Climbing Mount Kinabalu was definitely one of the highlights of my trip to Borneo with my family. It was tough and much tougher than I thought it would be but it was definitely worth it. Standing on the summit at 6 am watching the sunrise from above the clouds was magical and made me feel like I was on top of the world.
My brother and I had booked a two days/one night hike, which is the most popular choice. On day one we signed up for registration and met our mountain guide at the Kinabalu Park’s adadquarter at 8 am. The evening before we had received walking sticks, ski gloves and headtorches and tried to figure out what would be smart to bring on the climb. Admitted, neither my brother and I hadn’t really considered the essentials when packing from home and when we saw all the other people outside the headquarter wearing warm clothes and professional hiking gear, we looked down at ourselves and felt very amateurish. However, we agreed that it wasn’t the professional outfits and gear that would bring them to the summit.
At 8.30 am we went into the minibus and drove up to the official entrance, the Timpohon Gate. From here we started the ascent to the summit of Mount Kinabalu. We were briefed that there would be six kilometers to the base camp where we would stay overnight. In the beginning, we went through tropical forest and walked past a waterfall and several nice viewpoints. Both my brother and I felt fine but we made sure to take small water breaks all the time anyway.
As we went higher and higher up, both the trails and the nature around us changed. During the first two kilometers, the trails were a combination of dirt trails and stairs but they slowly evolved into rocky trails and steeper and more challenging stairs. Our legs began to get sore. At this point, we were even more amassed by the several porters that overtook us. They carried heavy building material like tiles and steel bars and cumbersome containers of water, watermelons and even eggs etc. to supply the base camp at 3500 meters.
At 1 pm we finally reached the Laban Rata Guesthouse where we would stay for the night. We had a nice lunch and spent a few hours playing cards and catching up on each other’s lives. In the late afternoon, dinner was served and after that, we went to our private room. We talked a bit but around 8 pm we couldn’t stay awake any longer and we both went to sleep.
At 2 am the next day we woke up. We dressed for the hike and headed to breakfast. It was difficult for me to eat that early in the morning but I forced myself to grab a bite. At 2.30 am we met with our mountain guide and started the ascent to the summit in complete darkness. We were informed that the first out of the last three kilometers would be the hardest one – hundreds of steep stairs and sometimes some rope to pull yourself up if the mountain was too steep for stairs. We walked slowly but the higher up we got the harder it was to breathe. However, we continued and at 5.45 am the clouds slowly disappeared and the sun was about to rise.
At 6 am we reached the summit of Mount Kinabalu 4095,2 m above sea level just in time for sunrise. It was completely magical and totally worth all the hard work. Everywhere we looked there was a new and stunning view. And despite being freezing cold we managed to quickly take off our gloves and snap lots of photos. We spent half an hour at the summit and started the descent thereafter.
On our way down to the base camp, it was interesting to see the landscape that we had no clue about when walking up in complete darkness. We were quite amazed by how steep the mountain was sometimes. It took us one and a half hours to walk to the base camp – the same distance that took us three and a half hours earlier this morning. However, the descent wasn’t easy and for every step I took, my feet hurt a bit more. We made it to base camp and were very exhausted but proud of ourselves. We had something to eat and went to our room where we both crashed in the bed for a while.
At 9.30 am we checked out and began the last part of the journey down Mount Kinabalu. The short rest hadn’t decreased the pain in my feet that began again as soon as I put on my running shoes. I quickly realised that this would be the hardest part for me. However, there was no way around and we started the walk. To relieve the pain from my feet I tried to walk in different ways. It helped in the beginning but eventually, it made my hip hurt. At that time there were three kilometers left. To release the pain I used the walking sticks that we hadn’t used so far as crutches and slowly moved down the mountain.
When there were one and a half kilometers left it started pouring as it can only pour in a rainforest. I was so determined to get down that I didn’t care about the rain and when we finally reached the finish line at 2 pm I was soaked. However, I was also relieved and very sore and swore that I would never climb a mountain again!
Climbing Mount Kinabalu was a fantastic experience! And even though I’m not sure I would say yes if someone asked me if I want to climb it again next week I’m so glad we did it. I can highly recommend climbing Mount Kinabalu but make sure to wear shoes that are not too small when descending.