Some call it the highest mountain in South East Asia (although they would be wrong). Some call it the easiest “proper” mountain to climb (in my experience, I’d say they were wrong too). Some call it an unmissable highlight of their trip to Borneo (they however, would be right on the money). This is my experience of my long hike up Mount Kinabalu, Borneo.
At a whisker below 4100 metres, Mount Kinabalu is the highest mountain between the Himalayas and Papua New Guinea. It’s also the single most popular attraction on Borneo, an island with an amazingly diverse range of natural wonders, from virgin jungle and rare wildlife to world class diving and one of the biggest network of caves in the world.
I began my journey in sleepy Brunei and made the trip via a bus to Kota Kinabalu, (the nearest major town). From there we headed into the Malaysian territory of Sarawak, then back into Brunei, filling in exit and entry forms as we go, and collecting an entry and exit stamp each time we cross a border. After a day of travelling backwards and forwards into different regions of Malaysia I’d collected 8 stamps on my passport! I’d also seen Transporter 3 for the third time in a week, courtesy of the onboard “entertainment” system.
On arrival I immediately realised the mountain was worth the journey. The thermal tops, winter gloves, and hiking poles I’d been lugging around Western Australia for the past few weeks suddenly didn’t seem such a burden after all. I started the climb and then rested and slept at a height of 3600 metres. This was definitley a mistake and one I probably could have avoided.
Upon waking at 1.30am, I had a headache that felt someone had embedded a large axe into my skull, my fingers felt like they had been replaced with icicles and I found it almost impossible to breathe. Luckily, a fellow hiker came to my rescue with some strong painkillers and I began the slow but steady trek to the summit for sunrise.
After four hours of being guided by moonlight, the sun began to rise and I eventually reached the tiny and crowded summit. By this time my hands were almost too numb to take a picture and my head was still throbbing, but I quickly forgot my pain. The awesome views and the sense of achievement was overwhelming. I fully appreciated the grandeur of the mountain as I looked down below at the tiny visions that were the people still pulling themselves up the rope. It was a weird feeling knowing I would soon be joining them, albeit on the easier journey back down…