The Mount Kinabalu Experience

Here we go again, a cup of hot Cafe Americano and reflections on my Mount Kinabalu climb for dessert. First of all, I don’t consider my self as a mountaineer. I only climbed two major mountains so far Mount Mandalagan (1,683+ M.A.S.L.) twice and then there’s Mount Kinabalu.

Mount Kinabalu is a mountain in Sabah, Malaysia and is the highest mountain in the Malay Archipelago with the elevation of 4,095 meters above sea level. Mount Kinabalu is protected by Sabah Parks, only 130 people are permitted to climb the mountain daily and you need a lot of permits and fees in order to climb (Check for information about the permits and fees once the site is up). Only climbers who stays at Sutera Sanctuary Lodges are permitted to climb the peak, for us we stayed at Poring Hot Spring the night before the climb, Its a good place to relax before a hellish climb to the peak.


You need two days in order to climb the peak. We started our ascend through Timpohon Gate which is the only available trail for now since the Mesilau Trail is closed indefinitely due to the damages that occurred during the Sabah Earthquake that occurred last June 5, 2015. We started our ascend at around 9:30 and reached the Laban Rata Resthouse (3,272.7 M.A.S.L.) at 16:30. It is said that it is possible to climb to the top and back in less than four hours but it took us 7 hours just to reach Laban Rata. The trail to Laban Rata is not that technical and it is very safe, wooden ladders were installed on most of the steep ascend and there are seven shelters with toilet along the trail. It might look helpful but personally, I find it harder and energy exhausting to climb ladders compared to natural terrain. The trail is a heaven for nature lovers since it covered with dense canopy of trees, different plants and a lot of squirrels up to the fourth kilometer. The trail slowly changes starting kilometer four since the soil is getting thinner due to elevation and different kinds of plants is growing along the trail. It is also the part where oxygen gets thin, I suggest to keep your pace slow in order to adjust and avoid altitude sickness.

Arriving at Laban Rata after a whole day of exhausting climb is a huge accomplishment already. You’ll experience a view that you have never seen before while enjoying the buffet dinner that is waiting for the climbers. Lights off at Laban Rata is at 20:00 this gives the climbers time to rest for the final assault for the peak at 2:30, another buffet meal was served before the climb. Headlamps, jacket and poncho is a must for climbing Low’s peak.


We started our ascend at 3:00 and I almost give up five minutes after we ascend. Fear of altitude sickness hit me, plus I am afraid my asthma will trigger not to mention the extreme cold and darkness that is along our way. During that moment I already imagine my self going back to bed and enjoy the amenities at Laban Rata while waiting for Fred, but after a few deep breath I realized that what I am experiencing is normal since I was not able to acclimatize before the climb so I took my inhaler, sprayed a few Ventolin and moved on. After two kilometers of ascending stairs, it gets interesting after I saw the 45 degree granite rock with my pair of headlamps. Adrenaline pumped through my veins since this is the trail I am waiting for. I felt excited, I don’t know but the danger gave me extreme level of excitement. We reached the final checkpoint at 4:30 and after that it doesn’t get any easier. I met a Chinese guy along the trail and he told me that there is no going back now. We took a few quick stops along the way and those quick stops felt like forever. The most amazing part of my stops is the part where I turn off my headlamp and watch the stars and the mountain, the feeling is so surreal.


From the start I believed that climbing this mountain is more of a battle between mind and matter. It is also one of the major reasons why I decided to climb Mount Kinabalu. Yes, I need to be physically fit but mentality and mindset is everything, the climb was more of an exercise to the mind than to the body. Yes, I might be able to climb the peak and back in four hours if I’m physically fit, but for me this climb is more about facing and overcoming my fears.

You might feel being on the top of the world when you are the one standing in the peak, but for me its the other way around. We are nothing, we are just a small drop in the ocean of His creation. The world is not ours, our life is not in our control, nothing is under control. But it doesn’t mean we can’t do something great, we can still make small good things, and with that small things we can move mountains. Let me end this with a quote. “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” – Mother Theresa.

Follow me at Flickr for HD Mount Kinabalu Photos.


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