Friday, March 21, 2014

Mt. Kinabalu Climbathon Race VS Mt. Kinabalu Climbing Experience

Hey guys! I just did my Mount Kinabalu climbing trip not long ago and it was awesome! I could barely feel my sole during my descend to Timpohon Gate, Kinabalu Park. Regardless all the ruthless pain during my climb, the view from the top of the summit was worth it! I felt like I was on another planet and I could never look at my hometown the same anymore.

I arrived at the summit around 6am and I stopped hiking up and stand on a slightly steep slope to witness the wonderful daybreak accompanied by the visible clouds movement below me. The view was magnificent, priceless and rewarding. The wind was strong and it surged in and out my ears giving me natural rumbling noise. I couldn't imagined I have made it so far and I could only hear my strong heart beat with heavy breathing because the oxygen level was low. The temperature of the day was zero degree Celsius and I was shivering even though I wore 3 layers of shirts and jacket and 2 layers of warm pants and tracksuit. I don't mind

Since I have done both normal Mountain Kinabalu Climb and 24km Kinabalu Climbathon Race itself, I'll be sharing my experience here. Perhaps it could help those who wish to participate either one of them. Having said that, both had their own unique challenges and it can be very hard to those unprepared climbers.

Mt. Kinabalu Climbathon Experience
Mt. Kinabalu Climbathon Adventure route (Red dots line) started from Kinabalu Park - Timpohon gate - Layang-Layang hut - Mesilau Nature Resort - Kundasang Town.  There are two routes (summit and adventure) Summit route is only open to elite racer with pre-fulfilled requirement on past race achievement. The adventure route is open for public to join and I think it's one of the toughest race in Sabah.

The Freezing Start at Kinabalu Park to Timpohon Gate (4.5km)

One of the challenges is the cold weather at the starting point of the race at Kinabalu Park. I think the temperature was around 13 - 15 Celsius because I was shivering badly before the race. Fortunately, 30 minutes into the race and my body warmed up and I could run properly again. It took me about 45 minutes to complete the first 4.5km route because of the cold temperature start and stiff tar road.

Tips: Best not to run up the stiff road section but try to take huge steps. It helps.

The Though Ascent Trail from Timpohon Gate to Layang-Layang (4km)

Timpohon trail is famous for it high steps. Their steps can be as high as 3 - 4 feet and there are man made wooden stair in certain part of the trail. It's extremely hard to keep on going during the ascent and you need to practice interval rest before you continue a section of ascent.

The Never Ending Descent and Ascent Trail from Layang-Layang to Mesilau Gate (6km)

Layang-layang to Mesilau gate was the worst nightmare that I could ever face in my life. During this part of the route, I picked up the pace and I got better in finding better path to run. I was literary hopping and jumping down the rocky trail with full speed ahead but that excitement ended tragically when I slipped and sprained my leg ankle and butt landed on a huge round solid rock. So now I got two injuries but good thing I didn't slip and hit my head or anything.

Mistake #1: I wore a gym type shoe for this race. It has thin shoe sole and it hurt my sole like hell.

The Agony Descent from Mesilau to Kundasang Town (9km)

Well.. Unfortunately I didn't complete this part of the route because 6.5 hours had pass by the time I exited Mesilau gate. A week before the race I injured my knee during one of my training session and I discontinue my run to avoid any further irreversible injuries to the knee. The last stretch of 9km trail is tarred road with sharp decent which could lead to knee injuries if you're not careful. If you ever make it into this section of the route you will be more awesome than me, but bare in mind the organizer will set a time to swipe down all runners that exited Mesilau gate after a certain time frame. Be sure to exit Mesilau gate as early as you can to continue your last stretch of run.

My personal advise and tips
1. For the first timer, wear thick sole shoe instead of normal jogging shoe because it will help in reducing the pain on your sole.

2. Train extremely hard before you join this because it is not like any other common marathon race where you can hitch hike anytime when you are not about to continue. Bare in mind, you will be running in a thick tropical jungle mountain trail with limited access of help during emergency. The last time you want to experience is trap inside there.

3. Last but not least, arm yourself with chocolate bars such as Kit-Kat or candy gels. Do not bring any water bottles because they are provided along the way every 500 meter *if I'm right about the distant.  Instead of bringing bottle waters, bring hydration salts pack and mix it with the water provided along the way.

Overall, the race was YOLO kind of thing. Regardless, I had a great time meeting juniors in my faculty. Although I didn't really get to know them but they sure can run! or maybe I'm just too old for this.

For more information, check Climbathon website.

Mt. Kinabalu Climbing Experience

Basically there are few ways to go up and down to Mt. Kinabalu. The route that is given to us was Mesilau trail up to Laban rata and summit and all the way down to Timpohon trail. As you can see the picture below, Mesilau (based) is located on the bottom right and the middle intersection (Layang-layang) between three routes lead to summit trail (to Laban Rata and Peak) and Timpohon trail (based). The provided distance from Mesilau to Layang-layang is 6km, while Layang-layang to Laban Rata is 2km. Lastly Laban Rata ascending to Low's peak (summit) is 2.5km.

Photo credit 

Let's break down the entire journey of Mount Kinabalu Climb here;

The Stay at Mesilau Nature Resort Lodge (Day 1 pre-climb)
We chartered a van that provide us 2 ways transporation from KK to Mesilau Nature Resort which cost the 6 of us RM80 per pax. Registration at National Park  is required prior Mesilau resort check-in (Permit fee RM6, Certification fee RM14). Surprisingly, our stay at Mesilau Resort was luxurious. We were well fed with great food during buffer dinner and feast like a barbarian. 

The Ascent from Mesilau to Laban Rata (Day 2 real climb)
Surprised by the horrific news about a German climber fell to death at Low's peak summit, we started our climb at 8.30am with a short briefing by our guide. It was definitely one of the last news you wanna hear before you start a climb. It was a tragic that it happen but I think there are tones of safety features that can be added at the summit to prevent things like this happen again. 

The ascent part from Mesilau to Laban rata was fairly easy and it's all about taking short rest before taking the high steps. 

As much as I enjoyed the climb, one thing I regretted was bringing up a 9kg bag without hiring a porter service. I thought it would be easy but I was wrong. That 9kg bag became 9999999kg in the middle of my ascent to Laban Rata. I was so frustrated at stage where I'm so tempted to throw the bag away. Initially I think I was foolish to do this but looking at the bright side, I can actually tell others I climb with 9kg weight. Nevertheless, I have to tip my hat to the strong porter that carries up to 50kg of climber bags and necessities such as food, gas fuel, wood, steel and etc up to Laban Rata few times a day.

Lesson of the day, just hire a porter service. 1kg RM10

Oh ya! Don't forget to play with the squirrel when you're resting in one of the hut.

The Ultimate Ascent from Laban Rata to Low's Peak Summit (Day 3 Epic Climb)
We were extremely lucky and blessed to have great weather during our ascent up to summit because there have been reports of heavy rainfall throughout the week and climbers were not allow to ascent. We woke up around 1am in the morning and start to climb around 2am. It was pitch black and we have to depend on our headlamps. The journey starts with a huge group of climbers departing from the Laban Rata hut and do expect traffic jam along the way because the trail is narrow.

Somewhere during our climb we can actually see KK city with brights city lights shining and I can never forget how beautiful the view was. However, knowing that everyone was well a sleep in their warm bed and I'm few thousand feet above doing crazy thing just annoyed me. -.- 

Anyway, you will need to register yourself at Sayat-sayat check point to enable certificates to be issue at Kinabalu Park. After Sayat-sayat check point, you will be very close to the summit and Low's peak. When we arrived at the summit the wind was extremely strong and temperature was around 4 Celsius.

Tips: wear at least 4 layer of cloths and 3 layer of long pants. 

The Soaking Wet Descent from Laban Rata to Timpohon Gate (Day 3 Rain)
Unfortunately, during our final descent from laban rata to Timpohon, it was raining heavily and the trail turn into waterfall. Eventually my shoe got wet and I had to bare with it for 7 hours until I exited Timpohon gate. Descending down is going to be painful for the sole after all the intense climbing.

Tips for going down? : It's all about pain endurance 

Generally the mountain climbing is definitely easier than climbathon but the greatest challenge will be the altitude and extreme low temperature during summit trail. Both have their own unique challenges and it takes physical and mental strength to complete them. Mean while, I don't think there is any need to worry the altitude sickness for Climbathon Adveture Race. The highest altitude for it was at Layang-layang hut (2,702m above sea level). Plus, climbing the mountain made easier because I purchased myself a trail running shoe from reebok because previously during my climbathon race I wore a gym shoe. 

Tips: Bring extra RM100 - 200 cash for emergency such as porter service.
For all the contact, packages, tips and video please check it out at Mount Kinabalu website.

Will I do it again? Probably not in near future because I would love to try Mount Fuji at Japan and The Most Beautiful Thing TMBT race in the interior side of Sabah. I can't wait to do the next extreme sport and push to the limit. 

Hayden Chan

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