Friday, December 16, 2011

My Solo Kota Kinabalu Birthday Climb: When the Universe Conspired

Mountaineering is the highlight of my 2011 activities. In twelve months I climbed several mountains of different heights and levels of difficulty.

Mt. Pico (Traverse)
Mt. Tarak Ridge
Mt. Maculot (rockies)
Mt. Batulao (Old to New Trail)
Mt. Arayat (Traverse)
Mt. Manabu (via Grotto)
Mt. Cristobal (Traverse)
Mt. Pantingan Peak (Sept 10-11)
Mt. Makiling Traverse (Sept 24-25)
Malarayat Range (November 5-6)
Mt. Susong Dalaga

And to further highlight my passion in climbing mountains, I decided to climb Mt. Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia on my birthday as my year-ender climb. 

the rock surface located at the top of Kinabalu
The Story

On this trip I got the best birthday luck as the universe conspired.

December 10, 2011 - I reached Kota Kinabalu International Airport a quarter before 5PM. I did not reserve any hotel to spend my night, so after eating my dinner at KFC; I looked for the coziest place where I can spend my night inside the airport. Yes, I slept at the airport.

December 11, 2011 - With the KK map in my hand and enough courage, I decided to find my way to Kota Kinabalu Park. I know I need to spend my night somewhere near KK park to make sure that I will not be late for the registration the next day. By 6AM I waited at Tanjung Aru for the mini bus going to the city terminal. After more than 2 hours of waiting, the bus did not arrive. I know then that I should move around and look for someone who can help me. Then I met Arie Acok Dan Ina, a Malaysian national who lives in Sandakan. He is on his way home, and the bus to Sandakan is passing by KK park.  Awesome!

3PM when I reached KK park. I walked around the area and looked for the nearest and cheapest lodge. And I found Ria Lodge roughly 500 meters away from the park that offered RM30 for a night stay. Awesome again!

December 12, 2011 - The Climb. I was at the park an hour and a half before the 9:30AM registration. Why? Because I didn't secure a guide, and my plan was to hitch with other hikers with whom I can share guide fees with. Since I am climbing solo, hiring a guide for myself would cost me RM128. Luckily, Richard and Emma; a couple from London agreed to tag me along with them and thus, I only have to pay RM42. Cool right?! :D

We started trekking 10:15AM and reached Laban Rata several couple of minutes after 3PM. I was in my room taking a rest when it rained. I don’t think I can bear the cold  weather if I was on the trail trekking and the rain poured. Heaven knows it - A birthday girl should reach the summit.

December 13, 2011 - My natal day. We woke up at 2AM and started trekking up the summit of Kinabalu. It was so cold and I knew we will pave our way to pitched darkness. Emma decided to stay in Laban for she was so tired and not feeling okay; altitude sickness hit her. Just in perfect timing, for I couldn’t find my headlamp, she lent me hers. 

rope segment on the way to summit
see of clouds with Richard
4,095.2 meters above sea level with Adam and Richard
We reached the summit 5:20 in the morning. Me, Richard and Adam (an Australian we met on our way up the summit) were the first group of summiteers. We were there when the sun rises. It was one of the best scenes in my life. The sea of clouds was so beautiful, the sun rises on the horizon looks so heavenly, I was like above the world stepping on the sea of clouds. Indeed the feeling, the view, the experience were overwhelming.

It was 6:20AM when we decided to to back. We reached Laban Rata around 9:30AM, then the rain poured again. The universe indeed conspired on this trip. We took our late breakfast and waited for the rain to stop. We left Laban around 11:00AM and reached the park around 3:10PM. We took our late lunch, shared stories, and bid our sweetest goodbyes. We parted ways with a hug and a pat at the back hoping that someday we will see each other again.

I went back to Kota Kinabalu city. Initially I planned to go back to Tunku Abdul Rahman Park for island hopping but I was so tired. So I just decided to stay in Tanjung Aru beach for a while and headed to the airport right after. I spent another night at the airport, I was there the whole day of the 14th until my 3:30PM flight back to Manila.

Miscellaneous Notes

Kota Kinabalu climb via Timpohan Trail is not that difficult. Anyone who is physically fit, even without climbing experience can climb it. There are established steps on the way up to Laban Rata. Different kinds of steps were created: wooden steps, rock steps, steps out from the tree roots, steps out from soil and any steps you can think of in order to make the climb easier. It is like climbing an endless ladder; easy but oh so tiring!  From Laban Rata to the summit is a little bit challenging. The trail is composed mostly of steep cold rocks.

The weather at the mountain can be so cold. Make sure to bring things to keep you warm. The secret is layering. I used scented oil and wrapped my feet in plastic bags to keep myself warm.

Be friendly and approachable. Maximize all your resources. Travelling is one of the best ways in learning and making friends.

See Guidelines for Kota Kinabalu Climb for detailed information on things to do and expenses.  


  1. Wow, congrats on your successful Mt. Kinabalu birthday climb. A climbful year ahead! :)

  2. Thank you. We're climbing Mt. Pulag (Akiki-Amba) this Feb. and Mt. Apo on June. I hope you can join us :D

  3. wOW! Thank you for sharing your story... now i have an idea on how i will do this... i'll be climbing Mt. Kinabalu next month... solo din ako... hehehe! have to read the other post... the tips.... thanks again! :)

  4. You are a tough girl! Nakaka-miss naman mamundok. My last climb was in G2 in Romblon '05.

    1. G2! Huwaw! o.O
      That's tougher! I planned to climb back last October kaso di natuloy. Hopefully soon. :)

  5. Did it rain at any point during your ascent and descent? I've read that November and December are the rainiest months in the area.

    1. It rained during my ascent but I was lucky enough that I already reached Laban Rata before the rain fell. It was the reason why I had the best view of sea of clouds the day after. My climb to the summit the next day was graced with a good weather.

      We are climbing back this December 13-14 again. Join us? :)

  6. You are Brave! :) Thanks for sharing your experience. Sana magkalakas ng loob din ako puntahan yan.

    1. Hi MJ, I am organizing an open climb for December. Join us. :)


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