In my life, I would have never thought that I am going for a hiking trip to the highest mountain in Malaysia and one of the highest mountains in South East Asia, the majestic Mount Kinabalu.
Like the previous trips, when one of our friends suggested to hike Mount Kinabalu, I just nonchalantly said ‘yes’ without much thought. Having said that, I was not really excited about the trip even whne it was 1 month left and I just prepared it casually. To make it worse, I did not go for any hiking for the last 3 months before the trip. haha…
Despite of the previous trip to Mount Kerinci and Mount Semeru in Indonesia (Highest and third highest volcano of Indonesia), I know it would be a different experience for Mount Kinabalu.
On the first day, we stayed at D’Villa Rina Ria Lodge which is less than 5 minutes to Entrance of Kinabalu Park (1564m). It was a good place to stay with basic amenities and magnificent view especially while having breakfast in the morning. The next day, we went to Kinabalu Park quite early for registration and we actually combined with other teams. It is vital to be punctual as if there is one team member being late, the entire group will be affected and won’t be allowed to set off for the journey. Every hiker will be given a card as a tag with personal identification. There are only 185 permits given per day and that is why it is vital to book early to secure the limited slots.
There are two trails to go up to the peak which is Timpohon Trail and Mesilau Trail. Unfortunately, Mesilau Trail has been closed indefinitely due to the inaccessibility of the trail caused by the 2015 earthquake that struck Ranau. Once the registration completed, we went to the Timpohon Gate (1866m) which is the starting point of Timpohon Trail by van and it took around 10 minutes to reach there. We were given a briefing by our guide and it is essential for all to give attention to the briefing as it was the first-hand experience from the guide. The information given in the briefing was very useful.
The mission for Day 1 is to reach Pana Laban or previously known as Laban Rata (3273m) and the distance from Timpohon Gate is 6km. The journey for Day 1 will be divided into 2 stages which are to reach Layang-Layang Shelter (2702m, 4km away from Timpohon Gate) and the second stage is to reach Pana Laban which is for another 2km. The advice given by many and also our guides was to have sufficient rest, finish our lunch pack and make ourselves full and be hydrated at Layang-Layang Shelter as many people would succumb to Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) or Altitude Sickness after Layang-Layang Shelter. For the second stage, even though it is just merely 2km, it is very challenging as the trail is steeper and rough with many rock formation.
We finally set off the journey around 9.45 am which was quite late. Our journey was welcomed with the stunning waterfall named Carson Waterfall. It was so refreshing to walk through at the foot of the waterfall.
Along the journey to Layang-Layang Shelter, there are 3 small shelters which are Kandis Shelter (1981m, 0.5km from Timpohon), Ubah Shelter (2081m, 1.0km from Timpohon) and Low II Shelter (2267m, 2.0 km from Timpohon). At the shelters, there are toilets and water points provided. The water is untreated but it is safe to drink.
The trail before reaching Kandis and Ubah Shelter is still moderate in terms of difficulty and it is getting steeper on the journey to Low III Shelter.
After 3 hours, we finally reached Layang-Layang Shelter (2702m) which is 4km from Timpohon. We really took a sufficient rest at Layang- Layang Shelter and ate all of our lunch packs in order to give energy for the next stage and to minimise the effect of AMS.
After getting a breather for almost 30 minutes, we set off to our final destination for today which is Pana Laban. The journey is only 2 km but it is approximately 3 hours to reach there as the trail is getting steeper and rough especially at the rocky area. However, the trail was so beautiful with beautiful plants and flowers. The thick mist makes it more special.
For this stage, we will reach two shelters which are Villosa Shelter (2961m, 0.5km from Layang-Layang Shelter) and Paka Shelter (3080m, 1km from Layang-Layang Shelter). The journey for every meter was quite challenging and the AMS has taken its toll on me as I felt dizzy and sleepy (yawning frequently). It was so near yet so far. We finally reached Pana Laban Base Camp at 5pm. It was a huge relief. Yes!