Kinabalu via Timpohon Day 1 - To Laban Rata

Upper Montane Forests

We passed 'Ubah Hut' (elevation : 2081 m) approximately 40 minutes in, and continued to make our way almost directly north. A kilometre further up, the trail swerved to the right as it made its way to 'Lowii Hut' (elevation : 2267 m), and past the junction for the smaller path that continued north towards Kemborongoh Tower. Shoots of Gibbs's bamboo (Bambusa gibbsiae) lined the sides of the trail here, as did small Kinabalu balsam flowers (Impatiens platyphylla) that added tiny splashes of purple to the otherwise overpowering green of the forest. The brightest and the most vibrant flowers however were the ubiquitous rhododendrons, which appeared as splashes of yellow, white, and pink.

We had now entered the 'Upper Montane Forest', which lies at elevations of around 2200 m to 3300 m. As we ascended the slopes of the mountain, the trees became shorter and more stunted and the flowers began to shrink. Although the diversity of the fauna decreases with this rise in elevation, the endemism drastically increases. Rhododendrons thrive in this zone--26 species can be found in Kinabalu Park, 5 of which are endemic. The most common rhododendrons that you may encounter here are the large yellow flowers of Rhododendron lowii and the pink flowers of Rhododendron rugosum, both of which have flowers that have the very obvious bell-shape that is characteristic of rhododendrons. As you ascend further, however, you may notice an increase in the number of shrub-like rhododendrons, with the endemic rough-leaved rhododendron (Rhododendron ericoides) being found all the way to the summit of Mount Kinabalu (elevation : 4095 m).

By now, the low clouds had crept in and a heavy mist had descended, leaving eerie silhouettes of twisted branches grasping towards the sky. We passed 'Mempening Hut' (elevation : 2516 m) at 11:15, and began to make our way north once again as the trail curved almost imperceptibly to the left. The trail in this area was made up of yellowy ultramafic rocks, which have a very low silica content but are rich in minerals. As the colour of the trail changed, so did the fauna that surrounded it. Sayat Sayat (Leptospermum recurvum) trees, that were twisted and had been bent by the strong winds, and Southern pine trees (Dacrydium gibbsiae) had completely taken over. Sayat Sayat are one of the few plants that are able to tolerate the toxicity of the ultramafic soil. Its white flowers, alongside the equally white (Schima brevifolia) flowers, can be found at the sides of this trail.

Not too long after, 'Layang-layang Hut' (elevation : 2702 m) appeared suddenly just after a sharp turn. This hut used to be known as 'Carson’s Camp' and is where the Timpohon trail meets the (now closed) Mesilau trail. The hut is about two-thirds of the way from Timpohon Gate to Laban Rata, and is where almost everyone stops for their lunch break. As a result, the hut attracts lots of Kinabalu shrews (Crocidura baluensis) that scamper around in search for food. Several far-less-daring red-breasted (rufous) Borneo thrushes (Turdus poliocephalus seebohmi), referred to as Luhui tana in the Dusun language, would watch on from the sides waiting for an opportunity to swoop in and grab a morsel.

Kinabalu shrew (Crocidura baluensis)

LNT Logo Feeding wildlife is ultimately harmful to their well-being. Once animals such as birds and shrews begin to depend on food from human sources, their behaviour becomes altered and they are exposed to dangers such as vehicles, other predators, and sometimes even amongst themselves as the chances of infighting increase. These animals not only become a nuisance to hikers but also can be vectors for dangerous diseases. Without human food, wildlife will have to forage for food from their natural environment, food which is almost always more nutritious for them. To put it simply, just do not feed the wildlife, no matter how cute they may be!

Next : Part 3 - Pitcher Plants