The roll call for the summit climb is done at 2am, this is done so that climbers don’t accidentally oversleep and miss their summit climb. Before the summit climb at 2.30am, we gather with our backpacks at the living room and refuel with toasted bread and coffee. There will only be one toilet stop on the way to the summit so you’re not encouraged to eat or drink more than necessary.

The beautifully star-lit Mount Kinabalu at dawn

The climb starts with a trek up through the new Ranau Trail (distance 1,050 meters) that is basically just climbing up an endless flight of wooden stairs, which is essentially easier than the old route (which was rockier) but also more tiring.

The stair-climbing continues until the Sayat Sayat Hut (the middle checkpoint) at kilometer-7.0 where climbers are required to show their climbing ID for record purposes and gather together before the summit climb resumes at 4am. From this point onwards, climbers are advised to trek slowly to make it in time for the sunrise, as arriving too soon at the summit may expose them to hypothermia -- summit temperature can drop down to 2 degree celsius.

While you’re busy making your way to the top, don’t forget to momentarily stop to appreciate the view around you. For me, the view of Mount Kinabalu at dawn beats any postcard out there -- it’s just simply mesmerizing! Keep your eyes peeled for shooting stars, and have a list of wishes ready for when you do spot them!

Me at the summit

At 5.30am, I finally reach Low’s Peak -- the highest point on Mount Kinabalu. Breathtaking doesn’t even begin to describe the view from the top as the first rays of sunrise peek their way from behind the clouds. At this point, all tiredness and muscle soreness are forgotten and all I can think of is, “so, this is why they keep coming back!”

Climbers descending overlooking the South Peak

Sun saying hello!

At the magic pond. It is said that you can make a wish here and it will come true

Walking down the scenic Ranau Trail

Breathtaking view of the rock face and valley from the Ranau Trail stairway

Climbers descending down the Ranau Trail

My mountain guide, Wlfred drinking in the view

A few photographs later, it is time for me to make way to other climbers and start my descent to the Sayat Sayat Hut where I am meeting up with the other climbers and our mountain guides for the Walk the Torq activity.

Walking the Torq

At 3,521 meters above sea level, the 430 meter-long Walk the Torq route is designed for the beginner in mind. It is a leisurely route that can be completed within 2 – 3 hours. It is decidedly shorter and less challenging than that of The Low’s Peak Circuit.

The Walk the Torq route is perfect for you should you feel like having a little taste of the Via Ferrata experience but do not wish to expend too much energy on it. The via Ferrata experience promises an amazing view above the cloud with a jolt of adrenaline.

If you have a fear of heights, you would probably have to give yourself an honest assessment as you would need to go through some scary bits, such as the Monkey Bridge, the Tyrolean Traverse and the Balancing Beam. Whatever it is, don’t look down and just concentrate on your guide.

Two hours later, I am relieved and grateful that I have conquered three things: my willpower, the Low’s Peak summit and my fear of heights. As I start my descent to Timpohon Gate and bid the mountain farewell, I am filled with a brand new pride for Mount Kinabalu as a national icon. Until next time!