My Virgin Trekking Expedition- Mount Kinabalu

16th September 2016 – 19th September

16th September 2016

QH and I took an afternoon flight to Mount Kinabalu ( East Malaysia) for our first trekking expedition. We are excited about this trip as this would be our first time to conquer the highest peak in South East Asia. I knew a couple of friends who have already scaled this mountain and I believe it should not be too difficult for us as we are both quite athletic.

We reached Mount Kinabalu airport at 8pm and reached our hotel at almost 9pm. It’s way past dinner time and we were both famished. QH’s friends were waiting for us at the hotel. Yes, waiting to have dinner with us. It was my first time to meet them.

After checking in to the hotel and placing our stuff in our rooms, it was already 9.30pm. We went to the supermarket below our hotel to purchase bread, water and some fruits for breakfast and supplies for our expedition. After which,  we proceed to the closest mall in search of our previous dinner and to our disappointment, all the restaurants were closed except for Kenny Rogers. However, they were only allow for takeaway as their dining area was closed. Nonetheless, it was our saving grace. At least we had something to eat. So we ordered roasted chicken and all the sides that we love and brought them back to the hotel to eat. Burp ~~~ Kenny Rogers never tasted so good, especially the Mac & Cheese. Atlas, dinner ended at 11pm and time to sleep because we need to wake up at 5.30am. Our driver from the hiking agency will pick us up at 6.30am.

17th September 2017

We left our hotel at 6.30am and it was already raining. We were all praying that the rain will stop. The journey from the city to the base of Mount Kinabalu took 2 hours. When we arrived at Mount Kinabalu visitor centre, it was still raining very heavily. In addition, the merciless wind was freezing all our butts, literally, when we went to the toilet. We waiting on the bus… … Initially, we thought we were waiting for the rain to stop so that we can start our trekking. Later, did we know that we did not have a trekking guide and the agency was looking for one for us. After waiting for 2 hours, we picked our trekking guide and started our ascend at 10.30 am. Luckily, it was only drizzling at that time.

Us at Timpohon Gate! All ready to climb. We only realised that we took this picture from the wrong side of the entrance. The sign congratulated us on our completion when we were just about to start.

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Here’s the Mount Kinabalu Trail map. We need to trek 6km and ascend 3.3km of height to Pendant hut by 4pm. We will be resting at Pendant hut for the night and start our ascend to the low’s peak summit at 2.15am.

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Here we go!

Trekking for the first 4 km was manageable. The guys had the tougher job as they had to carry the bag with our belongings. We only rested at the huts at 1km intervals and resting for 20-30 mins each time. In addition, we started to eat our lunch and drink more water during each rest so that we lessen our weight for the climb. I read on some online blogs before the trip that we need to bring snacks and portable water for the climb as there’s no portable water along the water. During the climbing, we realised that that the additional water that we brought were creating a toll on the guys as they were taking turns to carry the bag. I was only carrying my water bag, energy bar and sachets of milo.

I met my first nemesis at 4.5 km. We had to rope climb up an almost vertical wall without harness. I am a scary cat when faced with heights. I always worry that I will lose the grip on my foot, slip, bang my head against the wall and fall down the cliff. Hahaha.. That’s me. I am the noob to climbing.  I am always confident when it’s relating to aerobic workout such as swimming, running etc. However, when the exercises contain elements of danger where my safety can be compromised, be it climbing at height, cycling on the road, poisonous bites,  I become very cautious or to certain extent timid.

All is well after my first rope climb. I am elated to be presented to first view of the mountains. The scenes that we had been seeing was just forestation, stones, steps and climbers.

This is the typical scene we saw all throughout our climb.

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Finally, we were welcomed by the mountain breeze. The sky was very clear and sunny. The perfect weather of picture taking. We didn’t take any photos along the way. So took alot more photos at the 5km spot.

The VIEW!

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Us!

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Our Victorious Group Picture

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After 45 mins of rest and photo taking, we pressed on for the last segment of the trek for the day. We were exhausted at this point. We have finally reached the Laban Rata Resthouse. Initially we thought it’s the place where we will be staying. After, I checked our itenary, we were supposed to go to Pendant House. However, we were too exhausted to look for Pendant hut. Hence, we rested at the dining area of the resthouse and took the chance to take nice photos at the balcony of the resthouse.

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After ample rest, we left Laban Rata Resthouse in search of Pendant Hut. We followed the arrows on trail. At each arrow, I was hoping that Pendant Hut is the lodging in front of us. The final arrow pointed us to this.

Is this 天国的阶梯?More steps, yet again. Yes, the white lodge that you see is Pendant House. We had the brave the strong chilly wind to climb this long flight of steps.

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We reached Pendant house at 4.30pm. We were 30 mins late for our briefing for the Via Ferrata Walk tomorrow. Luckily they started the briefing late hence, we reached just when the briefing started. They taught us how to wear the harness and how to attach the cord to the safety ropes nailed to the rock walls.

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This is the dorm and bunk beds that we will be sleeping on.

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We proceeded to shower after the briefing. QH repeated asked them to switch on the hot water heater as we knew that their water heater is powered by the solar panels. However, the water was freezing cold and I was shivering in the toilet. Therefore, I decided to brave the cold to take a quick shower. It was so cold that my skin felt as though fire has scorched my skin. THEN, hot water came. =( I took the opportunity to shower again with hot water. Felt so good after the long trek. =)

The disadvantage of staying at the Pendant hut is that we had to walk down the scary flight of steps to the Laban Rata resthouse for our dinner. It was a buffet dinner. Hence, we took the liberty to cardo load for the next day. It is going to be a long day tomorrow as we will ascend to summit and descend all the way to the base in a single day.

We had an early night rest at 9pm (suppose to be 8pm). It was super cold and I was unable to fall asleep. We only had a sleeping bag on the bed. I wore my socks and winter packet to sleep. Luckily, I managed to catch a wink before 1.30am. Everyone was up preparing for the ascend.

We waited for our trekking guide and started trekking at 2.45am. The weather was cool and the sky was clear. I fell in love with the blanket of stars overlooking us and the bright full moon shone on us. The initial trek was pretty smooth as we were walking up nicely built steps. Then we had to walk on rocks. The scariest moment was when we had to climb on rock walls that were almost vertical. We only had ropes to assist us. I didn’t know how high the walls were as it was still very dark. Our goal as only to look and walk forward. We thought we have reached the summit as we saw specks of light up the top of the mountain. We were feeling motivated and hence we marched on. However, after walking for almost 1 hour, we should have reached the part of the mountain which we initially thought was the summit. BUT BUT… that was not the summit. We continued to see another high peak with lights on it in front of us. Feeling cold and hungry, we stopped at a point where alot of climbers stop. We ate the energy bar and drank some water. There were some rats up on the mountain. They scurried between the cracks of the rocks biting on empty cans creating dragging  sound that startled me.

We continued our journey up the low peak’s summit. Finally, we made it to the top at dawn. Yes, it’s the pink sunrise.

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The photo did not do justice to the beautiful sunrise. Alot of climbers crowd on the summit so it was quite challenging to take a nice photo up there. Therefore, we started our descend. As our trekking guide was with QH’s friends as they were behind us, we were on our own. At that moment, we didn’t know where we should go for the Via Ferrata. We asked the climbers and trekking guides around us but none were able to answer us. Luckily, we saw a group of Taiwanese climbers whom we saw at Pendant Hut. We asked their guide where should we go for the Via Ferrata. He told us we need to go to the Sayat Sayat Hut at the 7km mark. So we followed them during the descend. After descending for 400m, we saw our friends. We bade goodbye and continued with our journey.

Not long after, dark clouds were looming over us and eventually engulfed us. Then, spine chilling rain began to fall on us. The rain became heavier and heavier. The visibility dropped significantly to almost 50m. We could not see anyone infront or behind us now. The wind was so strong that it has sent the freezing rain through my water resistant jacket onto on skin. Our gloves were soaked through and I dreaded holding on the ropes. To make matter worse, my timberland trekking shoes were super slippery and I felt a few times already. I even had the thought of giving up because I was shivering badly. But we kept walking, moving and motivating each other. There’s no way to get down there without walking down on our own.

Finally, we reached the Sayat Sayat Hut at 7am. We were told that the Via Ferrata is closed due to the bad weather. But the walk the Torq may proceed but we need to wait till the rain stopped. So we took shelter in the hut. Luckily there were hot water for our consumption. I never felt so exhausted in my life. It’s better to be a runner. Haha. We wore the harness and helmet when they gave us the green right for the Walk the Torq. Luckily the rain has stopped. The beautiful scene can be seen once again. We had to descend to another point to start the Walk the Torq. I slipped a few times again, even on steps. =( Then I met my Nemesis, the long almost vertical wall. I was afraid of descending that walk that I squatted and tried to slid my way down the wall. Luckily, a very helpful trek guide assisted me in my descend by going first and pulling the rope away from the wall and abseiled down the wall. I followed suit and it was really more efficient to abseil down the wall. When we finally reached the Walk the Torq start point, the helpful trekking guide encouraged  me not to go for the Walk the Torq because it will be too dangerous for me. I agreed and so QH and I continued to descend the mountain and we trekked back to base.

There was a nice photo taking point along the way.

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 After the arduous journey, we have have made our way back to the comfort of the hut at 10am. We devoured the breakfast which was served in the hut. Luckily, we did not have to walk down to the resthouse. Never in my life have I felt so relieved.

Here’s a picturesque scene taken in the hut.

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 We waited for our friends to be back and had their breakfast. We left Pendant hut at 12pm so it will give us enough time to reach the base at 5pm.

The descend was really tiring for me. My knees were feeling all the impact during step that I made. I am much better at ascending than descending. I am really slow descending. All of us were super exhausted, especially at the last 3km. We kept motivating ourselves to walk to the next shelter infront. As we walk, we were recollecting from our memory about how long each segment was and what was the landmarks.

The final 1 km is the worse. My legs were cramped and sore. Every down step was a chore. Eventually, we made it back to the Timpohon Gate at 6.30pm. We were much closer to civilisation and the sashimi feast that we kept motivating ourselves with.

The bus ride was another 2 hours back to town. And the day ended with a fabulous Japanese dinner. We adjourned back to our rooms and rested early that night. We took the afternoon flight back to Singapore the next day, still nursing from super duper sore tired legs.

This is the certificate which you will get upon completion.

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After this expedition, I did some reflections on how we could better prepare ourselves.

  1. I underestimated the wet climate on the mountain. I should have brought a water-proof gloves and pants. Before our trip, we were shopping for water proof pants and gloves. However, we could not find affordable ones. We think that what we brought should suffice. We were wrong. On the other hand, my Columbia water resistant jacket kept me very warm until the heavy downpour came and it was unable to withstand the strong wind and rain.
  2. I should have trained more by climbing the steps. I have only be running as my regular training and neglected on the climbing. My leg muscles failed on me. Haha

Things I brought for the expedition:

  1. 1 winter jacket
  2. 2 track pants
  3. 2 t-shirt
  4. 2 sets of inner wear
  5. water bag and water
  6. insect repellent
  7. energy bars (you should cater more as they sell it for RM12 at the resthouse)
  8. sachets of milo (you should cater more as they sell it for RM12 at the resthouse)
  9.  Sunglass
  10. Poncho
  11. Toiletries
  12. Strong heart and determination.

It was a memorable trekking expedition as it was also my first overseas trip with QH.

For those who are planning to do one, please train adequately.

All the best!

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