In March 1990, I visited Kinabalu Park with five other members of the expedition that
had trekked to the summit of Gunung Trusmadi (2,642m, or 8,669ft) a week before.
Having just climbed Malaysia’s second highest mountain, we were rarin’ to take on
Gunung Kinabalu, the highest at 4,101m, or 13,433ft.
Another night in Tenom and then we journeyed to Kota Kinabalu, or
KK, the state capital of Sabah, via Beaufort. The train ride from Tenom to Beaufort
reminded me of the journeys that I had taken with my father on coal-fired locomotives
in the 1960s. So, for me, that part of our travels was a slow and sentimental journey
back in time. (I believe coal-fired locomotives, which pulled the "Day Mail",
were phased out by the
late 60s in Peninsular Malaysia).
We arrived in Kinabalu Park late on March 17. The next day we joined in the guided nature
walk along the Bukit Burung Trail, we also explored the park on our own, and we watched
the beautiful video documentary on
Kinabalu Park as well as the multi-vision slide show on Sabah's nature parks, a relaxing
and enjoyable prelude to the adventure ahead.
And very early on the morning of March 19, we registered our names at park
headquarters for the climb, paid the necessary climbing fee, and engaged a guide.
(Three others from the Trusmadi expedition chose not to climb Kinabalu as they had
matters to attend to.)
We waited for the other climbers. By 7am, when none of the others had shown up,
we sought and gained the park officials' permission to start out on our own.
Normally, climbers are transported by bus from park headquarters to Timpohon Gate
(about 6,200ft asl) to begin the climb.
We chose instead to trek along the Mempening Trail and Bukit Ular
Trail to get to Timpohon Gate. This meant an additional two hours' walk. The guide
was surprised. He had been a guide for 11 years, and this was the first time he
met climbers who wanted to do it this way. But he was game. He was willing "to walk
the extra mile" with us.
Well, maybe that was all a bit
too ambitious for me. I found the climb extremely tough going. That must
have been obvious to
anyone who had seen me struggling up the summit trail just before Paka Cave.
A group of climbers breezed past me and one of them told his companions, "This one's
not going to make it."
But I knew myself. Our trek to Gunung Trusmadi had been very good training,
for me. After many years at a desk job, I had grown
flabby. Trusmadi had trimmed off much of the flab, and I was as
prepared as I could be for Kinabalu.
We had dinner at the Laban Rata Resthouse. We took a table near the balcony that
gave us a panoramic view of the glorious sunset.
Back at the New Hut, we turned in early. It seemed that we had hardly slept
when the guide woke us up. It was 2am! And it was freezing cold. He told us to
hurry. We could wash our faces at the Laban Rata Resthouse and have breakfast there.
By about 4am, we hit the summit trail again with about 20 other climbers,
all moving in single file. A few more climbers joined the line at the Sayat Sayat Hut,
but by now many had gone far ahead of the others. I believe they arrived at
Low's Peak, the highest point on Kinabalu, as early as 7am.
I was among the last few to reach that craggy pinnacle about 9am. The five other
members of my group
shook my hand vigorously when they saw me clambering up the rock. One of them said simply,
"Chin, you made it!" Later, we posed for the obligatory group photograph
beside a plaque which bore these
words: "Congratulations, you are standing at the highest point
of South East Asia."
We signed a visitors' book that one of the guides had taken out of a rusty steel box.
When all the climbers had written down their names, the book
was returned to its box, whose lid was then weighed down with some rocks.
So there we were standing on Low's Peak on a rather misty March morning. Unlike Trusmadi,
we did not get to see a magnificent sunrise this time. Instead, all around
us was a blurry scene of the almost barren, gray, granitic massif that was the Kinabalu summit.
We waited for a while, and when it was obvious that the mist would not be clearing up
soon, we began our descent, slightly disappointed.
Otherwise, our five-day visit to Kinabalu Park had been most rewarding in terms of the
fun and adventure that we had, and, for me in particular, the photos that we
got (see the small selection below).