Mount Kinabalu


Mount Kinabalu: Southeast Asia's Most Cherished Peak

Mount Kinabalu by Mahosadha Ong on Unsplash
Natural Height
Hiking Period
Rest Stops & Facilities
Guides & Porters
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Summary Mount Kinabalu Malaysia - Summary

Malaysia’s Mount Kinabalu would be a highlight for anyone’s holiday

There’s no better climb in Southeast Asia for amateur climbers than Mount Kinabalu. It combines a physical challenge with incredible natural beauty and surreal alpine landscapes. It also offers accessibility, safety, and a (relatively) comfortable base camp. The only caution you need to take is to avoid slips and falls on the way down!

Climbing Mount Kinabalu Malaysia - Height and Distance

Natural Mount Kinabalu Malaysia - Natural Height

Summits Index:
6 / 10 (4,501m - 5,000m)

4,095m (13,436ft)

Natural Mount Kinabalu Malaysia - Hiking Period

Summits Index:
3 / 10 (2 days)

This hike takes about 2 days with an overnight stay at the Laban Rata base camp. On day 1 climbers cover 9km (5.6 mi) over 5-8 hours to arrive at the Laban Rata base camp for the night. Day 2 starts early at around 2:00, so climbers can get to the summit before sunrise. This takes about 4 hours. After spending about 30 minutes – 1 hour at the summit, descent takes about 4-6 hours arriving back to the starting point in the afternoon.

Difficulty Mount Kinabalu Malaysia - Hiking Difficulty

Difficulty Mount Kinabalu Malaysia - Terrain

Summits Index:
5 / 10 (Mild difficult)

Mount Kinabalu is perhaps one of the most accessible 4,000+ metre summits for amateur climbers. Most climbers of average fitness will be able to navigate at least the first part of the trail comfortably (until the summit), and with some prior training and determination should also be able to complete the 2nd part (the summit block).

The trail takes you through rainforest, grasslands and rocky terrain.

This trek is quite straightforward with an upward climb, marked with signposts every 500m. It starts at the Timpohon Gate in Kinabalu Park. For the first two-thirds of day one, hikers encounter rocky terrain with many stone steps and a few wooden staircases. The last third of the hike before reaching Laban Rata is very steep, and rocky.

Most climbers can complete the 9km (5.6 mi) climb to the base camp in 5-8 hours. Here climbers spend the night in dormitory accommodation.

Day 2 starts early. Most climbers try to get to the peak before sunrise (around 06:00, depending on the time of the year). The pre-summit block takes climbers up a steep climb encountering stones and roots from various vegetation zones. There are also more steps. Climbers may need to use the surrounding branches as support features for the steep climbing part of this section.

The summit block has minimal vegetation and takes you mostly over smooth rock surfaces with a slight inclination ranging between 15-20 degrees. A guide rope will be provided. Using upper body strength to cling on is important to avoid slips and falls. Some scrambling will likely be necessary for this last bit before reaching the summit.

After spending some time at the summit, climbers walk down all the way, returning to the starting point in the afternoon.

Difficulty Mount Kinabalu Malaysia - Weather

Summits Index:
4 / 10 (Fluctuates greatly across seasons and/or between the base and summit or mildly unpleasant throughout the year)

The best time to climb Mount Kinabalu is between March and August. Despite the tropical climate at the lower flanks, temperatures tend to drop at the summit. From June to September, temperatures can go down to around 3°C (37.4 °F), while December – January sees temperatures going as low as -4°C (24.8 °F). Climbers have even experienced snow at the summit.

Difficulty Mount Kinabalu Malaysia - Equipment

Summits Index:
5 / 10 (Poles and/or clothes for weather)

Hiking Mount Kinabalu doesn’t require any specialized mountain climbing skills or technical equipment, but be sure to take the following: Waterproof gloves, hiking poles, hiking boots, rain jacket, and head torch. Be sure to wear layers as the temperature can be very variable.

Facilities Mount Kinabalu Malaysia - Support Facilities

Facilities Mount Kinabalu Malaysia - Rest Stops & Facilities

Summits Index:
4 / 10 (Sufficient facilities; regular rest stops, some food and water but not throughout)

At the trailhead, you’ll find a registration kiosk and toilets/bathrooms, food and potable water.

Along the trail, you will find water. There are also built-in handholds, guide ropes, hazard markings at technically difficult sections and publicly displayed trail maps.

At the summit base camp, there are toilets/bathrooms and shelters for overnight rest- this is the dormitory-style accommodation mentioned earlier. Both food and water can be found at the summit base camp as well.

Facilities Mount Kinabalu Malaysia - Guides and Porters

Summits Index:
5 / 10 (Recommended)

Guides are required to do this climb.

Porters are not required, though may be helpful as it is quite a long trek. You can hire porters on arrival. Just let your tour operator know and they should help you make the arrangements.

For those who would prefer; there are some women guides available that could take you up Kinabalu, so inquire with your tour provider to see if you can book one of them.

Accessibility Mount Kinabalu Malaysia - Accessibility and Safety

Accessibility Mount Kinabalu Malaysia - Location

Summits Index:
3 / 10 (Near major city)

The airport in Kota Kinabalu has regular flights from most major cities in Southeast Asia. From the airport, you have a variety of options from rental cars to taxis, minivans and even the public bus to take that 88km distance from the airport to the Kinabalu National Park.

Accessibility Mount Kinabalu Malaysia - Safety

Summits Index:
4 / 10 (Little risk of injuries, but not recommended for single travelers)

Altitude:  The saying “slow and steady wins the race” comes to mind. Climbers are advised against hurrying up the path as the human anatomy needs processing time to gradually adapt to the higher altitudes with thinner, drier air.

Fatigue and pain:  It’s always best to carry ache relief creams/sprays and any knee or ankle support.

Slips and falls:  On the summit trail, climbers are advised to follow the guide and stay close to the guide ropes. Beware of locked knees on the slippery descent and stick to a slow, steady pace.

Regarding personal safety, the hike is rather popular and is highly unlikely to be a lonely one. It’s always best to have your belongings safe in your possession.

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