When my BFFs asked me what I wanted to do for my Hen's Night, I don't think they were expecting me to say "Climb Mount Kinabalu!" There were some long pauses, a couple of ahems and then a chorus of "Okay!" Getting drunk, strippers and complete debauchery is just an average night out for me so climbing a mountain seemed more fitting! There were 6 of us altogether and only 4 were climbing. The two lians waited for us in KK while we went to Kinabalu Park. We spent one night at Nepenthes Lodge before starting our ascend the following morning. I would have liked to have spent another day at the park because it really was very pretty and there were lots of trails that were less harrowing than the climb up. So at 8:30am we arrived at Timpohon Gate with our guide Jeremin. The first two kilometres were fine. It was lovely cool morning and we met many hikers and porters along the way. Some of these porters were carrying gas tanks up! How do they make it look so easy? There we were puffing and panting. There were seven stops before Laban Rata and we stopped at each one to catch our breath and to take sip of the untreated water provided in large green tanks. It looks kinda dodgy but really, it was very cool, refreshing and safe to drink (maybe not if you are mat salleh). After Layang-Layang, the final 2km was really gruelling. The air gets thinner and the foliage becomes more sparse. Theres no protection from the strong wind. It didn't feel that cold as we were constantly moving. Once we got to Laban Rata at 3pm, we realised it was 6C! We were definitely not prepared for the cold. Its a nice atmosphere in the guest house as you watch more people appear, you genuinely feel happy that they made it too. The lowest point of the entire trip for me was that one night we spent at Laban Rata in an unheated dormitory at Gunting Lagadan. There was no hot water so none of us took a bath and we tried to sleep around 7pm which was difficult as there were a lot of giggling and banging of doors as the groups of gap-year-mat salls were flirting with one another. None of us got any real sleep and there was one point in the night when the temperature must have dropped below 0C as I could not stop shaking from the cold. 1am the alarm clock rings and we struggle to get out of bed. Deng and Dween decided they could not join Rafs and I up the summit. Deng was still feeling the effects of the altitude and Dween was hurting from the day before. I will admit I half hoped Rafs didn't want to climb. I was, we were all so tired, sleep deprived and cold. Once we got our gear on I think adrenalin from the anticipation began to kick in. Infact, it was not as cold outside as it was in the room! At 2:30am, after a small supper of tea and fried rice, Jeremin came to get us to guide us up our cold and dark ascend to the summit. The first quarter was mainly steps and it help us get warm real fast. Once we cleared the trees however, it was a different story. Suddenly all you see is rock, rope and darkness all around you. It was a very slow climb as your body just screams "Nooooooo!" It was also hard to breathe as it was really quite cold as the wind whips around you. In the darkness, everything seemed intimidating. There is one part where the rope is on one side of you and you are walking along a thin ledge and to your right, is just blackness. After that bit I started freaking out a little bit as it only dawned on me then that I would have to climb back down! Rafs was very good and made me get a grip and focus on the task at hand. Once we reached Sayat-Sayat check point I felt a little better. We didn't rest for too long and continued by ourselves as Jeremin was still chatting with the other guides and he said he would catch up with us. He never did! So Rafs and I stumbled along by ourselves and met up with another group going up. Then we lost them because we kept having to catch our breath. Then for a long time it was just the two of us. It was hard because we had no idea where we were, how far we had to go and it was just so cold. It was a little surreal but we kept each other going. Then the sky started to brighten and we didn't need our headlamp anymore. We still couldn't see up nor down as the mist was so thick. And then finally we heard voices and we realised we had reached Low's Peak! The chilly wind was brutal! And my camera died on me because it was so cold! We managed to take one shot of each other at the peak. And then we just waited for the mist to part. It was like a peep show. The sun would appear and then it would be gone. And then the clouds would part and you see a peak right in front of you. Once the clouds finally parted the view was breathtaking. I've never been up a mountain before so for me, this was really spectacular. It was just so peaceful and beautiful. I'm really happy I did it and that I had my friends with me. I don't think I could've done it otherwise. Thank you guys! Sorry for the pain!
Now, coming down was a different story all together! The descend for me was far more difficult as fatigued set in and the wobbly knees disintegrate altogether! I'm going to be sore for a very long time!
For accommodation, visit Sutera Sanctuary Lodges and I found this website to be incredibly helpful. Do book ahead to secure the lodgings and I would advise everyone to climb in March/April when its not so cold!