KOTA KINABALU, MALAYSIA – Merry Christmas, everyone! I’ve just returned to our hotel in KK after a climb up Mt. Kinabalu with my father and younger brother. We have been looking forward to this climb for months, and fortunately, the weather cooperated, enabling us a great ascent up Laban Rata on Dec. 24, and a beautiful, breathtaking assault up Low’s Peak very early on Christmas Day.
Mt. Kinabalu, Malaysia’s first World Heritage Site, did not disappoint. As our taxi headed to the Kinabalu Park, the mountain loomed very impressively; its peaks an anarchic surge above the clouds. Upon our arrival at the park entrance, the organized staff went over our reservation and we were assigned a guide who took care of the rest of the procedures. Our plan was to climb up Timpohon then go down the Mesilau trail.
For the first day our destination was Laban Rata, a three-storey guesthouse around 3200 MASL. It is a 5-6 hr. hike; since it was our first time we decided to relish the park’s environments. There were a lot of colorful birds and playful squirrels on our way up. The flora, too, was. Although steep, the trail was supported by wooden tracks and railings. Your progress, both horizontal and vertical, was updated by posts and rest huts — all of which are complete with toilets.
We finally reached Laban Rata after 5 hours of relaxed hiking. It was bustling with activity; many countries were represented: France, Korea, Czech Republic, US, Germany Japan, Singapore, and of course, Malaysia. Before heading to our room, I did not miss the opportunity to take pictures of the sunset. And then, the famed buffet dinner at Laban Rata ensued; I stuffed myself with a lot of the lamb chops. It was, after all, our noche buena. Outside, the temperature was already 9 degrees C.
Very early the next day – climbers woke up to the greeting of Merry Christmas and preparations for the night trek. We started at 3 AM; half of the time the trail was roped, though most of the time it wasn’t really necessary to hold on to them. In the end there were no longer any trees; even the stunted ones have been reduced to occasional shrubs that grow in the edges of the slabs of granite.
We reached the massif just as the sun was rising. Finally! The grandness of the summit area of Kinabalu cannot be described in words; it is a surge of massive granite; gray against the blue sky; grand above the tropical forests of Borneo. The array of rock calls to mind Mt. Guiting-Guiting, but this is twice the elevation. The views of the nearby mountains was fine but the runner up to the title of highest, Mt. Trusmadi, does not come close at over 2400 MASL (they say it is a challenging climb though and I am interested to check it out in the future).
Even though Mt. Kinabalu is a tourist destination, where everything is ordered and the , it is still a challenging climb, with steep trails, chilling temperatures, and an almost 2300m altitude gain.
The very summit is just one square meter of a cement block to step on, and two markers proclaiming the site to be the highest point in Borneo, with an elevation of 4095 MASL.
Later today we will be coming home. Mom will be waiting (too bad she wasn’t able to make it). Will write more about Kinabalu (and post pictures) when I get back.