Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Majestic Mount Kinabalu with Via Ferrata

During my Uni years, each semester break was spent with mountain climbing, trekking, camping and other similar sort of activities. I was barely at home. And mum was constantly complaining and dad was constantly refusing to give permission. *I hadn't infected to this addictive travelling disease yet but the idea of travelling around the world already at the back of my mind. The only foreign land I visited then was Singapore as it was just a drive away from JB. And I first fell in love with train ride during my JB-Dabong ride, it took more than 12 hours but it was fun*

Entering into working world, slowly the adventurous me turning into day tripper. But I know the spirit is not vanish, it's still within me, faded a little, waiting for the right moment to be set out again and perform. It is a shame to admit that the only climbing I did within this working years was Mount Kinabalu. Oh please somebody, persuade and drag me to the nature with you so I don't forget how exciting it is to do nothing in the jungle but walking and trekking the whole day.

Well, this post is publish because I was inspired lately by my friend's brother who recently just came back from MOUNT EVEREST. Yes, u heard me, Mount Everest as in Mount Everest! Not the base camp u guys. Check this out.

This is him, Syahir

With the rest of the team including Dato Khalid Yunus

How amazing is this?

What crosses your mind when looking at those picture?
For me, it reminds me of my all-time favourite movie - Vertical Limit.

So here I'm sharing my humble experience of the highest mountain I've been to on 2008 - Mount Kinabalu, Sabah.

Known for its height, Mt Kinablu stands at 4095m making it the highest mountain in Malaysia (but not in SEA as what we've been told so). Since it's being too commercialize, the trek from the base camp to the peak is already pave in such a way to ease climber, making it easy even for novice climber. As I myself hadn't climb for so long since uni and didn't know when I could have the same opportunity again, I coupled the normal climbing with via ferrata activity. 

What is Via Ferrata activity?
Good question there.

I quoted from Wiki "A via ferrata is a mountain route which is equipped with fixed cables, stemples, ladders, and bridges. The use of these allows otherwise isolated routes to be joined to create longer routes which are accessible to people with a wide range of climbing abilities. Walkers and climbers can follow via ferratas without needing to use their own ropes and belays, and without the risks associated with unprotected scrambling and climbing".

So, here are few glimpse of what via ferrata looks like if the definition above gets u nowhere.

So, back to Mount Kinabalu. 
The rewarding breathtaking sunrise from above the clouds at the summit starts with climbing from two main starting points; either Timpohon Gate or Mesilau Nature Resort. Although Mesilau trail gives more opportunities for diverse flora and fauna, due to its more rugged trail and additional 1.5km than Timpohon, Timpohon trail has always become climbers option including myself and my other 3 friends. After registered at Kinabalu Park and given a climbing permit, we were briefed on park's regulations by our accredited guide, Doina. At all time, climbers have to be accompanied by accredited guide due to the regulations.

What I lugged

Climbing buddies: Apad, Botaq & Ayun

Kinabalu Park
The starting point of the climb

The first half of the climb was through 6km trail of wooden and stone stairs. Steadily ascending up to Laban Rata. I despised this stairs trail as my short leg found the large steps quite tiring and when it became routine and repetitive, my interest faded and so thus my mental endurance. 

The 1st km
Early climb - still manage to smile
And pose for photo

Started to hate the trail

i have issue with this kind of trail - I hate stairs

oh cute little creature

I couldn't agree more when Doina offer to carry my 7kg haversack together with Ayun's which she has carried earlier than mine. The haversack load had taxing so much of my energy and by 3km I had regret climbing without proper physical preparation. My personal advice is try to conserve as much energy as you can by climbing lightweight and make use of your guide (my guide is also a porter) because the second half of the climb is more demanding (at least for me). 

Trail started to change

with more rocks

After all, Doina only charged me RM50 for my bag!!! Of course power bar, candy, climbing stick I bought at Kinabalu Park and friends' words of encouragement and silly jokes helped enlighten my burden and spirit. Thanks Ayun, Apad & Botaq. An average climber like us usually can accomplish the climb to Laban Rata in 3-5 hours with few stops at shelters (pondok) along the way. There are total of 7 shelters with each have toilet and supply of untreated mountain water to replenish your water bottle. 

Pondok Ubah

Pondok Lowi

To have a short break from the climb
Continue to Laban Rata


I don't mind this kind of stairs

At least I can pace myself

Ok, about another 1km to go

The beauty up there - only for those who willing to climb

Since we chose to do via ferrata activity, we had to climb 17m higher than Laban Rata to our lodging, Pendant Hut. It is also Mountain Torq office (back in 2008, now they have office opposite Kinabalu Park office) and via ferrata familiarization briefing area. 

Finally, Laban Rata
Laban Rata Cafe

Had a drink first before proceed to Pendant Hut

Turn left to Pendant Hut

That's Pendant Hut from Laban Rata

Mountain Torq offers two via ferrata routes; Low's Peak circuit and Walk The Torq. Wanted to experience the most via ferrata on Mt Kinabalu has to offer, we selected Low's Peak Circuit where it begins at 7.5km, 3776m above sea level!!! While other climbers who are not engage in this activity have to descend using the same trail as ascend, via ferrata climbers are using different route and method and got to enjoy jaw-dropping views in this less traveled route. How about that?

The World's highest Via Ferrata baby!

At Pendant hut with Panar Laban rockface as background

Laban Rata from Pendant Hut

During via ferrata familiarization, our trainer (from Mountain Torq) teached us how to use all technical safety equipments required and it assured us how this such adventure activity is safe. 


Via Ferrata familiarization

We had dinner before forced to early bed. Special thanks to Botaq for being such a gentleman descend to Laban Rata Hut and brought our packed dinner in the middle of cold and wild weather. It was foggy and windy and COLD. I guess the weather has badly affected by typhoon in the Philippines we heard in the news recently. Many wild thoughts lingered in my mind, many resisting to pursue the climb.

Pendant Hut bunk bed

Without heater, only sleeping bag

I've come this far, I should proceed

The second half climb can start as early as 1am but the time when we left Laban Rata was 3am. I was intimidated and discouraged by a warning sign put by national park ranger on the wild weather. They still open the gate and allow climbers to reach summit, but at our own risk. And when I glanced behind to Laban Rata I left in few metres, I can clearly see the temperature meter showed 5 degree C. I was frozenly scared and reluctant to proceed. It took me a while to subside the fear and collect myself back. With one mission in mind, I followed behind the other climbers footsteps in chilly dark surrounding heading to summit. 

My pace reduced tremendously and I couldn't see any sight of my friends anymore except other climbers. I've been climbing in the dark, but the weather, the altitude, the vision couldn't be compared to any of my previous climbs. The best I did was keep reminding myself of my mission and keep slow moving but safe. It was getting difficult when I was blinded by fog of my own spectacles. At this point, I blamed my imperfect eyesight and wish the spectacles have small wiper to clear the view ahead. Doina being a responsible and understanding guide herself, offered to take my hand and pulled me up when I didn't show any progress of climbing but instead constantly disturbed clearing my fogged spectacles. I held her hand tightly, my only dependence, while my feet blindly stepped on odd surfaces I didn't bother to figure out. She was rather like dragging me than guiding me hehe...I swear it was the toughest moment that tested me to my core.    

The last checkpoint to summit is Sayat-sayat Hut and sadly to say, that's the highest point I reached. They had closed the gate by the time Ayun and I registered our name. Doina advised us not to continue since it was already too late and worried my condition worsen at the top later. So, Ayun and I had to satisfy reaching at only 3680m. Sob sob...It was a massive achievement to get until this far considering there were many man climbers who turned back. Doina left us at Sayat-sayat Hut and had to continue to summit accompanying Botaq and Apad. It was another challenging moment staying up there in cold until both of them descend from summit to continue with our via ferrata activity. The waiting felt like forever, with no heater. We were shivering and every possible attempt to maintain our body temperature failed.

Apad and Botaq made it to the summit. Congratulations. Of course I was envy with them but they admitted there wasn't any scenery witnessed better than foggy grey coloured sky and no time spent to admire nature's creation. A quick way down was more appealing to them. Although Mount Kinabalu is highly accessible mountain, during bad weather like this it can turn to miserable experience like we had. 

Foggy photo of Botaq at the summit

It's true when they said mountain weather is unpredictable. Our via ferrata activity was almost next to never if the weather didn't get any better than last night. Finally our via ferrata trainer arrived, made us some hot drinks and ratified we can get our activity done, but only via Walk The Torq route starting from Sayat-sayat Hut since poor me and Ayun didn't get to Low's Peak. Just look at the weather, bright and sunny!

Descending from Sayat-sayat to Via Ferrata starting point


Nothing can trade this view

us with Doina


Since I didn't made to the summit, successfuly and safely be able to do via ferrata on Mount Kinabalu was the highlight of my climbing. A blessing in disguise for able to witness such panoramic view with the greatest friends.     

Alhamdulillah, back to Pendant Hut for breakfast

Successfully did the via ferrata!

Last stop to Laban Rata before descend to Kinabalu Park - temperature was 14C

Till we meet again Pendant Hut

With a great weather like this

InsyaAllah, in 2012 I will conquer the summit of Mount Kinabalu since few friends are going and they invited me to tag along. This time, I'll bring back colour certificate of achievement :)