Day 10-11, Thu-Fri, 6-7 November 2014

In 2003, I joined my school’s outdoor activity to Outward Bound Sabah for a week of hiking, trekking, rock climbing, mountain climbing and staying in a local village. That was the first time I climbed Mount Kinabalu alongside 13 others who all made it up except for 1. It was one of the greatest moments in my life and since then, Mt. Kinabalu has been etched deep in my heart and soul.

11 years later, I make a plan to climb Mt. Kinabalu again. I have been missing it so much that I ensure it has to be done during my solo trip to Sabah. Aside from exploring Kota Kinabalu like I did here on my Day 9 in Sabah, there were more activities and trips which I have done like visiting Orang Utan at Shangri-La’s Rasa Ria Nature Reservevisiting Duty-free Labuanstopover at Sipitang Esplanadeget a Pleasant Ride Up from Sipitang to Tenom via Beaufort Routeexplore Sabah Agriculture Park in Tenomexperience Night Drive from Keningau to Kota Kinabalu via Kimanis Routehaving a Lazy Day at Borneo BeacHouse & Tg. Aru BeachVisit to Tg. Aru RailwayPadas White Water Rafting Adventure and more post will be coming up soon.

But for now, let me share with you on my Mount Kinabalu climbing experience… There are 2 incidents and 1 very important tip to look out for.

Prior to my trip, I have googled and searched around for the package just to get a rough price for the climb but decided that I will check again and book the trip once I’ve reached Sabah. BBH (Borneo BeacHouse) also offers a 2D1N package and I went around checking out the price from other agency as well which ranges from RM850 – RM1250. I went ahead with Diverse Borneo which charged us RM920(Price based in November 2014) per pax for 2 person because I really like the service and their staff are friendly and treats me as a customer with full respect. I feel that this is the most important part of customer service and I would be willing to pay an agency who answers questions patiently and for being able to let their customers be open to choices – that is allowing them to look around and come back later.

Diverse Borneo is located at the Ground Floor of Wisma Sabah and I liaised with Alban, a very patient and friendly staff. The package includes:

  • Return land transfers for 2D1N or 3D2N package (KK City area – Kinabalu National Park – KK City area). Surcharge shall apply for any outskirt pick-up & drop-off.
  • Return Timpohon gate transfer.
  • 1 night accommodation (non heated; dorm sharing room) for 2D1N package.
  • 2 nights accommodation (non heated; dorm sharing room) for 3D2N package.
  • 2D1N SSL package includes 5 Meals only.
  • 3D2N SSL package includes 7 Meals only.
  • 2D1N Mountain Torq package includes 3 Meals only.
  • Kinabalu National Park Entrance Fee.
  • Sabah Park Climbing Insurance, Permit, Guide & Certificate.

and it excludes:

  • Porter Fee (Optional)
  • Climbing gears (boots, walking stick, gloves, beanie, head-lamp, etc.)
  • Alcoholic / fruit juice / carbonated / beverage
  • Energy drinks
  • Personal expenses
  • Anything NOT stated in the inclusions of the package

Day 1

Transport pick us up right on time from our hostel at Borneo BeacHouse at around 6.30am in the morning and we head off to Mt. Kinabalu. Joe, the driver from Diverse Borneo was quite polite, friendly and all smiley. The journey takes about 2 hours, passing through houses after houses with the mountain in view.

We reached Mt. Kinabalu entrance at about 8.30am and was introduced to our guide, Edwin Moguring and team members, an Australian couple, Gemma and Russell. So there will be 4 of us with 1 guide in our group. Once Edwin was done with the registration, he took some time to introduce himself, and then brief us about the climb and route we will be taking via Timpohon Gate. To think about it, I had wanted to do the Mersilau Trail coming back but I had no idea why I hadn’t done that. Anyway, we started off the climb at about 9.30am.

Upon starting, after walking down a flight of steps and path, you will be greeted by Carson Falls, a small waterfall before the 0.5km mark. I love the smell of waterfalls and it is such a welcoming sight, sound and smell. Just so refreshing.

We begin our climb through a short slope that ascends gradually to the steps of roots, rocks and wooden stairs and since then, the trail is going up and up all the way, providing no mercy to the climbers to stop for long. Gemma and Russell are very good climbers as they are used to hiking. Especially Gemma, whom according to Russell, has got stronger legs than him.

I’m not sure why I had brought along a big bag and then struggles with it. Lucky for me, my friend, Esse, offered to trade bags. So after 1km, he carried my bag while I carried his, all the way to Laban Rata.

Tip No. 1

Since it was Esse’s first time climbing Mount Kinabalu, I keep reminding him to go slow. I’ve learnt this through my 1st climb. A guy from our group who looks fit, actually climbed up faster than us and ends up getting bad altitude sickness which makes him back out from the climb to the summit. The rest of us who ascends in a much slower yet steady pace, make it up with no problem. So that’s a very important tip for anyone who would like to reach the peak. While you can aim or set a time goal to reach any point, there’s nothing to rush for. Keep your pace steady to allow yourself to acclimatize with the high altitude where the oxygen gets thinner and thinner as you go up. And most importantly, breathe.

I love the lyrics below from Miley Cyrus, ‘The Climb’. This is a great reminder for us. It’s not about how fast you get there but it’s The Climb – The process of getting to the peak. So save yourself and always go slow and steady and you’ll eventually get there.

“Ain’t about how fast I get there
Ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side…
It’s the climb…”

~Miley Cyrus, The Climb

Halfway through, rain starts pouring. It was very light at first then it got heavy. I couldn’t find my raincoat, neither did Esse. So the 2 of us only have our windbreaker as protection which ends up getting all soaked up. Even my Timberland shoe which was supposed to be waterproof, was flooded. As we got higher, it gets even colder. By this time, even Gemma and Russell slowed down. Not to mention the rocks gets even more slippery as well. So we needed to be more careful to avoid tripping from the slippery trails.

Gemma, Russell and I motivates each other through reminding Russell that his beer is waiting! While for me would be hot chocolate is waiting! Whenever we see each other slowed down, that’s how we keep each other going.

After 7 hours of climbing in the cold rain with a few longer stops due to the heavy downpour, we eventually reached Lemaing Hostel at about 4.30pm and I was shivering uncontrollably. I quickly changed to a set of dry clothes and cover myself up with the thick blanket.

Lemaing Hostel is the newest hostel around which is filled with bunk beds that can accommodate up to 14 pax for 1st room and another 16 pax in the other room. So it can only accommodate up to 30 pax at one point. There is a separate shared toilets and a small pantry. Also, this hostel is non-heated so be prepared to sleep with your thermal wear on. Though it was new, somehow the top bunk bed seemed to be overused especially by those who weighed heavier because as I lay down on my bed which is on the bottom bunk, I could see a beautiful curved downwards. It was scary though. It looks like it can give way anytime.

At about 6pm, we head over to Laban Rata Rest House for dinner. The moment I got out of the room, we were welcomed by the most rewarding sunset view. I remembered standing there almost in tears of joy. I love sunsets and this is truly wonderful. We spent some time capturing those moments before getting to Laban Rata.

It is a buffet spread with fried noodles, rice and some dishes, fruits, warm soups and drinks. I wanted to go out to the viewing balcony but I was still shivering badly. So I could only sit down with my hands around my hot tea cup, trying to stay warm. Apologies for the bad food photo as I was famished by then.

Mount Kinabalu Climb Dinner
Mount Kinabalu Climb Dinner

We headed back to our bunks and I manage to sleep by about 7.45pm thereabouts. We had to wake up at 2am for the climb to the peak.

Day 2

When I woke up at 2am, I notice that everyone was still soundly asleep. So I on the lights and all of them woke up automatically. In our room, all 14 of us continue on to the peak except for 2 girls who are unwell.

We took turns to wash our face and brush our teeth. Since the water was too cold, like icy cold and I was just recovering from the immense shiver I had earlier, I decided not to bathe. I just wipe my body with a warm cloth and quickly head out to Laban Rata for early supper/breakfast. We started off at about 2.30am and it was drizzling a little. The rocks, stairs and stones were still wet, making it slippery and therefore, we have to go slow, especially during the rope climb.

Incident 1

It was during this rope climb when someone further up front slipped and lost control that it caused the rest of us at the back to slide back a little. Thankfully, we were still holding on to the rope. There was a short paused and when everyone was okay, we kept going.

Incident 2

After the rope climb and before reaching Sayat-sayat Chekpoint which is after the 7km mark, I heard a sudden loud breathing whistling and I know it was bad. I learnt that a lady was hyperventilating, so I stroked her back and ask her to drink some water but her partner said that they have no more water left.

I offered her mine which is almost finished too. There was just about 1/8 left. She refused to accept it but I told her that she needs it more and that if she is aiming for the peak, she has to drink up. And she did. She took a few small sips and still left some for me. I keep asking her to relax, take in deep breaths and exhale slowly. She did as told and the breathing gets quieter and quieter and I can see that she was recovering well. I told her to go slowly, don’t rush. And we moved on.

Mount Kinabalu 8km of 3929m above sea level mark
Mount Kinabalu 8km of 3929m above sea level mark

By 5.59am, we reached the 8km mark and the sun begun to shine its brightest rays, revealing the peak as it rose. By about 6.40am, we reached the peak. Finally! As we ascend to the peak, I couldn’t help but keep smiling. I’m back, I whispered to myself.

Mount Kinabalu Low's Peak at 4095.2m above sea level
Mount Kinabalu Low’s Peak at 4095.2m above sea level

The lady whom I’ve helped previously, had reached the top with her partner before us and we managed to get her name and facebook. It was lovely to see her up here smiling. Gemma and Russell reached the peak way earlier and we bumped each other while they descend.

On the way back down, my head throbs a little and starts to hurt that for the first time after so long, I had to take panadol to relieve the pain. Going down was the most emotional moment for me. I stopped a few times and keep looking back at the Donkey’s and Low’s Peak. I teared up as I whispered, “Goodbye Akinabalu”.

Mount Kinabalu emotional moment
Mount Kinabalu emotional moment

It takes hours to climb up yet we get to be at the peak for just a few good 15-20 minutes, before going back down to Laban Rata which takes about 1-2 hours to freshen up and then another 2 hours all the way down to the entrance. We reach the headquarter at about 2pm+ since it was a good fine day and was given our Climbers Certificate for reaching the peak.

Mount Kinabalu Park Certificate
Mount Kinabalu Park Certificate

But rain starts pouring while we had our lunch over at the nearest restaurant, facing the Mount Kinabalu headquarter entrance. It was a great view, the best way to end our trip.

Mount Kinabalu Entrance with clouds
Mount Kinabalu Entrance with clouds

We were fetched by the same driver, Joe who drives like F1 back to our hostel and we saw a rainbow! I feel lucky! If you are not rushing to anywhere else, you might want to consider visiting the Poring Hot Springs in Kinabalu Park which features outdoor pools of natural, mineral-rich hot spring waters before going back to KK.

To be honest, I felt a sense of familiarity and peace as soon as I alight from the minibus. It’s like all these years, Akinabalu had been waiting for my arrival after all those silent whispers, “Come Back.” It’s a relieved. I could still remember vividly to those days when I was there 11 years ago. The excitement of a 15 year old teen back then and now, in 2014, a 26th year old adult is still the same. Just like the first time. Here’s a video of my 2D1N climb in 6 minutes.

If you are interested to book with Diverse Borneo, you may go down to their branch at Lot G30, Ground Floor, Wisma Sabah, Jalan Tun Razak, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, 88000, Malaysia or contact them via email or phone numbers here.

***Note: I am in no way affiliated to this company. Hence all opinions and photos are my own. Links provided will not charge you anything as well.

*If you are looking for a cheaper alternatives, you can read these blogs for tips:

To be back here was one of the best moments in my life and if I have a chance to be back again, I may. I hope you like this post and the video as much as I have loved creating and writing for you.

Till then, don’t forget to subscribe to see what I’m up to.


Lia Schmolphin

1st time on Mount Kinabalu in 2003
1st time on Mount Kinabalu in 2003
schmolphin at Mount Kinabalu Low's Peak in 2014
schmolphin at Mount Kinabalu Low’s Peak in 2014

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