Mount Kinabalu


Mount Kinabalu: Southeast Asia's Most Cherished Peak

Mountain Stats
Natural Form and History
Climbing Experience & Itinerary
Support Facilities
Safety & Accessibility
Special Tips
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Quick Answers

Q:How do you climb Mount Kinabalu?
A:Due to an enforced quota system, you need to book a climbing slot well in advance to climb Kinabalu. Starting at the Timpohon Gate, which is where you will usually meet your guide. From there, the Mount Kinabalu summit is about 2,200m vertical gain, and takes about 2 days with an overnight stay at the Laban Rata base camp. It is a popular climb, with great facilities, which make it very accessible to amateur and beginner climbers so long as they're relatively fit.
Q:How long does it take to climb Mount Kinabalu?
A:Climbing Kinabalu usually takes 2 days. 1 day climbing permits are no longer issued so you’ll have to take the 2 day trail with an overnight stay at Laban Rata. The trek to the base camp on the first day can take 5-8 hours. With a 2am start the next morning you’ll be able to catch the sunrise at the peak of the summit. The descent from the base camp to Timpohon Gate should take 4-6hours, and can be a real killer on the knees of the unready.

Climbing Mount Kinabalu Malaysia - Mountain Stats

4,095m (13,436ft)
Climbing Height
2,200m (7,217ft)
  • #1 Highest in Malaysia
  • #22 Highest Point in Southeast Asia
  • #1 Most Popular Summit to Climb in Southeast Asia
Other names
  • Low's Peak

Climbing Mount Kinabalu Malaysia - Natural Form and History

Natural Mount Kinabalu Malaysia - Natural history

A fun fact about Mount Kinabalu is that it is actually still emerging from the earth’s crust. Formed from granodiorite, the mountain was pushed up from the earth’s crust and hardened 10 million years ago. About 100,000 years ago, the mountain was covered with ice that eventually slid down its slopes, creating the 1,800m deep Low’s Gully.

Natural Mount Kinabalu Malaysia - Climbing history

In 1851, British colonial administrator Hugh Low tried to ascertain the mountain’s height by climbing it, but wasn’t successful in reaching the peak, deeming it possible only for birds. In 1888 the Low’s Peak was reached for the first time by zoologist John Whitehead. The Botanist Lilian Gibbs became the first woman to reach the peak in 1910. In 1964 the Kinabalu National Park was established, and was since designated a natural World Heritage Site in 2000.

Natural Mount Kinabalu Malaysia - Current status

Mount Kinabalu is one of the most popular summits in South East Asia with more than 20,000 people of all ages visiting every year to summit its peak.

Climbing Mount Kinabalu Malaysia - Climbing Experience & Itinerary

Climbing Mount Kinabalu Malaysia - Climbing Experience

Mount Kinabalu is perhaps one of the most accessible 4,000+m summits for amateur climbers. It doesn’t require any specialized mountain climbing skills or technical equipment. Most climbers of average fitness will be able to comfortably navigate at least the first part of the trail (until the summit), and with some prior training and determination should also be able to complete the 2nd part (summit block).

The pre-summit block takes climbers over stones and roots from a variety of vegetation zones. Climbers may need to use the surrounding branches as support features. The summit block has minimal vegetation and is mostly over smooth rock surfaces with a slight inclination ranging between 15-20 degrees. A guide rope will be provided and using upper body strength to cling on is important to avoid slips and falls.

Climbing Mount Kinabalu Malaysia - Trail options

Number of options

Both trails have different starting points with the Mesilau trail starting higher, automatically making it the less popular choice. Both trails meet just before the base camp at Laban Rata.

Time to complete
2 days

This trail is quite straightforward with an upward climb, marked with signposts every 500m. It starts at the Timpohon Gate in Kinabalu Park. On Day 1 climbers cover 9km over 5-8 hours to arrive at the Laban Rata base camp for the night. Day 2 starts early at 2:00, so climbers can get to the summit before sunrise. After spending about 30 minutes – 1 hour at the summit, climbers walk down all the way, returning back to the starting point in the afternoon.

Number of days
Day 1

Pick-up from hotel in Kota Kinabalu City, and transfer to the Kinabalu Park headquarters. On average, this is a 2-hour journey. Breakfast and a packed lunch for the day will be provided at the headquarters.


Introduction to the guide, who will arrange the necessary registrations, and apply for the climbers’ ID tags (which are to be worn all day).


Transfer to the starting point – Timpohon Gate, from where the hike begins. Most climbers are able to complete the 9km climb to the base camp in 5-8 hours.


Arrive at the Laban Rata base camp. Check-in, and get the keys to the room for overnight stay.


Buffet dinner and overnight rest.

Day 2

Wake up for an early meal and start climbing towards the summit. Most climbers try and get to the peak before sunrise (around 06:00, depending on the time of the year).


Start climbing down to the base camp for a late breakfast and check out.


Trek down to Timpohon Gate and transfer back to the Kinabalu Park headquarters. The climb down takes an average of 4-6 hours.


Get lunch, and transfer back to the hotel or the airport in Kota Kinabalu City.

In addition to starting from a higher point, this trail is steeper and can get quite slippery during the wet season. Due to the distance also being slightly longer, expert guidance is strongly recommended for successful navigation. This trail has now been closed indefinitely due to inaccessible paths.

Climbing Mount Kinabalu Malaysia - Support facilities

Guides and porters

Guides are required
Porters are not required

Trail facilities

Trail head - Registration kiosk
Trail head - Toilets / Bathrooms
Trail - Built-in hand-holds, guide-ropes, and hazard markings at technically difficult sections
Trail - Publicly displayed trail maps
Summit base camp - Toilets / Bathrooms
Summit base camp - Shelters for overnight rest

Food & water

Trail head - Food
Trail head - Potable water
Trail - Portable water
Summit base camp - Food
Summit base camp - Portable water

Network connectivity

Trail head - Network signal
Trail - Network signal
Summit base camp - Network signal
Summit - Network signal

Climbing Mount Kinabalu Malaysia - Safety & Accessibility


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

Climbing safety

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.

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.

Permits, Fees, and Regulations

Only 185 permits are issued per day at Sabah Parks, so early bookings come highly recommended in order to avoid disappointment. The entrance fee to the Kinabalu National Park will cost you around $5USD whilst the climbing permit should cost you less than $40USD.

Emergency contacts

Ambulance: 0060-088-218166

Police: 999

Fire: 994

Getting there and away

The airport in Kota Kinabalu has regular flights from most major cities in South East 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.

Money Matters

Your costs will vary depending on how long you plan on staying at Kinabalu. There are several plans by tour operators for climbing the mountain, but all you need is a 2D1N stay. Climbing permits are no longer issued for 1 day summits, so expect to pay around $200USD for your overnight stay.

Climbing Mount Kinabalu Malaysia - Special Tips

Tips for amateur climbers

This is one of the better mountains you can climb if you’re a beginner climber with reasonable fitness. However, if you’re still not inclined towards the summit, try out a walking trail at the Kinabalu National Park. There are around 9 different options available, each not taking longer than 2.5 hours to complete.

Tips for advanced climbers

The usual trail up Kinabalu will present some minor challenges, but nothing that will require much mountaineering skills. However, there are plenty of rock climbing opportunities on the mountain and throughout the Crocker Range in which Kinabalu sits.

Tips for women

Mount Kinabalu presents few special challenges for women climbers, and many solo women climbers trek it. However, some may be turned off by the dormitory accommodation at the base camp, which at the time of writing is mixed, and doesn’t offer very much privacy to solo women hikers. There are some women guides that could take you up Kinabalu, so inquire with your tour provider to see if you can book one of them.

Tips for responsible / safety-conscious climbers

Kinabalu is a World Heritage biome, and for good reason. Its lower jungles and higher forests are diverse, unique, and vulnerable. So please be sure to leave only footprints, and take only photos. Extra karma points for those who bring a bag to take out some of the trash others have left behind.

Tips for trail runners

The Mount Kinabalu International Climbathon had been around for over three decades before it was decided not to hold the races anymore in 2018. However, the TMBT, Malaysia’s oldest Ultra-Trail Marathon will be taking place in September 2019. The course will be set over the ridges and river valleys surrounding the base of Mount Kinabalu. The highest elevation on the race course is just below 2,000m.

Tips for nature lovers

The 9 walking trails are a great way to catch a glimpse of the ecosystem around Mount Kinabalu. There’s plenty of tropical rainforest, great for a little bird-watching.

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