Mt Kinabalu: Climbing in Malaysian Borneo

Mt Kinabalu: Climbing in Malaysian Borneo

The struggle wasn’t against the mountain, it was against myself.

I had just quit the army, and having a fun time adjusting to ‘normal’ life.  Nightmares and self-doubt were frequent. My love life was a colossal mess. Climbing Mt Kinabalu was part of my own “eat,pray,love” adventure in Southeast Asia. I needed something monumental to push my limits of self-awareness, to force me to face myself and determine who I am and who I want to be.  What would be better than a hike up a mountain by yourself? Looking back, perhaps I should of stayed on the beaches in Thailand a little longer, much much easier (but then less rewarding).

Mount Kinabalu

It was a lofty goal

Since I was in Sabah during the rainy season, I wasn’t entirely sure if I’d be able to hike Mt Kinabalu at all. The best time to visit is during the dry season (March-September).

On that trail, alone with the exception of my local guide (required by the National Park), there was nothing keeping me company except for my own thoughts and fierceness of the mountain.

Mount Kinabalu

Mt Kinabalu in Malaysian Borneo, is Southeast Asia’s highest peak standing proudly at 4095m.  Some websites quote Mt Kinabula as the easiest mountain to summit. There’s no previous experience required to summit.  Usually climbers take 2 days.  Day 1 to ascend to the lodging at the base of the summit and day 2 to summit the peak and descend the mountain.

It’s an 8 kms trek one way.  Easy peasy right? Well, not for this then outta shape girl.  I hadn’t worked out since leaving the army, and I was silently cursing myself for being so lazy!  It’s a solid 6 kms of  lunges, not like a few at the gym, but 6kms of STEEP lunges! Nothing gradual about this route, that’s for sure…just straight up.

Mount Kinabalu

The first few kms were fun, I was still excited about reaching the summit and I had fresh legs conquering those trails! Making decent time was imperative, we left a little late in the morning and there was weather coming in.  For the moment the sun was out, birds singing and the view was phenomenal.

Mt Kinabalu

It’s all in your head

It’s a popular trek, and there’s all sorts of people on the trail. I saw a boy as young as 13 headed back down with his father, and an man as old as 75 hiking at a good rate with walking stick as support.

3kms in, I was starting to wonder if it was such a good idea. My legs were sore, and if I was going to make it, it’d be my will that carried me.  Of course, by this point I couldn’t turn back and sure enough weather was seen coming our way in the distance…it’s now a race. I kept telling myself; “I love it, I love it, I love it”.

What really blows you away is seeing the locals that are hired as support for the mountain, hike up at an amazing pace wearing flip flops and a ridiculously large barrel on their backs!

Mt Kinabalu

Good idea bad idea?

The porters/guides that hike up with you are there for you safety, and will also carry your pack if needed (they bring next to nothing with them).  I left another bag of clothing in Kota Kinabalu, the hotel was nice enough to store them for me until my return.  Even with less “stuff”, my pack weighed a good 45lbs.  Mostly water, snacks, warm clothes (for the summit) and my camera. By kilometer 4 I wanted to chuck that damn bag over the mountain.  My mind was wondering why in the world I thought I was fit enough to do this with added weight.  My stubbornness prevailed, although my guide tempted me every 500m’s with “you sure you don’t want me to carry miss?” and a knowing glance.  Nope. This is my struggle, my weight, and I planned on reaching the top on my own!

Finally the lodging at the base of the summit (and the end point of the day’s hiking) was in view.

Mt Kinabalu

So close yet so far!

When I got to the lodge, the Mt Kinabalu staff informed us that the weather was not optimal for a summit the next morning.  The rain was pouring down at this point and the wash off would potentially make the trek to the summit too dangerous, they’d have to make a call by morning.

There were about a dozen people with me at that point, all hoping to summit.  I was tired, extremely sore, wet and terribly cold.  I was also extremely happy to have carried the supplies I did up with me.  It means I could wash up and put on warm dry clothes.

Supper was at the meal hall down below, and ridiculously delicious.  In all honesty I was starving, so anything would of been good, but the food was much better quality than I expected.

Creatures of habit

We slept in one room (males and females), each having our own bunk.  It was still raining well into the night, and as the temperature dropped it was hard to resist the urge to all huddle together! (Instead I fell asleep with my teeth chattering)

At one point I woke up in the middle of the night to find the two Australian army guys wide awake.  They were on vacation from training, and I just released from service…so as we just climbed a mountain and were wet, cold and miserable, it was hard not to shake our heads and laugh at the irony!

I spent the night feel proud that I willed myself up Mt Kinabalu.  Listening to the rest sleeping, and the rain falling…there was a zen about the place, and I took the time to figure out a little more of what kind of person I am and want to be.

Now for the hard part

In the morning I met up with my guide and we headed back down the mountain. By the last few hundred meters I thought my legs were going to give out.  They didn’t of course, but the were sore – I was mentally and physically exhausted by this point.

Returning to the city of Kota Kinabalu, I decided that this part of my “eat,pray,love” journey was completed.  Changing my bookings, I headed to the airport and caught the next flight to Bali, Indonesia.  It was time to seek out healers for some sage life advice.

Victoria xo

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