My husband and I did the ECWA trip and the Via Ferrara at Mount Kinabalu and it was great start to finish. The sanctuaries for the Orangutans and Sun Bears were great (I always worry I will feel sad, but these a great facilities and the Orangutans are free to leave, it isn’t caged). Our guide Faezan aka Bob was unbelievable. He spotted animals ages away, taught us so much, and kept us entertained. Our boat driver and spotter Cairo was also amazing and so dedicated to telling us so much about the plants and animals. Our driver Adam at mount Kinabalu was awesome and picked us up early after the hike and brought us to a less expensive restaurant that was super yummy while we waited for the others to finish the hike. Our mountain guide Harry was also amazing, keeping us on pace so we didn’t get to the top too soon and were waiting cold. It was all amazing and perfect. For a couple that usually stays away from group tours, we were amazed and super pleased we travelled Borneo in that fashion!
DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE how tough this hike is. at times it was hell on earth.
we booked the 2 night 3 day tour with RJ, unfortunately, i had already booked up somewhere else [which couldn't be canceled and was the most expensive place of our trip] on the 2nd night but still had to pay for the pouring hot springs part [which i totally understand]. apparently, you can only book the 2N/3D trip in advanced and the 1N/2D can only be booked something like month or so in advance and as i didn't want to take the risk that the mountain would be booked up by then we had to go for the longer trip....good move as it was booked up-so if this is something you want to do book ASAP.
so onto the actual trip. we were met promptly at our hotel [do stay overnight in the area close to kinabula to get some acclimatization in] by the RJ pick up driver, he was brilliant knew exactly what needed doing once at the park and organised us so well. we left our 3 VERY HEAVY bags in the baggage drop at the park [small charge for that but worth it. we were introduced to our guide....Effrey, he was amazing try and book him if you can, and dont underestimate his size i was taken aback by his ease of hiking the mountain and with 3 backpacks. basically, this guy got me up the mountain. you pay per KG for them to carry your overnight bag around 13RM per kg, please if he also offers to carry your mountain day bag pay him well, i made sure i paid the same plus tip as the night bag he carried, even though he didnt carry my day bag all the time i was still grateful for the times he did as it made the hike so much easier for me.
i found this hike a struggle, it is the highest altitude ive ever done and even though we were exercising before our trip [i did mount Snowdon only 3 months previous which was a piece of cake] nothing had really prepared me. my OH couldn't walk as slow as me so he went on and i stayed with Effery who offered to take my day backpack for me [he was already carrying his and our overnight one] that helped me enormously. the difficulty with this mountain is the gradient, the actual distance isnt long, around 8km but it goes up quite steeply, the are stairs and stairs and stairs, then boulders to trip over. my breathing was very labored, and i had found since hitting the kinabula area i was suffering nausea and lack of appetite. -mild altitude sickness.
Effery took the walk at my pace, showing me the easiest places to walk in and telling me to walk at his pace -which was a mesmerizing slow pace, his feet just seemed to glide over the steps and rocks. we stopped for very slow breaks at every rest stop-you start to feel the cold if you stop too long and its harder to start again.
the only downside /complaint i have of the trip was my packed lunch [my OH was happy with his] i don't eat meat [river junkies were aware of this] yet my pack lunch was chicken and veg, i noticed another couple who had booked with another company had been given sandwiches-cheese sandwiches, as i was suffering nausea something bland like cheese sandwich would have been very welcomed, instead my food went straight into the bin [i hate wasting stuff too], just looking at the veg in my meal made me feel sick, there was some kind of sweet bar and an energy drink i had brought in the pack which i ate and that was all the fuel i had for lunch to get me up to the hut. i feel bad dropping a star from the rating of this trip but feel the food/fueling was an important aspect of such a tough hike.
i had made sure we packed lots of drink with us both using a drinks bladder in our backpacks [do take one of these they are so handy] and i had thankfully put in couple of energy tablets in the drink so that helped keep me going. how on earth the locals go up and down the mountain carrying the items they carry i just dont know-respect to them. the items at the hut are expensive-yes- BUT everything is carried up there, the bottle of water or coke isnt dropped off easily by a van but lugged up by men, so i have no problem with the cost of them.
i reached the hut at 14.30 around 6hrs of hiking, during the last bit it poured down-so bring waterproofs i had jacket and trousers. our room "mates" [we were in a room with two bunk beds] arrived at 19.30 having got caught in a huge downpour and waited at one of the rest huts for it to stop, i had luckily reached the night hut by then as it did hammer down, but not sure i would have waited for it to stop but would have kept on walking.
the room was basic but fine for the job, although there was no electric until 17.00 so take a torch with you-we didnt want to use our head torches and use up the battery but we did have handheld torches. the toilets and shower are just down the hall. i changed into dryer and warmer clothes got into bed for a nap and afterward went down to supper- which was most welcomed as i did manage to eat something. there was also plenty of choice of food. we tried to get some sleep around 6.45, in our clothes so when getting up at 1.30 we didnt have to get dressed. i cant say i had a good sleep but at least i was resting, and t was hard when the time came to get up in the pitch black and get motivated for the next part of the climb which was at 02.40am.
you are given a small breakfast-but again i found i couldnt eat much i had two small pancakes [which were nice but all i could manage] then we were off out to climb the mountain of stairs at one point 1km of steps, it was dark it was cold although we soon warmed up and all you could see was line of lights ahead of you and behind you. the steps were never ending, until you came to the rope and an almost sheer rock face to walk up, i had a small meltdown at this point-i was tired and i was scared, i said to my partner and Effery i needed to have a little cry as im scared they both reassured me and i knew i had to crack on. make sure you take gloves they help with the rope holding. Effery at this point also took my walking poles [these are also important things to take]
my OH soon walked on without us which i didnt mind in fact i was pleased as felt bad holding him up and he was happy in the knowledge that Effery was looking after me, and i wanted him to make the summit for sunrise as i knew i wasn't going to. everytime you think youre getting somewhere another peak/rope hit you. at one point i looked around me and laughed it was like the dawn of the dead....we were all walking like zombies, even on the "easy" parts i regret not filming it on my mobile now as it looked so funny seeing so many people all walking in the same weird manner.
i made it up to the flatter part just below the summit for sunrise and OH MY GOD i have never seen anything so amazing, the sky was beautiful and the clouds hanging just below this blaze of colour, at this point i did keep stopping to take pictures as i just wanted to remember this forever, so few people will ever see anything like this and i am sure i never see such a spectacular sight as this again. i now turned round and saw the huge rock/boulder/mountain of the summit that i had left to climb-yep another little meltdown with tears, i cant get up there my energy was gone my breathing worse and still feeling sick. then i heard my OH shouting encouragement so i pushed on and made the summit.
once photos done we climbed back down to the "flatter" part where we stopped for a break and snack and i promptly vomited, i think my body had decided that id achieved my objective and thus gave in to the sickness. the walk back down to the hut was easy i was surprised by my energy levels and was running some of the way and made it to the hut before my OH. back at the hut i had for the first time EVER a beer at 09.00am again I tried to eat some breakfast [which was plentiful and lots of choice] but still couldn't and just managed plain bread.
people say the walk down is harder than walk up-i totally disagree, it was great to be able to breath better and not get short of breath. my biggest issue with the hike down was slipping and i did do that a few times and poor Effery nearly had a heart attack each time, plus he kept trying to save me falling and whIch i said he mustn't as last thIng i wanted was him hurting himself, not that hes not strong, but at home its drummed into us in my nursing job of manual handling and im not exactly a lightweight. so whereas others would pass me running down the mountain i had to take it easy to ensure i didn't fall any more times than possible, the flat parts near the end were great as i could run them.
i was so relieved when we hit the bottom of the mountain, our driver was there waiting and once back at the start we were told to go and get some lunch which was included in price-again my appetite still wasn't fully back but i tried to eat. whilst having lunch Effery came in with our certificates - which he paid for and wouldn't take payment for them, he felt we had paid him too much for him taking our bags but it was also a tip and yet he felt embarrassed by taking the money which was in our books well and truly earned. we thought it was so sweet that he gave us the certs and a lovely gesture.
we ached for days afterward, but all in all it was hell on earth but an amazing experience made more by the fact we are both 60 and yep overtook people much younger than us. everything was run very smoothly by river junkies, and as already said the only criticism was the pack up food -if id had a sandwich i would have left 5 stars, sorry guys.
tips: take walking poles, waterproofs jacket and leggings, waterproof gloves, energy drinks in a drinks bladder, snacks. dont forget cash for the hut, dress in layers, dont take long rest breaks. take toilet paper with you there are toilets at the rest stops but no paper or water to wash hands so take hand wipes. i also wore tubi grips on my lower legs and im sure that helped with muscle soreness
also don't think its just fitness you need its attiude more than anything, my own sheer determination was what got me thru this, [and of course help by Effrey] however, rubbish i was feeling i never once considered giving up, i knew i had to achieve this.
ps book a massage for the day afterward-it helps
i would certainly recommend River Junkies
We have now completed two trips through River Junkie and have been totally satisfied with them. They communicate well and deliver on their promises. We have recommended the company to friends and their experiences have been as solid as ours. We are just putting the finishing touches to another tour, using River Junkie.
We choose River Junkie because of its cheapest price. But we are satisfied by the staffs' kindness and hospitality. Reaching the summit of Mt Kinabalu is one of the greatest moments in my life, but Via ferrata activity is the unforgettable experience of this tour. I was exhausted after joining it, but it's worth! Must try!
We have just returned from 3D2N Mount Kinabalu climb with River Junkie and cannot recommend them highly enough. Excellent communication with Erin who was very responsive right from our first enquiry. She recommended we spend the night before our climb in the national park and we're very glad we did - saved an early start from KK and the lodge was great and far exceeded our expectations.
We have two kids aged 8 and 10 so we got a mandatory second guide for our group. Roger was highly experienced and I'd recommend anyone using River Junkie to ask for him if you are climbing with kids. Kevin was also excellent, and I noticed that we had extra briefings than other climbers - both before we set off on the first day and again that night about what to expect on day two. As well as looking after our safety and wellbeing, both guides pointed out local plants and animals, gave impromptu Malaysian lessons, joined in our family word games and Roger also sings Bon Jovi extremely well. They are both men of many talents and my kids loved them. They made our trip!
Thanks River Junkie, and Roger and Kevin, for an unforgettable family experience