The Big (not-so) Easy

Mount Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysian Borneo

So far i’ve had a pretty busy schedule on Borneo! I arrived and spent the first day going around KK’s cemetaries, a night bus across the island that night, two days diving, and another night bus to Taman Kinabalu – the site of the tallest mountain in SE Asia – Mount Kinabalu.

Arriving at 4am, i managed to make my way into the reception and get some much needed kip on the floor for a couple of hours. The mountain is quite popular for climbers as it is one of the highest mountains in the world…that you can climb without serious gear or training. However, this also means that it is often fully booked as there are a limited number of beds at the halfway camp at 3100m. I was hoping to get a cancellation so was happy to be there nice and early!

However, confirming my bed at around 10am, i met up with some other dudes to split the cost of a mandatory guide, and we set up off the big hill. Big hill it certainly is! I had doubts about climbing it before, as i heard it was a bit of a tourist trap and therefore a bit crap…my doubts were shattered after about 30 minutes of climbing. There are so many steps! That might sound like it makes it easier…it certainly doesn’t!

It’s a 6km climb to the night camp at just over 3100m and it is not an easy climb! I made it up in about 5 1/2 hours – which is faster than some, but slower than quite a few too! I got there about 4pm, and suffering from a severe lack of sleep, i headed straight to bed for a few hours. I woke at 7pm and was so disgusted at the hugely expensive food that i didn’t eat any dinner and went back to bed (bad mistake!).

Up at 2am to climb the 2 1/2 hour, 2.7km to the summit for sunrise. The climb was torture! I hadn’t slept much again as it was too cold and too noisy, after a measly breakfast…climbing up rock faces and slipperly wooden steps in the dark with no torch…was not what my body wanted to do!

However, i did make it, and the sunrise and view was spectacular. I made it down from summit to base camp in around 6 hours (with a quick nap and some much needed fuel in the form of spaghetti bolognese at the night camp). Alas, it must have been the pasta that did the trick…as i found myself with much more energy after my feed…and set off bounding down the hill. Unfortunately, all the bounding down put a bit too much strain on my knees and i found myself limping for a few days afterwards.

My sore muscles were soothed in the much needed relaxation at the Poring Hot Springs down the road (not as glamourous as it sounds – just bathtubs with water piped from sulphur springs!).

I must admit that it was one of the hardest things i have ever done. After about 500m into the climb, i cunningly remembered that i don’t really like hiking that much! Do’h! I really felt like giving up many times, but was only put off because i knew i would have to climb back down anyway. I am glad that i did it, but pretty miffed that i forgot to take the national flag to the summit to take some pics! Not exactly standard holiday material, but definately a memorable experience.

I was particularly impressed by the guides, who seem to saunter up like it’s nothing more than a stroll in the park – probably because they do it 3 times a week! Of course, that was until i saw one of the porters that carries supplies up the night camp. These guys (and girls!) carry about 30kg on their backs uphill for 6km, and make it back down in around 4 hours! It took me over 4 hours just to come down…never mind going up with 30kg! However, the real impressive statistic…is the winner of last years race – base camp to summit (8.7km) and back again (another 8.7km) in 2 hours and 41 minutes!

Back to KK today and still not feeling 100%, i think i’ll head to one of the nearby deserted islands for some beachtime and maybe a little snorkelling! Cool photos to come soon…

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