My Unforgettable Lesson From Climbing Mount Kinabalu (September 2008)

It was indeed a trip to remember. Through the two days going up and down the mountain, I have gone through a lot physically, mentally, and spiritually. I write this down to share what I have gone through and to remind myself of this incredible experience I had. And, praise the Lord for giving me this opportunity of learning.

Mount Kinabalu, located in Sabah, is the highest mountain in South East Asia, and is 4,095.2m above sea level. Usually, people spend 2 days and 1 night to cater for the climb. The first day is to start the climb from the base, the Kinabalu Park Headquarters all the way to Laban Rata, a rest-house located (3,263m) about three-quarters way to the top. After staying there for the night, one would start doing the rest of the climb from about 2am in the morning so as to meet the sunrise at the summit by around 6am. Following that is the trip climbing down to the base, with a brief stopover at Laban Rata again for a lunch. This is what people generally do for the climb.

Every year, as I was told, there is a competition going on to finish the climb from base to the summit and back in the shortest time. The fastest record so far is 2 hours 36 minutes, by a guy from Spain. It is a really, really incredible speed. In contrast, I ended up spending roughly nine (9) hours for the trip up to Laban Rata in day 1, and a record-breaking 17 hours to finish the rest to bring me back to the base in day 2. For your information, my last climbing experience happened some 24 years ago when I was at the Yellow Mountain in China. Needless to say, this one was very demanding to me. But I enjoyed it tremendously.

On September 11, after sorting out all the formalities at the Headquarters, and having a brief breakfast at the nearby café, I set off for the climb with my personal guide, James, at about 10am. The weather was great, sunny and not very hot, with white clouds and the beautiful blue sky. It didn’t take long for me to start feeling the different “flavors” the trail offers: from those with steps somewhat higher than normal (making it a bit more demanding on the knees), to big rocks scattered in irregular pattern along the path, to big and small rocks. I said to myself quietly, “if patience is what I have to learn, I wouldn’t miss this golden opportunity.”

I was enjoying the scenery and busy shooting and finding the best angle for my lens. Took my brief lunch pack at about 1pm and continued on. ‘By about 2:30pm, it turned a bit foggy and we could feel the humidity around. It was towards 3:30pm that drizzling started and continued to raining heavier and heavier all the way for the rest of the evening and the night. I had my raincoat on which was a fantastic choice because it covered the bag I carried as well. I had a walking stick on one hand and a large bottle of mineral water on the other. The weather became so cold that in two occasions I dropped the bottle of mineral water. Though it was raining, my mood wasn’t too much affected because I saw it as more like giving me a variety to my trip.

As it was raining, James and I were walking the path in silence. All I was thinking was to quickly get to the rest-house and have a good rest. I thought James would do too. Towards the evening, the rain becomes heavier and heavier. I felt a world of tranquility and peace. I took the hood off, and let the rain fall on my head. I prayed to God to let the rain cleanse my body and soul.

One thing I noticed was that James the guide had always been keeping a close company with me. When I was doing the photos, he patiently waited. When I was slow in moving the steps, he just took the patience to wait for me and kept at my pace. I said to myself, isn’t that supposed to be how the up-lines (in MLM) should take care of the down-lines? So many times, he would show me the easy path, or he would caution me of the likely dangers. I started to see a role model here in my network marketing business. I think I should play the role of a guide, not a teacher, or even a coach.

People kept passing me by, including the young girls from Taiwan, Singapore, China, and some Malaysian as well. I could not but to admit the age factor was kicking in. (I subsequently found out a secret. Actually, most of them had at least a month’s preparation doing workout etc. to keep fit. No wonder!)

By the time we reached the rest-house, it was already 7pm. We hurried for the dinner and washing up and all that. Before going to bed (sharing a room with 4 others), I made sure that I got my camera and cell-phone batteries recharged.

The guide asked me to wake up at 1am trying to prepare for an even earlier start. Somehow, because the breakfast only started at 2am, we ended up setting off at around 2:30am. This early morning trail could be summarized in a few words: dark, steep, torch, robe, and gloves. ‘Some part of the climbing up is very steep. To a point, my guide said to me and asked me perhaps it was too dangerous for me to persist to the summit. My heart dropped. He said what he said because he saw me having some symptoms of altitude. A couple of times, I was feeling a bit dizzy, and at one point, I felt like wanting to throw up.

I quietly prayed to God and asked Him if I should better stop the climbing up. There seemed a voice in my ear telling me to go on. Doubting that might be because of my own subconscious working, I repeated the question a few times and listened. Yes, the voice spoke the same message and this time it encouraged me to go up because there would be a prize waiting for me. I told James that the Lord asked me to continue. (He was a Christian too).

The rest is history. I got to the summit by about 8am, and had been busy doing some photos along the way. There were not much of a sunrise and people started moving down as we were moving up. Later, we saw a very dim image of the sun when we were hanging around in the summit area. The place was basically bare with not much grass or weed. It was breathtaking because of the elevation, and the grand rocky space it covered. I did a prayer at the top point. The timing and the location had made it unique. To now, I still don’t know if a prize is set for me and if so, what the prize is. But, I deeply felt that I have already got the best prize, that is, having God with me.

By the time we got to the summit, most of the people have moved down. The only few that were left behind were the ones who were keen to spot something stunting for the lens, and that included me.

The journey moving down was not as easy as I anticipated. The scenery seemed mostly unfamiliar and I was eager to get to the base as early as I could. The last three hours of the trip down was the most demanding on my knees. I felt the pain coming from my left knee and I could relate that to what arthritis could mean to sufferers. I promised myself I would do everything to make sure I continue to have a truly healthy body till I die.

Finally when we landed on the bridge close to the base, the Kinabalu Park HQ, it was already dark. I paid pity on the four women who were still at least an hour behind. But what could I do? James was remarkable and very professional. He said he had been working as a guide for the last 16 years. He was extremely patient with me. Perhaps he might look at me as kind of old. I don’t know and I won’t even ask.

How did I feel when I finally landed at the base? I felt I had accomplished something. I felt like totally worn out. The next thing in my mind was a good meal, a good hot shower, and a good sleep. I remembered I was like dragging my body to the motel nearby. After all, I had a good 17 hours of walking on uneven ground.

This trip has given me a lot to think about. It is a very good challenge to me physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. A few days after the trip, I noticed that I had shed about three (3) pounds of unwanted fat mainly around the waist line, thanks to Mount. Kinabalu.

I would highly recommend the climb to everyone. Would I do it again? Well, I don’t think so. I have done it already. At least, not for a long, long while. :)

Junius Wong is an accountant (CPA) turned lifestyle trainer. Born in Hong Kong and residing in Sydney, Australia, he is currently traveling around Malaysia promoting his passive income business. His mission is to help serious people own back their life and achieve a lifestyle they could only dream about before. If you like these topics, please go to

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, January 14th, 2009 at 8:16 am and is filed under Mount Kinabalu. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

2 Responses to “My Unforgettable Lesson From Climbing Mount Kinabalu (September 2008)”

  1. Timur I. Alhimenkov Says:

    Wow! Thank you very much!
    I always wanted to write in my blog something like that. Can I take part of your post to my site?
    Of course, I will add backlink?

    Sincerely, Reader

  2. adrian Says:

    Be my guest. Although I have no idea what your blog is about, as it is all in Russian (I think) ….

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