Mt Kinabalu: Guts, Glory and a TV Appearance!

Trip Start Jun 26, 2008
Trip End Jun 2009

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Where I stayed
Zen Garden Resort

Flag of Malaysia  , Sabah,
Saturday, March 14, 2009

For those of you who love a great trek/ climb, stairs, rock faces with ropes with no flat parts then this is the one for you.
We arrived and stayed about 6km down from the park at a lovely little place called the Zen Garden. The views (when the clouds clear) of the mountain and the surrounding countryside are spectacular. When the Mountain shows itself know that it is not some poky hill that people call a mountain but the real deal!
  Surrounding the base of the Mountain in the green belt of forest and hills is the sprawl of settlements dotted with little run down hotels on the only main road that passes the entrance to the park. This gives one that   "Only in Borneo" setting that is a slogan seen on many buses.  The hotel "taxi"   if you can call it that is a clapped out but made to look supped-up Proton that makes a huge noise but goes slower than my old Datsun 120Y. (Speaking of which there are many of around these parts) The driver looks about 14 and says nothing as he ferries us up to the Park HQ for registration. This car is clearly his pride and joy, he has added all sorts of stickers to the windows  to create the impression that   every conversion possible has been done, combine this with the noise, the racing steering wheel ( resembling one that could have been taken from a Sony Play station games console) and the blaring music (from the oversize sub woofer in the boot) that you know but that has been remixed with added Malaysian lyrics and you have the picture of our trip up to the park.
The shelters in the park are run by a private company and they seem to run it very well.  We asked for a guide with a good knowledge of fauna and flora. Enter Anthony, a smallish, quietly spoken but confident local chap who will be a star for our physical challenge up and down the mountain.
The Mountain itself is the highest in south east Asia and the summit is at 4100M ASL.
DAY1:  The climb starts at 1900Mand a.s.l and one goes up to 3300 over  a distance of 6km. For those of you who have done Inca trail, it is like the afternoon of day 1 only higher and harder!!  The scenery is beautiful and the change in altitude takes its toll physically but the changing scenery in both fauna and flora makes it all worthwhile and interesting. From KM 3 to KM6 the gradient gets tougher and the stairs are high and never ending.
On reaching the Rest camp (Laban Rata) we sat down in the dining area, watched as the rain came down in sheets, drank lots of sweet coffee and played Scrabble... (Ems won- for once). We ate at around 5pm and were in the dorms at the Gunting Lagadan huts further up the mountain by 7, asleep by 8.
Our   accommodation was basic to the extreme with dorms that sleep 4. The ablutions are in need of fixing up. Bedding was crisp and clean which was excellent.  Cold water only and no heating made it freezing. Add a group of 60 Malay people who all behaved like it was a school camp and it made for an interesting fitful night of unrest. They spent the night   banging, slamming doors, making loads of general noise and smoking the place out. The noise faded for a couple of hours only to kick off at full tempo at 1am when they all got up and decided to get ready for the ascent. Ems and I woke at 02:15 and were ready to leave at 2:30, by this time many of them were still getting ready.
  Day 2: On advice from our guide we left at 2:30 (in hindsight we should have left at 3AM) however there were loads of very unfit people who would cause mega bottlenecks. As it was we had to pass the 30 or so who were ahead of us on the narrow ladders and stairs.
  The head torches we bought were excellent as we needed our hands free to clamber up rocks and use the ropes. We reached the summit around 5:15 and arrived shortly after a small group of 5 people so were really pleased with our efforts on reaching the top.   In the dark we could see the lights of KK some 50-60km away.   Using the advice we were given in Torres del Paine we layered up with all the clothing we had including wool hoods only when we reached the summit   which worked well. Many people who had hiked up in all their gear were hot and sweaty on reaching the top and then froze as they waited for the sun to rise. We waited up there for 30 minutes and when the clouds came over we decided to make our way down ahead of the pack which proved a good move. There would be no sunrise to see or photograph from the top.   We did get   some great views and pics on the way down to base camp.
We ate a great breakfast at Laban Rata rest camp and started the next 6km downhill at 830.
On the way down we passed a lot of people on the way up including 30 army personnel in full combat gear with 40kg packs and all carrying machine guns.   The captain stopped to introduce himself and shake hands. Respect to those guys-   our legs were like jelly having made the way up to the summit and then back to rest camp so I can only imagine what they will go through.   Among the people you see going up or down the mountain are local porters both men and women carrying heaving loads. The last 3 km were really hard going and we looked funny hobbling down each and every stair.  Before noon we had done 7,5 hours (ascending 800M and then 2200M down) Our legs were shot and it was great to get an uphill for the last few hundred meters to the Timpohon Gate where we started.
  We were among the first to get back to the starting point and being Saturday the park is full of local people who come to the gate to see what is happening and walk around some of the trails below the main summit trail.  As we rounded the last bend towards the gate there was a crowd gathered along with a TV film crew from TV1 News (The local broadcaster on Borneo) I joked and said to EM that I hoped she enjoyed being on TV.   The film crew and presenter intercepted us at the top of the flight of stairs and asked if they could do an interview. I was too knackered so dodged them and Ems kindly stepped up and portrayed the perfect "foreign tourist" while they questioned her on how we were enjoying Borneo and what we thought of their "eco tourism".  Towards the end of the interview they wanted to chat to our  Guide (Anthony) who had been brilliant at which point I opened my big mouth to say as much and got roped into the interview too!! Bad move and now the both of us on Borneo TV for the next week   looking very sorry for ourselves. Not a great advert for Borneo on the pros of climbing Mt Kinabalu. The good news we looked so thumped that no one will recognize us even if it is broadcast back home.
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