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High on Kinabalu!!

Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia


The 9 hour coach journey up to Sabah was one we had underestimated in terms of ease. Due to the borders of Sarawak, Brunei and Sabah we were required to disembark the bus a total of 6 times! First the bus exited Sarawak and then we entered Brunei. Then we left Brunei and entered back into Sarawak. We couldn't get settled for long however, as we then left Sarawak to enter Brunei again. After a short time we were leaving Brunei to enter Sarawak for one last time. Finally we left Sarwak to reach our destination... Sabah (check the map borders and all will become clear).

The eventful journey to Sabah had been undertaken with one goal in mind... to secure us a place on the Mount Kinabalu climb. Mount Kinabalu is the highest mountain between the Himalayas and New Guinea standing at 4095m tall (half the size of Everest). This was something I had wanted to conquer since we first began thinking of travelling to Borneo. Nic originally was not so keen on the idea as she didn't think she would be able to climb it. She soon realised this was of course not true and she bravely stepped up to the challenge and decided to accompany me on our ascent to the summit.

Kota Kinabalu (Sabah's capital) was to be our first point of call, mainly because all bookings for the climb could be handled by the office in town. Whilst in Sarawak we had phoned to try and secure a a place only to be told that you have to book at least 6 months in advance to guarantee a spot. Staying 6 months in Borneo was clearly not an option so we decided to go down to the office in Kota Kinabalu to speak face to face. What a result that turned out to be... we secured 2 cancellation places for the following Monday! The lady asked us if we wanted to climb up the standard route or the newer, longer more challenging route... which of course it was to be! It seems things have changed in the last 6 years or so when Nic's sister visited. There is now no cheap way to climb to the summit. All of the limited accommodation on the mountain is owned by one private company and I think they have lately realised how much tourists will actually pay. It was something I really wanted to do so we had to part with the cash.

Later that evening we went out for a celebratory meal which turned out to be a little traumatic. We found a busy little chinese restuarant and both (not feeling too adventurous) ordered the beef noodles. When the food arrived on our table the bowls both appeared full of ingredients we had not seen before. (Now suddenly feeling adventurous) Nic dived straight in while I hesitantly gave mine a stir. Turns out Nic ate beef ball and beef lung... tasty! Fortunately the beef ball wasn't actually the ball (it was a processed beef made into a ball) but the lung clearly was lung. We both lost our appetite soon after finding out this key ingredient. Both feeling ill we made our way home and I had good fun winding Nic up about her bronchiole adventures!

On the Sunday we made our way up to the base of the mountain. We had an early start the following morning so it allowed us to get a good nights sleep. We stayed at a lodge just outside of the National Park giving us beautiful views of the mountain we were soon to climb. It's a good job the views were so good as it made up for the general shabbiness of the cockroach infested lodge and the rudeness of the staff. They soon realised they were no match for us when we fogged the room with an entire can of the bug spray they threw at us and deposited the giant dead cockroach in a glass on their reception desk for all to see the following day...!

Up early the next day we made our way to the start of the trail picking up our packed lunch, registering at the park office and meeting our guide Hani. Hani spoke little English and was more of a safety man than a guide. He was a good bloke. Time for a quick photo then we were off!

We turned the corner for what seemed like an endless set of steps (and as we were soon to find out there were over 2500 steps just on the way to our mountain hut alone). Nic's face said it all ;-) I did think we had bitten off more than we could chew. Nic was distressed and ready to turn back. This called for drastic measures, we needed to regroup, change tactics and flip this on the B side (should we have just climbed the standard route?!). Off came the clothes, out came the water and it was time to live life like a tortoise for a while as we slowed down the pace. Things improved immensely and we were soon making good progress.


Nic was snapping photos of me calling me a cocky little bugger as I raced up the mountain! Here is a selection of the best few...


Climbing the alternative trail definitely paid off as we very rarely saw any other climbers so the whole place was ours! Hani showed no sign of being out of breath at any point of the climb,
in fact he was smoking most of the way up. He guides people up and down the mountain every 2 days with only 4 days off per month. Hani was a hard worker. We also saw a number of porters carrying people's luggage and also supplies (food etc) up to the huts. Men and women of all ages, packed like donkeys, climbing up in flimsy shoes with makeshift carrying bags crippling their small frames. They looked like they were in severe pain at times and I honestly do not know how they made it. It was a little distressing to see at times to be honest.

It was unrelentingly steep in parts and I don't think I have ever sweat so much in my life. The muscles in the top of your thighs really begin to ache as a result of the repetitive motion. We had 8.2km to climb to reach our hut for the night. 8.2km doesn't sound that far but when it is uphill it is a different story. There were markers every 500m showing our progress. In some sections the markers did seem to take a long long time to come round. Our guide said we should be aiming for 1km per hour in order to make it before nightfall. We made it to the hut in 5 and a half hours so naturally we were pretty chuffed with our first day's effort. We ate some dinner and rested our aching muscles before getting an early night's sleep (our mountain hut pictured below). It rained solidily that evening and I was a little worried it wasn't going to stop - if it is raining in the morning you cannot climb to the summit :-(

1:30am the alarm went off. It felt like we had only literally just fallen asleep. We forced ourselves out of bed, got ready and went to get breakfast. The weather had cleared up just for me! We left at 3am in order to reach the summit by 6 in time for sunrise. This part of the climb differed greatly from the previous day. It was pitch black on the mountain and the only light available was from our head torches. The first section involved crossing the sheer Panar Laban rock face. There were ropes fixed in place to help haul us up the thick slippery steep granite sheets. It was nice to give the leg muscles a rest!

The last section of the ascent involved climbing from the Sayat-Sayat hut to the summit. It was again becoming steeper yet and our determination and stamina were keeping us going. 750m from the summit (so close yet so far!) Nic was finding it increasingly difficult, feeling breathless, nauseous and a little frustrated. Hani and I helped by propping Nic up (over each shoulder) and I took her bag. Sunlight was fast approaching and my motivational speak with Nic appeared to have worked as she had a new lease of life. Reaching the final section we scrambled up the last few boulders... we had done it!! The views from the summit were amazing - in every direction. The weather was very cold at the summit so all of the warm clothing we had packed and lugged up the mountain paid off (the temperature changed drastically throughout the climb which explains why we have more clothing changes in our photos than a Bollywood movie). It was such a great experience to be up that high and see the sun come up over all of Borneo and also to see exactly what we had been climbing up over the last 3 hours.




After enjoying our time at the top we were ready to head back down and I am happy to say that it took a lot less energy than on the way up. It did start to ache on the knee joints however, as a result of the constant jolting. Nic made light work of the downhill trek and set the pace for me and Hani.


Below are some of the photos taken on our trek back down the mountain. The ropes that we used for support on the climb...

The steepness of some areas we crossed. The photo below (left) is actually the same section that you can see Nic holding on to the rope in the photo above...

You can see the excitement on Nic's face when we reached the 1.5km to go marker!

Climbing Mount Kinabalu was a great achievement for us both and it was my favourite activity of travelling to date. The views were beautiful throughout and it was amazing to see such a diverse range of terrain on one hike. I recommend it to everyone. It has made me want to hike Machu Picchu even more now... but that will have to wait for another trip! Back to the city for us, next up is Kuala Lumpur....


permalink written by  SupandNic on August 2, 2010 from Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
from the travel blog: Sup and Nic's World Tour!
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I am SOOOOOOO proud of you guys!!! You did it! Who'd have thought 6 months ago my little sis would be dragged up a mountain. Can't believe you've beaten me on the length travelled up it, too, if they've opened a longer route since I went!

Such a shame they've put up the prices so much, but I guess it is the main thing people travel to Sabah to do. Am really glad you did it. Glad the orangutans came out to see you too at the rehab centre. They tried to make me go to orang rehab, I said "Yes, yes yes"! ;-)

Hahaha, took me back to see pics of you hauling yourself up the summit on ropes. My guide had to plant his hands on my butt and push me up the rest of the way in the dark.

sounds like you're having such a great time in Asia. Loved your NZ blog as well, such stunning pictures. Keep enjoying the food out there!!!! XXXXXXX

permalink written by  Anna Chamberlain on August 9, 2010


I am SOOOOOOO proud of you guys!!! You did it! Who'd have thought 6 months ago my little sis would be dragged up a mountain. Can't believe you've beaten me on the length travelled up it, too, if they've opened a longer route since I went!

Such a shame they've put up the prices so much, but I guess it is the main thing people travel to Sabah to do. Am really glad you did it. Glad the orangutans came out to see you too at the rehab centre. They tried to make me go to orang rehab, I said "Yes, yes yes"! ;-)

Hahaha, took me back to see pics of you hauling yourself up the summit on ropes. My guide had to plant his hands on my butt and push me up the rest of the way in the dark.

sounds like you're having such a great time in Asia. Loved your NZ blog as well, such stunning pictures. Keep enjoying the food out there!!!! XXXXXXX

permalink written by  Anna Chamberlain on August 9, 2010


Hey guys its ben and courtney! We just got back from Malaysia last weekend and catching up on the blogs of everyone we met. Scrolled through and read a bunch of your older posts. Loved the New Zealand post, those pictures are heavenly! Great stuff. We are excited for ya'll and will be living vicariously through your future posts as we hunker down for the winter season of work with no substantial breaks in Taiwan.

Peace,
Ben and Court

permalink written by  Ben and Courtney on August 15, 2010

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