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Climbing Mt. Kinabalu: The Summit Of Borneo

October 21st, 2008 by

So many tourists go to Kota Kinabalu in Sabah Malaysia to test their limits by conquering Mt. Kinabalu, the tallest mountain in Malaysia.

Climbing Mt. Kinabalu can actually be completed within two days but it is not recommended most especially for novice climbers. A slower paced 3-day climb is more comfortable and suggested to acclimatise to the altitude and to give you to enjoy the climb and appreciate the rich flora and fauna including rare plants, colourful birds, interesting insects, etc.

Mt. Kinabalu

You can reach the summit by taking two trails: the Summit Trail and the other one is the Mesilau Route. These two trails meet at one point called the Layang – Layang which is already at 2, 740m.

The Summit Trail is the more travelled route. You would have to start your journey from the park’s headquarters by taking the shuttle transport to the Timpohon Gate (1, 866.4m) and this is where the Summit Trail starts. You would have to start on foot near the descent of the Carson Falls, named after the first Park Warden of Kinabalu Park. From here, the climb would take around four to five hours for the day but this would still depend on your fitness level.

Mesilau Trail During your climb, you will reach a trail that is made of a steep staircase of interlaced tree roots. This is the area where you will see a lot of pitcher plants and rhododendrons. There are also quite a number of Shelters (or Pondok) with the first one called Pondok Kandis at 1, 981.7m. At this altitude, you can see the road that links Kota Kinabalu to the park. From here, you will move on to the second shelter called Pondok Ubah at 2, 081.4m. I highly suggest that you make a effort to locate the Nepenthes lowii, Borneo’s most unusual pitcher plant.

The third shelter is Pondok Lowii and you see a lot of bamboos, and tree ferns. The fourth shelter is Pondok Mempening which is at 2, 515m. Take time to observe the squirrels and adorable birds that come close and seem unafraid of climbers. It is at this point where you will reach an exposed ridge at Layang-Layang, at 2, 702m, and this is where the Summit Trail meets with the Mesilau Trail.

You will notice that the color of the soil is a little bit different and there is also a change in the type of vegetation in the area. You will encounter some Leptospermum and Dacrydium gibbsia, lovely conifers that are only found in Kinabalu Park. Climbers are advised to be watch their feet to avoid trampling the delicate Nepenthes rajah, the largest pitcher plant in the world, and the equally beautiful N. Villosa.

The next shelter is Pondok Villosa at 2, 690m. You will see more Rhododendrons here and some Schima Brevifolia, a plant with purple leaves and large flowers. After a few minutes, you will reach the sixth shelter called Pondok Paka which is at 3, 080m. At this altitude, you will notice the thinning air which makes it a bit harder to breathe. The good part is this is where you can choose from various accommodations for your overnight stay. You can choose from Waras Hut, Laban Rata, Panar Laban or Gunting Lagadan Hut. A lot of tour guides recommend Laban Rata because it offers running water, electricity, indoor showers and toilets and has an in-house restaurant.

After a night’s sleep, you would have to start your three-hour climb to the peak at around 3:00 am. The earlier the leave, the earlier you will reach the peak and catch the breathtaking sunrise! Tour guides will lead the trek carrying torch lights. You would have to go up using ladders, hand railings and ropes during trickier slopes. Then at 3, 668m, you will reach the highest shelter called the Sayat-Sayat Hut. You will start walking on granite wide granite slabs.

The Low's Peak

At around 6:00 am, you will reach your ultimate destination, the Low’s Peak – the highest point of Mt. Kinabalu at 4, 095.2m! You will surely enjoy the view of the sea of clouds and if the entire Sabah on a clear weather. For more experienced climbers, there are other peaks to conquer namely Victoria’s Peak (4, 090m), Donkey Ears Peak (4, 054m), South Peak (3, 921.5m), and St. John’s Peak (4, 090.7m) on the Western Plateau. On the other side, the Eastern Plateau, you will find King Edward Peak (4, 086m), Mesilau Peak (3, 801.3m), and King George Peak (4, 062.6m).

It can be very cold at the summit of Mt. Kinabalu and this is why climbers are immediately advised to start the descent before the clouds totally envelope the mountain and obstruct visibility which can be very dangerous. The descent to Laban Rata would take about two hours. After checking out of your room, you can immediately start your trail back to the Timpohon Gate which is around five hours away.

You will head back to your hotel tired and exhausted but exhilarated from your climb. But even with an aching back and sore feet, your next thought would be what mountain you would climb next…

9 Responses to “Climbing Mt. Kinabalu: The Summit Of Borneo”

  1. Monica Says:

    Wow I would love this. I love mountain climbing.

  2. Kitci Wong Says:

    I think you will enjoy this too Monica… why not join the marathon? :D

  3. Beatrice Says:

    i guess i should give “mountain climbing” a try and see if i like it… :D

  4. Kitci Wong Says:

    Hi Beatrice… I think you should try mountain climbing. When will you go to KK? :)

  5. Shawn Says:

    Quick questions,

    1. How much does it cost to take taxi from airport directly to Kinabalu Park?
    2. How did you arrange transportation from Kinabalu Park back to KK after you came back down from Mt. Kinabalu?

    Thanks, Shawn

  6. Kitci Wong Says:

    Hello Shawn! I am not sure how much a taxi would cost from the airport to Kinabalu Park and back to the hotel as I joined a tour then. From the airport, I availed of the hotel pick up and that was about RM 30 (around US$8). This is considering that the hotel was quite near the airport (only less than 30 minutes away). It might be more practical to book a tour with local agents most especially if it’s your first time in KK. Feel free to let me know if you have other questions and I’ll answer the best way I can :D

  7. herbie Says:

    looks like fun to climb mt. kinabalu:) i think it will take me a week to get to the summit hehe

  8. Kristyn Says:

    Hi,
    I will be heading to Borneo soon and was wondering who you used for your tour guide and how I could go about contacting them in advance?

  9. Isis Says:

    Hi, I wonder how much is the MOunt Kinabalu climbing package is. Approx participants are 8 ppl.

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