Climb Mount Kinabalu

Borneo, Malaysia

Category

Trekking / mountain climbing

Type

DIY (but you must have a guide)

Duration

2 days

When

March to September

Difficulty rating

7/10

What is it?

A spectacular two-day hike to the summit of Borneo’s iconic peak that is accessible for most fitness levels. Standing at 4,095m, Mount Kinabalu is one the highest mountains in Southeast Asia.

Why do it?

  • You can reach the peak in time to witness an unforgettable sunrise.

  • Low’s Peak (the highest point) can be reached without any specialist equipment or training making it accessible to most.

  • There are spectacular and varied views throughout the trip and the granite peaks appear to float above the clouds.

  • The wild mountain flowers are beautiful and between 5000 and 6000 species of plants have been identified in the region.

  • You can choose to the standard summit climb and descent or explore the via ferrata option to add an extra element of adventure.

Who’s it for?

This is a strenuous trek and shouldn’t be underestimated but it is achievable for anyone with a good base level of fitness and determination.

It is a steep hike and does involve the use of some guide ropes and some scrambling up and down some of the steepest parts.

At a glance

  • It is compulsory to do the climb with a registered guide and we’d recommend doing this in a small group.

  • Total distance: 22.2km

  • Elevation gain: approximately 2,230m

  • Expected duration: 2 days, 1 night

  • The summit takes two days and one night as sleeping overnight at one the mountain hostels is mandatory.

  • Fun fact: The fastest ascent and descent of Mount Kinalabu is around 2 hours 15 minutes.

When to go?

  • It is recommended to climb Mount Kinabalu between March and September as it is the dry season.

  • However, as the mountain is situated in a tropical rainforest heavy rain can be expected at any time of the year.

  • The temperature at the summit is likely to be 0°C - 3°C and at the foot of the mountain the temperatures will be about 15°C - 26°C

Getting there

Mount Kinabalu is located in the east Malaysian state of Sabah and is protected as Kinabalu National Park (a UNESCO World Heritage Site).

 

Start and end point: The start of the trek is at Timpohon Gate (5.5km from Kinabalu Park Headquarters).

 

How to get there: The nearest city is Kota Kinabalu (with an international airport) and the journey from Kota Kinabalu to Kinabalu National Park is approximately 2 hours by shuttle bus, private taxi or with a tour operator.

 

Where to stay

It is possible to travel from Kota Kinabalu on the morning that you intend to climb the mountain, however we’d recommend staying close to the national park the day before. This will give you some time to acclimatise, enjoy some of the local hiking trails and importantly ensure you’re not rushing on the morning of your climb.

There are a number of accommodation options both inside and close to the national park.

Permits

There are a limited number of climbing permits issued per day (120-135).

 

To climb Mount Kinabalu you will require:

  • A climbing permit

  • Climbing insurance

  • A mountain guide

  • And have paid the Kinablau Park entrance fee.

  • You can book your trip directly through Mount Kinabalu management or through one of many tour operators (this will include transfers, a guide and accommodation).

  • It is recommended that you book your trip up to 6 months before you intend to climb

Route

  • A guide is compulsory for the trip which makes navigation easy.

  • The route is easy to follow but visibility can be low and the route slippery if the weather conditions are poor.

  • The trail winds its way along the southern side of the mountain.

Map: Route map

 

Terrain: The terrain varies from lowland rain forest to montane forest, cloud forest and sub alpine meadow, before finally reaching granite rock faces towards the top.

Expect rocky terrain, well-defined forest trails and steps.

 

Day 1: Timpohon Gate (1,866m) to Panalaban (3,300m)

  • Start time: you must start your climb before 10.30am.

  • Distance: 6km

  • Time: 4-7 hours (fitness dependent)

  • There are shelters / rest points every kilometre  

  • The final kilometre of the day is the steepest and most difficult

Day 2: Panalaban (3,300m) -   Low’s Peak (summit at 4,095m)

  • Start time: 2am so that you can reach the summit in time for sunrise.

  • Time to the summit: 2-4 hours (fitness dependent).

  • The climb to the summit is steep and there are ropes and ladders at certain points.

Descent from the summit: Low’s Peak (4,095m) – Timpohon Gate (1,866m)

  • Time from the summit back to Panalaban: 1.5-2.5 hours.

  • Time from Panalaban to Timpohon Gate: 4-6 hours.

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