Saturday, May 28, 2011

It's the Climb - Mt. Kinabalu

17 – 19 May 2009

Travel Mate/s
Nian & Astri (my best Gals)

17/May/2009 Kota Kinabalu: City Center – Mt. Kinabalu
18/May/2009 Kota Kinabalu: Mt. Kinabalu
19/May/2009 Kota Kinabalu: Mt. Kinabalu – City Center

Travel Notes

(Happy Climbing)
Climbing Mt. Kinabalu – 4,092 metres above sea level – was my main reason going to Kota Kinabalu as part of my 2009 new year resolution to do something ‘extraordinary’ (refer to previous blog post: ‘Pack My Backpack to Kota Kinabalu’).

Even though Mt. Kinabalu claimed as the most accessible mountain in the world which means no specialized mountain climbing skill required, I would like to say for a mountain climber first timer like I used to be, It was not as easy as I thought.

(take nothing but photographs, leave nothing but footprints)

Accommodation & Climbing Permit
Most people need 3 days 2 nights to ascend and descend Mt. Kinabalu and at height 4,092 metres above sea level with a very low temperature, a comfortable accomodation and a good meal with a good value of money would be very essential.

Sutra Sanctuary whom is the main and only one accommodation provider has various room type to accommodate travellers’ preference and budget. From a minimalist comfy bunk bed to splurge lodges to choose. It is highly recommended to get room in ‘Laban Rata’ for the night rest; located at 3,722 metres height. It is the most comfortable hostel on the mountain. The only hostel that has room heater and heated shower. Restaurants is also only located in this hostel. That is why we will need to do advance booking. I did book this accommodation on January – almost 4 months before my climbing in May :)

Important notice that: Camping is not allowed in Mt. Kinabalu; we should have the accommodation reservation first to be able to gain Mt. Kinabalu climbing permit. Together with these accommodation booking, it will include meals (supper, breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks), climbing permit and insurance.

(some scenes during the climbing)

Pysical Readiness
Even though stated almost everywhere that no spesialized mountain climbing skill required, physical preparation is important. Climbing or trekking or we can call it walking slowly while enjoying the beauty of the scenery and your life..still about 8 kilometres ascent then more 8 kilometres decent. I will need a very well maintained stamina:) Do not worry, there will be 7 rest points (‘hut/shelter’ – where we can rest, eat, drink or go to toilet) available before reaching Laban Rata guesthouse where I spent my night.

My must bring items
Climbing the mountain means big temperature difference and how to keep me climb the mountain in a nicest way; bottom to top; top to bottom. Items below would help my body feel comfortable:
- Lot of socks
- Energized food
- Adequate drinking water
- Light clothes for the early climb
- Warm clothes for spending the night at the top of the mountain
- Gloves (to protect your pedicured nails from rocks or whatever ;) )
- If you are Indonesian; Tolak Angin is a must
- Other personal medicine; be ready for mountain sickness due extreme changes of latitude
- Balsam to warm your body

How to reach Kinabalu Park HQ and also how to go back to Kota Kinabalu City Center.

The first one is easier since near Gaya Street, we easily find the bus terminal. We need to hop on to the bus with Ranau destination and paid RM 15 – 20. The bus is daily but it has schedule, it is not available in hour basis. Checking the schedule it’s a must.

Now going back to Kota Kinabalu City Center from the mountain is more difficult. Back then, there is no available transportation provided by Kinabalu Park HQ. There are small numbers of taxi. If you are lucky you can find the Ranau Bus again (but no guarantee the seat is available). For me it is better if I could arrange it before I go to the mountain.

So since taxi is expensive compared to the local bus, taxi fare per person would be RM 120 – 150. We choose to wait in sideways looking for any better opportunities. Some of driver stop and offer ride but still expensive, we tried to explain them that we are budget traveller. Finally after quite long conversation, we got deal for RM 40 for each person. The fact was the van is not luxurious at all, it was only an old fan. But the unique thing is the driver is really extremely friendly, so as summary I need to pay the trip with managing extra long conversation with him, but in return yes I got some of local stories

(Mt. Kinabalu summit)

Last but not Least
Always check the best weather and best track which will suit us.
Mine was rainy during our way up and pretty clear sunny sky in our way down. Rain will make the climb harder. Not only it will become more slippery, there will be a lot of animal coming with the rain. Include the giant Mt. Kinabalu tropic worm; similar with snake (I was able to see them during our way up). I prefer to wear long pants with sock at the end of it to reduce the possibility of any animal bite my feet directly:)

There will be 2 options of track, Mesilau and Timpohon Track. It refer to the climbing start point; Mesilau or Timpohon Gate. Timpohon is shorter than Mesilau, but it is more ascending. Mesilau offer longer track with more scenery. We can mix them, i.e: start from Timpohon Gate but end at Mesilau Gate. Mine was Timpohon – Laban Rata – Timpohon. I was very amateur :)

(Laban Rata)

Details are below (Current exchange rate use is USD to IDR 9,000):
Mount Kinabalu – more or less USD 238 per person for 3 days 2 nights. accommodation & meals, climbing permit, climbing insurance, entrance fee, guide & porter, transportation roundtrip from Kota Kinabalu (KK) City Center to Kinabalu Park HQ, transportation Kinabalu Park HQ to Timpohon gate, Walking Stick & deposit box

Personal Notes
Before Mt. Kinabalu, I have climbed no mountain. Mt. Kinabalu was my first time. Yes I was join girlscout, I did my camping, but never done climbing or even hiking. I found that in a matter of climbing; there is no way back; effort to going back down would be the same as effort to go up. When you start it then the option only to finish it. There will be no taxi or bus to help me :).

During the climber, I also realized that my mind is powerful, it can beat my body. When the climbing become challenging, rainy day, tired, chilled and start to wonder when we will reach Laban Rata; at that moment positive attitude and positive thinking was very useful to keep me going on; manipulated my mind by saying that only few step ahead we will reach our destination was good compared kept the negativity.

And during our way down, due to the mountain sickness, I got a bad stomachache which required me to go back and forth to the toilet. My biggest worry was what should I do if it strike me in the middle of the climbing down. Should I need go the bush and do my thing..oh No, No No way! So with a very strong believer that my mind will control my body, during my way climb down, I said to my stomach, hey stomach everything is allright, you feel nothing, we can do it (climb down without any ‘bushes’ scene). And we did it, only once I needed to go to the toilet in one of the hut! Phiiiuuuuhhhhhh! So yes, my mind could manipulate my body. But unfortunately this trick did not work for my leg day after the climbing ;)

Seeing the locals who carry logistic and supplies to the mountain (Laban Rata Guest House) on their shoulder also quite amazing experience. Since we did have porter to carry our bag and drinking water thus we can focus my energy to climb the mountain (I was cheated hehe..). Salute to all of the locals who go through those 8 kilometres daily with a burden in their shoulder that might be heavier than their body weight to ensure that all of the tourists feel comfortable in Laban Rata with enough food and good facility.

(our hero)

In Laban Rata (height 3,722 metres above the sea level) and in Kinabalu Park Headquarter, we met a lot of people from different countries. The atmosphere was nice, say hello to each other-while queueing for bathroom or even just take a look on someone’s room where its door was open. Everyone tried to blend. Maybe because that day we have going through the same path:)
Being open and humble to other..a very nice experience.

Don’t forget that the scenery from the top of the mountain was very spectacular. Never imagine that I could stand tall above the cloud. Feeling so small in this big universe God created. Grateful of the life I have. Grateful for each breath I take. In some way, I see God!

(The real stand tall above the cloud - Atrie)

Ain’t about how fast I get there
Ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side
It’s the climb
(The Climb – Miley Cyrus)

(with our guide also porter-Wilfred, a phillipino)



  1. Hi, can I ask did you went by tour package when you climb Mount Kinabalu?

  2. Hi there,

    Really sorry for my late response since I have moved to the new address:

    To answer your question, I did not take tour package. My friends and I arrange the trip, decided where we want to go, where we want to stay, etc.