Mount Kinabalu Report - 11 July 2009

This was the hardest work I have ever done for a pic!
What a well-worth efort that was...
We arrived in KK on Wednesday night after an hour delay (salah sendiri, lah sebab fly with AirAsia) and checked-in at Tune Hotel in 1Borneo. Quickly we realised that was a big mistake since KK and 1Borneo is 30km apart and RM25/taxi/way. We checked out the next morning, and checked-in in Hotel Kinabalu at Kg. Air, which is conveniently located behind the daily night market, and across the road from the Filipino Market etc etc. I figured since I'll be away most of the time, proximity to the shopping areas is an important must to wifey, mum and sister-in-law.

On Thursday, I rendezvoused with Glen, Jermaine and Mike who arrived last midnight, and we went around for our last minute shopping (Mike at that point did not have a single wind-breaker/jacket, long pants etc). We went to Merdeka Field to catch our ride to Kinabalu Park, which costs us RM15/person. The ride was bumpy, but fun nonetheless. We cracked jokes and sometimes the terrain opened up for us to catch a glimpse of the mountains.

We arrived at Kinabalu Park around 3, and checked-in at the reception. After paying the remaining fees (total fees for a stay at Rock Hostel, Kinabalu Park, a night stay at Gunting Lagadan, Laban Rata, and 7 meals are RM1,808.00). We moved around the park to kill time, and went for a carbo-loading buffet dinner at Balsam Cafe. We hit the sack early, only to be swapping stories and threw jokes around. Spirits were high, nobody slept well that night, especially not with the birds chirping and bugs buzzing by our window at 5a.m. *Sigh* such beautiful feeling...

We had an early breakfast, and was introduced to our guide, Sigol (we called him Smeagol), and took the bus to Timpohon Gate. After a final briefing, and our tags checked by the ranger, we started our hike up, and stopped for many pics. The trail started with easy flats, and gradually turned into steady steep climb. But from time to time there were openings which offered breathtaking views. And the air, man, my KL lungs were so confused with such crisp oxygen...

Our Smeagol

We felt like a bunch of Hobbits on our way to the Black Gate, and guided by, well, Smeagol, with its ancient trees, slates of rocks etc, which was very fun, and tiring... (for the record, none of us have done any climbing, ever, before. and our trainings are, well, zero!). We have met all the descending climbers, who wished us luck and passing stories of gorgeous it was. We were all ever so eager with Glen usually left us all the way up (he's a smoker, but claims that his lungs are clapping for joy then).

halfway to Base Camp at Laban Rata

What I have learnt from SCKLM in restoring my salt content to prevent cramps was I was munching on dried oranges, plums etc (asam boi, le). Dah le sedap (boleh makan without any guilt), it helps pulak too. Even our guide, Smeagol, agreed that it helps to prevent dehydration. Definitely will go into my kedai runcit in Singapore later this year.

Jermaine with wild berries (that's why she's been staying with our guide at the back!)

fooling around, still unaware of the reality of the climb

We reached Laban Rata at 11.30 a.m., and being a typical Malaysian, we thought that we would have to fight for seats and our food in the small cafe by dinner. And the fact that our Gunting Lagadan hostel is so far away at the top of the quarters, we hang our jackets and played Monopoly until 5 p.m. (that was real fun since the last time a gazillion lightyears ago). We had our dinner, and were nice to finish them early so others could take our seats, and headed to Gunting Lagadan. Since it was a non-heated room, we quickly settled under our blankets and we all put whatever clothes we had on us (I need more socks).

I had a very good sleep (I even snored), but soon found out the guys weren't doing so well. Jermaine was not able to sleep, Glen and Mike have been taking turns to the loo for the diarrhoea they have developed since the Kinabalu Park carbo-loading. Thanks to my running and weight-loss trainings, my bowel movements are easier to interpret.

We woke up around 1.30 a.m., and Smeagol came around our door at 2. We skipped going down to Laban Rata restaurant for breakfast (I am OK with my bars etc, and others were worried of diarrhoea). Some final checks and briefing, we hit the gate at 2.30 a.m. The wind was strong and the loud noise it created was rather scary. Already there were trails of headlights on the trails (some just started to head down for breakfast), and we just followed the crowd.

The first section was OK, we were covered in trees and covered from the wind, although we could hear it woozing loudly above us. We stopped few times as Glen was battling his diarrhoea and empty stomach. I need to get his assurance that he'll be OK, as we cannot be carrying him down (and we painted a picture of our late 40s office Secretary Janet, who climbed few years before as motivation, or else she'll ridicule us for years! That CANNOT happen!). Luckily he moved on and we were making progress.

Suddenly the sky opened up above as the bushes cleared. We had a full moon above us and few stars when we arrived at the beginning of the rocks, and the climb changed into a very steep rock climb. Seeing that image with fog above it, under the moonlit night sent shivers through my balls. Immediately the climbers before me dissapeared in the fog, and I had no choice ut to get up or else my friends would find out what a chicken that I am. hehehehehe

So off I went, panicking halfway as I pulled myself up through the crevices and trying not to look down. 200metres of that, and I cleared and started to let go off the rope occasionally. By now, our guide is behind the Jermaine some 20metres behind, and I kept moving just in front of Glen.

One by one half kilometre marker were passed, until the 7.5th that I started to join another pack in front of me and ditched my group. Sorry guys, but it was freezing up there and the few times I sat on the rocks and wait, I froze my butts off. Later, little did I realise that I have to wait for my friends at the top anyway, but what a magnificent place to wait!

I reached the Low's Peak at 5.30a.m., just at the break of dawn and sun started to peek between the fog and early morning cloud. It gets too crowded up there and I didn't want to move away until my friends have arrived. By the time they did at 6a.m, the sky is already white and sun was up, and fog too thick. Still, occassionally it cleared and gave us great views of the Tunku Abdul Rahman, Donkey Ears, Ugly Sister's Peaks but our fingers were too frozen and numb to beat the time before the fog closes it up again.

on top of the (SouthEast Asia) world

We had our shots, and quickly we went down to the lower area. From here, going down is slow as there were many others coming up. But our Smeagol did show us some shortcuts to beat the queue, but still we stopped a lot for more photos. We reached Sayat-Sayat for a tag confirmation at the ranger's, and sat down to awe at the views upon us. We were going down with this flakes of stoneswhich came around like images from The Lord of The Ring. With the fog above, it did feel like Sauron's castle is nearby. At this point, Mike was nowhere to be seen, as later we found out he's been rushing to go to the toilet at the hostel.

We reached Gunting Lagadan at about 8.25 a.m. with god spirit. Quickly grabbed our bags, and dashed to the cafe. There were not many who have made it down, and we went straight to the buffet. I had a picture of warm pancakes with honey and there they were being tossed by chef. Hot pancakes, honey, warm milk, sausages and eggs - those made my morning. We hang around just enough when the swarm of climbers came to the cafe, and Mike and Glen had little plus their 3x more expensive pil Chi Kit Teck Auns than normal. Happy and content (me and Jermaine only), we waited for Smeagol outside, basking in the sun and cool air.
We headed down at around 9.30 a.m., and walked together for the first half km when Mike started to follow my jumping around rocks. Jumps progressed into light jog, and before we know it, we were running! I was passing remarks to Mike on how could he run after a bout of diarrhoea, and still we passed Waras Hut, and moved on only to stop in heavy traffic or slippery sections. Halfway, we were overtaken by 2 Japanese guys who ran from Timpohon to Laban Rata and back.
Somewhere before Paka Shelter, I distanced from Mike (who is a 6'3" gigantic Barbadosian) and kept moving and passed all the shelters. Still every now and then I could hear him yell but at a distance away. Fully fuelled at the restaurant this morning and running strong, I overheard people asking their guides if the Borneo Marathon is today. But, I was surprised myself to be able to run in the trail and being OK with it after the climb. To be honest, it was pure fun with its micro element of danger, and knowing for sure that the shoes are great helped a lot. Maybe I was fuelling from the onlookers etc but hey, I need motivation, no matter from where, I'll take it.

Reached Timpohon Gate at 10.47 a.m., about an hour after we started running. There were a group of 15 new climbers on their way to Laban Rata, and their guide cheered me, "yeay, our No. 3 this morning... congratulations!" - refering me after the 2 Japs. I waited outside for a couple of minutes, but decided to kep on running to Rock Hostel. Halfway, I realised how far it actually is, and the fact that I was running on my trail shoes. People must have thought that I was insane... So I walked and reached Rock around 11.30, and settled for a hot shower. Mike called and he said he just arrived and will see me at the Balsam Cafe.

When I arrived, it was clear that I was the first climber to arrive, and it felt, well great for an average Joe like me. Wifey and Iris were somewhere, driving to the Park to pick me up, so I settled for my early lunch. Jermaine and Glen came around 1p.m., along with more crowd. I excused myself, and joined wifey, Iris, my mum and sister-in-law who just arrived from KK. We drove to Poring Hot Spring, but left immediately looking at how dirty and crowded it was. With the A H1N1 around, we are taking no chances.

On our way back, we stopped at this place that says a Rafflesia is in bloom. We stopped, and managed to bargain our way from RM20/person to RM5/person, and walked about 20metres before we could see this largest flower in the world. Apparently, there were 2 of them in bloom, and what a treat that was! Lucky we bought my mum her walking stick, if not her knees will never hold going inside the bushes into the small sungai area to catch the glimpse of the rafflesias.

We ditched the idea of going to Sabah Tea as mum wanted to stop at the Filipino Market (again? 3 days in a row... she was having a blast), so we drove back in our rented Kancil. Along the way back from Poring and Ranau, Mount Kinabalu still offered breath-taking views of its magnificent structure, and I just could not believe I scaled its back that very morning. Looking it from below twisted my intestines out of scare. Seriously scared.

We got back to KK around 7.45p.m., and headed straight to the market where mum immediately dissapeared inside. I went to re-fuel, and quite honestly, was too tired to go shopping. Wifey advised for us to hit the Pasar Malam after dinner for my tee.

We went to Tanjung Aru for dinner, and wifey celebrated my safe return with ikan bakar, butter prawns etc. The food was good but I was too tired to eat everything, as I always do after my long runs. Actually it is good to curb my eating pattern, so I do not over-eat on a pretext that I deserved them... hheheheh. By the time we were done, I was too sleepy to even walk to the Pasar Malam, and we quickly went to bed after packing up. Iris was still watching Indiana Jones on the telly when I dozed off into my dreamless sleep. Such a reward...

We headed to the airport at 5 (flight at 7.25 a.m.) and still the ladies went shopping for the frozen udang galah, or something. I bought my tee at the gate for RM15 cheaper than Kinabalu Park.

Nasib baik!

We arrived home at last, and I was high from the climb. We stopped at my brother-in-law's place in Salak Tinggi, and were served with a lot of food (another relatives were coming too), and lucky for me, the highs prevented me to over-eat, what with the laksa Johor, chicken curries etc. I was thinking of stopping thinking about unhealthy food as rewards for my runs/exercises etc, as it will surely be (1) wrong cause, and (2) I'd be wasting my money. Iris on the other hand, was enjoying the curries like there's no tomorrow. Next time for that...

After sending mum back to the airport for her flight to KBR, we went home knowing that my brother-in-law will send sister-in-law to KLIA for her flight to AOR. Dropped wifey and Iris, and headed to the massage place for my other reward. All the sore muscles were starting to act out on me, but it felt good. Only later that night after dinner when it all started to sink in, and I was walking like zombies (I remember the videos posted by Haza, the Running Mom of the marathoners walking a day after).

All in all, this experience has enriched my life. I did not think that I will pursue this, not eliminate the idea of returning to Mount Kinabalu for a re-visit with wifey and Iris. Training and running the marathon was a lot harder and accomplishment from this, but the fear factor is high. I did not have the same fear like the one before SCKLM, but it still felt great. Never in my life I would have expected myself to be in this position now, but I surely am glad that I did this, challenging myself and going for it. There is no bigger regret than not setting yourself up to anything, or not going for it while you can, and live my life.

I hope that will aspire, most importantly Iris, for her to understand that life is great. I want her to remember that her old man did this as a testament what a healthy lifestyle could be so rewarding and fulfilling, than watching Hagemaru on end (OK, it's too early for that, but I did not have a precedence in me).

Now, as I am limping from the sore calves and quads, and hamstrings, I will stretch more and try to recover for the Siemens coming this weekend. I have 'racun-ed' few friends from the office to crash this race, so I cannot be left behind their 'asap'... and hey, the registration for SCSIM '09 opens 16/07/09! Yoohooo...

*cheapest drug


haza said…
Syah, I'd like to take my eldest up there. Do I need to find a climbing group? Thanks for sharing this great experience. Neway, you're a good writer la.
..::EnAikAY::.. said…
At last i can put a comment.

Wow, u've climbed Mount Kinabalu? That is great. Congratulations and well done!

Yup, living a healthy lifestyle and having a fit body makes much of a difference, especially to the loved ones.

Good luck for Siemens run ya!
very interesting write-up. So, they have improved on the food in Laban Rata huh ... our food there was awful last time. Which mountain next? ...:)
amsyah said…
haza : Thanks for the comment. They said the youngest was a 4-year old, tapi when we were there, ramai kids in their 8s - 15s yg climb. I'd say the climb is achievable and relatively easy for everyone.

You could climb as a single but still need a guide. A guide is required for a group of 4 or (more than that will need additional guide). Guide fee is RM85 for a group of 4 or less, and RM100 for a max of 6. Add. fee for porter service (rm80 to laban rata and back).

Need to pay climbing permit (rm30/person, rm12 for Aisy/Cik Miman), bus to timpohon (rm33) and certificate (rm10/cert).

Tapi those are the least of your worry - what's important is to book your stay at Laban Rata (will need to do 4-6 months in advance) since they have a limited permit of 147 climbers/day and agak susah to get, especially the Laban Rata Resthouse (heated rooms, whereby others are non-heated, and it's bleeding cold), so always check with Sutera Sanctuary Lodges (088-308426). The accommodation at Kinabalu Park and Gunting Lagadan plus 7 meals costs us RM452/person which is good enough.

Let me know kalau you need to know more... Good luck (ni hadiah Aisy lepas exam ke? :) )
amsyah said…
Nik : Thanks for stopping by, sorry lepas SCKLM tak sempat hang around. See you at Siemens? (tak tahulah boleh lari ke tak nih...)

Ian : Which mountain next? hehee we'll see, no target yet. I'll try to join you guys lah later later.
haza said…
Thanks for the tips. Lepas PMR next year, she thinks her momma is going to take her London, can you believe it?
amsyah said…
London? Wow, wished I could say it to my mom last time hehhehe... influenced by AirAsia's cheap fare?

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