I was supposed to get as much sleep as I can before the morning summit. Unfortunately, I felt the altitude sickness which made it difficult for me to rest. I had no choice but to take some painkillers that night. Just as I am about to fall asleep, it was already our 1:30 am call time. Time for our early breakfast!
At around 2:30 am, our group gathered outside Laban Rata. There were already a few groups who went ahead before we left.
The first part of the trek was an incline which is partially made up of wooden steps. The initial assault was a bit tiring because you cannot pace yourself with the long queue ahead. Due to this, our group was separated into two. We skipped a few groups every now and then and waited for the second group to follow. Unfortunately, we could not locate them at some point and decided to go ahead if we wanted to reach the summit before sunrise.
Upon reaching the checkpoint, your badge will be tagged to check who among the climbers have reached this area. Now is the tricky part of the climb. Coupled by the steepness and the energy exhausted earlier, I found the next part to be daunting at first.
The trail from the checkpoint to the summit is pretty straightforward. You just follow the thick white rope which will lead you to Low’s Peak. The terrain is made of granodiorite which is the inclined rocky part you see when you search Mount Kinabalu in pictures. For me, this was the more difficult part to climb up. I had to hold on to the rope at times.
It was very dark and you can barely see the summit which made the trail feel endless. The number of climbers you come across kept dwindling the farther you head up. Most are either at the summit at this point or still below before the checkpoint. Midway through the rocky part, I made occasional stops to take photos of the terrain. I wanted to take some sky shots accompanied by the unearth-like view but I left my tripod at base camp. It made me feel like I was on another planet!
Out of breath, this was the time I got separated from the first group. I told them to go ahead and I would follow behind at my own pace. My steps became shorter and shorter at this point. I had one last glimpse of the first group as they shouted my name just a few meters ahead.
Just as I thought I had enough, I made one last push to keep moving forward. I said to myself “This is the reason why I am here and I will not disappoint myself“. Next thing you know, I finally reached Low’s Peak in time! The two others climbers who went ahead from my group even said that I was just 5-10 minutes behind when they reached the summit. I did not expect that I would only be behind by that much. I guess my non-stop small steps with both my hands on the trekking pole worked!
Reaching the summit is already a feat for me. At 4095.2 MASL (13,436 feet), this is the highest I have been on foot.
As the sun started to rise, the beauty of Mount Kinabalu is revealed. The view is just awe-inspiring that I will never forget. I can not believe that we actually made it!
After taking some photos, I rewarded myself with some hot tea. The reason why I bought a thermal mug is for times like these. At around 7:00 am, we were ready to head back to base camp.
At this point, I stopped taking photos and we reached base camp just before check out time. We grabbed some quick breakfast and headed back to Kinabalu Park Headquarters. It was probably around 2:30 pm when we reached Timpohon Gate.
We reached the city at around 6 pm and said our goodbyes with the rest of the group. Their flight was scheduled early the next day while me and my brother was just about to start the second leg of our trip. Hanoi!
– The Tourist Pao