“I’m really glad I did it!”
Liz Pang (Hong Kong)
Initially I was coordinating the trip with some friends but they later withdrew so I was left planning this trip alone. There are a number of agencies online but after some research, I chose Amazing Borneo. I procrastinated about dates but despite my own uncertainties they proved to be very efficient and professional. As a single traveler, they are much more reasonably priced than other agencies which charge double. All my queries, no matter how petty, were speedily answered via email. I was provided an itinerary, and punctually picked up from my hotel in Kota Kinabalu and driven 1 ½ hours to base camp. They assigned a very good guide, Joe, who took good care of me. He gave me a safety briefing before we embarked. As his English was very good we had some interesting chats on the way.
Much of what other reviewers mentioned regarding what to bring up is pretty much spot on; prepare 3 sets of change; preferably cargo trousers, lounge pants ( to relax in), 2 short sleeved t-shirts, 1 long sleeve t-shirt, fleece, rain coat (for the summit), 3 pairs of socks, underwear, beanie, waterproof cap, waterproof hiking shoes, and a poncho. If you don’t get wet from the November rainfall then you’ll get wet from your own sweat. Even on the way up to the summit, you will sweat and end up taking off a layer of clothing! Take gloves, and a torch light to strap on your head, and most importantly a walking stick. Package the main bulk of the kit in a simple bag, and hire a porter to carry it. Repack the lunch box into a plastic bag to save space and have additional energy bars to snack on every kilometer or so. And don’t forget to carry water and a first aid kit containing plasters and basic medicine.
The trek is challenging but very doable for moderately fit people. The key is to ascend slowly, taking baby steps. Enjoy the diverse flora and fauna, and take the time to appreciate the transition in nature on the way up. This helped me to acclimatize to the change in altitude. Consequently, I did not suffer any ailments that some other people may have experienced. I meandered, and it still took the average 4-5 hours to climb.
Although there is no hot water to take a shower, try to book Laban Rata guesthouse. It’s convenient, and you will not have to walk in and out for the meals. I was amused to find that in Laban Rata guesthouse, slippers were provided just like a hotel!
Much of the headache and feeling of nausea that people get, I suspect, comes from dehydration and extreme exhaustion. Drink a lot of water, and take ibuprofen to kill the pain in your head, and as a prophylactic for the pain you might suffer the day after the climb.
After getting used to the warmth of being inside for a few hours it was shock to the system to have to get up early in the morning to start the last leg to the summit. Nevertheless, the night climb was thrilling. I experienced so many emotions in that period of time. The night climb seemed never ending, and was physically challenging, and the last 500 metres was the most intense. I ran out of bottle eventually, and finally Joe had to literally take me by the hand and yank me up to the summit. The final reward of witnessing the sunrise, and infinite sky line was gob smacking. You can cry out of exhaustion, and be astounded by the awesomeness of it all at the same time. Everyone clambered to the top in anxious bid to get the ultimate “I was here” photograph. Just as dawn broke to reveal the amazing scenery, Joe said, “Welcome to my office!”. And I thought, how cool is that?!
Going down was a problem for me. The granite, even when wet, should provide grip for your shoes but I still found it tricky. Joe taught me and a small group of people how to repel down the rock faces. I was so surprised to see where we had climbed in the dark.
Joe taught me to zigzag down. Don’t jump. Baby steps going down as well. This way, you’ll avoid the toe hammering, and knee jolting. The next day, I felt the onset of sore thigh and calf muscles. Admittingly, for a bit I felt like I’d been stretched on a medieval torture rack but I recovered after a couple of days.
I met some lovely people! And it was fun to say hello and briefly swap progress reports with them. I don’t think I saw anyone really suffering from the climb. Most of it was all smiles and a lot of joking. I am particularly pleased that my leg held out especially as I had surgery, a few years back, on a ruptured Achilles tendon.
Just bear in mind Frank Sinatra’s song, and “Do it your Way”. Then go and pamper yourself by getting a massage.