Friday, May 1, 2015

My Kinabalu Experience

So, after a super long hiatus (busy with work) I'm back with a post with lots of information which I would like to share on my hike up Mount Kinabalu! Yes, I made it to the summit Low's Peak! Through Mesilau-Laban Rata-Low's Peak-Laban Rata-Timpohon. 2D1N hike, a night for acclimatization. If you ascend via Mesilau, you'll get 2 certs, but only one if you ascend via Timpohon (provided you arrived the summit) I would suggest ascending via Mesilau, it is 2km longer than Timpohon but nicer view.

Mesilau Trail (Mesilau Gate-Laban Rata): 8.2km
Timpohon Trail (Timpohon Gate-Laban Rata): 6km
Laban Rata-Low's Peak Summit: 2.7km

Cut off time at Sayat-sayat Check point is 5am (if later you may not be able to proceed to Summit)
Cut off time for you to descend from summit and check out from Laban Rata is 10.30am

How it all started: Mount. Kinabalu has always been in my bucket list. However being someone who rarely exercise and don't hike, I did some hard thinking. I finally decided to join because since I am this close to Sabah (currently in Miri), with the right group of people (some of us are not-at-all athletic) so it would be now or never! After I paid for the booking fee, there was no turning back!

Preparation: Since I was busy with work, being offshore very I had no time for proper training. Every weekend we had, we'll be away from home on hike at some hill. Twice at Canada hill and once at Bukit Kasut. But 2 weeks before the date of our flight I was offshore, I only get to ride the "static bicycle" at the bridge of the work boat once a day, 1km each ride wtf. So basically that's it for the 3 months preparation. The most important training you'll need is stamina!

I am not a qualified trainer/athlete or alike but I felt that my hike was not that bad. The only pain I have (and most of those in my group) is on my thighs, which you usually feel after a marathon. My knees and ankles are all perfectly fine. I read up on many blogs to find ways to make my hike easier. Here I'll share some tips to make your hike more comfortable and fun! 

Especially for non-athletic first timers like me~

Best advises I received:

1. Hike at your own pace, but keep track of your time. If you feel that you will be slow, hike earlier. It doesn't matter if your friends are way in front or behind you and you need to hike alone. If you hike alone, take time to enjoy the view, greet strangers..During night hike, look at the stars..I managed to catch a shooting star!

From Laban Rata to the Summit, I was mostly separated from my group. I met strangers who were at the same pace, their guide gave us encouragement to keep going. I had difficulty breathing, stopped to catch my breath every 10m. Just told myself "It's okay if I'm slow, as long as I make it to the top. I can surely make it". It involved lots of self motivation and strong mental wtf

2. Step forward to where your toes point. Do not ascend and descend the stairs sideways, step forward and go heels down first. I read this method written by a blogger who tried both ways, and stepping forward created less pressure on the knees. Indeed it helped, no aching knees! Use your walking stick and upper body as much as possible.

Here is a list of things I think are compulsory and will make the hike so much earlier:

1. Walking stick/pole: metal ones can be rented at Kinabalu Park for RM10 each, as of April 2015. If you doubt the quality, do get your own and get it wrapped and checked-in on a flight. It is a prohibited hand carry item. It was what kept me going, especially at slippery areas or with steps.

2. Waterproof gloves: Ski gloves was enough to keep me warm and provided enough grip during my climb. You only need these when hiking Laban Rata-Summit-Laban Rata.

3. Knee and ankle guards: Besides the walking stick, these probably saved my joints. I have slight arthritis and past injury on my left ankle, but with the guards and numbing spray, all those just kept me going. I got mine quite expensive, around RM30 each from Guardian. Some of my friends got RM10 for a pair at discount stores. For a one-off use, it will be sufficient.

4. Medicine: 
a) Altitude/Mountain sickness tablets to be taken 1-2days before. I bought Apo-Acetazolamide from the pharmacy which really helped, especially since I have short breath. 
b) Muscle Relaxant tablets to lessen the pain on your muscles, cannot be taken with Paracetamol. I took this only after I arrived Laban Rata. After a 7 hours sleep, took another before going up the summit.
c) Muscle cream Yoko-yoko/Numbing spray/Hot rub or anything alike would be helpful. Apply these at pit stops before you feel pain, prevention is better than cure. Before taking your rest at Laban Rata, apply again to prepare for summit hike.

4. Rain coat This is a must because the weather at Kundasang /Mt. Kinabalu is quite unpredictable. It rained after 5.30pm on our first day and on second day after 4pm. If your pace is slower, there is a possibility that your raincoat will be fully utilized.

5. Windbreak and sweater These are mostly needed during night hike to summit, which could reach 0 degree. I wore both but if you are more cold resistant, a slightly thicker windbreaker would be sufficient. A scarf or face mask would be helpful, can be use to prevent breathing the cold air which will make breathing difficult.

6. Hiking shoes or Adidas Kampung I used Adidas Kampung all the way with 2 layers of soft, worked totally fine. I tried them on a shorter hike up Canada Hill before the actual hike. Try out your shoes! My toes rub against each other so I used surgical tape to tape each toes, like how ballerinas do.

7. Headlamp You will definitely need this during night hike. Hike to the Summit usually starts between 2.30am to 2.45am, which is pitch black and you'll be dependent on your headlamp. I bought mine at Miri Airport, cost only RM5 for a really bright one.

Other than that make sure you bring enough water (mineral water, energy drink, oral salts etc.) Mineral water and can drinks at Laban Rata can reach triple the price due to the difficulties to transport them. Some goes for energy bars. They packed us sandwich and an apple for lunch.

Pack light, 5kg or less (you just need 1.5L of water, some energy bar and your raincoat with you) for hike up to Laban Rata. Porter for Mesilau Trail is RM12/kg (min. 10kg, we shared among 14pax) and Timpohon trail is RM10/kg.  (also min.10kg)

Going up to Summit from Laban Rata, I didn't even pack a bag. I had a bottle and an energy bar in sweater pocket (with zipper). Since you will need both hands to hold the rope, a pouch would be more practical and shouldn't wear you down. 

Price breakdown:
Package price: RM394/pax (price quoted for 14pax)
Flight from Miri to Kota Kinabalu: AirAsia RM130
Insurance and Guide (shared): RM106
Shuttle to and fro Kota Kinabalu to Kinabalu Park: RM60
Certificates (Mesilau and Summit): RM12
Sinurambi Homestay at Kundasang (a day before hike): RM34
Shuttle from Sinurambi Homestay to Kinabalu Park: RM10

For self record:
Day 1: 28 April 2015 Ascending Mesilau-Laban Rata
Day 2: 29 April 2015 Ascending Laban Rata-Summit, Descending Summit-Timpohon

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