Friday, August 19, 2016

Climbing Mt. Kinabalu: Top 10 Tips for Noobs!

Before I begin, I must first make it very clear that I’m writing as an ABSOLUTE MOUNTAINEERING AMATEUR. Also, I did not summit.

Here are 10 tips for climbing Mt. Kinabalu as a newbie!

1.       Train!

You will meet people in your life who will tell you Mt. Kinabalu is an easy one to conquer. I beg to differ. The above is only true if you are physically fit, and even then, there’s still the weather, the cold, and fatigue to consider.

TRAIN! Don’t be like me. I trained halfheartedly, doing only one climb up Bukit Saga and a few up FRIM’s Canopy Walk.

Find trails with lots of stairs and varied difficulty levels to prepare yourself because the new Timpohon trail will have you struggling to the very last second.

Last stretch of 20 something steps before you reach the gate. I really wanted to just collapse right here :'D

2.       Be prepared

          It’s more than just being physically ready; you have to also be mentally and emotionally
          prepared. She WILL drain you and there will be so many instances when you might feel like
          throwing in the towel. Don’t let her faze you. Keep telling yourself you can and keep moving.

          Also, be medically prepared. You want to bring along paracetamol and/or altitude meds to
          combat altitude sickness, flu meds if you’re prone to colds due to chilly weather, and heat rubs

3.       Pack SMART

When I was packing for this trip, I found so many lists online that asks you to bring what I feel (after the climb) is TOO MUCH. You don’t want to be carrying extra weight and you honestly DON’T need 4 pairs of tees. 

Bring only what you absolutely need because when you get there, you’ll be adding bulk to your backpack with your packed lunch and water.

Here’s what I packed for a 2D1N trip:

a.       Worn on Day 1 of the climb
-          1 long-sleeved thermal top
-          1 lightweight short-sleeved tee
-          1 long weatherproof pants
-          1 pair of socks
-          1 pair of hiking shoes
-          Headscarf
b.      Clean pair of underwear
c.       1 long-sleeved thermal top
d.      1 lightweight long-sleeved fleece top
e.      1 pair of socks
f.        1 pair of thermal socks
g.       1 pair of tights
h.      1 buff
i.        Headlamp + extra batteries (NEED)
j.       1 Weatherproof windbreaker
k.      1 pair of gloves (NEED)
l.        Snacks
j.   Toiletries (facial wash, toothpaste, toothbrush, moisturiser & sunscreen [NEED- i know you can't see the sun but you'll be so close to it, it WILL burn you])
k. Phone charger

We reached Laban Rata and checked in at a pretty good time so we could brave the cold water and shower, after which we changed into clean clothes so we could sleep in them. The next morning, all we did was layer on our dirty clothes to keep us warm during the summit climb.

4.       Respect the Mountain

The Sabahans, especially the men and women who work and live on and around the Mountain consider her to be a sacred entity.

Even if you cannot bring yourself to believe what they believe, at the very least, respect it.

There are washrooms aplenty up there and there’s really no need for making loud noises.

5.       Be friendly

Get acquainted with those who are ascending and descending the same day as you are. You don’t know how much this will help you along the way.

I made friends with many climbers up there. Did I take down their contacts? No. Do I plan to see them again? Not really. But, we did do a good job of looking out for each other throughout the climb; be it sharing snacks, sending out reports of injury, or even emergency “oh-crap-blood-is-coming-out-of-my-vag-when-it-shouldn’t” needs.

You will NEED these people, so, be friendly!

With my travel buddy, Jehan, our Malim, Gilan, and his friend, Azizi

6.       Buddy-up!

Sometimes, if you’re unlucky, your travel partners will either be absolute snails who can’t keep up with you or total Sonics (the Hedgehog, people) who leave you behind. If that happens, don’t worry! Refer to my last tip.

All those friends you’ve made? Well, time to find one who’s as slow or as fast as you and buddy up! BE A LEECH, especially if you’re alone.

Remember: the more buddies you have, the less likely it will be for someone to find you dead on the trail. Or worse, for no one to find you at all. Sounds dramatic, but shit happens.

7.       Listen to your Malim (FERREALZ!)

           I don’t even know why I have to say this but apparently, A LOT of people don’t listen to their              guides. Guys, they do the trail two to four times a week. They know it like the back of their

           Do you really still need me to convince you on this one?

Mr. Fantastic, Gilan

8.       Take your time

You’ll hear all the local guides and porters repeat this: “Pelan-pelan aja” which translates to “just go slow”.

The key is to as much as possible not stop moving. Just keep going forward at your own pace. It’s not a race and there’s much to see if you lift your eyes up and look around.

I moved really slowly during my descend from Sayat-Sayat in order to enjoy the view.

9.       Understand your limits

You know yourself better than anyone. Yes, sometimes we need a little encouragement but at times you just have to know when you’ve reached your limits and stop there.

I couldn’t summit even though I reached Sayat-Sayat in time because I couldn’t breathe properly due to my asthma. Also, the ropes scared the bejesus out of me. And so, that was where I stopped my summit climb and waited to soak up the sunrise.

The rope leading up to the summit.

10.   Bring more cash than you think you might need

In the case of injury or fatigue, someone will need to carry you up or down the mountain to save you. This will cost you a pretty penny (About RM 300/km heading down and RM 600/km heading up) and just in case this happens, you want to be prepared. 

I realise I haven’t actually shared about the trip but I just wanted to get these out there while I still remember every last detail.

If you ARE making the trip soon, I hope you find this helpful.
Have fun!


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