Kinabalu is one of those reasonably high peaks that doesn’t require any specialized mountain climbing gear or experience; it’s just a long, steep climb. Typically you climb it in two stages. On day one you start at the park headquarters at 6,122 feet and climb six kilometers to a “lodge” at 10,730 feet. The next day you finish the climb up by going another 2.7 kilometers to the peak at 13,435 feet and then go all the way back to the park headquarters. In other words on the first day you climb 4,608 feet or nearly nine-tenths of a mile and the next day you go another 2,705 feet up and then the full 7,313 feet down.
Here’s the little secret of hikes like this: going down may be harder than going up. Going up isn’t easy by any stretch; it was a really tough climb. But going down was brutal, using leg muscles that you just really don’t use much. And going down over 7,300 feet in one morning was brutal. We’re bushed.
One peculiarity of the climb. They say the best time to get to the peak is at sunrise. So we were up at 2:00 AM (seriously) and after breakfast were on the trail by 3:00 AM. It took a little over two hours to get to the peak, all in pitch darkness, using headlamps like miners to find the way. Once we got there is was bitter cold and still dark but … it was pretty obvious that with that much fog we weren’t going to see a damned thing. So we waited until 5:45, when the sun was officially up, and headed back down.
Oh, you want to know how the lodge accommodations were for our abbreviated night’s sleep? Pretty basic. OK, really basic. A four-person dorm room with shared cold-water bathroom down the hall. And when Mark went to get something out of his knapsack that he’d set by the bed a cute little rat jumped out, having discovered his bag of cashews for the trail. Made for a great night’s sleep!
Still, there was some real beauty on the trail. Tomorrow we fly to Bali to spend the next six-plus weeks in Indonesia, meeting our old neighbors Bart & Ann & Wil at the end of that time. Here, then, are our last pictures from Borneo.