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Saturday, July 05, 2014

Journey to Mt Kinabalu - Laban Rata

Most people who goes to Mt Kinabalu goes up via the Timpohon Gate trail. Our friend, Tony arranged for us to climb via the Mersilau Trail. He said it was more scenic and it was just 2km longer. 2km didn't sound like much considering that almost all of us are runners. So we happily agreed. We stayed at the Mersilau Nature Center the night before and after another oily breakfast and weight in of our luggage by the guide/porter, we set off to Laban Rata, the midway rest point.

The guide weighing our bags. Anything above 7kg we have to pay RM10 per kg of excess
Each of us was carrying our own pack with just the basic necessity for today climb. We had about 1.5 litres of water each, lunch(sandwhich and an apple) from the restaurant; our own snacks, some had hot drinks; a windbreaker or jacket and headlamp. This weights on average about 3 kg. Some of us had additional gear like camera, first aid kits but the main bulk of the surplus items were put in another bag for the 3 guides/porter to carry up to Laban Rata on our behalf. Each bag we passed them was not to exceed 7 kg and as there were 14 of us and 3 of them, each of them had to carry around 30 kg each. And yet they were so much faster than us!

We started off just after 9 am. Our target was to reach Laban Rata by 6 pm. On paper, it was just 8 km of walking. Sounded like a piece of cake and something we could do easily with 2 hours of brisk walking. But this was on an ascending trail at altitude starting from 2km and climbing to eventually 3272km. Of course being greenhorn, we didn't know what was in stored for us.

As usual, we started off fast. And within a few metres of climbing those everlasting steps, we were all panting and breathing heavily and  the calves were screaming. And we haven't even hit 500 metres! But pretty soon all pain was forgotten when we came to the first break in the forest canopy and this was the scene behind us.

And as promised by Tony, the route was really more scenic than the Timpohon trail which we were able to compare when we descended via it the next date.

Back on the Mesilau trail, there was 2 waterfall, a suspension bridge and more breathtaking sky view of the mountain range.

Photo by Jancy
Photo by Jancy

Most of the view were stunning and breathtaking and none more so than this next picture from a ridge which also serves as a helipad,

After 6 km of climbing up and up with just a small section which went downhill, we finally reached the junction of the Mersilau and Timpohon trail. From here it was just another 2 km to Laban Rata, the resthouse where we have to stay overnight to tackle the next stretch of the climb.

This stretch also sees the end of the countless steps similar to those in our Bukit Timah Nature Reservs except of course that there are many many more of them.

 Unfortunately, in its place was large uneven granite and other rocks which really cause us to stretch our legs long long to climb up and down countless time. This was really a rocky time and the 2 km took us a fair bit of time to negotiate.

The constant stopping to take photographs of the giant pitcher plants and other plants helps to take our mind off the difficult terrain and eventually after almost close to 7 hours of walking, trekking and climbing, 12 of us reached our first destination, the Laban Rata Resthouse!

The Mt Kinabalu summit behind Laban Rata resthouse. That is our ultimate target.

We were awed when we realised that there is no road up to this resthouse and  all the food supplies have to be carried up by porters via the Timpohon trail. Even the staff there hike up and down this trail to and from work and to think that back here in Singapore we complain about a 10 minutes walk to the MRT station!

This is the group photo of what remained of us. 14 of us started out from Mersilau but one of us dropped out barely after crossing the suspension bridge due to a  bad case of diarrhoea. Another lady was a bit further behind and reached about 6 pm whilst the rest of us reach just before 4pm. The other 4 had reached way earlier and were already happily changed and resting inside the rest house!

Maybe it was the nice weather, or the many breath taking view but I didn't think that this portion was that tough. Sure we huff and puff but that was to be expected given that we were moving at attitude of about 2000 metres something that we were not accustomed to back here in Singapore. But of course the next day will be more challenging!

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