Tuesday, November 06, 2012

The Roof of Borneo - Mount Kinabalu

Mount Kinabalu in Sabah, Malaysia on the island of Borneo in South East Asia is an awesome mountain towering over the surrounding jungles at a height of 4,095m. It sits within the Kinabalu National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and is home to a myriad of botanical and biological species covering a number of distinct eco-regions from the lower semi-tropical jungle up to alpine environment close to the summit. Having climbed some of the Mesilau Trail earlier this year I finally decided it was time to attempt the summit so at the end of October, and luckily coinciding with a full moon, myself and a few others travelled to Kota Kinabalu for the 2 day climb.

To climb Mount Kinabalu there are two trails you can take; either the Timpohon Trail from the main park Head Quarters or the Mesilau Trail which is somewhat longer at 8km. The Timpohon Trail which runs from the Kinabalu Park Head Quarters up to Laban Rata resthouse is 6km long, which doesn't sound long but the gradients are steep (from 1,564m at park HQ to 3,272m at Laban Rata) and the terrain extremely rough and rocky making it a tough climb in around 5 hours or more.

Magic Mountain

Our base for the climb was Magic Mountain, where I had stayed on my previous trip to the area. Run by Peter Achleitner and his wife Lily this guesthouse close to the park HQ, under the east ridge of Mount Kinabalu, offered comfortable rooms and more importantly some great home cooking including home baked bread, cured ham and bacon, salami and locally grown herbs and spices. A great way indeed to prepare for our climb and of course to rejuvenate our bodies post-climb. Peter is a great source of local information and offered us plenty of excellent advice and recommendations for our stay. He also keeps a good collection of wine and some excellent German beer which was greatly appreciated on our return after the 2 days up the mountain.

Park HQ to Laban Rata

We decided to take the shorter Timpohon Trail route (a wise decision in retrospect!) and after arriving at the park HQ, where we registered, were transferred to Timpohon Gate to start our climb at around 9:30 in the morning. As you climb on Day 1 towards the Laban Rata resthouse at 3,272m you pass through varying types of vegetation from large tropical trees at the lowers levels to small shrub-like trees and alpine plants at the higher elevations. In many places you are walking through mist and clouds.

Laban Rata

Laban Rata is the main accommodation hut on Mount Kinabalu at a height of 3,272m and is the usual overnight stop used by climbers prior to doing the final ascent to the Low's Peak summit. There are a number of private rooms but the bulk of the accommodation comprises 6-man dormitory bunk rooms. A restaurant offers breakfast, dinner and supper. Due to cable damage, apparently back in 2009, the dormitory rooms are unheated and there is no hot water but luckily we had clear weather for our climb so arrived at Laban Rata dry. We arrived at around 3pm in the afternoon after the 6km up from the Park HQ in time for an early dinner at 5:30pm, in bed by 7:30pm and then up by 2:00am the next morning to make the final push on the summit.

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