After a good night rest, and with the body strength restored, many climbers choose to get up as early as 2:00 am to prepare for the climb. The restaurant at Laban Rata opens at 2:00 am to 3:00 am, light breakfast, hot coffee and tea are served. Temperature at the outdoor is cold at 10C average throughout the year, and warm clothings are essential items.
Many climbers start the second part of The Summit Trail at 3:00 am from Laban Rata (3,272 m), which gives them about 3 hours to reach the summit before the magnificent sunrise. Whereas the slower climbers will go as early as 2:30 am to have more time to cover the 2.7 kilometres, while the fitter climbers can start a bit later at 3:30 am.
The first section of this journey is passing the steep rocky faces of Panar Laban. Climbers will have to manoeuvre through a series of wooden stairs and later rocky steps. This is normally done in pitch dark condition, therefore a flash light or head lamp will indeed be handy.
Many parts of the wooden stairs and rocky steps can be congested as the trails are only wide enough for one person at a time. The congestion is mainly caused by climbers with different level of fitness, and also because of the thin air at the mountain climbers have to huff and puff for air.
After the rocky steps climbers will reach the rocky wall, there are no more trees from this point upward, and climbers are totally exposed to the elements. The rocky wall is a steep accent requiring climbers to use rope for a distance of about 300 metres and this is the most dangerous part of the entire journey. In some parts of the rocky wall if climbers slip out of the trail, they can fall down 80 metres or more and can be fatal, therefore climbers are asked to be careful.
Sayat-Sayat Huts at 3,668 m is the last shelter on the summit trail, and this is also the third and final check point before the summit. There is also a toilet here for any final nature call. The landscape from now onwards is an open area of granite slope, and only small scrubs and flowers can survive at this altitude with minimum soil. For direction on the trail climbers have only just the white rope to follow, at time it’s like a never ending strands of rope that goes on and on…..
From Sayat-Sayat Huts to Low’s Peak climbers are constantly exposed to the elements. Cold and windy, slow and tired, plus the heavy breathing needed to keep the climbers going, not surprising that some climbers choose to quit here and head back down to Laban Rata.
Those who keep moving towards the summit are rewarded with a splendid show from the night sky. Millions and millions of stars are shinning across the black sky, and their brightness is so intense and near that climbers want to believe that the stars can be caught by their bare hands. While on a full moon night the brightness of the moon is illuminated on the entire mountain, thus the flash lights are put back to the pocket.
With endurance and will power climbers reach Kinabalu Plateau, leaving the many Peaks of Kinabalu behind. The final destination, the Low’s Peak is at last visible, and with another 30 minutes walk climbers will reach the summit.
With the help of ropes assisting the climbers up the last few feet of the steep slope of the Low’ Peak, and some even resort to clawing with bare hands using the rock as support, finally the climbers reach the summit of Kinabalu. A great sense of achievement takes over and a renewed energy gets climbers busy taking pictures for remembrance, and jostling for positions to have the best snap, with the summit signs. The summit can get very crowded as more and more climbers reach the top.This is a good time to have a bar of chocolate to keep the body warm while waiting for the sunrise.
Night gives way to dawn, and changes from the sky is inevitable, the brightly shinning stars from heaven are gone by now, and are replaced by beautiful colours of hues like gray, orange, purple and red instead. Moment later, slowly but surely, the sun is seen rising from the eastern corridor, within minutes the dawn has disappeared, the day has begun.
When the sunlight reaches the lowland, the view from the summit has changed from pitch dark to an alluring “Land below the wind”. The rolling hills forming the Crocker Mountain Range, and with white clouds as icing top are mesmerizing to the eyes. Trus Mardi the second highest mountain in Malaysia is seen seated on the south-west.
Further away the greenish lowlands can be seen meeting with the bluish South China Sea, and the few islands on the west coast of Sabah are clearly visible. The view also stretches from the South of Kota Kinabalu all the way to the northern Tip of Borneo. The Gulf of Marudu in between the two peninsulas just next to Kudat town makes the whole panoramic view looks exactly like it is in the map. The nearby small farming Kundasang town at the foothill of Mt. Kinabalu is also easily visible.