It took me about 2 hours and 30 minutes to reach base camp from the bottom. The rest of my group however, was not as fast, the last member coming in after a 6 hours’ hike.
For the rest of our journey, we were to stop for the night at base camp, then wake up at 3.30 am hike to the Sayat-Sayat checkpoint by 5 in the morning, then attempt the summit, Low’s Peak thereafter. The entirety of the itenary being arranged as such was to get to the top to witness the sunrise by 6 am, then be back at Laban Rata for breakfast, then take the rest of the day to hike back down. The air up there was also pretty cold given that Sabah is located right on the equator, with temperatures around 10 degrees Celsius at night at Laban Rata. Going up meant colder temperatures (1-5 degrees Celsius), so I was forced to ditch my personal quest to attempt the summit barefooted (#feelsbadman).
The trek from Laban Rata to Sayat-Sayat was easily one of the most challenging parts of the entire journey. Despite the trail between the two checkpoints being 1 km, the majority of the ascent was actually a steep one, probably more than 15 degrees by my estimation.
The trek upwards felt like an odd, nightmarish version of leg day at the gym, and in no way was I ever gonna sprint up there, nor was I in any condition to do so.
The trek upwards in the depths of the night was a something I won’t forget anytime soon, as it was my first time hiking at night. Past the tree cover, you can see a steady trail of head-lamps from determined climbers ahead of us, like fireflies in the dark. A better analogy would be a bunch of pilgrims making their journey to some mystical ritual at the top (straight out of a movie), vaguely illuminating the distance we had to traverse. Behind us, there was the sight of Kundasang town, barely illuminated by the streetlamps and town lights below. They say a thousand words can be described by a picture, and with my limited phone camera capability, it’s something you have to experience for yourself to fully understand.
Nearing Sayat-Sayat, the trail gradually dies out, slowly replaced by the rocky face of the mountain, and for some parts that meant what guided us was little more than a worn out rope on the ground.
We stopped by the checkpoint briefly before resuming the trek.
The rest of the trek was less steep, and the utter beauty of the journey slowly unfolded with the night. Low’s peak was in sight, it couldn’t get any better. The rest I leave to the pictures.
While it may be reasonable to expect some degree of fitness in order to attempt Mt. Kinabalu, or any mountain for that matter, but I’d like to partially dispel that myth. One of the folk that made the trek with me was afflicted with lifelong thalassemia, resulting in a low hemoglobin count. That meant that his body had problems absorbing oxygen, and on top of that the mountain altitude and his age meant that he wouldn’t make it to the top.
His name was Mr. Leong, aged 60, and he made it. Therein lies the beauty of the human spirit, the ability to endure and push through any adversity.
In the end, it’s a balance between realism (being physically capable of making the trip), and the rest is all in the head. A man like Leong surpassing his limits and making the summit really makes you believe that you can do anything. So go out there and make your day, everyone can. I do.