Mt. Kinabalu Excursion

When foreigner or West Malaysian asked me if I ever climbed Mt. Kinabalu, most probably will be shocked to know that I’ve never climbed (nor attempted lol) the third highest mountain in Southeast Asia. When Jess’s birthday date was available for climbing, we immediately grabbed the opportunity with the rest of our gang. There were 10 of us; myself, Jess, Marsha (Jess’s sister), Jacy (B’s little sister), Detch, Liza, Zara, Kingston, Suzi and Matdin. (Suzi and Matdin also celebrated their birthday in July!) Fast forward to our climbing day on 20th July, we decided to directly go to Kinabalu Park on that early morning (hotel is expensive and hostels are mostly fully booked so it is advisable for you guys who plan to climb Mt. Kinabalu to booked your accommodation as early as possible!) 

Prior to packing for the 2 days 1-night trip, I was having a difficult time to pack – was thinking if I need more clothes to accommodate the low temperature up high on the mountain and so many more. My suggestion: please get thermal shirt – it will make your life easier. Since we couldn’t find any thermal shirt (it’s a seasonal item, hence please grab one if you see any!) I’ve packed 1 long sleeve shirt (3 shirts if you counted the shirt that I was wearing on day 1), 2 compressions tights, 1 tracksuit (compression tight is very thin. Unless you want to die from hypothermia) and 1 big jacket with hood and protection up to mouth area. Oh, plus I’ve packed 3 buffs – I gave one to Jacy so that she can cover her mouth against the cold (being sweet big sister and all HAHA)

Our transport from KK departed at 4 AM (well, he picked me up early. Luckily I was already awake when he arrived #superpunctual) then we picked up another 4 of our gang at Tuaran before we continue our journey to Kinabalu Park. Around 5 AM, we arrived at Kinabalu Park and we decided to take a nap before we take our breakfast and went to register ourselves at the counter. We finished breakfast around 8 AM and then we went to register our group. Unfortunately, the guide that we have requested earlier has an emergency hence we choose to go with any available guide during that time. So, our two guides are Willy and Willy Jr (or Wilson HAHA). At first, our main guide seems like irritated with our ‘slowness’ LOL because every climber was rushing to get to Timpohon gate and started their climbing as soon as possible. However, we were busy with taking photos whatnot and only reach Timpohon gate around 9.30 AM. After a short briefing, we started our climb with uneasiness – well, at least for me HAHA #nervous

The first 3KM, I was literally happy and enjoying my view of stairs and more stairs (of course a few whispered curses here and there). The other climber, guides and even porters were very supportive and friendly. Since I can understand and speak fluently in Dusun (not as fluent as my Kadazan but still considered good), it was my advantages to communicate with the local guides and porters. However, as the elevation getting higher, I came face to face with my greatest fear ever – the mountain sickness. Reaching 4KM, I was having trouble with my headache and my bag become a huge burden (secretly crying and blaming my self-ego for not hiring porter). After filling my tummy with chocolates and energy, I gave my whole best to slowly climb the steep trail. As much as I hate stairs, I hate rock’s trail even more. The last 2KM, I’ve asked Jacy to keep going and follow King and Matdin as I do not want to slow her down. She’s fast and strong. Our guide, Willy with Jess and her sister finally catch up with me and we slowly climbed the last remaining trail before we reach Laban Rata. No matter how hard Willy tried to cheer me up – I cannot give him my force smile at all. I was so overwhelmed with the mountain sickness, the coldness of the rain and the never ending rock trails. Though the guides keep encouraging us with “sikit lagi mau sampai” (we are almost there). Thankfully, around 4.50-ish we finally arrived at Laban Rata. We went directly to get some food and Willy advice me to drink warm water before eating to help with the mountain sickness. He did mentioned to me that if I still feel sick in the morning, I must not force my body for the climb – with that, I weakly nodded and went to the restaurant to catch up with our group and ate our dinner. 

After few rounds of good foods – finally feeling a bit better, we hang out a bit before we went to our assigned hut/hostel for the night. We stay at Lemaing Hut which we shared with 6 strangers LOL After a quick wash up (there is no way I’m going to further torture my body with the cold for the sake of shower #nowayinhell), I’ve put extra pair of tracksuit over my compression, changed my T-shirt and rubbed extra heat lotion before securing my jacket up. I even put a glove on – Imagine with all that, I STILL CAN FEEL THE COLD. Attempted to sleep but it was so cold and I was shivering. After updating my family and B about our condition, I rubbed an extra heat on my foot and put on an extra sock! After a few while, I drowse off to sleep only to be awake at 12 AM with the sound of someone puking very loudly in the toilet. Apparently, Zara was having trouble with the cold and the gas as well. Since we are only going to wake up at 1.30 (amateur mistake!) so we went back to sleep and getting all ready almost 2 AM. We went to the restaurant to get our early breakfast and I ate a little – so scary if somewhere up there I wanted to go toilet and it would be horrible. We departed LATE from laban rata, while around 2.30AM; most everyone already started their climb while we only started at 3.15-ish. This time our main guide – Willy leading with the fast climber like Zara, Suzi, King and Jacy while the rest of us – trying to get our mind strong enough against the cold, the occasionally blast of cold wind on your face and the mountain sickness. The good news is, we all climb with our own pace – neither rushing nor pushing. I was with Marsha for the whole time. By the time we have reached platform, Jess was suffering from chest pain and it was already 4.30AM! Since the rescue team said, if you want to try, you can go ahead and try to reach Sayat Sayat before 5 AM. 

Sayat – Sayat Hut is the checkpoint to the summit, you must reach the gate before the cut off time of 5 AM to be able to continue your climb. If I’m not mistaken, there were another checkpoint at KM 8, must reach the check point before 6.15 AM or you will be stuck there as the ranger won’t allow you to reach summit due to safety concerns. The 500 metres trail before Sayat – Sayat checkpoint was labeled as DANGEROUS ZONE // RED ZONE and climbers are advisable to spend less time at the dangerous area. The trail was tough – I think the toughest one since we must use rope to climb. Silently, I keep on praying while I climbed via the rope. My hands are shaky and my legs are wobbly due to the cold. I couldn’t do anything apart from keep going – going back is not an option. THANK GOD both Marsha and I finally reached Sayat – Sayat around 5.15 AM – ish, however due to exceeding the cut off time, we are no longer allowed to continue our climb until the low peak. No matter how we beg and beg and even the other guide beg on behalf of us, the ranger still refused and sternly said it is for our own good. With heavy heart, we finally agreed not to continue the climbing and rest for a while at Sayat – Sayat Hut. Eventhough I was disappointed; I keep reminding myself that I did the best that I have could under my health condition. Silently sent a thankful prayer to Father above for protecting me along the way. 

Around 5.50 AM, both Marsha and I decided to venture around the hut. Politely we asked the ranger’s permission to go a bit higher so that we can take a photo for remembrance. After about 10 minutes, we saw Wilson (our younger guide hehe) finally arrived at Sayat – Sayat alone. We went and asked him about the others and decided to go down early so that we can rest a bit longer. After a short rest, we went to take our breakfast at Laban Rata restaurant while waiting for the others to come back from the top. I ate exceptionally a lots that morning HAHA Too cold and hungry.

We checked out from our hostel around 10.30AM and slowly started our descend from Laban Rata going back to Timpohon Gate. If ascend was very hard for me, descend was a bit easier though some said going down was harder than going up. I preached otherwise. I can even run downhill while carrying two backpacks HAHA Unfortunately, Jess's little sister was injured and we are so lucky that both our guides are with her and she safely arrived at Timpohon gate around 6 PM while the rest of our group has arrived at 4PM.
Hashtag: Awesome people!
All in all, I am very blessed to be given such opportunity and very grateful that I came home safely despite my sickness and sore muscles by the next day. It was definitely unforgettable memory. Will I climb again? YESSSS I need to conquer the summit! Perhaps next year, during the good weather and hopefully I'm well prepared and have mountain sickness-NO MORE. Thank you Akinabalu! Ps. I miss you.

Thanks For Reading x 


  1. congrats conquering Akinabalu !!!!

  2. Congrats Fay! Never been easy. Sia pun struggling juga dulu. Klau sia p naik ni kali mungkin lagi lah inda fit. Tapi mo pigi naik lagi ni bcos sa mo tingu mcm mana rupa Mt.K pas tu earthquake. Harap2 dpt chance :)

  3. Such a cool adventure! Too bad you didn't reach the summit though you can always go back another time. Thanks for sharing! :)
    Xx nikaia


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