Thursday, August 28, 2008

Mount Kinabalu 01: The Summit Trail

Quick Facts:
Known in Malay as: Gunung Kinabalu
Location: Sabah, Borneo
Elevation: 4,095 m or 13,435 ft
Type: Granite (batholith)
Prominence: a World Heritage Site, tallest mountain in Malaysia and Borneo Island, 4th tallest mountain in Southeast Asia, and well-known for its rich flora and fauna

I’ve been wanting to climb Mount Kinbalu the first time I heard it. But I was never sure how would I do. Will I make it on top? I am a pessimist by nature and I worry too much. I’ve done a few mountain climbs before (Peak 2--the highest peak in Mt. Makiling; and Mt. Ampacao of Sagada in the North) but I’ve never done Mount Pulag or Mount Apo (highest peak in the Philippines) which to me, are the best preparations before climbing Mt. Kinabalu.

Internet searching tells me that despite its height, Mount Kinabalu “can be climbed easily by a person with good physical condition, and requires no mountaineering training.” I run regularly so I guess that would qualify me somehow. Still, I was doubtful.

Timpohon Gate

Entering the Timpohon Gate, the start of the Summit Trail, which is also the checkpoint for every climber who want to reach the Low's Peak.

Summit Trail

After entering the gate is a sketch of the Summit Trail. Every climber is required to have a guide (preferably 1-3 climbers per guide).

There are actually two trails that will lead climbers to the summit of Mt. Kinabalu: the Summit Trail and the Mesilau Trail. Although the first one is more popular, the latter is a more challenging trail with richer collections of flora and fauna. For first timers, I think it would be better to go for the Summit Trail.

start of the trail

Starting the trail

rocky ground

Rocky road

bumpy stair trail

Rocky steps that get all muddy when it rains.

The summit trail to Mount Kinabalu is a mishmash of uneven and seemingly never-ending stair trails and a risky hike to the granite massif which will lead to the Sayat-Sayat Huts, the last shelter on the summit trail. Before reaching the summit, there are shelter stations with toilets, and drinking water.

power station

Pondok Layang-Layang, one of the marked shelter stations where we took our lunch. It has its own toilet at the back and adjacent is a water tank marked "untreated" to replenish drinks.

stair trail

Never-ending stair trails.

never-ending stair trails

More stair trails

The climb took us two days to complete following an 8-mile stretch from the Timpohon Gate (1866 m) all the way to the Low’s Peak (4,095 m).

the foggy trail

Start of the foggy trail

As we moved up to higher altitude, we noticed the changing of climate zones starting from lowland vegetation to the mountain oak (foggy part), coniferous forest to the alpine meadow plants, and all the way to the stunted bushes of the summit zone. The change in climate and altitude could subject climbers to altitude sickness or AMS (acute mountain sickness), ankle and knee injuries, stomach problems (maybe due to the untreated water from the mountain). Lucky for me, I never encountered any of those...except maybe insurmountable exhaustion and breathing problem at the summit zone.


kyels said...

Wow, the photos are really interesting. You make me want to climb Mt. Kinabalu now.


the donG said...

wow! this is the best and detailed trail feature for kinabalu rayts! thanks to this and im really looking forward to follow this series.

one thing was on my mind while reading this post, i hope that trails to the popular mountains in the philippines will be as nice as this. because the shelter station caters to the foreigners needs.

what's also good is it has two trails.

im looking forward to this series. looking forward to see how you reached the peak.

my gulch said...

hi kyels!
yea, you should. although it was really exhausting it was fun. enjoying the view takes half the burden off. we met a lot of Malaysians along the way particularly those groups from KL, Sarawak and Sabah. most of the people (foreign and local) i encountered during the climb think i am Malaysian so the conversation always starts from there.

established na ang mga trails to the summit so in a way madali na para sa mga climbers. puntahan din kase ng mga turista so maganda ang maintenance sa Kinabalu Park. di ka din basta-basta maliligaw kahit wala kang guide kase marked ang specific points. i tried taking photos of the different trails as much as i could kaso mahirap din kase nakakapagod talaga (mabigat pa kamera ko, iniwan ko na nga ang tripod). meron ding zone sa trail na malakas ang ulan at foggy so i had to stop taking photos.

Ferdz said...

Wow! This brings back lots of memory from my climb as well. Mas lalo na yang mga hagdanan na yan. Torture! hehe.

I have no doubt with your marathon experience makakaya mo mag summit. endurance naman talaga pang laban dito.

Intriguing yung mist sa last shot. Will wait for more.

pieterbie said...

What shocks me a bit is that the person in the third or fourth photo (cannot remember now) is not wearing a pair of good mountain boots. Surely it is not healthy to climb a mountain in ordinary trainers?
Love that last photo with the mist: pretty spectacular.

estan said...

how i wish that local governments learn from what Malaysia is doing. anyway, those wooden ladders are a piece of cake compared to the ones in Mt. Amuyao, Ifugao. Its slippery and almost vertical!

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