Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Viv's Mount Kinabalu Guide - Part 1

OK, I promised to write something on my recent trip to climb Mount Kinabalu. So, here's some useful tips and guide for you.... if you are going to scale the mountain soon =)

Part 1 - Prepare for the Climb

A. Make your accommodation bookings
So you have decided to climb Mount Kinabalu, the first thing you must do is make your accommodation bookings. The journey from KK town to Kinabalu Park HQ took about 2-3 hours of uphill and winding drive. Thus, for 1st time climbers, its better for you to arrive at the Kinabalu Park HQ the day before your climb for a good rest, and you can also take the opportunity to register yourself for the climb tomorrow.

Kinabalu Park HQ

You have to make bookings for accommodation at the Kinabalu Park HQ with Sutera Sanctuary Lodges for the first night, and at Laban Rata for the second night. Sutera Sanctuary Lodges have few types of rooms for you to choose from. If you are on budget tour, take the hostel. I stay at the hill lodge this trip. Its a nice room with 2 single beds and attached bathroom, I like the extra thick blanket especially :)

the Hill Lodge

Our room

If you do not have a place to stay at Laban Rata, then you are not allowed to climb. Another reason for you to book earlier is that heated rooms/shower are only available at Laban Rata Resthouse, the rest of the huts at Laban Rata are not heated. It can be freezing cold at night, and just imagine you have to take cold shower....

They have two restaurants there, namely Balsam Cafe and Liwagu Restaurant. You can have your dinner there, pack your bag for the climb tomorrow, and go to sleep early.

One of the restaurants - Balsam Cafe. The daily climbing briefing is done here at 6pm by the park rangers.

B. Your Physical Preparation
Boost up your stamina & prepare your leg muscle & knee/ankle strength for the climb ;) For those that goes to gym frequently, all those hard work will pays off now. Just do some stepper exercise during the month before your climb. For me, since I have no access to gym before my climb, I have been training outdoors for two months. I exercise about 5 days per week, with combination of jogging, swimming, cycling & stairs climbing. Swimming is good for you to train your lungs for even breathing, this is especially important during the 2nd part of climb, where you are at high altitude & and air is thin. My friend did not really train for the climb, but she got to the top too :) because she has no problem with high altitude and cold weather. Just that after the climb, you will have muscle pain.

C. AMS - Acute Mountain Sickness
You've got to pay attention to this. Even you are very strong, this may be the obstacle for you to reach the peak. AMS is caused by a lack of oxygen while you climbing to higher elevations. This usually occurs in individuals exposed to an altitude above 8000ft (2400 m); & Laban Rata is at 3262m, Low's peak at 4095m. Some people get it, & some dont. If you have AMS, the symptoms would be headache, nausea, loss of appetite, vomiting, disorientation & shortness of breath. I suffered mild AMS after Sayat-sayat hut at 3810m, I started to vomit and have short breathing. To try prevent this, bring along some panadols, & take them before the night climb. Avoid alcohol and sleeping pills the night before and stay hydrated. I am not sure though is there any special medications to prevent AMS. Go here for further reading on AMS

D. Things to bring - Day Climb
The climb to Mount Kinabalu summit consist of two parts. First part is the day climb from Timpohon Gate to Laban Rata (Summit Trail). There is another longer trail which is call Mersilau Trail. Both trail will intersect at Layang-layang hut (@ about km4). Since I am climbing the summit trail, the guide here will be all based on the summit trail. Total distance for day climb is about 6km, and the average time used to climb would be around 4-6 hours. Although the weather can be quite cooling, but because you are climbing, you don't really feel cold, thus you can wear normal t-shirt. Here is the list of things to bring:

1. Disposable rain coat (it usually rain in the afternoon)
2. Plastic bag to cover your bag pack (in case it rain)
3. 500ml or 1 liter of water (depends on you. There are untreated water for you to refill at every resting hut, and toilets too)
4. Energy food (e.g. Raisins, energy bars, banana, chocolate, etc.)
5. Small towel (if you really can sweat)
6. Good shoes (hiking shoes is the best, sport shoes is sufficient, but may be slippery)
7. Camera (with enough batteries)
8. Deep Heat (rub lots of these on your legs before your climb, you can re-apply while you rest at the huts too)
9. Knee support (wear this if you have problems on your knees)
10. Walking stick (if you have one; if not, they are available for rental at RM5 each at Kinabalu Park HQ)
11. Toilet papers

E. Things to bring - for the stay at Laban Rata
1. Slippers (when you take showers)
2. Sleeping bag (if you stay at non-heated huts)
3. Toiletries
4. Mee cup, bread, tuna, 3-in-1 drinks packet e.g. oats, milo (the food at Laban Rata is quite expensive, so if you bring these, you can buy the hot water at 60 cents, & make your own food)
5. Medicines

F. Things to bring - Night Climb
Second part will be the night climb from Laban Rata to the summit. The distance is about 2.7km. You will usually start the climb at around 2am, and its roughly 3-4 hours climb to catch the magnificent sunrise..above the clouds. Since its a night climb, the weather will be freezing cold & windy, at about 5-9 deg C. So, you got to prepare yourself for it.

1. Warm clothing (Winter jacket, those waterproof with Gore-tex would be best, thick trousers, long-sleeves shirts. For me, because I really cannot stand cold weather, I wore my long-johns too)
2. Thick socks
3. Gloves (wear your winter gloves inside, and wear another layer of cheap gardening glove outside, so that you can throw away the dirty & wet glove after the climb)
4. Beanies
5. Head Light
6. 500ml water
7. Energy food
8. Minyak Angin (in case you have mild AMS and feel dizzy. Sorry, I dunno what is it called in English)
9. Camera (dont forget this, the view at the summit is really breath-taking)

Don't carry too much during the night climb. However, its advisable to bring along a small bag pack. This is because when you climb down, the sun would have rise and thus the weather starts to get warmer. You can then start to take off your jackets one by one & put them inside your bag pack =)

Coming up next, its what to expect during your day & night climb! Stay tuned...

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