Mount Kinabalu is known as the highest peak in South East Asia (SEA). It is situated in Kinabalu in Sabah, Malaysia. However, in recent years, Khakaborazi in Myanmar has become very popular with people and it is now actually the highest peak in SEA. Nonetheless, many people still flock to Sabah to climb Mount Kinabalu and one ascend of this peak does not come at a cheap price, at least to Non-Malaysians.
One climb of Mount Kinabalu through Timpohon gate, which is the main trail up to the summit and down in 2 days and 1 night will costs anyone from SGD$600-1000, depending on the number of pax. Adding on the Via Ferrata, that would cost another SGD$200. The Via-Ferrata at Kinabalu was opened by a Singaporean from what I researched and it is the highest Via-Ferrata in the world. However, we did not do the Via Ferrata due to budget constraints.
In case you are wondering what a Via-Ferrata is, it’s a route on a rock surface where a person actually traverses the surface via steel staplers placed into the rock. The person would then use specialized equipment for safety.
Standing at 4095 metres, it was a dominating sight the very first time I saw it in 2005. I still remember the first day morning when I woke up and left my room and saw the view from the balcony. It was spectacular and it made me feel so small. And that’s one thing I love about climbing, it makes you feel like nothing yet you be something by challenging its dominance.
So in January 2015, as part of my 10 years anniversary of having first climbed this peak and also 10 years of trekking and mountaineering, I decided to lead a group of 6 friends to the summit. This was going to be my third trip to Mount Kinabalu.
This team consisted of soccer girls to secondary school friends to friends of friends. It was a great group and we were strong on the first day.
The first day, we started at Timpohon Gate and trekked to Laban Rata where the hotel was. The journey took about 5 hours and there were 6 checkpoints in total and its rained heavily as we were at the 4 checkpoint. It was typical Kinabalu weather and we stayed at the Lamiang Hotel once we reached Laban Rata. We had an excellent variety of buffet dinner and I must say, the standard of food hasn’t changed since 2005. Thumbs-up!!!
The next day morning, the group and I were fortunately awaken by Beatrice, one of the soccer girls, at 2am in the morning. I got the group ready with their layering and headtorches and headed for the restaurant. We had a buffet breakfast and then once we were ready, we were led up the summit by our two guides.
The route to the summit comprised of 5 checkpoints. Mainly Sayat Sayat, which was the checkpoint where they checked your Kinabalu pass. If you did not bring it, you would not be able to ascend further. After that, it was mainly granite ground and rocks all the way to the summit.
At one point, Min and Syadad told me that they were planning to go ahead faster to catch the sunrise at 6am. So I passed Min one walkie talkie and gave him the green light!!! I stayed with the group especially with Gabriel because he was struggling a little but in the end, he really surprised me with his determination. Maung also was with us and he also joined me on the RInjani trip but due to some headaches, he did not summit Rinjani. That was why I made sure to ask him to come along for Kinabalu. For the two soccer girls, they were motivated and super strong and they were leading all the way in front.
After about 4 hours, we reached the summit and it was done and dusted. We took photos, gave each other high fives and it was really nostalgic to bring people to summit the peak which gave me so much motivation to start climbing in the first place.
We started heading down and after sunrise and it was indeed a very enjoyable way down with great weather and good company. We stayed at one of the nice hotels in Kinabalu known as Sky Hotel and we were very surprised at the quality of the place.
If you are intending to climb this peak, I recommend early training of 2 months of stairs-climbing and aerobic exercise such as running or cycling. This peak is definitely one climb to clock before heading to the Himalayas in Nepal or India for trekking as it prepares you mentally for long trekking hours and cold weather.
This was a great climb with great people, good weather, nostalgic memories and overall clean planning and execution.