Epic stories

Published on July 11th, 2014 | by Ella Benjamin


Highs and woes: the 23 (emotional) stages of a Mt. Kinabalu climb

Read time: a bit over 3 minutes

So there I was, lying in bed in a guest house half way up Mt. Kinabalu, crying my eyes out. But I wasn’t crying out of fear. I wasn’t crying because I was hurt and wouldn’t be able to carry on. No, I was crying because it was raining outside and I was terrified that the track would close and we wouldn’t be able to summit. Ahem.

I was lying in bed thinking about how badly I wanted to finish the trek – all those hours in the gym preparing, all those months of reading about the hike and looking up pictures, all that time spent thinking about how amazing it would feel to get to the top of one of the tallest mountains in South East Asia. I had even thought about what caption I’d post with a photo on Instagram (it pains me to admit this, publically though I am 100% confident that you’ll be able to relate).

I was convinced we would wake up at 2am to find that the path had been closed because it was too wet and we wouldn’t be able to reach the peak for sunrise. But, lo and behold, we awoke to completely clear skies. What I’m trying to say is that the climb up Mt. Kinabalu is likely to cause you suffering and unbelievable joy in equal measures. Prepare yourself.

Whether you’re planning a trip to Borneo or about to leave, here’s a rundown of the highs and lows Mt. Kinabalu is gonna throw right in your face.

1. When you tell your friends you’re going to climb Mt. Kinabalu

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2. How your friends react…

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3. …and when they realise they’re not coming with you (unless they are coming with you)

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4. When your partner/parents/friends get all proud of you because you’re going to climb a MOUNTAIN

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5. Your idea of the kind of workout you’re going to do to prepare

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6. The reality

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7. Your go-to exercise routine in the lead up to the climb

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8. Still, this is how you feel at the beginning of the trek

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9. But this is how you feel when the aforementioned rain, fatigue and high altitude settle in




10. When the rain stops and you realise you’re actually going to do this thing




11. When you’re hauling yourself up the mountain by a rope (in the dark)




12. When your local guide shows you the best path to take and motivates you the whole freakin’ way

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13. When you finally make it to the top of Mt. Kinabalu




14. When you’re waiting for sunrise on top of Mt. Kinabalu

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15. How you react to the sunrise on top of Mt. Kinabalu




16. When you realise you totally just managed to summit a mountain before breakfast

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17. When you get to soak your bones in the Poring Hot Springs on the way down




18. And your first few days back home go like…




19. But you know it was worth every step

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20. When you try and show off your new found mountain climber strength to your friends

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21. All you’re capable of doing when you get home

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22. But still…

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23. Because you’ll always remember…



Experience the amazing emotions of climbing Mt. Kinabalu for yourself on our very our The Greatest Land You’ve Never Heard of trip, and check our the rest of our Borneo itineraries whilst you’re there. Easy.

Mt. Kinabalu image courtesy of Azkin, Flickr

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About the Author

My travel highlights include: climbing Mt Kinabalu in Borneo, sand boarding in Peru, eating Brazilian BBQ in Rio, sleeping in a monastery in Japan and cruising next to hippos in Kenya. I’ve lived in the Middle East and in America’s deep south, and one time I met Prince Harry in Las Vegas. The end.

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