Malaysia: Sabah

Day 2 - Conquer Mount Kinabalu: Above The Clouds

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Day 2 - The Start of Second Day

The alarm went off at 2am and I was relieved to have no signs of altitude sickness. The temperature was plummeting yesterday night and it was a fitful sleep with anticipation for this early morning. Breakfast was jam on bread and a cup of tea before we were on the path at 3am. 

I was wearing gloves, waterproof jacket and thick long pant to keep myself warm in dark and cold morning weather and brought along my water bottle, camera, head torch and some snacks to refill my energy when hauling my tired body.

At beginning after past Laban Rata, it was on the first set of wooden staircase walk. The staircase was very slippery and wet due to misting in the early morning. I felt struggle and difficult to catch my breath in which forced me to keep a slow pace climbing in a single file. The staircases were surrounded closely by thick shrub and they could seem quite claustrophobic by torchlight.

 Thick shrub can be easily see everywhere in daylight from Laban Rata to summit.
I walked slowly to take care of my unseen direction in the dark environment, to conserve energy for my first half journey and to keep my heart rate low to avoid altitude sickness. It would took about one hour before I emerged from the scrub to open rock face, where the magic of climb really begun.
Day 2 - Rock Face Challenge

After endless fight of stairs, there were no more steps to walk up that started to mark the end of tree line. As you were approaching the top, you would begin to trek on solid rock surfaces with long, thick and white rope railings that accompanied you to Low's Peak summit.

I needed to pull myself up parts of rock face. The rope marked the summit track and it was a handy way to haul up when the incline was too steep.  It was a clear night in a nearly full moon and the cloud stretched as far as I could see them far from distance. The soft light began to fill the sky as the time went by after two hours climb. It did not help to know how long this vista last until sunrise. 

Day 2 - Sayat-Sayat Checkpoint

After two hours climb, I reached the last resting point, Sayat-Sayat checkpoint, where my permits and registration requested to check in and a place for you to refill your water bottle and had a drink and loaded up on a fluid for the last push to the summit.

Sayat-Sayat checkpoint, the last resting point up to summit.

The gradient became incredibly steep in parts at this point. The actual terrain was flat underfoot. I bent almost double at my waist to keep my balance walk. There were parts when I needed to grab the rope, which was bolted into the rock face at regular intervals. 

The climb became more difficult with steep gradient before the summit. You had to climb and kept yourself balanced with the long white ropes.

Altitude was started to take its toll here. It was cold and dark and I was exhausted. I could felt my heart pulse became faster and breathless. Rests became more and more frequent, until I might only be walking twenty paces before I had to stop again. 

Day 2 - Almost There

It would take up about half an hour to make the last push from Sayat-Sayat to Low's Peak. It was quite a frustrating section, as each time you crested another ridge, thinking that you must be near the top, another long uphill section presents itself. However, once you saw the distinct wide triangle of Low's Peak, you would know you were almost there. 

Almost there! Another 500m distance up to Low’s Peak. 

Day 2 - Reach The Summit

Soon after, I found my rhythm and steadily climbed the mighty mountain up to summit. Breathlessly, I stumbled up the last obstacle of precarious jagged rocks and arrived at the summit in dawn. We jostle for a position on the small peak, careful not to take a wrong step and fall into the deep canyon. 

We perched ourselves on the edge of a rock facing east, and I was overcome with emotion until I realized that I had to wait for another 15 minutes until sunrise.  Huddling together, we wrapped anything that we could found around our legs and shoulders to protect us from the freezing air, but nothing could help and we shivered in the cold.

Day 2 - Sunrise

Finally, the sun broke out from below the horizon, lighted up the sky and warmed our chilled bones revealing a magnificent view. The view out over the clouds and the valleys below were simply breathtaking. I looked into the plunging valley where surrounded by the vast mountains of Borneo and saw a long line of lights winding below. I was amazed that I made it.

The first orange hued rays of sunrise coloured the clouds above with a blue and pink hue. 

After twenty minutes later, the sunrise had become even more beautiful as the sun peeked over the clouds horizon.

Mount Kinabalu: The South Peak (3,922 m) 

Mount Kinabalu: Alexandria Peak (4,003 m) 

Mount Kinabalu: Donkey Ears Peak (4,054 m)

Mount Kinabalu: Saint John Peak (4,091m)

The sub-alpine vegetation existed from 3,300m (11,000 feet) where the granite core of the summit begins. 

I snapped the obligatory photo of myself standing at the summit of Mount Kinabalu, Low's Peak (4,095m). I had successfully conquered the fabled peak of Malaysia's Borneo and after 20 minutes it was time to descend.

Low's Peak, Yes I did it! The temperature was terribly cold, almost 5 degree Celsius. You can see my face was shivering in the cold down here.

Day 2 - Descend From Mountain Top

Walk down was much faster with daylight to guide the way. I lowered myself backwards using the rope on steep sections and before I knew it we were back to Laban Rata and ready for a recharge with a hearty breakfast before descending to Timpohon Gate.

Walk down from mountain top back to Laban Rata for morning refreshment. 

This mountain was sky-piercing as we could not stop to take a memorable photo on the descending way.  

The sun above me was blazing like Titan’s fiery wheel in the sky.

A wonderful sight of Laban Rata lodging place: viewing from Sayat-Sayat checkpoint. 

After half an hour contented breakfast, we were proceeded to our descend journey. I thought that the walk up was difficult, but the walk down was twice the pain. My legs cramped tighter with each step, and the distance seemed to be endless. I was no longer care about the stunning vistas and panoramic views. What I want was to get off from this mountain.

With the final cruelty of steep steps leading to Timpohan Gate, we were finally reached to the end at about 12 noon. The sight of our minivan was waiting for us, brought an overwhelming sense of relief to know that I will be soon sitting down. I plunged into the seat feeling proud of my accomplishment. 

Day 2- End of Climbing Day  

Climbing the Mount Kinabalu was an amazing experience to me. Probably the best experience of my life. It was tough, misty and challenging, but I had no regrets. It was once again awesome. It was a great challenge to climb the mountain. However, the views, the feeling and the experience were so worth it. I will recommend it to everyone who is fit enough to climb this mountain. At last, a certificate will be given to those climbers who are managed to climb the summit.
Here is my climbing certificate for my accomplishment.

I hope this blog post will really inspire you and please leave a comment below to share your experience if you have been through this climbing trek.

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