Monday, July 1, 2019

Journey to Mount Kinabalu


One day, out of the blue, my friend Lean suddenly asked if I would like to join her and her friends to hike Mount Kinabalu in three months time (early May 2019).
Hello! I'm not a person who's active in sports. I don't run! Heck, I don't even jog! And she's asking me if I would like to conquer the highest mountain in Malaysia in three month's time?!?!

And yet, somehow I agreed. LOL

3rd February 2019
I remember the first day we started our training session. We went to Penang Botanical Garden and couldn't even find the steps trail entrance to Level 46. We went around Botanical Garden for 40 minutes before we managed to ask someone that can share with us where was the entrance of the trail. And we even went into the wrong junction that leads to a fake trail of a dried waterfall for 10 minutes! LOL But at the end, during our first hike, we managed to hike all the way up to Penang Hill (833meters)!!  Actually. we did not plan for this and did not expect that we could make it to the top. We just continued going up and up and up and somehow along the way, our plan was to reach the top of Penang Hill. We took two hours but we were so happy and proud!! And it was also our first hike up to Penang Hill in our lives despite being Penangites! Of course we had to treat ourselves to well-deserved fruit ice-kacangs!!
Another back story for this journey was on the way up, between dragging our feet and tiredness, we already knew that we are NOT going to hike down that day as we do not want to injure our knees. Our plan was to pay for the jeep ride down. When we reached the top, we realized that the jeep ride costs RM80 per car each way. But we only have RM50 with us in total!! So we had to take the tram down (RM5 per pax each way) and then asked a relative to transfer money to our Grabpay for our Grabride back to Botanical carpark!! And yes, luckily we had enough money to pay for our well-deserved ice-kacangs above!! 

2nd Day of Chinese New Year
CNY fall on 5th & 6th February this year, and because I signed up to hike Mount Kinabalu, feeling super scared and unprepared, I asked Lean to go hiking with me even on the second day to CNY!!#KiasuKiasi We had to start early because we had dinners plans, so 3.30pm hike to Level 5 from Youth Park!!

Continue our hiking every Sunday
We only had 3 months to train, so Lean and I committed to practice hiking every Sunday. For the first few weeks, we hiked from Botanical Garden via Level 46 steps up to Penang Hill, and then took the tram ride down. I remember once we did hike all the way up and all the way down Penang Hill. Yes, ONCE! LOL Then, we changed to hiking up and down Level 46 steps twice continuously. And finally we did the tar road up to Level 46 and down via steps, also twice continuously.

Walking Stairs and Running on weekdays
And being someone who does no exercise at all on a normal day, I had to build some stamina to keep up with the weekend hiking. So, I did some running around my neighbourhood for 30 minutes on weekdays. I also walked up my apartment stairs and take the lift down and repeat for about 1 hour. Yes, super hardcore and determined cause already signed up. #KiasuKiasi #KiaMoneyWasted if cannot go up Mount Kinabalu on the real day! But to be honest, nearing the end of April, I was getting lazier on weekdays. It was honestly the "fear of regret" that made me forced myself to keep exercising. LOL

Add on hiking on Saturday
During the end of second month, I added on hiking on Saturdays too. Can you feel my fear? HAHAHAHA Seriously, I was super scared and I really do not want to have that regret of not being able to go up on the real day just because I did not try my best to train!

Final Practice on 1st May (Labour Day)
It was Wednesday and while everyone was enjoying waking up late, my friends and I pushed ourselves for our final practice before the real hike on Labour Day!

Summary of Practices
Here are all the practices that I did, for my own record and memories.



And the journey begins...
We took the AirAsia flight direct from Penang to Kota Kinabalu on 3rd May. As it was an early flight, we reached in the afternoon so we had some time to do some visiting and ate some local food. On 4th May, we had a complimentary tour from the package that we booked so we did some sightseeing as well as the tour  transported us from Kota Kinabalu to the base of Mount Kinabalu.

5th May 2019 - Day 1
This is it! The three months of training for the climb has finally begun. We woke up at 6.30am from our super comfy bed to prepare, pack our bags and for breakfast. Lean and I shared a bag for the porter to carry up to mid-hill for us. Our bag weighted 15kg in total (Inclusive of 6 liters of water for both of us!) which costs us RM195 (RM6.50 per kg, and they straight away charge the fees for two ways). The other stuff that we were not using during our hike will be stored at the base camp which they charged RM12 per bag.

Well...another backstory for water...We met an ex-mountain guide the day before during our sight-seeing tour and he told us the water is super expensive in the mid-hill so he advised us to buy water and let the porter to carry as our luggage instead to save some money. Anyway, ended up the price is almost the same, so my advise is to directly buy the water in mid-hill.

After checking-out the hotel and stored our bags, we headed for our buffet breakfast. We had the view of Mount Kinabalu from our breakfast table which all four of us started to feel scary as it seems so tall and high and far and unreachable.
The buffet breakfast provided has a reasonable range of food but I didn't had much appetite. Not sure if it's the excitement and nervousness, or because it was too early in the morning. But I forced myself to eat as much as I could swallow as I know I would need all the energy today! After breakfast at around 8am, each of us took the Altitude Mountain Sickness (AMS) prevention pill and went to collect our packed lunch. Then we went for registration and met our mountain guide and porter. They registered my name wrongly! TAN become TSN. Our mountain guide assured me that they can still correct my name in the last pondok so that my certificate will be correct.
 A van then fetches us to Timpohon Gate and the journey began!
 Oh, and what was I carrying in my bagpack besides my handphone and wallet?
- 500ml water X 3
- Packed lunch that was provided which includes another 500ml water
- Medicines/Plasters for emergency
- Raincoat
- Snacks (energy gel, dehydration salt, chocolates)
- Hiking stick

Day 1 required us to climb 6km up to mid-hill station which was called Panalaban. There are a total of 7 pondok-s for the 6km climb.

Timpohon Gate -> Pondok Kandis -> Pondok Ubah -> Pondok Lowii -> Pondok Mempening -> Pondok Layang-Layang -> Pondok Villosa -> Pondok Paka -> Panalaban!
The distance between two pondok-s varies but most of the pondok-s have a toilet (not clean, so only for emergencies!). Whenever we reached a pondok, we usually take a 5-10 minute rest (drink and eat) before continuing our journey by making the next pondok as our target. This was what kept us going!

Oh, just for the record, the mountain guide will always hike and follow the group during the hike. If the climbers have different pace, the mountain guide will follow the last climber. There's quite a clear path for the whole trail up to mid-hill, so very least likely that one will get lost, unless that person really go off the beaten track.

The trail was mostly ground or steps at the beginning. Upon reaching the 5th pondok, there were more and more rocks paved the trail, which for me personally, I felt that it got more difficult as rocks are harder to grip and it was a slippery.
Along the journey, porters carrying bags and daily items would pass us. Some even carried dozens of eggs, gas tanks, etc!! Each time they passed me, I can only give my respect and WOW to them!!
 We had our packed lunch when we reach the 5th pondok. Here's the packed lunch provided to each climber.
When we reached 4.5km, the surrounding began to have mist and the weather turned a bit chilly. The mountain guide had warned us that it had been raining for the past few days during the afternoon, so I guess the mist was a sign of raining coming soon!   
 
It took me around 5.5 hours to reach Panalaban - roughly at around 2pm.
We checked into our resthouse - Laban Rata. Here's our room for four! We were lucky that the four of us got one room as I've heard that there might be cases where group of friends might be splitted to share rooms with other climbers. 
Just FYI, the toilet is sharing. But the main challenge was showering! The water was freezing cold! When I was bathing. the water was so cold that I thought I should scoop the water using my hand from the shower to my body, but even scooping the water made my hands hurt! It's THAT cold!! Brrrrr.....

It was a little rainy at 3pm, so we slowly packed our backpacks for next day hike and then headed for a super early dinner at 5pm. Buffet dinner was served on the ground floor of Laban Rata Resthouse (also buffet style) and I would say not bad for a mid-hill restaurant!

The rain has stopped after we had our dinner, so me and Lean headed out for some photo session while Jes & CP decided to rest in the room. The weather was about 9°C and it was really beautiful to stand above the clouds!


We were all ready for bed at 7.30pm and all four of us were trying to sleep and get some rest. Unfortunately, all of us was feeling uneasy and we tossed and turned for 1 hour before we gave up and ate our AMS pills again. Anyway, research says that 1 out of 4 will experience AMS, but it seems like for us, 4 out of 4 were attacked by AMS! So my advise for those climbing, better bring the AMS pills!

We tried to sleep again after taking the AMS pills. Unfortunately for me, I only managed to doze off at around 11pm. 


6th May 2019 - Day 2

Rise and shine.... at 1.30am. YES!! Buffet supper will be served at 2am. At 2.30am sharp, we were all dressed and ready for Part 2 of the climb of about 2.5km.
It was honestly super dark and the only source of light was each climber's headlamp. We were all hiking in a row as the trail at the beginning was quite narrow. And as it was really dark, nobody dared to wonder off away from the trail for fear of getting lost or dropped into some hole. LOL

I began my night hike by wearing:
- 1st Layer - Extra Warm Heattech from Uniqlo
- 2nd Layer - Sports T-shirt
- 3rd Layer - A warm winter jacket
- Pants - Warm Fleece Hiking Pants
- Two layers of socks
- Winter Hat
- Headlamp
- Gloves

What did I carry in my bagpack?
- 500ml water X 3
- Medicines/Plasters for emergency
- Raincoat
- Snacks (energy gel, dehydration salt, chocolates)
- Hiking stick

After only about 15 minutes of hiking, I was sweating, so I took off my 3rd layer clothing, my winter hat and my gloves and kept them all in my bagpack. Most of my friends and climbers were a bit cold throughout the hike, but I was fine with just my heattech and sports t-shirt. Maybe I'm weird. Haha

The hike began with steps for maybe about 30 minutes and slowly turned into granite rocks. Some parts were quite tough for me, as we need to hold on to the ropes to bring myself up higher. Definitely recommend future climbers to wear gloves for Day 2! And sorry, no pictures of human during the night hike cause it was just too dark!

All climbers has to reach the final checkpoint (Sayat Sayat) before 5am, or you will not be allowed to continue the climb to the summit. We managed to reach at around 4.30am, get our names registered (and for my case, corrected my name for the certificate) before we continued the journey up again! When we reached the 8.5km sign, we were so relieved knowing that we are now so near the end.
We continued climbing and suddenly we looked to our right and noticed, OMG the sun already began to rise!
It definitely boosted our motivation and we continued to climb and finally reached the peak to catch the sunrise! It took us about 2 hours 45 minutes in total from Panalaban to reach the summit, which is the HIGHEST PEAK IN MALAYSIA!! We were so proud of ourselves. And also so glad that the training were all worthwhile.
At the summit, the weather was about 4°C -5°C during sunrise. As we've stopped climbing, we began to feel abit chilly especially when we were standing still or seated and not moving. My friends were feeling very cold but somehow, I wore my raincoat (not winter jacket) as my 3rd layer and winter hat and was feeling fine already. So, for those climbing in the future, my advice is to still bring a winter jacket!
 
At about 6.45am, we decided to start our descend back to Panalaban and by this time, the sun was already up and bright, which means we finally got to see how the trail we climbed look like, and because of the good weather, we had many places for us to take wonderful photos, including the infamous RM1 and RM100 photo!
 
When we reached Sayat Sayat Checkpoint, it was already around 8am, so we took another round of AMS pills before heading down to Panalaban. It took us about 2 hours 20 minutes to reach the Panalaban. I guessed we stopped too much for photo taking! LOL

Upon reaching Panalaban, all of us actually took a bath in the cold water again in order to feel more refreshed for the next descending journey. To add on the challenge of the cold shower, the electrivity was not on, so it was total darkness n the shower! We had to bring in our hiking headlamps into the shower room. Then we packed our bags again before headed down to the buffet breakfast. That's when I realised, my thigh muscles began to ache. This was bad news! I had another 6km to hike downhill!!

After passing our main bags to our porter, we began our journey back down with our mountain guide. It was a clear day with blue sky so our hike down was really beautiful.
The only bad thing during my hike down was my thighs were aching badly! I walked like a 70-year-old grandma where each step I descend, I had to twist my body sideways to make way for the ache. It was torturing!! My advice is to do lots and lots of squats before the hike (which I did not!!) to prepare yourself!

After 4 hours, we finally reached Timpohon Gate at around 3pm. 

A van picked us up and dropped us at the registration area to collect our certificates! Coloured ones because we made it up to the summit! YAY!!!

As our transportation were to pick us up at 3.30pm back to Kota Kinabalu, we collected our luggages and takeaway our lunch which was included in the package and journeyed back to Kota Kinabalu for the night. We took AirAsia back to Penang the next morning, but before that, we made sure that we had Sabah's famous laksa for breakfast! =D 

After the climb
Did my leg ache after the climb? 
- OF COURSE!!  It took me 3 days before I could be back to normal when I lift/bend my legs. 

But did I regret? 
- NO!! The view up there was really beautiful and finally I can tick 'Climbing Mount Kinabalu' off my list!

Will I ever do it again? 
- Erm... I don't think so! HAHAHAHA.. I don't think I would commit to climb Mount Kinabalu again.  The thought of the weekend commitments to train is so saddening!! LOL

What about other mountains? 
- Maybe...but not for at least the next 12 months...make it 2 years!! LOL

Well, that's my journey of Mount Kinabalu. The end. 

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