We arrived just in time for an amuzing yet informative "climbers' briefing", assembled a group - one Malaysian, one Singaporian, us, a guide (who couldn't speak English) and a Proboscis Monkey...sorry, a Dutchman! :-)
The "Summit Trail" doesn't require any previous mountaineering experience, however one needs to be relatively fit and altitude sickness is a risk. It's 9km from the starting point, Timpon Gate (1,867m), to Low's Peak (4,095m), and the total altitude gain is over 2,200m. On day one we walked up to the overnight accommodation at Laban Rata (3,300m).
On the way up we were passed by a number people training for the Mt. Kinabalu International Climbathon.
This is a race to the top and back - the record is...wait for it...02h36m59s!!! It's held by an Italian, by the name of Marco De Gasperi. It is rumoured that he's really a closely shaven moutain goat!
As for the porters: all supplies for the overnight accommodation are carried up by the porters. They carry loads of up to 30kg, and can do two to three journey's a day! Needless to say, their calves were enourmous and made Arnold Swarzeneger's calves look like earthworms that had each swalled an M&M!
We started the climb for the peak at 2.45am. The final 800m are across naked granite rock, and in some places fixed ropes are in place to assist the climbers. Luckily, our headlamps had a radius of about 5m
, and that's all we needed and wanted to see! It's quite a precarious peak - there's a 1,000m drop on three of the four sides. The drop is into the notorious Low's Gully - this is where an SAS Expedition got lost in 1994 and had to be rescued by Chuck Norris!
When we got to the peak, a Singaporian group from Outward Bound
was clambering all over it, and wouldn't move - this was despite the strict instuctions from the guides to spend max. five minutes on the top and then descend...for safety reasons. It got so crowded that only Nicky managed to get up to the summit sign and have her photograph taken - Rob found a safer sunrise viewing spot a couple of meters below the peak.
The transformation that the sunrise brought to the mountain was spectacular. Before, it had been a dark piece of cold granite, but when the sun came up, we saw how magnificent the open granite peak was.
We were above the clouds, and could see smaller peaks and valley's below us - it may not be the highest peaks in the world, but the view from the top must be one of
the best! Well worth doing!
On the same day we decended all the way back down to Park Headquarters, and then bummed a ride in a tour bus to Kota Kinabalu, to head for one of the best Dive Destinations in the World...
After arriving in Kota Kinabalu we headed for Kinabalu National Park - Malaysia's first World Heritage Site, and the home of Mount Kinabalu - at 4,095m, Southeast Asia's highest peak.