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Mount Kinabalu

Posted by on Nov 17th, 2007
Filed Under: Destinations, Sabah

Mount Kinabalu Guide

Mount Kinabalu Climbing Guide
1. Mount Kinabalu Introduction
2. What to Bring
3. The Cost
4. Day Climb to Laban Rata
5. Laban Rata
6. Night Climb to Summit
7. The Descent

Mount Kinabalu Introduction

Mount Kinabalu is the tallest mountain between New Guinea and the Himalayas and reigns over an astonishing variety of scenery. While the lower reaches of the mountain serve as a botany fanatic’s dream, it is the upper reaches that captured the hearts and imaginations of climbers. Mount Kinabalu is known to be one of the most accessible peak and no specialized mountain climbing skills are required to ascend it. Thousands of tourists visit Kinabalu National Park every year with the intention of reaching the summit (number of visitors at park headquarters now hovers around 200,000 per year).

the upper reaches that captured the hearts and imaginations of climbers

Most people take 3 days 2 nights to ascend and descend Mount Kinabalu, although it is doable in 2 days 1 night. The 8 kilometers ascend starts from the Timpohon Gate near park headquarters (1800m) at least before 11am, then another estimated 6 hours to reach the rest point Laban Rata (3273m). An overnight stay at one of the guest houses at Laban Rata is required if you intend to see the sun rise at Mount Kinabalu summit – you depart next morning at around 2am and it will take another 3 to 4 hours to reach the summit. Climbers then descend back to Laban Rata for breakfast before making their way down to the park headquarters by mid afternoon.

The distribution of flora on the mountain is a classic example of altitude and temperature-related zonation. From the warm lowland rainforests to the near-freezing alpine conditions at the summit, each zone is characterised by a quite different assemblage of plant species.

The best time to come to Mount Kinabalu is during the dry season from February to April, when walking and climbing is much more enjoyable. The temperature ranges from a comfortable 20-25 degrees Celsius at the main park to something approaching freezing near the top (depending on the weather).

What to Bring

1. Good Boots: Bring boots with good ankle support. Make sure they fit properly and are broken-in enough to ensure they are comfortable, because well-fitting boots can make the difference between an entertaining and a painful trip. Waterproof is a plus. Make sure it has good grip! Do not wear sneakers since they don’t support your ankles like boots do. The number one injury hikers face is twisted or broken ankles especially on during descend.

    If packing space permits, pack in an open-toed sandals for your descending trip. It will be easier for the descend trip without pressing your toes against your boots all the time! Use it after Laban Rita and only if the ground is NOT slippery.

2. Water bottle: You can refill it on each shelter along the trail (rain water). I suggest reusing the plastic bottled water bottles; they’re a good size and very lightweight when empty.

3. Torchlight: Head-mounted is ideal for the night climb to the summit, as most of the time you have to hold the rope in the dark.

4. Personal First Aid

  • Panadol / Paracetomol
  • First aid kit with moleskin and bandages designed to cover blisters
  • Sunscreen lotion
  • Energy snacks: Trail mix or dried fruits are recommended but anything with high carbohydrate and low sugar will do. Also avoid snacks with a lot of salt as salt makes you thirsty.
  • Bug Repellent

5. Plastic Bags: To hold your rubbish / keep clothes dry

6. Spare batteries: For torch light and camera

7. Smaller Bag / Waist Pouch: For the night climb

8. Waterproof jacket / Raincoat

The technical difficulty of the final summit stretch and the temperature at the top came as a surprise to most of the climbers on our trip, and few were prepared. The climb is not considered difficult in good conditions, but can rapidly become treacherous if the weather deteriorates. Mountain weather is notoriously volatile, as is tropical weather, and the two together pose a real threat to the safety of climbers and should never be underestimated. Make sure you have proper clothing prepared for the morning climb.

2 different sets of clothes for the Day climb, and Night climb.

    Night Climb:

  • Warm, lightweight jumper
  • Warm, lightweight pants
  • Woolen socks
  • Beanie/woolen hat
  • Gloves: To protect from cold and rope burn
    Day Climb: It will usually be warm and sunny during the day climb, so lightweight clothing (t-shirts and Bermudas) is sufficient.

From the store at Laban Rata you can rent the following items:
• Sleeping Bag @ RM10 each;
• Jackets @ RM10 each (limited numbers of these);
• Blanket @ RM10 each;
• Towels @ RM5 each;
• Torch lights @ RM15 each (with battery) or RM5 without battery;

The Cost

Entrance Fees:

    Malaysians – Adult RM3, Below 18 RM1
    Non-Malaysians – Adult RM15, Below 18 RM10

Compulsory Guide:

    (Timpohon Gate / Peak / Timpohon Gate)
    1-3 Climbers RM70
    4-6 Climbers RM74
    7-8 Climbers RM80
    (Timpohon / Peak / Mesilau Trail)
    1-3 Climbers – RM80.00 per trip
    4-6 Climbers – RM86.00 per trip
    7-8 Climbers – RM92.00 per trip
    (Mesilau Trail / Peak / Mesilau Trail)
    1-3 Climbers – RM84.00 per trip
    4-6 Climbers – RM90.00 per trip
    7-8 Climbers – RM100.00 per trip

Climbing permit: This will be checked at both Laban Rata and the Sayat-Sayat hut.

    Malaysians: Adult RM30, Below 18 RM12
    Non – Malaysians: Adult RM100, Below 18 RM40

Insurance: RM7

Day Climb to Laban Rata

Mount Kinabalu Day Climb

trail rises steadily as a series of rough, uneven steps, right up to the overnight huts

Climbers are issued with permits after paying for their guide, their insurance and their climbing fee. The permit, which is individually numbered with your day of departure, must be carried on the trail for the duration of the climb. Most climbers will start their climbing at 8.00am from Timpohon Gate. After a short registration at the gate, you will be surprised that the short first section of the rough gravel and sand track leads down, not up, across small gully to join the main flank of the mountain, and past the little trickle of Carson’s falls, named after the first Park Warden.

From here the trail rises steadily as a series of rough, uneven steps, right up to the overnight huts at Laban Rata (3,272 meters/10,735 feet). One of the most appealing aspects of the trail is the regular appearance of rest huts every kilometer or so. Each shelter has a toilet and untreated mountain water source to refill your drink bottle.

At a height of about 2600 m. is the region which abounds with pitcher plants. Pitcher plants are carnivorous plants whose prey-trapping mechanism features a deep cavity filled with liquid known as a pitfall trap. Once an insect fell in, it is impossible for them to get out. As they drown and dissolve in the liquid, the nutrients are absorbed by the plant.

The average time taken to reach Laban Rata is about four or five hours.

Laban Rata

Mount Kinabalu Laban Rata

Laban Rata, the name of the most comfortable hostel on the mountain and also unofficially the name of everybody’s rest stop for the night, is located at 3272 meters. It has 52 dormitory style bunk beds with a common bathroom, heated showers and room heaters, conveniently located in the same building as the restaurant. It also has two private units the first of which can sleep 4 (2 x twin and 1 x double bed) or 2 (1 double bed). Both the private units have attached bathrooms and heated rooms and showers and is still in the same building.
• Dormitory bunks @ RM 69 per person per night;
• 4 pax unit @ RM 300 for the unit per night;
• 2 pax unit @ RM 180 for the unit per night;

Another 10 minutes walk further up from Laban Rata is the Gunting Lagandan Hut, a second dormitory style accommodation. Featuring 60 beds at RM 46 per person per night, it’s usually the next option when Laban Rata is full. It has basic cooking facilities (as Laban Rata has the only restaurant) and a common bathroom, which now feature hot water. The rooms, however, are still not heated.

Two additional units, further away from Laban Rata than just quick walk, is the Panar Laban Hut and the Waras Hut. Each able to sleep up to 8 people on dormitory style bunk beds, it has basic cooking facilities with common bathrooms. The water is not heated, as are the rooms. The rate is also RM46 per person per night.

The dining room at Laban Rata is quite a pleasant place to unwind from the walk. Tea and coffee is available, as well as a range of soft drinks, alcoholic drinks, chocolate and snacks. There’s also a ‘post office’ where trekkers can write and send postcards from high altitude! Drinks and snacks are more expensive than you’d expect to pay elsewhere in Sabah, but keep in mind that all the supplies at Laban Rata have to be carried up by porters.

Dinner is available from the early evening onwards. A range of four or five dishes is served, buffet-style, and it’s amazing how much food you can eat after expending so much energy during the day. Malaysian and Western dishes are offered, so everyone will be able to find something to satisfy their hunger.

If you are susceptible to mountain sickness, you may feel some headache, nausea, muscle ache and giddiness just before dinner time. You can take some medication to relieve the symptoms before you go to sleep.

In addition to the restaurant, there is also a reception area/check-in for your accommodation, as well as a souvenir/supply shop for if you still don’t have everything you need. There’s also limited facilities for excess luggage you deem unnecessary for your final stretch to the summit.

Night Climb to Low’s Peak

Mount Kinabalu Peak

The next phase of climb will begin at about 3.00am, when you are woken for an early breakfast (at least a hot drink is advisable). You do not have to bring your alarm clock, as the noise of other climbers and guides will definitely wake you up. The restaurant is open at that time, but you can have you own hot drinks at your own hostel.

Above Laban Rata, the trail continues as a series of wooden ladders, fashioned out tree roots and branches. This is where a good torchlight is essential – as most of the time you have to hold something for stability, it is best if you have a headlight.

It would take about 1 – 2 hours to reach Sayat-Sayat. This is the highest mountain hut at 3810 meters (12,500 feet). Climbers will have their permits, registrations checked and given a whistle for safety here. This is also the last point to refill water, and to answer nature’s call. Beyond this point, there’s not even a small bush to hide you doing your nature’s call! You will now head up to the Summit of Mount Kinabalu, Low’s Peak.

The gradient after Sayat-Sayat can become incredibly steep and can be quite tricky and treacherous in parts, there are some places where the trail can be as steep as 70° angle! Always stay close to the rope so that you will not get lost.

The actual terrain is flat underfoot, but it is common to see climber bent almost double at the waist to keep their balance. There are parts when you’ll need to grab the rope, which is bolted into the rockface at regular intervals, to help you up short sections. It will take up to an hour and a half to get from Sayat-Sayat to Low’s Peak. Even before you reach the top of Low’s Peak, the views in all directions are incredible – St John’s Peak to the west, the Donkey’s Ears to the east and the distinctive South Peak to the south make up incredible scenery. The view of the surrounding peaks is magnificent. By 6.00am, you will be able to see most of the peak very clearly.

Panoramic Mount Kinabalu
Mount Kinabalu

Mount Kinabalu Panoramic View

Scroll Left and Right…

Click –>Amazing panoramic full view on top of Mount Kinabalu<-- Click


Mount Kinabalu Descent

On the way down, don’t run down the summit slabs. Several people break a limb doing this every year, when they get to a bit where it steepens and find that they are unable to stop…

At first, the downhill walk from Low’s Peak is blessed relief to your weary legs. However, as most seasoned trekkers know, it’s often harder to walk downhill for long periods than it is to climb uphill and Mount Kinabalu is no exception. When climbing down, you are exhausted and most of you weight will fall on both of your thighs, knees and the ball of your foot. Be very careful. Most of the accidents happen during the descent.

The descent to Laban Rata will take about two hours and it can be quite dangerous in places. Again, take your guide’s advice about where to walk and how to approach some of the more dangerous steep sections. Take some breakfast at Laban Rata and relax for a while, pack your gear and head on down. Stop and drink water regularly and eat high-energy snacks as it will get warmish on the way down and you need to remain hydrated.

If you start climbing down at 10.00am, you will arrive at Timpohon Gate at about 1.00pm. There will be a bus waiting for you there to pick you up and send you to the Kinabalu Park HQ office where you will register with park authorities that you’ve completed the climb. You can also purchase your certificate (RM10) for climbing the mountain: a colour version for those who reach Low’s Peak, and a black and white version for those who reach Sayat-Sayat.

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27 Responses »

  1. Nice summary on the journey to the peak of Borneo. If you want to book for a trip, please check out our booking pages here:


  2. Very helpful guide on climbing Kinabalu!

    Read about my (mis)adventure climbing Mount Kinabalu here.

  3. My wife and I climbed Mt. Kinabalu on Jan 18-19th, 2008. Great experience and fun, won’t forget it, but very difficult for us. My wife & friends reached the top at 6 am; I followed at 6:30 am. It was about 35-40 deg F at the top, clear and crisp. Wonderful views. However, it rained in the lower section below Laban Rata both days, heavy on the descent. You need plastic bags inside your backpack to keep clothes dry, and gloves (med weight) for cold and the ropes in the top section. You are on all fours with the rope in some areas going up and you can rappel down with the rope to make some areas easier to get down. A hat or ski cap will keep you warm, but I was so hot at the top I took mine off. Train those legs hard before you attempt this hike (I mean it; our legs hurt for 2 days after); it’s a young person’s delight. Our guide Fabianus was great, patient, and made sure we made it to the top. 5 and a half hours lower section, next morning 3 and a half, upper section. I’m 61, wife’s 56.

  4. I tried to book by phone using since last january until now. But always got engage line or no one pickup the phone.

    But during 1996 visit, mount kinabalu give me something i can’t remember. Seriously, i can’t remember a part of it. Maybe because im too excited and can’t wait to go there again!

  5. i need partners to go there sometime this year. the soon the better. will depart from penang or kl!

  6. My frens and i planning to go in Sep 08. Leppard, if u wan can join us. Leaving from Penang.

  7. I called them many times too, line was busy??!!! Got a return email from the resort, no beds available in Apr-09… Unbelieable… One year advance booking still unavailable. Can anyone advise?

  8. I booked through Sutera Lodges and didn’t have a single problem. Call and ask for Christina Lam (Operations Manager) or Petronella in reservations.

    Christina’s direct number is: 60 (88) 308 425 and the general Sutera Lodge numer is 60 (88) 318 888

    Yes, sometimes they are tardy to answer the phones, so ensure that you call the general number and you should get someone to talk to.

    I’m climbing the mountain early July and can’t wait.

  9. Well, I’m back from climbing the mountain and for anyone who is thinking of doing it, stop! Stop thinking and go and do it. It was amazing and I couldn’t have asked for better weather. The views at sunrise from Low’s Peak are indescribable.

    Jamalin was our guide and he went out of his way to assist when he could but also stayed enough in the background to let us climb at our own pace and explore what we wanted.

    We stayed in one of the heated rooms at Laban Rata, and I’m not sure it was worth the extra money over a hostel style room. The heat only comes on at 8pm and the heater is noisy, there was no hot water, and the paper thin walls ensured that any noise from your neighbours kept you awake anyway. So, in essence there was no advantage to getting a private, two bed room.

  10. I’m planning to go this end of the year, can anyone give some suggestion regarding package and the cheapest price i can get. Is it the suitable time i go on this December ?

  11. hello guys, i’m heard that mount Kinabalu have another add on activity called via ferrata.. Also have own accomodation at Pendant Hut. feel free to visit this website

  12. Daniel (Sept 4th), December is the middle of the wet season so you may have some problems doing it then. If you’re lucky you might get a clear day to climb. However, if you get to Laban Rata and it rains heavily during the night in the early morning when you leave Laban Rata you will not be allowed to begin the second part due to it being too dangerous.

    As for the package, I stayed at a suite at the park when I arrived, and then in one of the heated rooms for the night at Laban Rata (not worth it as it’s still cold and very noisy, best just get a hostel type room and save your money). Your best bet is to contact Sutera Lodges and get them to tailor a package for you depending on whether you want them to supply meals or you want to do it yourself.

  13. will it be advisable to arrange some sight seeing activities at KK after the climb? or we r just too exhausted to do so and should do it before the climb instead.

  14. has anyone experienced the new activity- Via Ferrata, and new accommodation at Laban Rata? hey, antz? Have you try the Kinabalu Via Ferrata yet?

  15. To those who have climbed before. We require some advice. Six of us plan to climb. We have taken the 2 nights 3 days package. Other than the climb is there any place that we should not miss seeing while in KK. We plan to arrive one day early and depart one day later. We could change this schedule if there is a need. We are looking for some cheap sea view hotels/resorts in KK.

  16. I’m thinking of trying the climb in Aug. Is this a bad time? I read that it’s still wet season, but it can dry as well. Anyone knows?

    Also what will the temperature be like in Aug?

  17. i’m thinking of climbing in December 6-10, 2009 with group of 10 persons. and looking any information that concern about weather and most economic cost.

  18. six of us plan to climb on March 2010. any one can give us some advice. any new accomodation and activity? where to find?

  19. hi,
    planning on doing the hike up mount Kinabalu. Is there a place where we can leave extra luggage behind safely ?

  20. Hello,

    I’ve been there last year and i plan to go back again next year. u can leave all ur luggages at KK park cant remember how much it charge. But this is where i left my luggages. All the best to all. U can do it. Cheers

  21. Hello,

    I need some advice.

    Can I plan and book my own trip without having to go through an agent?
    eg can I book Panar Labuan Hut? Book a guide? buy permits by myself?
    How difficult would doing that be?

    Many thanks.

  22. To Anisah …

    No, I don’t think you have to go through an agent. I booked the Hut (with permit and insurance) directly from Sutera. 320 + 100 + 7 = 427. This includes the meals. All that is left to do is handle transportation, guide and park fee on your own.

    I am doing this 2 days from now and I believe it should work out ok.

    There are plenty of buses to the Mountain (park) from KK city (leaving around 7 am) – I’ve read the cost is about 15 RM each way. Park Entry fee is 15 RM. Then from the park, there is transport to/from the Gate – cost should be about 5 RM each way. Either at the entry or at the gate, should be able to hire a guide. This should be 85 – 120 RM (can share the cost if you group up with someone. worst case you pay all the 100 yourself). That’s it !! If you want a certificate, it is an extra 10 RM. Rent a walking stick, maybe 5 RM. etc etc.

    Grand total, from KK City to Mt Kinabalu peak and back to KK City, about 597 RM.

    For me, as a single vacationer/climber, this is cheaper than any group rate I found AND much cheaper than the 1500 RM or so I was quoted for doing it alone.

    Good luck! (to me, that it all works out. and to you, that you make it successfully too)

  23. I just wanted to say that the price for staying in the Hut (dorms at Laban Rata) is a bit steep. Just two years ago, it was about 60 RM per night (but feed yourself). Now it is 320 – 360 RMB (with meals included). If you think of the 4 meals as being worth about 20 RM each, then the “night” in the hut is costing around 250 RM !!

    250 RM for a dorm bed where you might only spend 3 or 4 hours on it trying to sleep (remember … you hike up, arriving in the afternoon, have a bite to eat, rest, attempt to sleep, and then get up at 2 am to climb the rest of the way).

    Just my thoughts. Because price went up A LOT from two years ago.


  24. Message for Ralf…just wondering how you got on doing the climb and all independently…any other hidden costs that took you by surprise or did it all work out as you oulined in your messages??

    Thinking of doing the climb next Jan…any tips for an indep traveller & climber??

    Hope you enjoyed your trip!!

  25. Well, together with my two friends we climbed Mount KK from 12th to 13th June 2010. It’s certainly a tough way up but tougher down….! A stick definitely will help ease some of the strain on your necks! :b The nite climb from Laban Ratan is certainly full of excitement but companied with lots of hidden dangers so please be prepare to be hanging of a rope secured to a tree! Drink lots of water and bring lots of energy bars!

    You will be rewarded with a spectacular view or should I call it magnificent view overlooking the clouds and mountain after mountain just beneath your eyes! The sunrise would be one think you must never miss which rises at around 5.50am which means you only have 3 hours to reach the summit! In order to do that, training, training and training is required.

    Enjoy your climb and hope it helps…!

    (Ps. A side note: I bought a shoe from this shop call Tech City Outdoor if I didn’t remember wrongly! Well, it gave way after few hours so do consider although its price is good)

    All the best!:b

  26. yes..the fares went up a lot!!
    we climbed mk in dec 2007 and it was super cheap..
    all fares, foods, transports from twu to kk..and back again from kk to tawau..
    was only rm280! can you believe that?? it was super cheap..
    but just right then, the fares increase since 2008..too bad..
    i’m planning to go again but that would really required a lot of money.. *sigh*

  27. Yes Can do it in one day. My partner and I completed the climb on the 03/04/12 in one day. We had to have a meeting with the head park ranger, who will ask you why you want to climb it in one day instead of two. He gave us the permission to climb the next day without any problems.
    We turned up early the next morning (7am when the permit office opens, WARNING, don’t pay for anything until the day of your climb, if they call the climbs off you will have a long process of getting your money back, months!) and started climbing at 7.30am (Every minute counts on this climb, so be early).

    Its 6km to Labuan Rita, (the last 1km is a killer) and we got there at 10.45am, 15 minutes late. You need a rest at this point what every time it is, unless you are a super athlete. There are free filling stations at every km and free water at Labuan Rita on the food counter in barrels if you look.

    We set off again at 10.45am (no rest for the wicked), only having till 13.00pm to reach as far as possible. We did reach the top but we were late. It was 13.45pm, we would have never made it down by 16.30pm which we had agreed (only because we had a great guide called Freddie who agreed to take us to the top, even if he was going to get into trouble) please note that coming down is just as challenging as going up and we had to work really hard, with no stops.
    Our finish time 18.30pm, someone had to wait for us at the bottom gate and we ached for days after. We consider ourselves as medium fitness level (at home we go to the gym twice a week, but we are travelling and have been for 3 month so maybe lacking a little) and are in our twenties.

    Prices for the one day climb 04/12

    Permits to climb – Non Malay – 100 rm (£20) per person
    Insurance – 7 rm (£1.20)
    Guide (Mandatory) 128 rm (£26) for the whole group (Warning, can share guides with others, just remember that if someone is flagging, the guide will wait for the slowest person and every minute does count)
    Bus to Start Point – 13 rm (£2.50) per person

    Thing you might need

    Only one water bottle (don’t carry too much, water stations at every km)
    Some high energy food (something you can eat quick, so expensive at Labuan Rita)
    Rain mac or poncho
    Good walking shoes or trainers, don’t need some expensive pair (those rocks hurt on the way down)
    Jumper (its warm for the first 4km)
    Gloves (helped when using the ropes near the top)
    Hat (the sweat gets cold at the top, gives you headache the next day)
    Camera (views usually cloudy at the top after 10am, so won’t get a full view unless very lucky, but still got some great pictures and memories)
    Good luck to anyone who is thinking about the 1 day climb, it is a challenge, but it makes it a lot more rewarding when you make it. Just be confident in your abilities and