Climbing Mt. Kinabalu, Borneo’s highest mountain, was high on my personal to-do list for this trip. The mountain is part of Kinabalu National Park and the trek to the summit, at 4095m elevation, typically takes two days. It’s a very popular trek, but since not everyone walks at the same pace the crowds didn’t bother us much.
On the first day, the trek from park headquarters to the basecamp at Lapan Rata, a long 1400m ascent, took us about four hours. Like most people, we stayed in the lodge run by Sutera, a company that basically has a monopoly on the mountain as there’s no other accommodation and camping is not allowed. Although expensive (all food and provisions have to be carried up by porters), we found everything was well organised and it was certainly the most luxurious trek we ever did, with great meals after the hikes and a comfy dorm bed during the night.
At two o’clock in the morning, everybody got up to begin the trek to the summit, some eight hundred metres above camp. The wind got more and more fierce as we gained elevation and temperature dropped significantly on the exposed rockfaces. For the first time since we left Belgium, we needed our warm clothes. As planned, we made it to the summit just in time to see the sunrise at six in the morning. No need to say the view over Borneo was breathtaking. After the mandatory photos, we returned to Lapan Rata for our second breakfast (An’s favourite meal of the day) and to start the hike back to headquarters.
Although we didn’t find the Kinabalu climb to be particulary difficult, certainly no more than for instance Fansipan in Vietnam or Rinjani in Indonesia, the 2300m of vertical descent on day two was a real leg killer. The next few days we took it very easy…