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Home > Treks > Kinabalu > Day 3 > 3.6
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Giant Hut in the Mist

Giant Hut in the Mist
 
 

THERE is something special about arriving at your destination hut following a long wilderness hike.

caption
5.5km, 3137m ASL

The forest became thicker as I continued rising steeply up the endless stone stairway. The bright orange ultramafic rock and soil had by now given way to hard grey granite. There were a lot of dark green flaxy plants covering the ground. I passed the Pondok Paka shelter where several porters were resting but continued through the forest towards the hut.

At the KM5.5 3137 metre mark, I stopped to take another picture of myself. There was no one there, so I made a feeble attempt. Then Jessica appeared and took my picture. Robert was further behind, and had let her go on ahead. I think she was as keen to get to the hut as I was. She asked me how I thought she was going as she had never climbed a mountain before. I mentioned her fitness was very good with doing so well so high above sea level.

Rocky trail
Rocky trail

The forest suddenly cleared as the terrain steepened and still the cloud enveloped us, swirling in a chill breeze now. We had long left the equatorial heat of the lowlands. No doubt it was very hot and steamy down at sea level. Large trees were scattered here. Half of them stood dead. The grey exposed trunks and branches against the grey cloud creating a primeval black and white eeriness.

Jessica and I walked further until we saw the first of the huts appear in the mist ahead of us. For a brief moment we thought this was Laban Rata, but it was the Warra hut, indicated by a small sign on its long veranda, so we continued walking. Just a couple of minutes later we saw the huge three storey hut of Laban Rata appearing through the thick swirling mist. What a relief to be finally arriving after such a long trek up the mountain.

Laban Rata appears out of the thick mist
Laban Rata appears out of the thick mist

We continued following the track to around the back of the hut. The narrow end of the building had a spiral staircase which was no doubt the fire exit. Just past the spiral staircase was a tall cyan coloured wooden obelisk saying in vertical letters “Laban Rata”, and underneath in much smaller font – 3272.7M I was very high up. I had only seen two mountains higher than this altitude before from reasonably close – Mounts Cook and Tasman in New Zealand at 3754 and 3498 metres high respectively. This altitude was incredible, nearly fifty percent higher than I had ever climbed before. The landscape immediately around the hut was barren and rocky, with low scrub. A few metres out though and it was all thick scrub with forest growing in the gullies and up the main ridge just visible in the distance through the thick swirling mist.

Opening Hours
Opening Hours

Jessica and I finally reached the somewhat inconspicuous entrance to the hut where a ladder of narrow tree trunk slices above our heads had the following engraved on them


Selamat Datang Ke Laban Rata Resthouse
Restaurant Laban Rata
Masa Berniaga Business Hours
7:30 AM – 7:30 PM
2:00 AM – 3:30 AM

I was horrified that a restaurant way up here in the middle of nowhere would open in the small hours of the morning, but then again that was when most people leave to head up towards the summit for the sunrise.

Inside the restaurant
Inside the restaurant

We entered the hut to find several of the group had already arrived, particularly the Danish boys and Suzanne who did not divert to the giant Nepenthes Villosa. I sat down at the table with Richard, Tobias, Casper, Therese, Jessica and Suzanne. They were sitting around a large table by the window, so I joined them for a cup of tea. I suddenly felt a sharp cramp in my lower right leg that froze it to paralysis, but fortunately it only lasted a couple of minutes before easing off. One by one the others arrived, apart from Nadia who had fallen a long way behind. Fortunately she was with Sapinggi. We all mentioned how amazing it would be for her to be hearing all Sapinggi’s amazing stories and being shown all the wildlife as she was slowly making her way up towards us.

Laban Rata hut was full of the frenetic activity of climbers who were about to do the summit early tomorrow morning. It was quite crowded, reminding me of the huts in the Abel Tasman National Park back in New Zealand. The tracks had always been relatively quiet during those hikes, but the huts had been very busy full of travellers from all around the world. It was exactly the same here only even busier.

Thick cloud outside the hut
Thick cloud outside the hut

The hut here was different though. The huts in New Zealand were very rustic and coloured to blend in with the surrounding landscape. The walls of this giant hut were painted a warm cream colour and the ceiling was glossy white panelling with florescent tubes powered by the electricity that came up the cables inside the long black ducting that had followed the ridge line the entire way up here. We all sat around simple fold up wooden tables and plastic chairs, each having been brought up the mountain along the track at some stage.

Laban Rata hut had been built entirely from materials carried up the track. Today we had seen numerous people taking supplies up, including a gas bottle. A couple of weeks ago a group of six people carried a huge refrigerator unit up to the large restaurant. People worked here. One person yesterday had brought up a washing machine. For such a logistical nightmare in getting anything up here, the hut was very elaborately constructed and decorated.

Reunited with the rest of the group
Reunited with the rest of the group

The hut had three levels. The top level contained the sleeping facilities, the middle level was the restaurant where we were sitting in, and the lower level was the quarters for the guides and porters. The building was extremely well set up as a long rectangular shape with ends bent outwards from the mountain. The reception area to our left had a lady behind the fancy counter serving drinks. There was a doorway past the reception where there would have been offices and perhaps accommodation for the staff. To the right of the building was a row of tables for serving food. Behind that was the kitchen where there was a lot of activity by a group of chefs preparing our dinner.

I went upstairs with Richard to our bunk room. The fairly narrow stairs rose from the lower level and doubled back to a long hallway going along the entire length of the buildings. Red stained timber doors provided entrance to each of the bunkrooms apart from one door either side of the stairway going to the bathrooms. The hallway had light coloured wooden floorboards and walls painted a soft cream colour with an orange tinge – nice and warm. There were numerous small murals and urns with sticks in them along the hallway. We reached the first door to the left and entered the bunkroom where our entire group, along with a couple of other groups will be sleeping tonight.

My small duffel bag was sitting on the floor against the wall amongst everyone else’s. Thankfully the porters had successfully taken them this far up the mountain. I charged one of the spare batteries to ensure I had plenty of charge up the summit. This was especially crucial as batteries tend to run flat a lot quicker at high altitude mainly due to the lower air temperatures. I put the rest of my stuff, on a spare lower bunk. The bed was made up with sheets and blankets, so it was nice not to have needed to pack a sleeping bag.

I returned to the dining hall downstairs just in time to see Nadia arrive with Sapinggi.

We had all safely arrived at the hut we will be calling home tonight..

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Date:

 

Location: Country:

 

Latitude: Longitude: Altitude:

18 May 2010

 

Mount Kinabalu

Malaysia

 

6°03'31"N
116°33'58"E
3001 - 3273m ASL

 

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