Ascent of Kinabalu on 2012-02-05

Climber: Lee Newton

Date:Sunday, February 5, 2012
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Bus
    Elevation:13435 ft / 4094 m

Ascent Trip Report

On a busines trip through several Asian countries I was lucky enough to be able to spend my weekend in Kota Kinabalu with a chance of climbing to the summit of Kinabalu. Arriving on Friday evening from Singapore I checked into a hotel in Kota having made all arrangements upfront. The car picked me up at 7 and drove me up to the Park HQ, where registration and form-filling took a short time. It was a busy day and they'd run out of guides. A guide being compulsory I waited with some others while they rustled up some children from the local village. My guide was 17, claimed to have been guiding since he was 14 and had made dozens of ascents of Kinabalu. Given that the climb is artificially constructed (endless steps, ropes etc, and completed by over 40'000 people a year the guides skill levels were clearly not going to be critical to my chances of success. I hooked up with 3 others in the same situation and we finally set off for the hut about 11 am.

The path wound steadily uphill with rest huts and toilets every km, and indicator signs every 0.5km. It was already cloudy when we started, and by 1.30pm a steady rain started to fall, which was quite atmospheric in the rainforest. We reached the hut without incident at 2.30 and settled in with a cup of tea and a slight headache.

The hut itself is luxuriously appointed with (cold) showers, white linen on the bunks, and excellent food. I drank bottled watêr the whole time but the hut water seemed to be safe (in contrast to that obtained from the metal tanks at the rest huts, which, to be fair ,is labelled "untreated water"). After a great dinner and a stunning sunset we all went to bed by about 8pm.

The standard time for leaving for the summit was not designed for regular hikers (2.30am). I decided to leave at 4, assuming 2 hours for the 820m climb but I was one of only 2 people hanging around after 3 and more or less got thrown out of the hut at 3.30am when the staff went back to bed.

The series of granite slabs were mainly dry, leaving the aid rope unnecessary and making overtaking relatively easy. A further checkpoint below the summit plateau registered us all in and out agin. The climb took exactly 2 hours, as predicted, and left me with a cold 40 minutes on top before sunrise. There were already about 40 people on top before me so it really is quite annoying that the guides insist on leaving so early. A steady stream continued to arrive so when an unspectacular sunrise lightened the misty sky to the east there must have been close to a hundred people there.

The immediate views were superb, to the other sheer peaks protruding from the plateau and west down to the sea. The rainforest to the east was hidden under the same blanket of mist which spoiled the sunrise. The guides let us go briefly off path to have a stroll around the cliffs before we headed back down to the hut for an excellent breakfast. An increasingly hot and steamy descent back to the road followed, where my driver was waiting to take my back to Kota. All in all just over 24 hours. I was back in Kota by 1.30 and relaxed for a few hours before flying on overnight for the start of my second week of meetings. Kinabalu was so different from where I had been working, a simple weekend felt almost like a holiday. Superb.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:7894 ft / 2405 m
    Total Elevation Loss:7894 ft / 2405 m
    Round-Trip Distance:11.3 mi / 18.2 km
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Scramble
    Gear Used:
Guide, Hut Camp
    Weather:Hot, cold, dry, wet, misty, clear etc
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:7402 ft / 2256 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 7238 ft / 2206 m; Extra: 164 ft / 49m
    Loss on way in:164 ft / 49 m
    Distance:5.4 mi / 8.7 km
    Route:Timpohon Trail
    Start Trailhead:Timpohon Gate  6197 ft / 1888 m
    Time:5 Hours 30 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:7730 ft / 2356 m
        Loss Breakdown:Net: 7238 ft / 2206 m; Extra: 492 ft / 149m
    Gain on way out:492 ft / 149 m
    Distance:5.9 mi / 9.5 km
    Route:Timpohon Trail
    End Trailhead:Timpohon Gate  6197 ft / 1888 m
    Time:4 Hours 5 Minutes

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