I finish packing my daysack and then eat a hearty breakfast in the restaurant on the ground floor. We take the bus into the park, and then Peter goes off to fetch our passes and two guides – Richard and Ron. Our bus then grinds up a narrow and twisting single-track road to the power station where the trail begins. We pause for group photos, and then the trek begins at about 9.20 am.
The climb is fairly relentless and we rapidly thin out. The first part is through rain-forest, in low cloud and mist. There are shelters every 1 km or so, with a “fun fact” on each.
Pondok Lowii (2267.4m): “The local Dusun people guided the early explorers up Mount Kinabalu. In 1851, Hugh Low, a government officer from Labuan, made the first recorded climb. The steepness of the climb did not trouble him. More problematic was the difficult journey from the cast to the foot of the mountain.”
I also read that at higher levels, the trees are twisted and stunted, but some are hundreds of years old. And there are over 26 species of rhododendron here.
Further up, we emerge into cloud forest, where the trees are indeed twisted and stunted and draped with moss. Mist drifts in the air, but the torrential rain of yesterday thankfully is absent. There are plenty of people on the trail, but it is never crowded.
The last 500 m to Laban Rata seems much longer, but finally the lodge hoves into view, just before one o’clock. There is still much cloud down in the valley, but above is a clear patch of blue sky. Helen is with me as I arrive, and Rob is up five minutes later. We eat our packed lunches in the lodge canteen with panoramic views of cloud out of the window.
We sit there in the euphoria of arrival, drink Milo, and admire the view whenever the cloud lifts sufficiently. The others roll in over the next hour or so. Not quite everyone has made it here. Steve and Fi decided to turn back early on as they were not feeling too well.
I try to sleep for a bit in our bunk room, then come down for a buffet dinner shortly after five. I was expecting premium prices up here, but it is excellent value – RM20 for a filling meal of soup, spaghetti, vegetables, fruit and coffee.
While we are finishing there is an awesome sunset outside. I expect it to be over quickly, but it just keeps getting better and better, and I repeatedly dash outside for yet another photograph. In the far distance, ocean waves can be seen breaking on the beach. As dusk falls, there is lightening in a distant tall cloud over the valley we walked up from. We finish the day playing cards, and then retire early, ready for tomorrow’s early start on the summit.