XPDC Kinabalu

The idea

One day, I announced to my research students that everybody is required to submit a paper to the International Conference on Chemical and Bioprocess Engineering (ICCBPE) to be held in Kota Kinabalu. Everybody was quiet, as they understood that hard work was forthcoming. Then I said, “we’ll be climbing Mount Kinabalu after the conference”. The mood changed instantaneously. Everybody was excited.

When the time came, all my research students – Kamarudin, Raoof, Lim Wan Piang, Chen Wah Sit and Norasma Fazli were ready. Along with us were other research students and lecturers from process control and safety as well as separation technology groups. It was in late august 2003.

The conference

The conference went on well. Diligently prepared, all of my research students were able to deliberate well on their research outcome as outlined by the papers.

Independence day

We were also fortunate to have the opportunity to observe the Independence Day parade that was held at the sea front of Kota Kinabalu, on 31st of August. We also took the opportunity to go snorkeling at Pulau Mamutik and Pulau Sapi.

September 1, 2003

Timpohon Gate

Timpohon Gate

The jouney to Kinabalu Park was long. It was supposed to be about two and a half hours but we took about four. The uphill journey in a slow moving van hired by Kama from some of his relatives was tiring, but compensated by the beautiful views of the surrounding. We reached Mesilau Lodging facilities late in the evening.  The night was spent on chatting and sleep. Everybody knew that the challenge would begin the next day.

Front row: Rahim, Adnan, Chen, Arshad, Raoof, Deen. Second row: Heng, Lim, Rizza, Zul, Rosli, fadlin, zana. Last row: Arshad, Lee, TATA, Fazli

September 2, 2003

We departed from Mesilau to Timpohon gate at 7.30 am. Following a briefing from the guides, I lead a special do’a that I learned from Ustaz Hasanudin, “Ya Ardh, Rabbi WaRabbukillah…till the end” . We then started our climb.

The trail offered by Kinabalu Park was generally safe for trekkers and climbers of any age group, as clear paths had been established throughout the journey. It was different than most other popular mountains in Malaysia, where one might be worry of thorns or “pacat” . It provided scenic panorama that would constantly mesmerize nature lovers.

Scenic Views

Scenic Views

The journey was exciting, albeit tiring. After few hours my body was fully wet due to sweating. By then, the effect of thinning air started to pose challenge to breathing. An old man told me “… you must control you breathing laah, otherwise you’ll be dizzy…”. All climbers went on according to their own pace in small groups. The stronger and fast climbers were ahead, leaving the slow trailing behind. I was in the top 30 % category.

Mount Kinabalu Trail offered many check points – all furnished with a hut, tap water and toilet. At every points, we stopped for few minutes, chatted and laughed at each other. Another interesting feature offered by Kinabalu park was the availability of porter to help carry stuffs at small fee, if you need the assistance. Local men, women and children – all burning calories and stretching muscles for cash.

By sunset, all in the our group had settled at the temporary lodging in Gunting Legadan, which was about 30 minutes past Laban Rata, the more popular transit point. Together with us in the next dormitory were high school students from Kudat, accompanied by some young teachers. The next phase of the journey would begin at 2.00 am the next morning.


Dinner was very modest – instant noodle and instant porridge. It was prepared by Rahim, a student actively involved in army reserve training program. To him, that was a reasonable cuisine, but Adnan who had a fever had no appetite for such adventurous meal and went straight to sleep.  Unlucky him, the dorm had no heaters and the weather was cold. For me, the food was okay. Meanwhile, Arsad Abu had announced that he had enough. So were Fadlin and Zana. They decided to wait there and join us later on the way down.

It was raining and windy that night, and we thought that we would be unfortunate, not to be able to continue with the climb. Due to safety reason, climbers were allowed to proceed beyond the transit points in bad weather. Nevertheless, we were lucky as the rain subsided sometime later in the night. Since I was sound asleep, I didn’t know at what time the rain stopped.

September 3, 2003

I woke up at about 12.30 am. After a hot shower and some breakfast, I was anxious to leave, but we had to wait for the guides. Breakfast was coffee and bread. Surprisingly Adnan was also ready to move on, said that he was better. At about 2.00 am, the guides appeared and the climb began. Everybody had a torchlight attached to the head. All our belongings were left behind and only some water and food were brought along. I took some dates with me since it is high in fructose and glucose – both  reducing sugars, thus faster to digest.

The second phase of the climb was more challenging. It was very cold and windy. The trail was rocky and when we past Sayat-sayat check points, it was entirely barren rocks, with patches of tiny bushes sparingly distributed over the top of the mountain. There were little signs of living things, probably due to cold temperature and strong winds, but interestingly, I found a big rat, about the size of a rabbit running. Wow.

I had to stop many times along the way, together with a Kadazan youth from Kudat who had paced along with me. By now, I have already forgotten his name.

All the struggles were paid off as we reached the summit. Riza was the first to arrive followed by TATA. I was in the third group, along with Zul and Raoof. That particular moment, the feeling of satisfaction was overwhelming. Huh… We finally made it.


We waited for few others to arrive and when it is time for dawn prayer, we offered it in congregation at the summit. I don’t remember who called the azan, maybe Riza, but I was the one who lead the prayer.


The journey down the summit was interesting. When we climbed up, it was dark and nobody realized how dangerous the tracks were, but with daylight emerging after sunrise, the track looked scary but amazingly beautiful. We stumbled on a girl who was almost crying, scared of walking on narrow wooden overpass that she had happily crossed about an hour or so before.

We reached Gunting Legadan at about 9 am. From there, joined by others, we made our journey down the mountain. The sight of people walking was funny. Perhaps it can be compared to cars with wheels misaligned. Some walked sideways like crabs, others went down slowly with some help from sticks. The legs battered by intense hard works climbing up, were barely capable of carrying the body. Nevertheless, they all reached the bottom.

The expedition to Mount Kinabalu had inspired me in many ways. It had strengthened friendships, boosted confidence and heightened gratefulness. Recalling those days, I am sure that I had made the intention to come back, and so will I , insya Allah…

(Note: For some technical reasons, the date shown in all pictures (came from TATA’s) camera were wrong.)


About Dr. AA

I am an educator, professional trainer, safety consultant, researcher, social worker, outdoor enthusiast, and a thinker.
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