The Mount Kinabalu Experience

Musafir By Musafir, 24th Jul 2011 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>Travel>Asia>Malaysia>Sabah

The high mountain of Southeast Asia: must we always respect. Mount Kinabalu is not to be taken lightly, or with mere underestimating views be mentioned; nor should it be treated with verbal abused of arrogance and disrespect. For should if it be taken to be such or abused still – be feared later – the soul would not survive the shallow of view, and a million regrets will all that be left, disturbing and pounding the heaviest of chests of which is yours....

The Climb: I Came, I saw and I Conquered!

..... treading step by step, however small was the pace, and even tested tired, and in pain, the intent of conquering Mount Kinabalu – was what all the fix and focus of the mind: had been.

However the torrential rain came down, as well as cold wind slapped the cheeks with piercing cold, bitter pain – my spirit defiantly kept telling within: “I want to be at the summit of Kinabalu!”

Step by step, though little pace was the motion forward, but advanced to the front, I did swing the foot climbing the steep; from each tree to another, on steep slope of the Mountain, that's the marker alternately so guiding the tired soul.

Still I went forward; and though with just the mere withering strength left within, Mount Kinabalu – will I conquer thee!

What I Came For

The high mountain of Southeast Asia is not to be underestimated; nor can it be taken with child-like ease. The high mountain of Southeast Asia, the high point of view, should be, deservingly, held with awe and respect; but must willing the heart be, to take all their labour and hardship – right up to the high peak of Mount Kinabalu: we shall thrive to be – if that was what the heart had set to come, see and conquer!

And I was one of those that came; I saw it, and glad I am: I conquered it!

Still, there’s great respect in me for the Mountain.

The Mountain has taught me to recognize and acknowledge my own strengths within; also taking the weakness there is: with the feelings of remorse and self-appreciation.

The Mountain has made me crawled, subjecting the core of heart to understand the value of humility and respect; the Mountain wiped out the self-embarrassment that was within, the ego self – taught by the Mountain – so that all men would indeed, through the Mountain, knew the self-limitation of within, thus then conquering not just the peak, but the self within!

Step by step, however a thousand times ascending high Kinabalu successfully, I knew now – albeit all charms of the highest mountain in Southeast Asia, there is no mean certainty – to climb again in one triumph, for sure – if the heart lost in complacency, and came to the Mountain with: no due respect.

What I Brought Home

The high mountain of Southeast Asia: must we always respect. Mount Kinabalu is not to be taken lightly, or with mere underestimating views be mentioned; nor should it be treated with verbal abused of arrogance and disrespect. For should if it be taken to be such or abused still – be feared later – the soul would not survive the shallow of view, and a million regrets will all that be left, disturbing and pounding the heaviest of chests of which is yours....

I went home carrying the teachings of nature, within; I'm still feeling cold as I had felt on the Mountain top: through the bones had the coldness pierced through, and so had the learning too, within me now – that seeing it, I’m still awe with – respect!

About The Mountain

Mount Kinabalu – or in Malay known as Gunung Kinabalu – is a renowned mountain on the large island of Borneo in Southeast Asia. It is situated at the top tip of Borneo, in the east Malaysian border of Sabah, located within the Kinabalu National Park, which has been declared as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Mount Kinabalu is actually the highest peak that form Borneo's Crocker Range and had been thought to be the highest in Southeast Asia though in actual, is only but the fourth tallest mountain in Southeast Asia, after Indonesian Papua's Puncak Jaya, Puncak Trikora and Puncak Mandala.

Still, Mount Kinabalu is the 20th tallest mountain in the world and its summit – known ironically, as Low’s Peak – stands at 4,095 metres above sea level. Low's Peak can be climbed by a person in good physical condition as there is no need for mountaineering equipment at any point on the main route. However, it must not be taken lightly, and climbers are advised not to underestimate the climb.

The Climbing Routes

Climbers must be accompanied by accredited guides at all times due to the National Park regulations. Tour operators within Sabah for Mount Kinabalu hike could easily arranged you for this service.

There are two main starting points for the climb: the popular, Timpohon Gate, at an altitude of 1,866 metres; the other, starting at the Mesilau Nature Resort. The Mesilau Route is slightly higher in elevation, but crosses a ridge, adding about two kilometres to the ascent and making the total elevation gain slightly higher.

The two trails, however, meet about two kilometres before Laban Rata.

Our group of 11 people took the more popular, Timpohon Gate route in our climb. For the Timpohon Route, climbers could get to the Timpohon Gate either by minibus or by walking from the Park Headquarters (located some 5.5 km from the Park Headquarters).

They then need to climb to Laban Rata Resthouse at 3,270 metres for a stopover - most people accomplish this part of the morning climb in 3 to 6 hours, depending on their level of fitness. It may sound as an easy feat climbing from Timpohon to Laban Rata, but beware of the weather and the seemingly never-ending steep route at certain points that could easily take the toll on you if you don’t pace yourselves wisely and effectively in accordance to your fitness/endurance level.

The last 2 kilometres, from the Laban Rata Resthouse to Low's Peak (the summit) at 4,095.2 metres, takes between 2 and 4 hours. This last part of the climb is on naked granite rock and is usually done in early morning of 02:30 a.m. – to facilitate reaching the summit in time for the sun rise. That explains why you are advised to bring along a good headlamp for the hike. A good climbing shoes then, are a must too to help your foot gain a good grip of the ground/rock, whilst the hiking stick is optional to help you climb up and down the terrain with a little ease (a wooden hiking stick is purchasable at the Park Headquarters area for a mere 5-10 ringgit each but could cost you more than double the price at Laban Rata).

Given the high altitude, some people may suffer from altitude sickness and should return immediately to the bottom of the mountain, as breathing and any further movement becomes increasingly difficult thereafter.

The weather could be cold and worst still, when torrential rain pour from the sky (as what we experienced during our climb). So it will be good to have a light water-proof thermal jacket or a poncho in the climb.

The Tales

There are two stories that led to the main beliefs in the origin of the mountain's name. The first derivation of the word Kinabalu is extracted from the short form for the Kadazan Dusun word “Aki Nabalu” – meaning "the revered place of the dead".

The second, which is more interesting, narrates that the name "Kinabalu" actually means "Cina Balu" in Malay (which translated in English mean: "A Chinese Widow"). Due to the lingual influence among the Kadazan Dusun of Sabah, the pronunciation for the word "Cina" (chee-na) was changed to "Kina" (kee-na). Thus “Cina-Balu” became “Kina-Balu”.

It was told that a Chinese Prince was cast away to Borneo when his ship sank in the middle of the South China Sea. He was eventually rescued by the natives and as he recovered, he was slowly assimilated into the community, even marrying a local woman, he fell in love with.

As years went by, and the Prince began thinkning about his family in China; he started to feel homesick. So he asked permission from his newly-found family in Borneo to go back to China to visit his parents (the Emperor and Empress of China).

He made a promise to return once he's done with his family duties in China, promising his Bornean wife he would come back to Borneo to take her and their children back to China.

But unfortunately, the Emperor and Empress of China rejected the Prince's intent, and instead, the Prince was to be betrothed to a Princess of a neighbouring kingdom.

Filial to his parents, the Prince was left helpless about his situation. And so he never return to Borneo as he promised, leaving behind his wife and children there.

Meanwhile, back in Borneo, his wife grew more and more anxious waiting for him each day. She then decided that she will wait for her husband's ship.

However, the village was situated far away from the coast; so she decided to climb to the top of the highest mountain near her village – so that she could have a better view of the ships sailing in the South China Sea.

Thus, she was then seen climbing up the mountain at every sunrise, returning only at night to attend to her growing children till her efforts took their toll on her.

She eventually fell ill, and died at the top of the cold mountain while waiting for her husband.

The spirit of the mountain, having observed her for years, was extremely touched by her loyalty towards her husband. Out of admiration for this woman, the spirit of the mountain turned her into a stone. Her face was made to face the South China Sea, so that she could wait forever for her dear husband's return.

The people in her hometown who heard about this were also gravely touched by this. Thus, they decided to name the mountain "Kinabalu" in remembrance of her. To them, the mountain is a symbol of the everlasting love and loyalty that should be taken as a good example by women.

Local legend among the people of Ranau, a district in Sabah, has it that St. John's Peak was the stone which her body was turned into...

Visiting the Slum of Kinabalu

Before the hike, we managed to visit the slum at the Town of Kinabalu. Seeing such was the slum condition, we could not but be thankful of our prosperous tiny nation.

It was an untunkiable place to call home for us - but not those dwellers.

Sight-Seeing Before the Climb

Kota Kinabalu, state capital of Sabah, offers you several sight-seeing and shopping experience.

From island hopping tour to the souvenir shopping and local food tasting experiences, you'll savour every minute of it!

At Timpohon Gate

The group posing for a picture at the start of the hike - cheering in joyous mood - before the true climb and hardships took over!

....the Night Trail

The pitch dark view of the climb:

you need a headlamp to help you climb the night trail.

And you will head towards the headlamps of others as guide to your path as if stars twinkling in your dark-pitch trail.....

I'm on Top of The World!

I made it!

I made it to the summit albeit torrential rain and sheer coldness piercing through the shivering bones!

But I made it: I made it for what I came for!!

After Decending the Summit

The summit taken after the decent; rocky summit it is!

Vast and much challenging, not realised in the dark but sheer awe when the light starts breaking in.

White Water Rafting

After the climb, the group adventured for a white water rafting experience to chill out.

What fun it was!

....more fun!

......Pictorial description of the tour.

At the souvenir market square having fun and shopping spree!

...what I bought

These perhaps are items for remembering the fond memories at Sabah, and the cold time at the Mountain!

These are indeed valuable items.....

Leave Nothing But Footprints

The trail routes board:

Take Nothing but Photographs,

Leave Nothing but Footprints!

Wifey was glad she made it too to the summit!!


Climbing, Kota Kinabalu, Mount Kinabalu, Sabah, Sabah Travel Destination, Trekkers, Trekking

Meet the author

author avatar Musafir
A traveller to a lesser known world!
Hail from Singapore, Musafir set sight to travel round the world, in particular to the lesser-known world.
Coincidentally his name "musafir" is a Malay word derived from Sanskrit that literally translated, mean...(more)

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25th Jul 2011 (#)

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author avatar angel
10th Aug 2011 (#)

Thank you for sharing this information! I am scheduled to climb Mt. Kinabalu this November. I am really glad that I read something about it!

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author avatar Musafir
10th Aug 2011 (#)

...Your welcome, Angel. Since you be there in November when it's monsoon season as you had been aware, then be extra careful of the rain and cold out there. Please bring along a poncho or a waterproof jacket to reduce the coldness and wetness of the season.
Most of all, enjoy your climb and the scenic view there!!

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author avatar Lottie
21st Mar 2012 (#)

Angel, How was the climb in Nov? Was it very wet and cold?

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