YOLO PT.1 : the great September Kinabalu climb!

What’s up with the title? For starters, I am not a mountain climber, and I rarely go up in the mountains. My only physical activity aside from walking back in forth in the laboratory is running and hitting up the gym or crossfit session every once in a while. SO I AM VERY BRAVE when I decided to climb this beautiful Mount Kinabalu. This mountain is situated in Sabah, Malaysia standing 4,095m (13,435 feet above sea level). It is said that Mount Kinabalu is the highest mountain between the Himalayas and New Guinea. For more information about this majestic mountain, you can visit this site. They also offer packages for those interested to climb and explore Kota Kinabalu.

Okay, so how did it happen? I stumbled upon this blog: Sunrise Odyssey (read their stories here, super helpful as well as the other related links!) regarding Mount Kinabalu and since I am very intersted to visit Sabah, I asked my long time friend to join me in this quest. We booked our packages in Amazing Borneo tours, as recommended, for our 3 days climb plus one day Padas water rafting adventure (4990RM for 2 pax). See below for detailed infor of our package:


TOUR DATE: 11-14 SEP 2016




MEALS: 03 Breakfasts, 03 Lunches, 02 Dinners & 01 Supper

INCLUSION: Meals as Stated, 03 Nights Accommodation, Entrance Fees, Return Airport/Hotel Transfer (Seat-In-Coach), Return Transfer (Park HQ – Timpohon Gate – Park HQ), Mountain Guide, Climbing Insurance, Climbing Permit and Certificate, English Speaking Support Team, River Guides (01 Guide Per Raft Boat), Rafting Gears


–          DAY 1: 01 Night Kinabalu Park Hostel – Grace/Rock (Dormitory)

–          DAY 2: 01 Night Laban Rata Rest House or Similar (Non-Heated Dormitory)

–          DAY 3: 01 Night 3* Kota Kinabalu City Hotel (Twin-Share)

For me, it was really a good deal and Amazing Borneo is a legit company which can make your stay in Sabah worry-free.We also bought souvenir T-shirts from them! Good quality, I still use it! For those with limited budget, you can also opt to choose DIY and maybe you can get it in a cheaper deal since you’re going to book your accommodations by yourselves. However, since we don’t have a lot of time to spare, the tour was just exactly as we wanted.

I cannot specify anymore details on this trip (since it’s been 7 mos have passed) so let the pictures tell you how amazing and tiring climbing Mt. Kinabalu.

We spend one whole day in Kota Kinabalu City before our transfer to Kinabalu Park fetched us the next day. We walked around the malls, ate our lunch, stayed in a coffeeshop (guess where? Starbucks, lol) and in the end, we realized that we wasted a lot of our time because we went to the wrong place. We discovered that we should have gone at Suriah Sabah Mall, haha, which was just walking distance from our hostel. That was still fun though because we had a good exchange of stories to catch up with each other. Take note, if you need climbing gears and you still don’t have any, fret not, Suriah Sabah Mall is a haven. I forgot the shop where we bought our raincoats and trekking pole but it’s way cheaper than in Singapore.

In the late afternoon, we decided to call our taxi driver and headed to Tanjung Aru or Aru Beach to get a glimpse of sunset (yes, we had our own driver cos we previously hailed him at the streets, and he wanted to show us around, without being ripped off!! and yey for the bonus, he can speak Filipino so no hassle to where we want to go!). It’s a little off the city, maybe around 45mins depending on the traffic, and unfortunately, we didn’t see any sunset cos it’s a little cloudy. During our dinner at the hawker center, it rained so hard. Not a good sign for our pending climb though.


this is what platonic friendship looks like, lol, we need to clarify on that. haha love you bro!

Our transfer to Kinabalu Park came a little late in our hotel (HOTEL Five-O, via booking.com). By the way, hostel is just beside the night market/ weekend market so we had our spare time for the last minute shopping for things we need for the climb. We spent one night in Kinabalu Park to acclimatize, the weather was so cold. But before we arrived at the Park, we visited some good view points of the mountain.


The rooms in Kinabalu Park are so spacious and since we’re at the 1000+masl, it’s so cold that you don’t need airconditioner nor electricfan. As I’ve mentioned earlier, the food and accomodations were included from the time that they fetched us. We had a buffet dinner, packed lunch for the climb and buffet again for late lunch when we were back from the climb. The Laban Rata, which was our accomodation for one night also served us food when we reached it and breakfast before descending.


our accomodations (hotel five-o, kinabalu park, laban rata)

 Going back to the climb, it was really tough since it was rated as 6/9 difficulty. We started our ascent from Timpohon gate to Laban Rata Resthouse around 9am and I think we reached around 3pm. Note that Timpohon Gate (1,866m a.s.l) @ Kinabalu National Park is the starting and ending points for all climbers. It was already a good pace for me since I am not an experienced climber. Fortunately, it did not rain for the whole 6km ascent. We settled down in our room after we eat. The room was freezing and to be honest, I didn’t have a good sleep for the summit ascent the next day because it was too cold and I was too exhausted to the point that I felt like I’m a zombie. It was late when we realized that we can just book a room with heater. (so remember to bundle yourself up with layers of clothes if you cannot book a heated room)


We did our very best to reach the summit. We started 2am for the summit ascent. The wind was blowing so hard that my face was as cold as ice. After passing the crucial 7km point, where I literally hold on for my life to the rocks and the white rope, we made our decision to continue climbing up. However, we didn’t manage to make it. At the middle of 7-8km, my friend decided to go down, it was really a tough call for him but, I cannot blame him since it was really dark, and steep and the only source of light that we have was from our headlamps. Other climbers were too far already from us, and my guide was not comfortable to let my friend descend alone, so in exchange I ascended to the summit alone, with the white rope as my guide. My gopro was packed in my bag but, I don’t have any shots from it. Neither a video! you may say it was wasted but, I really felt one with nature that time. Alone trekking, it gave me peace that my only goal was to reach the summit.


me at KM 8.0!!!

However, the weather got bad. In my case, I was 200m away from the summit when a great cloud covered the whole place. It was insane as it was zero visibility that time, our guide, Veronika, was still catching up with me that time and when she finally reached me, she told me not to continue anymore. Other guides stopped me too. It was really saddening. Nevertheless, I am still satisfied with the outcome of my climb. Safety first as they say, and yes, I only live once! the last 200m leg is crucial and you really need to pull yourself up to get to the summit. It was definitely sad but, I never realized how strong I’ve become to be able to reach my highest point, alone with the white rope, in the middle of darkness.


Mt. Kinabalu view from Kinabalu Heritage Park


that’s the summit!!


the view from above, during the descent


finally! with Veronika and JM at Park HQ

There’s always a second chance to climb though. Last note, respect the mountain and love the nature, it always pays off! BEST YOLO I HAD IN MY ENTIRE LIFE! no kidding 🙂

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