Xia's Journey

Torture-bration on Mount Kinabalu ~ Ascend

on December 13, 2013

Date of Trip                 :           1 Dec 2013, Sunday to 5 Dec 2013, Thursday.

To                                :           AirAsia AK 1792, 1 Dec 2013, Sunday, 5.35pm – 8.05pm

Return                         :           AirAsia AK 1791, 5 Dec 2013, Thursday, 2.35pm – 5.00pm

Cost of Flight               :           S$171 per pax, with two way 20kg check-in luggage


– 1 night Accommodation at Step-In Lodge : SG$10.96 (4-person dorm)

– 2 nights Accommodation at Seri Borneo Hotel : SG$81.32 (SG$40.66 per night x 2 nights)

Climb Package

RM 1500 + RM 300 (Via Ferrata activity)

Insanity Begins

It has been “customary” for me to shoot a sunrise on my birthday for the last couple of years.

Two years ago in 2011, I took a cab to Changi to shoot a sunrise.

Last year (2012), I did sunrise on a sunflower field in Thailand, Lopburi.


Sunrise on a sunflower field in Thailand, Lopburi on 3 Dec 2012.

This year, I upped my ante once again by training for four months to do a sunrise on the highest peak in Malaysia ~ Mount Kinabalu at 4095.2m above sea level.

It has never been an intention to climb Mount Kinabalu. All I wanted was to do a sunrise on my Birthday. As I was contemplating my options, one of my friends suggested Mount Kinabalu. Two of my guy friends had agreed to join me in my expedition, but somehow, things did not work out and I decided to do so on my own.

Many of my friends chided me for being obstinate and defiant to do such a dangerous expedition on my own, but I reckon if I do not do it now, I am not sure if I would still be able to do so if I would to procrastinate any further.

It was of no mean feat training for the four months.

I climbed 202 times of my 16th-storey flat, totalling 129,637 steps.

I ran 38km and cycled 82km.

I thought that my training would suffice, but I had overestimated myself and underestimated the intensity of the climb.

I was grossly ‘under-trained’.

Prior to the climb, I had read up, done much research and watched videos – but nothing could prepare me for what I was about to face.


Trained on my 16th storey flat – but apparently still grossly ‘under-trained’.

Mount Kinabalu

Kinabalu Park was established on 16 January 1964 to protect Mount Kinabalu, its plants and animal life. On 2 Dec 2000, the park was designated a natural World Heritage Site by UNESCO. (I came to the park 13 years later on that exact same date!)

The park is a 2-hours drive away from Kota Kinabalu, the capital of Sabah. Covering 754 square km (291 square miles), it has one of the richest collections of flora and fauna in the world. The two biggest attractions in Kinabalu Park are Kinabalu Botanical Garden and Mount Kinabalu.

Sitting within the park, Mount Kinabalu has long been renowned as the most dramatic feature in Borneo with the tallest peak at 4,095.2 metres (13,435 feet) above sea level.

Getting to my Climb

I booked my climb package from Horizon Borneo some 6 months back.

As per the itinerary, Donny came by to pick me up from Step-In Lodge at 6am on 2 December 2013, Monday.

I wondered why I needed to start my journey that early. *yawnzz*…

It was only thereafter that I realized we needed to arrive at the Mersilau gate for the climb before 9am.


6am : Waiting at Step-In Lodge for my pick up.

We drove 1.5 hours to arrive at Kinabalu Park Headquarters to settle the paperworks and to pick up my mountain guide Edwin Moguring.There are two routes to climb Mount Kinabalu; (a) Timpohon trail or (b) Mersilau trail.The Timpohon trail is the older, much easier, shorter and more popular route as compared to the Mersilau trail which was longer, much more ardous and not commonly used.


Arrives at Kinabalu Park Headquarters to settle the paperworks and to pick up my mountain guide.

The Timpohon Gate leading to Timpohon trail is a stone’s throw away from Kinabalu Park Headquarters, whilst the Mersilau trail is another one-hour’s drive away from the Kinabalu Park Headquarters.

In order to experience both trails, I opted to ascend using Mersilau trail and descend via Timpohon trail. It costs an extra RM 100 to drive to the Mersilau trail since it is quite a distance away.


On the stone reads; “Gazetted on 16 January 1964. World Heritage Site Inscribed on 2 December 2000”. I came to the park on 2 Dec 2013 ~ exactly 13 years later! Haahaa… 🙂


Need to get this Climber’s permit before you start your climb. It’ll be yours to keep after the climb too. Your name and the date of your climb will be printed at the back of the pass.

Layang Layang Hut is the intersection point between these two routes.

It is 4km from the start of Timpohon Gate and takes about 2 to 3 hours to arrive here.

From the start of the Mersilau trail, it is about 6.2 km and takes about 5 to 6 hours to arrive here.  See map below.


Trail Map

Mersilau Trail

The Mersilau Trail started in October 1998, is rich in its flora and fauna and used mainly by scientists and researchers.

We arrived Mersilau Nature Resort (the start of Mersilau trail) 10 minutes to 9am.

After some briefings and purchasing a (RM 5) walking pole from the office, it was time to face the ‘monster’ that I had been training for, for the last four months.

Time Check : 9am.

I was eager but yet at the same time apprehensive.

Since it was not the commonly used route, there were only three groups ahead of me on the day that I went (2 December 2013, Monday).


Lugging my 9kg backpack for the next 7 hours…!! Really no kidding…

It was to be a gruelling 8.2km to reach Pendant Hut ~ the accommodation that I will be staying for the night.

There are 5 shelters / huts along the way before I hit the intersection of Layang Layang; Bambu Shelter, Nepenthes Shelter, Tikalod Shelter, Lompoyou Shelter and Magnolia Shelter.

After the intersection, there are two more shelters before I arrive at Pendant Hut.

I used every shelter as a count down marker.


I use every hut / shelter as a countdown marker. Feels so good and happy whenever I see a hut. It means that I’m getting closer to my destination… 🙂

The start of the Mersilau trail was a cool enjoyable walk under the canopy of tall oak trees.

As I trekked on, enveloping roots dominate the undergrowth.

We crossed rocks, boulders and streams with spongy mosses.

We climbed up numerous flimsy wooden constructs and many precipitous slopes.


Nice and cool at the start of the trail.

It was tranquilizing when we came to the Kipuyut suspension bridge with a serene waterfall.

What a great break from the trek and to be so close to and smelling Mother’s Nature breath.


So happy to see this suspension bridge… 🙂

Be prepared for route like these when using Mersilau trail ; streams, steps, stairs, roots, mud etc.
I am more than thankful for my waterproof Goretex Merrell trekking shoes.
Mersilau Trail Collage R2

Be prepared for these…

I had a snappy 30 minutes lunch break at the fifth hut; Magnolia Shelter before we hurried along.

The group of English gals were green with envy when they saw that I had chicken wing and eggs whilst they only had a sandwich and an apple. Heh heh hehh… Hmmm… my chicken wing smells and taste good. Wanna some…? Haahaa… *Evil*…

But you will surely be thankful for the extra bites that you have (if you have), for it was getting cold up there and every single bite of carbo was insulation.


My lunch with sandwiches, eggs, chicken wing, and an orange. Saw others having only sandwiches for lunch (no eggs and chicken wing… Oooppss…)

Every hut has a little bathroom if you should need to relieve yourself.

(Cleanliness wise : My advise is to get it over and done and get out ASAP. No need to go into details… Hahaa… 🙂 )


Every hut has a bathroom. Jes get it over and done and get out asap. Haahaa… 🙂

And near the hut would be a tap to fill up clean drinking water.

You can bring sachets of hydration salts if you would want to shave off some excess baggage weight because every single gram counts especially so with hours of non-stop trekking.


A tap to fill up your bottle. Do not carry unnecessary weight if you do not need to. Every gram counts…!

Just after Magnolia Shelter was this open area where we saw the open skies and glimpses of the mountain. We were getting closer to the clouds, it was getting colder and my nose was starting to drip mucus.


Some solo Kunfu fighting atop Mount Kinabalu… Haahaa… : D

After the Layang Layang Hut intersection, I had two more shelters to countdown before I arrive at Pendant Hut; Villosa Shelter and Paka Shelter.

The path rises steeply once again as I negotiate more roots, more muddy steps and many parts got slippery as it started to rain after lunch at about 1pm.

From here, it was a constant up, up and up and almost never-ending series of steps for the next 2.5km.

2.5km was an easy number when I did my runs and step climbings.

However, when I got to these rugged terrains, 2.5km felt like a 250km route.

It never seems to end and it feels like forever to even get past a 100m!


Climbing up steep steps once again… Huff, Huff, Puff, Puff…

By now, I had trekked for about 5 hours. I could feel the strain on my thighs and calves. My muscles were protesting but I pushed on.

I overtook the third group which was made up of 3 English ladies and 1 Aussie guy. Not too long later, I could see the second group slightly ahead of me, made up of 2 Chinese Malaysian guys.One of the guys only had a DSLR around his neck whilst his bag was being carried by his mountain guide!

After a while, I overtook them too.

I was rather elated with the fact that I started off much later than them but managed to overtake two groups that were ahead of me.


Raining… But still continued trekking… Jia You and Ganbatte… 🙂

I came across this 71 year old man who was on his way up the mountain as well.

He was on the Timpohon trail and had trekked more than 5km when I met him.

Holding on to his walking pole and the sides, he made his way up slowly.

I found him to be a man of strength and courage that even a lot of youngsters were not capable of.

When I told my friends that I was going to trek up Mount Kinabalu, a lot of them mentioned that they DO NOT think they could do it.

And here is this 71 year old man who was making his way up slowly and surely.

He was a living example of true determination and will power.


71 year old man can do it, so can you…!! Determination and Will-power is the root of all successes… 🙂

From him, I found the needed strength and determination to carry on.

I struggled, huffed and puffed and finally caught sight of Laban Rata Resthouse!I knew that once we get past Laban Rata Resthouse, Pendant Hut was just a mere 10 minutes away.

Finally caught sight of the infamous Laban Rata Resthouse…!! My accommodation – Pendant Hut would be a mere 10 minutes away… Yayy… *Jumping for joy*… 🙂

By now, it was slightly past 4pm.

I was supposed to get to Pendant Hut before 4pm for the Via Ferrata Walk the Torq briefing.

I hurried along although my thighs were already screaming in pain.


Pendant Hut just ahead… Comeon, comeon, comeon… Jes a bit more to go…

The briefing had started when I arrived.

Learning that I took the Mersilau trail, they were rather surprised as I only took 7 hours to arrive at Pendant Hut.

Most climbers will take at least 8 to 9 hours, arriving only at nightfall at about 5 or 6pm.

Hmmm… That little remark made my day… 🙂


I was 20 minutes late. Briefing had started at 4pm.

We were briefed on the Via Ferrata route, safety features and had hands-on practice using the carabiners.

It was a good exercise and simulation to prepare us for the Walk the Torq activity the following day.


Safety briefing, demonstration and hands-on experience for the Via Ferrata Walk the Torq activity on the next day.


Pendant Hut

When I got to Pendant Hut, I was brought to a 14-bedded dormitory. I shared the dorm with 2 Chinese guys from Malaysia and 10 (ex)students from Jurong Junior College ~ 9 guys and 1 female. This group of youngsters started the Timpohon trail at 9am and arrived at about 3.15pm (about 1 hour ahead of me).

Pendant Hut was specially reserved for climbers that had booked the Via Ferrata activities; Walk the Torq or Low Peak’s Circuit.

Sitting at 3,289m above sea level, this Alphine-inspired hut has one VIP room for 2 paxs and one quad-sharing room with 2 bunk beds. There are several dormitories (bunk beds) totalling 38 beds. Sleeping bags are provided on each bed.

Although it was indicated ‘Heated shower’, the heated showers ran on solar energy. By the time I arrived, there was little solar energy left and it was way too cold to even wash up, not to mention shower. The water was icy cold and the best I could get to was to brush my teeth and wash my face. Even the wet wipes felt like ice piercing through the body at that altitude.

The toilets and bathroom were at the ‘basement’ and after the 7 hours ascend, the 10 steps down to the washrooms were tormenting.

Laban Rata Resthouse

Laban Rata Resthouse felt so much warmer as soon as we stepped in. I reckon partly because there was much more people in here and the kitchen was whipping up piping hot meals for the famished climbers generating enough heat to keep everyone nice and warm.

I did not get to go around this accommodation but I was told that there is only one heated room with hot shower on the mountain, and that is the VIP room at Laban Rata Resthouse. The room alone would costs a hefty RM1,126 per room, per night!

We were served with a steaming hot buffet spread of rice, noodles, soup, meats, vegetables, fruits and even desserts. I would say that the spread was generous and well thought-out for a good carbo-loading exercise.

Laban Rata Food Collage R2

Second last chance to carbo load before the climb. Better eat more to store up.


Panoramic view from Laban Rata Resthouse

Lights Out

After our dinner at 7pm, we turned in for the night at 7.30pm.

7.30pm! I was not even back home on most days at that hour… Haahaa… 🙂

But, well we had to…  We needed to be up the following day at 1.30am and to start our summit climb at 2.30am.

We snuggled into the sleeping bags trying to get to sleep as much as we could.


Its 7.30PM. Cocooning into the sleeping bags. Get to sleep, we’ve gotta be up at 1.30AM tomorrow…. : X

Some were tossing in the beds, some were snoring away, some were on their mobiles and some were ‘yoko yoko’-ing away (Yoko Yoko is a muscle rub brand).

Personally, I did not get much winks through the night.

My fingers were numbed, throat was dry, head was groggy, nose was dripping, thighs and calves were stiffening.

>> To be continued >> Torture-bration on Mount Kinabalu ~ Summit Climb & Descend


3 responses to “Torture-bration on Mount Kinabalu ~ Ascend

  1. Messy says:

    Are we allowed to bring and use our own safety harness while moving along that scary cliff wall?

    • xia says:

      Hi Messy ;

      I’m not sure if you are allowed to bring your own safety harness, but I don’t see why not. But I reckon its best that you check with your agency / guide first prior to bringing. Good luck and keep safe for the hike and hope you have loads of fun… 🙂

  2. […] Borneo – the agency that I did my Kota Kinabalu climb with, quoted me a RM 250 for the Sea Walk experience and RM 190 for rental of Snorkelling gear, […]

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