Difference between revisions of "Mount Kinabalu"
Revision as of 03:05, 23 September 2005
Mount Kinabalu is South-East Asia's 3rd tallest mountain. You can climb to the top of Low's Peak (4,095.2m above sea level) but the height of the mountain is often given as 4,101m.
The mountain is sacred to locals. They believe that spirits of their ancestors inhabit the top of the mountain. Previously, a chicken was sacrificed at the peak every time a climb was made but these days this ceremony only happens once a year when only seven chickens are needed to appease the spirits.
Mount Kinabalu is known to be one of the most accessible in the world. No specialized mountain climbing skills are required to ascend it. The trail that most tourists use is described as a 'trek and scramble'. Locals begin climbing the mountain from the age of 3 and the oldest person to reach the peak was 80 years old. However, how much one enjoys the climb depends strongly on how fit you are and how well you acclimatise to the thin air at the higher levels.
Nevertheless, the mountain can be a dangerous place, especially during the rain or when there is mist. On average, every year one person gets into severe difficulty out of the estimated 20,000 people who attempt the climb. The higher slopes can be slippery when it rains and dense fog reduces visibility to a few feet.
Although it is possible to climb to the top and back in less than four hours, most climbers take two days, with an overnight break at Laban Rata (3,273m above sea level). The final attack on the peak takes place in the early hours of the second day (most begin at 2.30am) in order to catch the sunrise at the top. By mid-morning the mist begins to roll in, obscuring the breath-taking views.
Climbing weather is best around the month of April while November and December brings rain. The temperature ranges from a comfortable 20-25 degrees Celsius at the main park to something approaching freezing near the top (depending on the weather). If possible, climb during the full moon as it helps illuminate the white rope that marks out the climbing path.
The Kinabalu Park entrance is extremely easy to reach from Kota Kinabalu. Buses leave every morning - just ask your hostel/hotel or around the bus station. Buses going to Ranau, Sandakan or Tawau will pass by the park entrance. It's best to leave before eight - if you're lucky you'll catch a beautiful clear view of the mountain outside the left-hand side of the bus as you approach the park. The journey should take less than three hours and should cost between RM10-RM15.
You can also catch buses from Sandakan (a six hour journey).
Non-Malaysians pay RM15 (adults)/RM10 (children) to enter the park. (Malaysians pay RM3 and RM1 respectively.)
Alternatively, you can climb from Mesilau Nature Resort. The trail is longer than the one that begins from the park entrance but is less steep overall.
Although the park is large at 800 square km, 90% of it is unexplored. The marked trails are all easily accessible from the park entrance and hikers are not encouraged to stray.
Climbing the mountain
The actual climb is made along a well-marked path, all who climb the mountain must buy a climbing permit (RM100/RM40 for non-Malaysian adults/children or RM30/RM12 for Malaysian adults/children) provided that accommodation for Laban Rata has been arranged.
The park also strongly advises all to hire a guide. A guide can cost between RM70-100 per trip - the actual cost depends on the number in the group and which route is used. (It is possible to climb without a guide, but a waiver needs to be signed.) Insurance will also be required for the climb.
In addition to all this, there is also a bus that takes climbers from the park entrance to the where the climbing path properly begins (RM12.50 per way per group). Those that choose to not take the bus face a 5km hike along a tarred road.
There are periodic rest stops about a kilometer apart up the mountain. The entire journey is slightly more than 8km, with a stop about 6km up at Laban Rata where most climbers will overnight.
The ascent from Laban Rata upwards is difficult in places, including climbs along steep ledges and usually starts at around 2-3 am. It can also get very gusty in places as the vegetation barrens near the top. The elderly and severely unfit will find it almost impossible.
Kinabalu Park is home to a diverse array of flora and fauna that changes in nature as your altitude increases. Near the top of the mountain the trees thin out and give way to shrubs, stones and fabulous views.
There are cafeterias and restaurants both at the Park entrance gate and at Laban Rata. The prices are higher than the rest of Sabah, especially since food needs to be brought up to Laban Rata by porters, but can be cheaper than those found in most hotels (a buffet of 6 different dishes costs around RM20). It is good to bring your own supply of instant noodles and tea sachets as well as snacks.