Borneo - Low's peak Sunrise

New Year’s Eve in Borneo

Borneo, the third largest island in the world and at this time of the year, also the very warm and dry place in Asia. This is one of my favorite corners that I would love to explore a bit more.

Before carrying on our trip, I snap a few shots.

The purpose of the visit on this island is to climb Mt. Kinabalu (UNESCO World heritage), Low’s Peak (4095.2m) — the highest peak in South-Eastern Asia– and thus we registered with a tourism company for the 2 day trip to the top of the mountain, the World’s highest via ferrata included.

Nabalu handicraft marketThe trip from the airport to the reservation is a 2h drive, with a very friendly Malay guy/de. It is funny to me to notice that they drive on the left here, unlike in Europe. The road to Kinabalu Reservation, includes a stop in Eden …ahem, I mean Nabalu’s market full of local handicraft and fruits fro, the region. There we try some mangosteen and red banana.

Palm trees mix with the usual non tropical species, until slowly the road starts climbing and there are only exotic plants left on the menu. Coconut and banana growing in the wild, and from time to time I catch a glimpse of a Jackfruit tree or Durian? (after all I left Asia without grabbing the chance to taste it … :-\ ).

Pine Resort Vila's terraceBefore starting our journey up to Low’s peak, we spend a night in the Pine Resort. This is basically our New Year’s Eve, which turns out to be a very sweet one, unexpected thing for the middle of nowhere. Alex decides that she wants to BBQ, so we gear up for it and in the evening, after dinner we try our luck… which is not with us. The fireplace is empty, BUT friendly locals help us out first with coal, then with the rest of the stuff. I actually get into a nice get to know them conversation. They are local guides in Kota Kinabalu, accompanying tours on flora in the city. They are all mostly from KK and their English is improving! :)

Trail to Pendant HutOn the 1st of ’13, we start our journey up to Pendant Hut (3289m). It is a 6km long trail, that we are told it takes 6h, for 1423m altitude difference. I let you do the math on the steepness of the path. It is yet anther beautiful experience. The path is basically stair like, which atm I totally enjoy, will do less on the way back … . The weather is pretty warm, but nothing unbearable, I sweat, thus I don’t feel the humidity. Our way goes up through the clouds sometimes. Our guide has an original local name, which unfortunately I forget right away, but the other locals that I get to meet during the coming 2 days have names like Bryan, Albert and so forth. This is a bit unusual, interesting!

We are 5 in the group, and turns out that the couple who joined us is very friendly and kind. I help out the guy with some post workout advice and seems to work for him, thus he makes it to the top later on. On the other hand, Denzil is not feeling so good, and decide to abandon the hike. Turns out after the trip that he had caught some bacterial infection at lungs’ level.

The way up is not too hard, and even though before the trip I was doubting the lose requirements shoe wise, it is indeed a trail doable with trainers, trekking shoes, all the way up.  On the way, I try to communicate with our guide, a very very cute old man, obviously in a good shape, and later on he starts showing me all the amazing plants on our way up.

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By the end of the 4th km, meaning 4h — which is very much doable in less than 4h, the tropical rain starts. And it pours more than cats and dogs and it keeps on raining. It catches us at the shelter, but we have a commitment, by 15h30 we have to be at the hut, for next day’s via ferrata briefing and it is 12h30.

Pendant hutOnce the rain doesn’t seem to want to stop, we continue our journey up the path in rain, and after a short while I am swimming in my shoes and decide to break apart from the group (cannot get lost since there is no other way, but down the same path) and decide to continue alone and … faster. I make it to the cabin 1h before the others and take a very welcome warm shower. By 14h45 I am at the early briefing, though the weather at that point doesn’t look too promising. The only problem now is that the shoes and socks are not gonna dry for the next… morning.

My first climb of >4000m and it is outside Switzerland

After dinner, early bedtime, by 7 people start sleeping and we wake up at 2am to get ready for the departure. I get to hike with Nicky, partner of Carol who decides not to do the climg, friend from dinner last night. Very handy! So we start the climb, and with 2 x 30 min breaks of shivering in the shelter of some cliffs on the way up, we make it to the top, where we have another few minutes until the sunrise. It is there, finally and after so many pics, we finally head down from the 0 degree non-tropical, windy climate. Socks and fingers frozen, I can’t be more grateful to descend!^^


The way down is actually only until the via ferrata (3776m). We meet there our mates and guides and we begin the 3h descent. I must day, it was enough of it for a while. Since we start off without breakfast, Nicky and I am all about breakfast the whole way down, but mostly towards the end. It is an amazing trail, with many verticals and horizontals. Our guide is amused by us not taking chances with the security attachments, in the beginning but by the end we try out the crazy hangings as well. There is a segment which takes us through the jungle. ATM seems the most difficult part of the trail. Finally with an average speed we reach the bottom and in the end we get our well deserved meal!

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We leave the hut at 12 and the final descent takes us like 3h20 for ~>2300m descent, back to Timpohon Gate (1866m) and that’s where (aprox.) I say good bye to my trekking mates and new lovely friends, Nicky and Carol.

View from the end of the via ferrata over Pendant and Laban Rata Huts
View from the end of the via ferrata over Pendant and Laban Rata Huts

At the bottom, the driver who picked us up from the airport and drove us around, Bryan is taking us to our accommodation places. In the meanwhile the Amazing Borneo Team Member hands us out the certificates of accomplishment for Low’s Peak and the via Ferrata

<BLING> Wohoo, got the certificate! :-) <BLING>

More pics here.

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