YOU CAN EDIT THIS PAGE! Just click any blue "Edit" link and start writing!

Mount Kinabalu

From Wikitravel
Revision as of 03:05, 23 September 2005 by Repayne (talk | contribs) (Climbing the mountain: +spelling)
Jump to: navigation, search
Mount Kinabalu

Default Banner.jpg

The top of Mount Kinabalu is usually clouded over. Early mornings are the best time for a view.

Mount Kinabalu is located in Kinabalu Park in the Malaysian state of Sabah, some 80km east of Kota Kinabalu.


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.

Get in

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.

Get around

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.


  • Climb the mountain: This is strongly encouraged, but be forewarned that it can be strenuous. Also, it is best to book accommodation beforehand. The park can be very full especially during clear weather periods.
  • Walk the trails: For the less adventurous, there are a number of trails around the park entrance. There are also guided tours, but the quality is highly dependent on the actual guide.


All accommodations in the park can be arranged through Sutera Sanctuary Lodges ( Tel:(60-88) 243629 Fax:(60-88) 259552 [email protected]). This includes:

  • Kinabalu Park (entrance gate): Tel: (60-88) 889086 Fax: (60-88) 889091. Accommodation ranges from hostels to individual rooms (for up to two people) to entire cabins and lodges (for larger groups). All have access to simple kitchen facilities. RM12 for hostels, RM92-RM184 for suites, RM230-RM1,150 for entire lodges.
  • Laban Rata and environs: Tel:(60-88) 871454 Fax:(60-88) 871239. Three-quarters up the mountain at about 3300m above sea level. The main Laban Rata Resthouse as well as unheated huts. The Laban Rata Resthouse fills up very quickly so advance reservations (3-4 months ahead)are strongly encouraged. The main dining area is also at the Resthouse. All huts are close to the main resthouse, but even a 50m trek uphill in bad weather can seem an eternity. RM17 for huts, RM34 for the Resthouse dorm, RM115 and RM230 for the two individual rooms (that's right, there are only two rooms, the rest are dorms).
  • Mesilau Nature Resort: Tel: (60-88) 871733 Fax: (60-98) 872977. The beginning of the alternative route to the mountain. One hostel and numerous lodges (with 2-3 bedrooms each). RM30 for dorms, RM320-400 for lodges.


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.

Stay Safe

  • Be aware of how dangerous the mountain can be during bad weather. Stay close to the guide ropes and to your guide. If you lose sight of the guide ropes, blow a whistle or shout. Note that because of the thin air and the acoustics of the mountain, your shouts will not carry as far as you might expect and may seem to come from many directions. It's best to have a climbing partner, especially in large groups which can string out as stragglers get left behind.
  • The thin air causes problems for some. It's best to climb slowly and surely instead of rushing up and finding yourself exhausted.
  • For the final climb, dress appropriately. It's better to have several thin layers that you can peel off as it gets warmer. A hat is vital to keep warm. Gloves are needed to pull yourself up the guide ropes in some places.
  • Bring a torch. Make sure it does not fall out of your unzipped pocket as you climb along. Better still, use a headlamp so that your hands can be free.
  • Coming down can be more painful than climbing up because of sore muscles and tired legs. Take it slowly and don't jam the toes into the front of the shoes. Get those open toe sandals. Zig-zag for gradual gradients instead of blindly walking down the steepest route. The experienced guides will literally skip and sprint down the mountain, but only those who are second-cousins to billy goats should try this.

External link