First Hike To Mount Kinabalu

This is Mount Kinabalu, our pride, my dream.


My Third Visit

This is my third time to witness the beauty of Mount Kinabalu. The first time was with a group of university mates in May 2012.


My second time was with a smaller group of university mates attending university friend’s wedding in June 2017.


This time, in July 2018, I came with a group of new friends with one and only intention – a charity hike to Mount Kinabalu.



A year Ago

I stayed very near to Mount Kinabalu, went for a morning walk heading towards the mountain, thinking that I am one step closer to ‘home’. I took an Instax picture of it and made a promise to return to be with ‘her’.


And so did I , I came back this year to be very close to ‘her’.



Why The Hike?

It has been a calling since I first witness ‘her’ beauty in 2012, that I must make the climb. Then what made the move is because of SUKA Society, an NGO which I volunteered in to help the Orang Asli (aborigines) children in my hometown Gopeng. I saw their post about a charity hike to Mount Kinabalu, my first instinct is ‘yes, this is it!’

It is a hike for 3 aborigines’ pre-schools education fund and for their teachers to sustain. I decided to join to challenge myself to make things happen instead of waiting for things to happen! And, it is for the cause I believed in, being able to challenge oneself and help the Orang Asli, I am beyond delighted to be apart!

Plus, I am super excited to meet new friends with same interest – hiking and Orang Asli. Super thankful to SUKA Society for hosting this experience, you can support the education of the children here, all proceeds will go to the beneficials.


The Journey Starts


Day 1


We took a morning flight to reach Kota Kinabalu on day 1. There were 13 of us including SUKA Society representatives – Anderson and Sarah. Slowly getting to know new friends along the way, the beginning of our adventure-ship, where we support and depend on each other. For me, I am always excited to meet new friends of different background.


It took 2 hours journey to reach Kinabalu Park from KK Town and gratefully, our lodge were upgraded to Peak Lodge by Sutera Sanctuary Lodges, we got ourselves a huge space for 4 of us to share. What a wonderful surprise! And super blessed to have one of the van function well enough to send us here with boiling water.



After yummy buffet food at Balsam Restaurant, with lighted up fire in the living space, we were briefed about what’s happening the next day and given enough time to rest. Lucky to have the thick blanket to keep us warm for the night and we all headed to bed to get ourselves prepared for the climb.

Day 2

Only to know the door of our room (Jian & I) were locked (like twisted locked) when Jian woke up to go to the loo. We were trapped! Our housemates quickly informed the management for help and they came in from the window to unlock the jammed door. Lesson learned: Always wake up and prepare earlier for emergencies.

Then, we headed to grab a light breakfast and ready to roll the sleeves! We took a van to reach Timpohon Gate and here we go.


Team before starting

It started with stairs going down, passing through the waterfall and it got all the way up slowly, steps by steps. From a crowded que, slowly we were separated as we walked on our own pace. We would meet people coming down and some porters carrying things up.



Tips To Hike:

  1. Walk at your own pace- Find your own suitable pace and do not wait for friends.
  2. Take deeper breath- breath in and out deeper through the mouth.
  3. Take a break- gives time for to rest and stretch for less than 3mins to keep the momentum.
  4. Visualise- mental conditioning this as a training for bigger challenge like hiking Everest Base Camp
  5. Walk Zigzagging- a trick to beat the steep climb, I learned from the guide and the porter.
  6. Grab (rent) walking sticks – it helps to balance and act as the third leg going up and down.
  7. Focus-  pay attention to breathing and step, one step forward is a step closer.
  8. Use Hydration bladder to drink- it is very convenient to drink than stopping to grab water bottle
  9. Have snacks- raisins helps along the way, with apple and I rewarded myself with chocolate when I arrived.
  10. Add in Salt / electrolytes or Vitamin C into the Water- It helps me a lot with these


I took my own pace to walk and breath accordingly, step by step without resting till I reached 4km stop – Layang-layang hut. There I met with few of the group, this is the place where our guide suggested us to take more rest here to acclimatise and eat our packed lunch – sandwich, apple, oat biscuits.


The real challenge for me is after 4km onwards, the route was steeper with more rocks and it is with lesser air. I am lucky to have our guide, Bert kept checking me out along the way and with someone’s guide who kept talking to me. I would follow their footsteps up with zigzag hike, the route is less lonelier with them. And, I get inspired by the porters who carried so much on their back, I would tell myself, if they can do it, I can too.


The steeper route brings me to take more small breaks for raisins and water, it needed more time to catch the breath as the heart rate beats faster. Finally, after about 5 hours up, the hardest time for me is when I saw the sign 300m to Lapan Rata. Took the final reserved energy, I went up to meet my fellow friends and guide with a spectacular view of mountains with clouds. That’s where we are staying for a few hours before the next hike to the summit!


The view from Lapan Rata: IMG_4008

Where we eat – the canteen:IMG_4026

Getting to reach the lodge earlier, we have the advantages to take hot water bath as hot water is limited on first come first serve basis. We also get to choose a 4-bed room with more personal space and more time to rest. On this day, we head to bed early about 7pm to wake up about 1am to get ready for the climb to summit.

Before sleep, you can refill your water by sharing a jug of hot water of RM5 with others, otherwise, to purchase a water bottle with RM6.60. Oh, do remember to check out the sunset about 6 pm plus.


Day 3

We started our hike at 2:30am after a light super. Wore our jacket, beanie, head torch, gloves, and a lighter backpack, off we go to the climb. It started with a pack of people lining up to climb the stairs, it was quite a challenge for me going up but luckily with the crowd, I get to take a breath.

Right after the climb of 2.5km, my head torch battery went off, I stopped to changed the new batteries. Super fortunate to have Jian and one of our guide, Mr Aznam to help me out while others keep climbing up like shepherds around me.

Note: Prepare extra new batteries for head torch, few of our batteries went off during the hike.

One of the Guide: Mr Aznam

On the 28th July, it was a Full Moon night with eclipse, so happen we get to witness the beautiful process while we hike up. It was a beautiful scene with orange moon surrounded by shinning stars. As the climb higher, the wind blew stronger and we definitely felt colder.

Note: Bring mask to cover your face and maybe thermo bottle to drink hot water.

Our guide, Bert was with the 3 of us after 1km hike, he led us to stop near the 8km signboard, there is a spot with rocks surrounded to block us from the wind. We took the rest there because we do not want to freeze ourselves at the peak while waiting for sunrise. At our speed, if we do not stop, we might need to spend longer time at the peak for the sunrise.

We rested about 10 minutes and went off for the peak slowly. The closer we were, we walked slower with deep breath. We arrived the peak about 5:55am with quite a crowd up there, many would que to take a shot with the sign board to certify you reaching the peak. And it is said that your guide is the proof for your achievement, or you could take a photo with it to receive the certification.

The Low Peak signboard with the team:

The Low’s peak photo


The wind is strong up the peak but the scenery is magnificent like no other top-of-the-world view I have ever witnessed. We couldn’t stay for long, after a few pictures, we took a slow step to go downwards. I rewarded myself with chocolate, then long for breakfast.

One of the guide, Bert who led us up
Jian & I going down

As we walked down, I can’t believed how far we have came out, and because we got up in the dark, all we notice is the rocks and stone. When the sun rises, the view is visible and unbelievably amazing. Look at the piles of mountains. Astonishing.

It again reminded me, how small I am and how beauty is the nature.

8KM Group photo:

Mark, Me, Sarah, Esther, Jian


On our way down, we were blessed with guidance of our guides. The road were slippery with uneven rocks and this is where we start to feel pain from the toes and knees as we descend, toes were in friction with the shoes as well as the knees.

Note: Take smaller steps to go down, best to wear a knee protector.

Bert shared us many stories along the way, it feels good to have people to walk and talk with you.


We arrived Lapan Rata around 8am plus after the summit, first, we fuel ourselves with breakfast in the canteen. Recharged with short nap and good food, we were ready to descend 6km further by 10:45am.

Note: We were required to check out at 10:30am, if not will be fine for RM100/hour. Also, Prepare extra pocket money for porter or mountain taxi, touch wood if you are sick or hurt

The Descend

6KM down to Timpohon Gate is our last destination, actually Balsam Restaurant is our final destination – food. The journey took me about 5 hours, just as the ascend the day before. I thought it would be faster going down but it took about the same time because of the stairs and pain from the toes.

The good thing is I do not feel the weight of 2 bags but a more pleasant downhill hike with a chance to enjoy the greeneries and accompanies. I am lucky to have Jian to walk through the whole day with me, good thing is our pace is about the same thus we kind of stay together. Meanwhile, we have Haini, an aborigine teacher, who is always ahead of us.

Descending with Jian

We talked, laughed, stopped, and supported each other until we finally reach Timpohon Gate, rewarded ourselves with deserving chocolate, then took the shuttle to have lunch at Balsam Restaurant. Believe me, the journey down is as though a never ending process, but in a more relax way. We reached Timpohon Gate about 2pm and head for lunch before it ends at 4:30pm.

Balsam Restaurant

When everyone get down to the Kinabalu Park, we headed to KK town with 2 hours journey, that is when we took our most deserving rest. Everyone received a colourful cert.

Everyone received a Colourful Certificate (Esther is not in)

What a wonderful journey with new friends and a cause to support. Thank you Sarah from SUKA Society who planned every bit of this and making sure everyone is comfortable. =) I do feel safe and comfortable along the way with you guys!

There you go, the 4 days 3 nights journey to Mount Kinabalu, we spent our last day exploring in the city. If you haven’t explore the islands in Sabah, you are highly recommended to do so, I deem few of the best islands in Malaysia are definitely in Sabah. Same goes to the mountains.

Me, Haini & Jian before saying goodbye

Important Lessons:

  1. Being able to breath is a blessing
  2. With a strong determination, you do your best without expectation
  3. Group collective effort, to be able to share
  4. Everyone is doing their best to be their best – guide, porter
  5. Everyone can make it when the intention is made with action – youngest at 4 years old, oldest at the 80s

After day 3, I felt the soreness first from the butt till the legs. It takes about 2 days more to recover with proper way. Hope these helps!

Tips to Recovering After Hiking:

  1. Patches for shoulders, back and legs
  2. Stretches with Child pose and massage the muscles
  3. Sleep with a pillow for legs
  4. Eat plant-based food to fight inflammation (which caused soreness): nuts, seeds, ginger, berries, sweet potatoes, spinach, orange, banana etc
  5. Apply olive oil or coconut oil on the knees

May you have a safe hike and happy journey!



Vic Qi

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