Mount Kinabalu: Southeast Asia's Most Cherished Peak
Climbing Mount Kinabalu Malaysia - Mountain Stats
- #1 Highest in Malaysia
- #22 Highest Point in Southeast Asia
- #1 Most Popular Summit to Climb in Southeast Asia
- 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
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.
Climbing Mount Kinabalu Malaysia - Support facilities
Guides and porters
Food & water
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.