Putanga – Life on the Road

Stories from my journeys around the world…

Climbing Mount Kinabalu

Posted by Monica Johansen on April 18, 2009

Wednesday morning Shane and I were picked up at the hotel by our driver for the transport to Mount Kinabalu. The drive from Kota Kinabalu to the mountain took around 2 hours, and we were dropped off at the registration station and introduced to our guide who was taking us up to the mountain peak. The guide’s name was Thomas, and he looked like a typical sherpa, short, slim and very strong.

Mount Kinabalu

Mount Kinabalu

We started the ascent at Timpohon gate which is located at an altitude of 1800 meters above sea level. From there we hiked up the steep forest trail for around 6 hours to get to the base camp, Laban Rata hut, at 3300 meters. As we passed the 3000 meters mark I started to notice the altitude sickness typically evident by nausea and dizziness. In addition, it rained quite heavily most of the way up, and I was starting to get wet and cold. After ascending 1500 meters my body was drained of strength, and the sickness is often intensified by exhaustion, but nevertheless I made it up to base camp.

At the Laban Rata hut there were quite a few climbers who were planning to reach the peak the next morning, and Shane and I ended up having dinner and chatting with two English guys and one Australian woman. Dinner was served by the local staff around 5 PM, and we discovered that these people were in fact walking up and down the trail every day to carry food and supplies to the hut for the tourists. We were exhausted by just carrying ourselves and our little backpacks, and we were pretty amazed by the physical strengths of the locals.

We all went to bed early that night, since the climbing would start very early the next morning in order to get to the peak before sunrise. Our guide knocked on our door at 2:30 AM, and we started the climbing to the top in the darkness. We used torches to light up the trail in the beginning, but it was a clear night and once we reached the tree line the light from the moon and the stars was in fact sufficient. After around 3 hours and a strong effort we reached the summit, Low’s Peak at 4095 meters above sea level. It was still dark when we got to the top, and we found a spot to sit down and wait for the sunrise so we could take some nice photos. It was freezing cold on the top, especially since we had been sweating from the climbing, but the view was fantastic and when the sun started to appear we all forgot about our muscle pain.



Once the sun was up we had to start descending to get down to base camp before the rain started. Apparently, it always rains in the afternoon on the mountain because the peak is so high that the clouds cannot pass. The rainfall starts as early as 10-11 AM, and we wanted to get below the tree line to get some shelter before the clouds would come in. We reached base camp around 8:00 AM, and we had a huge breakfast before we started the long descent down to the Timpohon gate. The trip down took around 4 hours, and since the trail is very steep it was extremely hard on my knees. The rain started when we were half way down, and we were soaked when we finally reached the pickup point where our driver took us back to our hotel in Kota Kinabalu.

We didn’t have much energy on Thursday night, and Friday we flew back to Singapore. My body is still sore after the effort, but it feels good to have reached an altitude of 4095 meters, which is about 1600 meters higher than the highest peak of Norway.


2 Responses to “Climbing Mount Kinabalu”

  1. Judy Norton said

    Hi Monica fantastic to read your account of the climb. What an achievement! Well done to you both!
    I feel tired & have aching knees just reading all about it.
    Cheers Judy

    • Monica Johansen said

      Thanks Judy. I don’t think Shane struggled as much as I did, but we were both very tired when we came back to the city. 🙂

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