Above the Clouds

“Have they not looked at the heaven above them – how We structured it and adorned it and [how] it has no rifts?
And the earth – We spread it out and cast therein firmly set mountains and made grow therein [something] of every beautiful kind,
Giving insight and a reminder for every servant who turns [to Allah ]. [50:6-8]

Summiting Mt . Kinabalu was one of my oldest childhood dreams. Mt Kinabalu–to those uninformed–is the tallest peak in South East Asia, a sprawling 4095 m above sea level. Think of all the mountains you can think and see around Asean countries, and this beauty towers above them all.

I have always delayed this venture. There was a lack of partner, a lack of fitness level or a lack of flight tickets–there is always a lacking in something. Then one glorious day, a Groupon voucher came along, and i just had to make the leap and have trust in Allah. No matter that the departure date is only one month away. At that point, i was convinced that if i didn’t do it now, i’ll never do it.

Sidenote: As i scrutinized past stuff that i’ve done, it has always been decided along this motto: Do first, think later.

Order of events

To those who wanted to do it, start in this order:

1. Survey flight tickets, and lock a tentative date

1. Book said dates and place from Sutera Harbour **, who runs the place.

2. If available, book and confirm flight tickets.

** Bear in mind that sutera harbour doesn’t advertise their walk-in/email booking policy (you would be hard pressed to find any information at all on their website) . This is duly because they would like you to stay at their fancier hotels other than just at the midpoint of the mountain (Laban Rata). Also, i reckon they made a deal with the tour packages to not be as so obvious that people can book a place to climb the mountain without going through a climbing package. However, just drop them an email, they will oblige to respond InshaAllah, because they responded to mine.

Season

The driest season , according to my tour guide is during January till March, with weather getting sporadically wetter from April till June. Avoid July till December as it will not only pour, but there will be waterfalls and flooding on the top of the mountain. You could still possibly have a go during the rainy season but i would advise against it. Why put yourself in a miserable position and also run the risk of not summiting. They won’t let you due to slippery conditions and limited visibility on top.

The only thing i would change on this trip is i would advise on staying nearby Kinabalu National Park (Kundasang area) the night before the climb in order to acclimatize yourself to new heights and prevent Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS). Your body needs time to adapt and function with new higher pressure and lower percentage of oxygen. I did not do that, choosing to depart from Kota Kinabalu town and bussed for 3 hour in the morning towards Kinabalu National Park. However , i did take good precautions and took Altitude Sickness pills (acetazolamide) 24 hours before and during the climb to lessen symptoms of altitude sickness. Climbing  a mountain is really a puzzling cardiac exercise, as when you breath in you can feel that your lungs are never filled up.

Cost

This will be the breakdown of cost of going in as a single person, bearing in mind the cost comes down considerably as the numbers increase in a group but harder to get a place on the mountain.

PhotoGrid_1425653503747

This is a bad photo that you can click on to enlarge, but i have separated the legs of the journey for easier view for costing purposes. Kindly match numbers in the hand written diagram to the list below.

1. KL Sentral-KLIA 2 using ERL (33 minutes): RM 35

2. KLIA 2- KK Airport (2 hours ++ ): Depends on your flight ticket

3. KK Airport- Hotel in KK using Airport Shuttle Bus (30 minutes): RM 5

4. KK Hotel-Kinabalu National Park (3 hours) using Ranau-KK Van : RM20

5. Kinabalu National Park-Laban Rata-Summit-Laban Rata-Kinabalu National Park (2 days 1 night )

  • Accommodation at Laban Rata + 5 time meals : RM250
  • Insurance : RM7
  • Permit: RM 30 (more cheaper with bigger group)
  • Transport to start of trail: RM34 return
  • Porter: RM80 (optional, with RM10 per kilogramme)
  • Guide: RM150 (cheaper with bigger group)
  • Cert: RM10 (optional)
  • Hiking poles : RM10 (optional)

Total 5. is RM 571 for a single person.

Some details:

2 Capture

6. Kinabalu National Park-Kota Kinabalu by Ranau-KK bus (3 hours) : RM 20

7. Kota Kinabalu hotel- Kota Kinabalu Airport  by taxi (30 min) :RM30

8. Kota Kinabalu-KLIA 2: depends

9. KLIA 2-KL Sentral by ERL (33 minutes): RM35

Costs does not include medicines, supplies, snacks and acommodation in Kota Kinabalu as those are too subjective.

Training

Nope . Zero training, and of course i paid the price. My fitness was there, but the leg muscles weren’t prepped for such strenuous activity and the result is me limping during the return down.  Function of my legs ceased for two straight days after descending. That’s two days of holding on to rails for dear life when walking plus weird looks . If you cannot find any mountain to climb in your area to train, get up and down the stairs  to train muscles to contract and expand.

Worth it? 

Hellz yeah Alhamdulillah All Praise and Blessings belongs to the Almighty.

Reflection

I was mostly surprised at how cold it was up there, (around -12 degrees) and how barren the summit was. Imagine naked granite rock sprawling across a 3 km space–both majestic and emanating a feeling of a sordid, dark kind of beauty. Being above the clouds–sipping tea above the clouds —is a magical feeling altogether SubhanAllah that i would recommend all to have to try experience at least once.

Pictures

Head to the facebook album here.

Cheers.

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