Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Conquering Kinabalu: The Long Road to Laban Rata

Two weeks ago, I did the most tiring, challenging, and foolish thing I have ever done in my life thus far: climb Mt. Kinabalu. Standing at 4,095 meters above sea level (masl), Malaysia’s UNESCO World Heritage and ASEAN Heritage site is considered as one of the highest trekkable mountains in the world, which means that you don’t need any technical skills to reach its summit.

This doesn’t make the climb easy though; like I said, it’s a very, very hard undertaking.

So what happened during this struggle?  Was I able to reach the summit?  Join me as I retrace my steps up and down Gunung Kinabalu.

Kinabalu Park

Edge and I, together with our friends Afol and Dane, landed in Kota Kinabalu on a Wednesday, a day before our supposed climb.  From the city, we took a two-hour bus ride that brought us to Kinabalu Park, which in itself is already located in a high elevation at around 1,500 masl.  Staying overnight at this elevation is important to reduce the risks of altitude sickness.

We strolled around and explored some parts of the park later that afternoon.  The park is so lovely and is already a good spot to visit for those who would like to commune with nature but have no plans of climbing the mountain.  There are lots of unfamiliar trees, plants and orchids everywhere.  The weather was very cool, with the air being fresh and rejuvenating.

That night was the calm before the storm.  We helped ourselves to a hearty buffet of Western and Malaysian dishes and turned in for the night.

I felt mixed emotions when Mt. Kinabalu showed itself in its full glory. Mostly, I was in so much awe because it really is a beautiful mountain.  On the other hand, fear of the unknown and apprehension also kept gnawing at me.  But what the hell, I didn’t pay good money only to back out now.

When the sun finally rose, we headed to the restaurant to have our breakfast.  I was still so nervous that I only managed to eat a bowl of cereal and a few slices of bread, a decision I would come to regret later.  After eating, we registered at the park office, met our mountain guide, and finally headed to Timpohon Gate, the jump-off point.

So It Begins

At this point, I managed to drive my fear away and changed it with a sort of cheery resignation.  We arrived at Timpohon Gate where Dawet, our Malaysian guide, gave a short briefing.  Don’t stray away from the trail.  Don’t get too far from your companions.  Rest for no more than five minutes at a time. It sounded too simple. Easier said than done. Our group took off.

The climb surprisingly starts with a downhill trek all the way to Carson Falls, which looked a bit dry when we were there. Just when I was starting to think “Hey, this isn’t so bad.”, the trail starts to go up. And up. And up for the next six kilometers up to Laban Rata, our accommodation for the night.

Out of excitement probably, we were so energized that we made it to the 2.5 kilometer mark in good time. I wasn’t feeling the strain in my knees yet and I wasn’t carrying a huge bag, so I was fine physically.  The trail is also well-established which made things easier.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Conquering Kinabalu: The Long Road to Laban Rata