Climbing Mount Kinabalu: Part 3 – The Climb

It took me 2 weeks after I returned from Mount K to write my thoughts down. I am still unable to grasp what I saw that day. The first time I caught a glimpse of it. And on that moment, I knew, that I’m in trouble.

Day 1

It was 6.20am and the very colorful Amazing Borneo bus had picked us up on time from PODS Backpacker. It was a 2 hour journey to Kinabalu HQ and everybody was asleep within minutes. I was awaken when I realize that the straight road has turned into a series of elevated curves up the side of a hill. The view of the valley was breathtaking but I’ve never seen a cloud that huge before. It’s gigantic and it’s black. I immediately assumed that shit, it’s going to be a wet hike to Pendant Hut. But how could it be a patch of black clouds lingering in the horizon if it has a shiny surface?

It immediately sank into my head that that black cloud is actually and unmistakably, Mount Kinabalu! IT’S HUGE!!!!!

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Oh boy. What have I signed up for.

Upon reaching Kinabalu HQ, everything was smooth from then on. From registration of permits and park fees, introduction of the mountain guides, to checking in of excess bags. I guess choosing Amazing Borneo as our tour operator is a wise choice when you have a big group.

And so our hike to Pendant Hut on Day 1 began.

This is how the terrains look like…

Pro-tips:
  • To avoid injuries to your ankle, wear a pair of comfortable high-cut trekking boots. Any boots that has a good support to your ankle. Highly recommended.
  • You may also want to consider training up hills and going up and down those staircases at the HDB. Trust me. The journey is BRUTAL.
  • Trekking poles. Yes. Please. This helps ALOT!
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Expect to see vegetations like the one in this photo
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Mountain guides playing soccer at 3,289m above sea level, as seen from Laban Rata Restaurant

I shall leave the experience of Day 1 to you. Because for me, it was tough due to the sudden hits of asthma. I have to go really slow while acclimatizing. Yes, speaking of acclimatizing, here’s what you need to know about Acute Mountain Sickness or AMS. 

Early Symptoms:

  • Dizziness or light-headedness
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Shortness of breathe

Once you experience this early signs, climb down (descend) to a lower altitude as rapidly and safely as possible. You should not continue climbing if you develop symptoms.

Severe cases may result in death due to lung problems or brain swelling, called cerebral edema.

So to be safe, hike up at a comfortable, steady pace. Don’t be pressured when you see other hikers passing by you and going faster than you. Safety first. Remember, it’s not a competition.

As I am doing the Via-Ferrata after the summit climb, my accommodation for the night is at Pendant Hut instead of Laban Rata. There’s thick clean sleeping bags, hot tea, coffee and some snacks prepared for all the tired souls. Just be sure to time your journey. You have to reach Pendant Hut by 4pm latest or you won’t be allowed to sit for the Via-Ferrata briefing. With that said, I was one of the slowest in the pack and I managed to reach Pendant Hut at 330pm.

Some points to consider:

  • There’s no hot showers at Pendant Hut. So I recommend that you bring some wet wipes. However, you can brave through the chilling water and take a fast, short bath. If you dare. =p
  • After the Ferrata briefing, you need to head over to Laban Rata for early dinner. Dinner is served till 7pm.
  • Pendant Hut to Laban Rata is only 3 minutes walking distance.
  • Try to get an early sleep. The 2nd part of the hike to the summit is a KILLER. Seriously.
  • Light snacks will be prepared for you before you leave Pendant Hut for the summit.
  • Bring your own headlamp

Day 2

2am and we were geared up to start the final and the most challenging part of the mountain. The last 1km. That last 1km will slow down even the fittest of hiker.

The last part of the incline is so steep that you are required to queue up in a single file, pull your tired body up using a white rope. That will use up your last 10% of energy. But all that effort and sacrifice will be well rewarded when you see the plethora of colors the sunrise has to offer. And of course, the summit.

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The Descent & Via Ferrata

Take note: The descent is just as tough. Your knees will beg for mercy! We have to make our way to the Walk The Torq station by 8am. So we were trying to go down the mountain as fast as possible. There’s a way to do this fast without damaging your knee. Try walking in a zig-zag. =)

We managed to reach the Walk The Torq point on time. Strapped on our harness and helmets and walked 20 mins to the starting point. Few things you need to note for the Via Ferrata section.

  • There’s two to choose: Low’s Circuit and Walk The Torq

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Walk-The-Torq

  • Walk-The-Torq is for beginners to intermediate. It’s a shorter route compared to Low’s Circuit.
  • You can complete the route in 2 hours.
  • Length of route: 430m (However, it’s the best 430m of my life. Quite challenging as well)
  • Vertical height traverse 109m
  • The starting point for Walk-The-Torq is much further (around 700m) from the top of the mountain.

You’ll get to do this two challenging obstacles for Walk-The-Torq:

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Tightrope Walk
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Monkey Ladder

Low’s Circuit

  • Low’s Circuit is for anyone who has done Via Ferrata, as routes are slightly longer and more advance.
  • Connects to Walk the Torq route
  • Length of route is 1.2km
  • Can be completed in 4 hours
  • Vertical height traverse 365m

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I must say that I underestimated this mountain. Having done the Annapurna Circuit and Everest Base Camp Trek, I was overconfident. With every journey, I never fail to learn something.

Will I do Mount K again? Nope. But it’s definitely something you should do at least once in your life.

Other things to note:

  • Be sure to keep your mountain guides in the loop of your whereabouts. Apart from ensuring your safety, they will be the ones arranging for the return transports for you from Timpohon Gate to Kinabalu Park HQ.
  • The last bus to leave from HQ to Kinabalu City is at 6pm. Ensure that you reach the HQ by then. Else you have to charter a private vehicle (RM250/way) to return to the city.

To know more about the cost for Via Ferrata activities, click here.

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