Mt Kinabalu (and more Shangri-La Rasa Ria)(October 19 - 26, 2001 )


Johor Bahru
Kota Kinabalu
Lahad Datu/ Danum
Sandakan/ Sepilok
Gomantong/ Sukau
Selingan & Liberan Is.
Mt Kinabalu
Kuala Lumpur

New Zealand
Mark and Python We stayed at the Rasa Ria in Kota Kinabalu for another two days before tackling Mt Kinabalu. During this time, we discovered Mark's love of snakes, and Chloe's interest in a Wreathed Hornbill named Wilma that hangs out at the hotel.

Yes, that is Mark's hand holding the reticulated python. He held it for the entire 20 minute show while the rest of us made excuses about why we could not get near it. I, for example, had to take pictures of everything. 

Mt Kinabalu

Rothschild ladyslipper orchid

Mt Kinabalu is a world heritage site. The rise in elevation from sea level to over 4095 metres allows many unique flora and fauna to flourish. Orchids are very plentiful, as are pitcher plants whose pitcher is filled with a sweet nectar that both attracts and digests insects. This lady slipper orchid is in the Mountain Garden at the park base.  

We stayed one night in a duplex chalet at the Park Headquarters. The next day, we were assigned our guide (Ronny) and hiked up the mountain to Laban Rata, the rest house near the summit. The walk to Laban Rata was 5 hours of hard work. The girls complained for the first kilometre or so, but then got into a groove and things went very well.

 The trail was about 6 km long with a vertical rise of 1406m (4600 feet). It started raining about half way up, and it got colder. I was having trouble breathing - Laban Rata is at 3272m (10,700ft), and by the time I got there, I think I had mild hypothermia. Being in the tropics, there is no snow on the mountain, but the temperature was less than 10 deg C. I warmed up after a few hours - no one else had any problems. 

The climb is not a tourist attraction. It is a test of endurance and determination that was much harder than I expected.

We discovered that my backpack is not waterproof. All of the warm clothes we brought to wear to the summit were wet. After strategically locating all our wet clothes in the room to dry, we had an early bed at 8PM. 

We were ready to attack the summit at 3:00AM. The theory is that you leave early so that you'll be at the peak for a beautiful sunrise. However,  we're equipped to travel the world, not climb mountains, so we must have looked a little funny - while others had miner's lights, we had our odd assortment of book lights and pen lights to climb with in the dark. Mark and I had socks on our hands because we did not have gloves.

Things started fine, but the altitude affected Heather first. She slowed down a lot and was eventually sick to her stomach. She felt much better after that, but stopped at the Sayat-Sayat hut, the last rest hut before the summit. Chloe also stopped out of sympathy, and Sarah stayed behind to look after them. Still, it was a tremendous accomplishment for the girls. They had reached 3668m (about 12,000 feet) on their own. Pretty good for 8 and 10 year olds!

view from top of Mt Kinabalu

Mark at top of Mt Kinabalu

Mark and I pressed on. With Ronny plodding along behind us, we struggled up the granite face. It is not a technical climb, just an unrelenting steep walk. The altitude and our general lack of stamina was taking its toll. Mark and I both felt sick to our stomachs, and Mark had a headache. I now know what they mean in mountain climbing stories when they talk about every breath and every step hurting. It was hard to catch our breath and we were only at 13,000 feet, not over 20,000 feet like real mountain climbers.

We arrived at the top at around 6:45AM. Too late for the sunrise, but those climbers who arrived in time said that it was mired in clouds anyway.

The peak is 4095.2 m (about 13400 feet). We stayed for a bit and took pictures then went back down. 

We caught up to Sarah and the girls at Laban Rata at about 8:30AM. One piece of toast was all that Mark and I could stomach. At 9:30AM, we started the almost 4 hour walk back down to the bottom.

The kids were fine all the way down. Sarah's knees gave out a third of the way down and my legs turned to jelly around the same spot. As soon as we got back to the Rasa Ria Hotel, we changed our flight to allow us an additional two days to recouperate. I am pleased to report that even the kids are showing signs of sore muscles on the second and third days after the climb. 

Well, two days wasn't quite enough to completely recover, but we boarded the plane back to Johor Bahru on the 26th. On arrival, we took a taxi to the bus station, and then grabbed a nice bus for a 4.5 hour drive  to Kuala Lumpur.