At 1:34 pm, I finally reached Laban Rata. That's about 5.5 hours after the bus dropped us off at Timpohon Gate. The blob on the balcony to the left is my cousin who arrived waaay ahead of me.
Laban Rata resthouse is located at 3272m above sea level. It's the biggest accomodation up there and most importantly it's got a restaurant. We checked in, enjoyed hot cuppas, and then hit the hot shower... yes hot shower. Only a few hikers have arrived that time so we still had the luxury of hot shower. Later, when the supply could not meet the demand, we'd hear a chorus of loud "aaahhhs" and "aiyooohs".
My cousin and I had a 4-bed dorm room all to ourselves. Made me wonder why was it so dang hard to book the place. Anyway... The room's got a heater but we turned it off because it was making an irritating noise. And yet we didnt feel cold at all.
Rate at Laban Rata: 34 ringgit per person (rate has increased to 69 as of this writing)
First thing to do before climbing is to take care of registration, hire climbing guide, and check-in for your accomodation (yes, it is done here before your climb!) at the headquarters. After all these, you will be transported by a van to Timpohon or Mesilau gate to begin your climb.
Park Entrance Fee: RM15 (Foreigner) RM3(Malaysian)
Climbing Permit: RM100 (Foreigner) RM30(Malaysian)
Mountain Guide: RM70 (For group of four climbers or less) + RM10 extra if you wish to take Mesilau Trail
Insurance: RM7 (Foreigner & Malaysian)
Transportation from park headquarters to Timpohon Gate: RM15 (round trip)
Most climbers start climbing from Timpohon Gate (4km from Park HQ). From the park headquarters, minivans (they are considered the "shuttle service") will transfer climbers here. It is the beginning of the Summit Trail. There is a check point at the gate. There is a place that climbers can get some snacks and food before they climb. The price is not too high considering this is in the national park. I believe they sells climbing sticks too.
The second part of the hike which is 2.7km long, begins at 02:30am in the morning. I spent 2hours and 30 minutes to reach the top. I don't think I was the slowest this time. Dress warm, bring your torch light (or flash light), drink a cup of warm water before you start your journey will help.
MUST bring your climbing pass!!! If you forget about your pass, you won't be able to check in at Sayat-sayat check point!!!! That would be a huge bummer!! At Sayat-sayat, each climber will be given a whistle to hang around your neck for safety reason. You have to return it when you come down.
The road up to the summit is more difficult from Laban Rata onwards. After about 500m, there is no more vegetation. You will start to hike/ climb on granite rocks surface. You will start to see ropes to guide you. At some parts of the climb, especially after Sayat-sayat, I found it is easier to pull yourself up with your hands on the rope than to climb with your feet. It sounds strange, but ture! The part after Sayat-sayat is the most dangerous! Be careful!
Finally, I made it to the top!!! Yes, the highest point of the whole southeast asia!!
Once you reach the top of Low's Peak, take as many pictures as possible. Just snap it away!! With digital camera, you can always choose to delete the bad ones. But I bet you won't delete them once you take them. I was a bit unlucky that when I was up there, it was foggy and misty. Can't see most of the peaks! So sad...
Along the way, you will see different types of plants. They change as you go up higher and higher. At the begining, you are surrounded by rain forest type tall trees. After Layang-layang, the plants become low trees and foggy.
The trail from Timpohon Gate to Laban Rata is 6km long. I started at 11:30am, and arrived at Laban Rata at about 5:30pm! Gosh! It might be the slowest record in the history of Kinabalu N.P.! Haha!
Along the way, there are rest area along the way. Each rest area has a restroom, a shelter to rest, and a big tank of untreated water. Each shelter is marked with the name, and the distance to the next shelter. My guide advice me not to rest too long as our body will need more time to get back to action.
The descent is not as easy as one may think. It actually put more weight on our knees.
From the summit to Laban Rata (2.7km), I spent 2 hours. From Laban Rata to Timpohon Gate (6km), I spent 5 hours! It was more difficult as I got closer to the end. My knees and thigh muscles were killing me. Word of advice: training before your Mt. Kinabalu trip is essential!!
According to my guide, the orchid season in Kinabalu Park is in December. I went there in October and to my disappointment, I did not see a single orchid. I guess that calls for a second visit to Kinabalu Park.
Trekking within the Park is generally restricted to shorter trails taking no more than a day. The majority of trails take less than half a day. These generally require no special abilities but it is wise th check with the Park authorities in advance in case longer trails are blocked by landslides or broken bridges. Good footwear is essential, especially in wet weather.
The Kinabalu Park provides endless opportunities for the photographer - from the changing views of the mountain to the thousands of plants and animals that live there. You will almost certainly need more films, memory cards and camera batteries. White or pale flowers are particularly difficult to take with flash and a useful item is a light reflector to reflect the sunlight onto the object you are photographing.
Kinabalu is one of the richest centres of plant diversity in the world and is an excellent place to observe a wide range of plants. Orchids, rhododendrons and pitcher-plants are particularly showy. The pitcher-plants Nepenthes villosa and Nepenthes rajah are not found anywhere else in the world and both are easily visible on Kinabalu. Likewise, many orchids are found only on the mountain. The mountain garden at the park HQ and the Orchid Conservation Centre at Poring are excellent places for more detailed observation of Kinabalu's plants where many rare species are easily seen. Kinabalu is one of the few places in Borneo where the giant-flowered Rafflesia is easily accessible, though whether or not it will be flowering is largely a matter of luck. The Sabah Parks staff at Poring should know whether any are blooming at the time of your visit.
Both Kinabalu Park HQ and Mesilau Nature Resort are excellent places for watching montane birds, especially in the early mornings when many birds are hawking insects around the lamp posts. Poring Hot Springs is good for lowland species, such as spiderhunters and sunbirds. Over 300 species have been recorded from the park.
Camping is encouraged only at Poring Hot Springs. Tents can be hired at Poring but you must bring everything else. Food is available at the restaurant on the other side of the Mamut river or from the stalls just outside the park entrance. It is also possible to camp at both the Sayap and Serinsim stations but you will need a 4-wheel drive to reach them and must bring all your own gear including tents as well as food as there are no visitor facilities at either place. Camping is not permitted elsewhere in the Park.