Tag Archives: kinabalu

Mount Kinabalu: Beyond Low’s Peak

All I knew was Low’s Peak as the final destiny of Kinabalu climb. How wrong I was. Low’s Peak is situated in the Western Plateau of Kinabalu’s summit. There is also Eastern Plateau.

Source: http://mount-kinabalu-borneo.com/blog

Source: http://www.gunungonline.com/

But what I like to do, if God permits, is to stay at Gurkha’s Hut further west to Low’s Peak. I know that this is possible but is considered as ‘expedition’ rather than usual trekking, thus require special permit. Further googling brought me to Mersilau Homestay’s blog which offer more than RM2K for 4D/3N Western Plateau-Gurkha’s Hut package. So it is possible but pricey!

Few Gunung Online members already successfully went up & stayed at Gurkha’s Hut. How I wish I could do…and able to do the same.

This has become my dream for now….. Eastern plateau seems like too challenging for me.

Kinabalu Challenge – Part 3: Mount Kinabalu & photography

In this final episode I’ll talk about my impression of this mountain, the journey & photography opportunity & preparation.

When to go?

First and foremost, if one wanna go here to photograph its beauty, never ever go during wet season like I did. But I never regretted going to Kinabalu last Wednesday because that was the best opportunity I ever got as far as cost is concern. We spent slightly more than RM800 for the whole trip inclusive of mountain package, food, ground & air travel! During this wet season, the sky was overcast & gloomy. The light was dull & not vibrant. So difficult to get good exposure of the mountain & the landscape. Well then, it is also maybe that I need to sharpen my photography skill further.


One thing that really play major factor when planning or setting package for this mountain expedition is the time you need to spend if you wanna shoot all angles & views, because, the time needed for you to reach Laban Rata is before 6PM. The time you need to be at Sayat Sayat, the last check point to summit is 4AM. The last time allowed for you to climb the summit at Low Peak is 7AM. You guide will make sure you follow that time. It is all decided by the guides. If you can convince the guides, you can override this unwritten rule.

Normally I spend at least 30 mins at one spot. So go figure how much time needed at the summit to shoot sunrise & trying to get all the peaks as foreground.

I arrived at KM8.5 during Fajr prayer, at about 5:20AM. I spent 90 mins at that spot because I knew I won’t get better view at the peak. I set my tripod & trying various compositions & settings. Do remember that it will be extremely cold up there. And windy too.

I started moving slowly to Low Peak at 6:45AM and arrived the summit at about 7:30AM. It was already very late. When I went up the summit, there was only me & my friend, Husni. The view from the summit is nothing compared to what I have seen on top of Mount Merapi, Mount Lawu & Mount Rinjani; all in Indonesia.

By 8AM, the clouds or fog (I am not sure which is correct) already covered our view. So timing when photographing at the top of Mount Kinabalu is important.

I would say that if one could stay at Sayat Sayat Hut over the night, it should be great. The toilet is there but the temperature will be surely super cold. Or else, better to be able to summit 2 times. Meaning one have to plan what areas to cover in two separate days as the window period to shoot before the cloud or fog cover the sky is short.

Camera gears

You can carry any gear you like but do get a porter. The rate is RM8 per KG up to Laban Rata. If you want to get porter to carry till the summit, the rate is even more.

For a 1 time summit, just forget the tripod. You’ll use it pretty short unless you have no problem paying porter to carry it. Usually the guide will also serve as porter. The problem is, the porter won’t be able to walk with us all the time. At times they will ask you to proceed first. So, it is not an ideal situation for a photographer. Hence my recommendation to travel light.

Why travel light? Because you want to be fast or at least within average time. You need to have enough rest so that your sore legs can recover a bit & you can acclimatize faster.

I suggest 1 camera (with good high ISO capability) and one one wide angle zoom lens e.g. 16-35mm range. But it is up to personal preference. Is tele lens useful? Yes but for a very limited use. Therefore you can skip such lens. During my climb, I bring only 14-24mm. I left my 105mm & flash at the hotel. A good point & shoot is enough for snapshots during the hiking.

Raincover is a must as we can’t predict weather change.

If you wish to carry your own gear, get a good backpack. Not ANY camera bag. I used Deuter Futura 32L with Puleme’s camera insert. I reckon a good waist camera bag also OK if your camera plus the lens are light enough.

What to shoot?

The best view should be at the plateau (of cause, the east side), but not from Low’s Peak I think. Thanks to Wazari Wazir for his information, I stopped at KM8.5 instead at the peak for the sunrise view. dR Ali said sunset at Laban Rata & sunrise from Sayat Sayat was great. The landscape along summit trail also not bad especially after Vilossa Shelter. The bonsai was simply amazing. If only the sky was great!

So in summary, choose dry season, travel light, spend more times at Laban Rata & summit at least twice if possible.

Kinabalu Challenge – Part 2: The summit & the end

Laban Rata was so cold. The toilet was outside the room & there was no heater. And it was drizzling most of the time. The wind was strong & super cold. I didn’t shower for obvious reason. I wore the thermal base-layer I bought from eBay & it worked great. The only thing that is still not enough was the glove. The alcheapo universal traveller glove I bought years ago failed to warm my hands.

At 2AM we woke up & getting ready to summit. This time I need to carry my own bag & all the camera gears. Only by 3AM everyone arrived & Azri gave the briefing but Ramin chipped-in with some demoralizing notes. Things like, you must reached Sayat Sayat (the last check-point) before 4AM & must summit before 6AM. Should reach Timpohon Gate before 4PM or else he will charge extra. Haiyyaa….Such warnings resulted in few of us failed to reach even Sayat-sayat & dR Ali was prevented from going beyond Sayat-sayat based on his late arrival the day before.

I am not sure whether there was any strict enforcement or official statement about timing. But I believe that guides are responsible to ensure that everyone is safe. If the guides don’t want to take the risk, they will create a lot of fuss. I saw many guides who motivated & helped their climbers. Many guides were helpful & friendly. Not Ramin though. We met a doctor from Queen Elizabeth Hospital who was the last to arrive at Low’s Peak. Her guide make sure she reached the summit. We knew she did that when we met her at the airport before we boarded our plane home.

The most difficult part was the 200m ‘cliff hanger’ style trek…he he he. With nothing can be seen below us, walking one-by-one using the rope on a small trek really scary. That was the trek just before Sayat Sayat.

Alhamdulillah I managed to reach the summit. I didn’t perform well. Stopped many times. I simply didn’t have the energy to move fast. Then I stopped at KM8.5 at about 5:30AM. I prayed Fajr prayer there. The weather was not great. There was still a glimpse of orange colour at the horizon but no sun. I kept on shooting. Took out my tripod for the first time. Did some bracketing. Shooting mostly the sunrise from Donkey Ears Peak & some views of South Peak.

After more than one hour there, I moved slowly to Low Peak.  Firdaus, Zahari, Ruslan, Rosdi, Izzat & Ustaz were already on their way down. I met Husni along the way & together we summit the highest peak. We were so happy being able to reach the peak. Posed for few photos but cloud are coming fast & started to cover summit. At about 8AM, we started to descend. We met the doctor from QE when we were about to leave Low Peak.

Together with Husni, slowly we walked down the mountain, occasionally using the rope provided. When passing Sayat Sayat to the ‘cliff hanger’ route….I realized that it was not as bad as what we thought when coming up. Somehow I didn’t feel the scare of height anymore.

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By 10AM we reached our room & quickly packed our things & went to the rest house at Laban Rata for our breakfast. At 11AM we started our journey to Timpohon Gate. I was tired & the pain slowed me down. I reached the gate only at 4PM.