For this trip, we had one thing in our mind and one thing only: climb Kota Kinabalu all the way to the top and come back in one piece. Our adventure partners were Richard and Hayley whom we trained with for this challenge. In retrospect I wish we had trained more and more focused on climbing stairs but I am proud to say that our mission was accomplished.
We started our trip in great style with a couple of days by the beach at the Shangri-la Rasa Ria. The hotel was very nice but we were not completely blown away by the beach. The plus side is that they own a orangutan rescue centre where we were able to see a infant orangutan that was on rehab – really nice to see an organization like that.
Anyway, let’s get into what really matters. The climb is set up to be done in 2 days in one night so and I will describe them to you here.
Day1: we were picked up by Amazing Borneo at 7am and reached the start of the trek at about 9:30am after a quit sinuous journey. Upon arrival our guide/ porter (Indie – inspired by Indiana Jones) was assigned to us. The little guy had huge legs and was able to carry our entire luggage up. We didn’t have much but we made sure to have warm clothes for the next day, lots of water and medicine for anything that could happen. We set off at about 10:30 – me with my newest best friends “walking sticks”. I swear they were the best thing I carried to that trip! I don’t think I would have been able to make those horrible steps up and down without them. Yeah you heard well – steps! Lots of them! Nobody warns you but I will. If you think you are going to experience a long steep path you are wrong. You will be faced with the most amount of steps of your life. Small wooden ones, large clay ones and ridiculously big rocks. The terrain really changes over the climb but one thing you can bet on: there will be steps. Moving on. The first stage is a 6km climb to the accommodation and we did it in 5hours. The accommodation is very simple: no showers, shared rooms, bunk beds, mess hall and only cold water. All of that is (kind of) forgotten given the amazing view. The accommodation is located just above the clouds so the sunset was truly spectacular but we were very lucky with the clear weather. At 6pm we had dinner and by 7.30pm everyone is in bed getting ready for the next day. Ps.: at that point I almost decided not to go the day after – it was cold (yeah, it does get cold even though it is in SE Asia), my body was completely exhausted and I was afraid of the climb in the darkness.
Day2: 1:30am wake up! Everything is pitch black and we set off at 2:15am with the help of our head torches. The climb starts with a lot of small wooden steps but soon we reached the ‘danger zone’ which is a part where you climb holding a rope because there is a massive cliff right next to you. Needless to say that it was the scariest part of all. It is only a 2.8km climb but it took us almost 4hrs to get to the summit. 4 hours of pure fear and exhaustion with no silver lining because you can’t freaking see anything yet. It is was as much of a physical challenge as it was a mental one. I wouldn’t have done it if it wasn’t for Abraham encouraging me ALL the way. We finally made it to the summit just before the sun rise. Oh what a view! Unbelievable to think that we got to 4,095m on foot. It was very cold up there so all the clothes that we removed because of the heat of the exercise were totally needed to be able to enjoy the view for a few minutes. That’s because that’s all we had before starting our descend.
At 7:30am we were at the beginning of the small via ferrata. This was an add-on to the adventure (because it wasn’t enough) – it is a steel cable aided rock descend. That was quite fun! We got to cross a cliff stepping on cables only! UHU! If you are in rush to go down then don’t do the via ferrata. It took us 2,5hrs to descend 600m.
After that we got back to the accommodation where we had breakfast and relaxed a little. At 12pm we happily started the 6km descend that we thought it was going to be easy. Hell no! Those steps made the journey down just as slow and tricky as the climb. It was not anymore about the cardio effort but let me just say that the joints were crying! By 6pm we were on the bus that took us back to the hotel.
We stayed in a TH hotel very close to the airport to catch our flight the next morning. The hotel was not nice at all but it had a bed and a shower which is all we needed. Our legs were completed dead but we had a very nice feeling of accomplishment to bring back home.
Now reflecting back we are very pleased to have done it. The feeling of achievement is incredible. At the moment you don’t really have enough time or energy to appreciate it fully but it was amazing!