty crowded at the waiting area so we took selfies to ward off the cold! :)

and here comes the awesome recap of floating above the clouds, with much efforts literally.

Steep slope with ropes
Mt Kinabalu casts a summit shadow upon sunrise
This is how the paths look like when the sun rises. 

By then we were all hungry, and breakfast was the sole motivation to head back to Laban Rata. Descent was more difficult for us, though i always thought it should be the other way round. The Kampung adidas worked well here with its firm grip, allowing me to focus on balancing instead. I gave my Kampung adidas to the guide after summit climb and changed to my sports shoes afterwards.

After breakfast, we packed up, refill our bottles and set off at about 9.45am-10am from Laban Rata to continue the what-it-seemed-like endless journey to the foot hill.
Carson Fall, aptly sound like “脚酸” in hokkien
This picture may seem nothing to you, but it meant a hell lot to us. At close to 3pm on our descent route, when we almost lost sanity over our never ending walk since summit climb @2am, the sight of Carson Fall brought immense joy to us as it also equates to nearing the completion of entire climb! Super motivating to see/hear it.
Completed our Mt Kinabalu expedition with our guide - Roby!

and YAY! we completed the entire climb, all happy! Lunch and transportation were provided by Amazing Borneo, and we got sent back to Gaya hotel again. Went for a good long bath, massage and good food/beer to cheer for the YOLO event:D 

  • Recommended guides: Roby, Ronnie and Sufrie. These are the guides who accompanied us through the years. 
  • Every single goods that we see and use at Laban Rata is manually transported by human. Imagine our sore backs for carrying 5kg of backpack, they carry up to 40kg at times, moving at a speed you can't even catch up. Appreciate the workers and be nice to everyone:)
  • Porter service (to carry your haversacks) is available at a fee. Check with your guide on this.
We took a good 5-6 days to nurse our sore legs that ached from climbing any form of stairs/curbs after the climb. During the climb, you would often find yourself battling with doubts and thoughts of giving up, but to find yourself with no other choices than moving on. It's a journey that strengthened our minds, a lot.

Day 4 - Go Home

Lastly, just wanna share the Air Asia experience I had with printing my own boarding pass. Starring, my muscle man!

Mount Kk climb is torturous yet rewarding, physical tormenting yet mental strengthening, hygiene lacking yet survival training, self questioning yet fulfilling. It's a trip where we broke many personal records (except man in tights who flew up and ran down the mountain last year) and rediscovered ourselves. Truly amazed by our sudden burst of energy when we were reaching the summit, and completed this #yolo thing. It's also a trip that we know a little more about mountain guides, porters, climbing friends and most importantly, ourselves.#mtkk, proud to say we have conquered you, you were wonderful these years and we shall bid u goodbye now. we will never be back. Here's a summit sunrise taken with a slowly diminishing moon at the backdrop and natural bands of sun ray. 


  1. haha we will never be back... sounds a fun but super tough expedition... Cheers... ur dajie.

    1. hahah indeed it's a tough expedition. Do it once a lifetime is good enough, twice a lifetime should call it a quit. haha!:D

  2. pretty useful comments on your this trip. these will definitely help me better plan my hike in a month! thanks

    1. Glad this helps! All the best for your upcoming climb and remember to enjoy every single experience from it. Have fun!:)