|Height|| ||4,095 metres (13,435 feet)|
|Vertical Elevation|| ||~2,200metres|
|Location|| ||Kinabalu Park, Sabah, Borneo|
|Nearest town|| ||Kota Kinabalu (Ranau)|
|Start/Finish|| ||Timpohon Gate (Kinabalu Park HQ)|
|Climbing time|| ||2 days|
|Distance|| ||8.7km one-way|
|Grade|| ||3/5 Hike|
|Other peaks|| ||None|
At 4,095metres Mount Kinabalu is the highest mountain in south-east, and according to one stat, there are no higher mountains between it and the Himalaya. So not only is Kinabalu high, but it is also one of the easiest big mountains you are likely to climb. Infact tens of thousands of hikers climb to the summit every year and anybody with a medium level of fitness should have not problems getting to the top. The walk is a two day walk during which you stay at one of the guest houses high up on the mountain. You must be accompanied by a guide on the walk up.
Mount Kinabalu sits almost right on the equator making this walk accessible pretty much all year round. Afternoon rains are not uncommon making the walk a little slippery later in the day, however the difference in seasons is marginal (although February to April are likely to be drier. Average day temperatures range from 15-24C, while night temperatures average 6-14C. You will need to bring warm clothes as it gets quite cold during the night. You will also need a torch (preferably head torch) in order to climb during the night.
It is important to book accomodation before heading up, as accomodation at the bottom of the mountain and at Laban Rata can be completely booked out.
Most people climbing Mount Kinabalu start out from the capital of Sabah, Kinabalu. From here you can catch a public bus (to Ranau), join a tour and hire a taxi to take you the park head quarters. The drive is between 3-4 hours. Tour groups and taxis are likely to stop along the way at tourist spots and markets, specifically for tourists. Many tour groups combine a climb to the summit with other activities in the general area of the park (including Poring Hot Springs and the Canopy Walk).
Park entry fee: RM3 (Malaysian), RM15 (Foreign)
Climbing permit: RM30 (Malaysian), RM100 (Foreign)
Climbing insurance: RM7
Guides: RM40-50 per person
Accomodation: RM290-360 per person (includes buffet dinner, breakfast and lunch)
Transport from Gate HQ to Timpohon Gate: (RM16.50 each way)
Souvenir certificate: RM10
See the Sabah Tourism site for more detail
Park head quarters - Laban Rata
Distance: 4-6 hours
Everyone climbing Kinabalu must first register at the gate head quarters, including paying a climbing fee, insurance and paying for a guide. All climbers on Kinabalu must have a guide the entire walk. This documentation must be carried for the walk and is actually required to pass a check point just before the final summit climb.
Most climbers will then catch a mini bus from the gate entrance to Timpohon Gate (4km) and start the actual climb, although those really wanting to ensure more climbing can walk this additional few kilometres.
Once through the gate, the trail descends briefly crossing a stream in a gully below. From then onwards the path is up all the way. Most of the climbing involves climbing stairs, although well maintained. Seven shelters are roughly evenly spaced along the trail. Most of these have a small covered area, a bin and the facility to refill water bottles. We found most these shelters crowded, littered with rubbish and actually rested between shelters, although they do make a good target for each rest stop.
The trail generally winds its way through rain forest, however as you climb the vegetation becomes more temperate. The first day ends when reaching Laban Rata, a series of hostels at 3272 metres (so you may start to feel the affects of the altitude). Most climbers aim for an early start, somewhere between 8am and 10am, so you should reach Laban Rata sometime between 12 and 3pm.
Laban Rata and the surrounding huts (Gunting Lagandan Hut, Panar Laban Hut and Waras Hut) are all fairly basic dorm style accomodation. Each have running water, electricty, shared toilets and a communal bathroom. Blankets are provided in all huts. Laban Rata is the largest and probably most the most comfortable of the huts, with electric heaters in all the rooms. This is also where you can eat a the buffet-style restaurant (meals are generally included in any guided tours). We actually found the smaller huts more comfortable (although colder) as they were less crowded. We simply hung out and ate in Laban Rata and then went back to our hut to sleep.
Laban Rata - Summit
Distance: 3-4 hours
Generally everyone is up by about 2am (with a 3am departure) with the intention of reaching the summit by sunrise (it was 9C as we left Laban Rata). Like the previous day, the trail starts out by climbing an endless number of stairs. As we climbed higher we could see a line of head torches stretching out before and behind us. We could also hear the moans of the few climbers who had sucumbed to altitude sickness.
About two hours into the walk and you reach the Sayat-Sayat checkpoint (3810m). It is here that you must present your climbing permit in order to continue onwards. This is also the last place to fill up with water or go to the toilet.
Once through the checkpoint, the path quickly changes to a massive rock shelf, although this becomes incredibly steep in some places. You must follow a rope which leads off into the darkness. We were completely enveloped in mist, so couldn't see more than a few metres in front of us. This was an unusual experience as we really weren't sure whether we would plummit off a cliff on either side of the rope marked trail. In the light of the day we could see this was not the case, however in the early 1990's some tourists did wander too far off and fell to their deaths (hence the requirement to now have a guide).
We found that we couldn't walk more than a dozen paces before needing to take a breath and often found ourselves pulling ourselves up by the rope. Of course our guide showed no signs of alitude affects or any exertion.
By the time you reach the bottom of the final climb it is generally light enough to turn off torches. This last climb/rock scramble takes you to the actual summit. Here a wire fence literally holds you back from falling off the edge of a huge cliff. It is likely there will be hordes of people trying to take their photo on the summit. We managed a quick victory photo, before other tourists bustled their way into our photo. No sooner had we sat down for a rest than our guide was anxious to head back down the mountain. (We had taken a little longer to get up, so perhaps he thought we would take a while getting down again, however it was a little annoying to be rushed back off the mountain top at 6 in the morning).
It might seem as though the hard bit is over once you get to the top, however the descent is punishing. The entire walk down is probably 5-6 hours with constant jolting of your knees. By the time we reached Timpohon gate our knees were throbing. Infact, for the next 3 days we could hardly walk our thighs and calves were so sore after the descent (so plenty of stretches). We reached Laban Rata about 10am with another 3 or so hours to get back to the bottom of the mountain. Climbing back down from the summit when it's light also reveals how steep some parts of the climb are. There are few sections when you are clinging to the side of the mountain holding onto ropes (certainly an experience that will have anyone suffering from vertigo feeling a little anxious). Back at the gate head quarters we were presented with a certificate to mark our achievement.
The Mesilau trail offers an alternative route to the summit. This route will add several hours to the walk as you start from a lower point on the mountain. This trail eventually joins the main summit trail. This trail has not been reviewed here (once up the mountain was enough for me),
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