Mount Kinabalu: The Climb of September 2010

Below is how we designed our journey for the climb of 19 September 2010. It serves as a guide for you to design your own journey.

We have a very tight schedule, i.e. reaching Kinabalu National Park Head Quarter (KNPHQ) on 17/9, went up to Laban Rata on 18/9, reached summit, returned back to Kinabalu National Park Head Quarter (KPHQ) and departing Sabah on 19/9.

Thursday, 16 Sep 2010:
  • 9.30am
  • Eight of us flied from LCCT (Low Cost Carrier Terminal), KLIA, To Kota Kinabalu with Air Asia. We came one day earlier so that we can walked around Kota Kinabalu. We stayed in KK's Cititel Express.
Kota Kinabalu seaside

Friday, 17 Sep 2020:
  • 3.00pm: The van from our travel agent picked us up to Kinabalu National Park Head Quarter (KNP HQ), where we spent a night.
  • 6.00pm: We had buffet dinner at Balsam Cafeteria in KNP HQ. The food is good with satay and BBQ.

Saturday, 18 Sep 2010:
  • 9.15 am: We started our way up from Timpohon Gate.
  • 3.30 pm: I reached Laban Rata.
  • 5.00 pm: We had our buffet dinner at cafeteria.
  • 6.00 pm: We went to sleep.

At LCCT, before boarding. I was holding the camera. We flied with AirAsia, off course.

Sunday, 19 Sep 2010:
  • 1.30 am: We woke up to get ready
  • 2.00 am: We had our...buffet supper or breakfast, and started our way to summit on 3am (which was late. we should have started the trip at 2.30am)
  • 7.30 am: I reached the peak (I was having some altitude sickness problem right before and after Sayat Sayat checkpoint) as the last person reaching the peak for the day.
Lows Peak, Mt Kinabalu (4095.2meter). Yes, I made it to the top of the summit.
  • 10.00 am: We returned back to Laban Rata before 10am and had our breakfast and lunch. (which was late too. Most other hikers had packed and left for mountain's foot.)
  • 11.30 am: We left Laban Rata in heavy rain. 
  • 6.00 pm: Finally reached Kinabalu National Park's HQ and rushed to airport (which is about 2 hours away) as our flight back to KLIA, West Malaysia, would be departed on 9.30pm. We did not have time to waste. We needed to check-in an hour earlier as we were having trouble in web check-in at Kinabalu National Park's Headquarter.
  • 9.30 pm: Finally we managed to catch the 9.30pm Air Asia flight back to West Malaysia. By the way, I really like to eat in the plane.

Monday, 20 Sep 2010:
  • 12.30 am: We reached LCCT, KLIA, Sepang and finally 
  • 1.30 am: reached home. 
  • 3.30 am: I slept, finally, after cleaning up my luggage and myself
In total, I was active for more than 24 hours since waking up in Laban Rata for the summit assault. The only time that I rested was probably in the van and in the Air Asia plane.

It was a fantastic trip... :-)

Step-by-Step Terrain of Mount Kinabalu:

Follow our step-by-step photos series to see the terrain of Mount Kinabalu and our climbing experience, KM by KM:

Personal Hygiene while Climbing Mt Kinabalu (Toilets & Bathrooms)

8 most important tips on personal hygiene in climbing Mt Kinabalu:
  1. There are flush toilets, approximately one in every kilometer distance, all the way up to the last 1.5km of the peak of Mt Kinabalu. Thus, through out the climb journey, you don't have to dig a single hole or to find bushes to hide. ;-)
  2. Sayat-Sayat has the last toilet before reaching Low's Peak. Most people take about 2 -3 hours from Sayat-Sayat to reach the peak and about an hour back to Sayat Sayat. So don't miss this last toilet.
  3. At Kinabalu Park, the place that climbers spend a night before the climb:
    • There are hot shower and clean bathrooms at Kinabalu Park's hostels.
    • Gentlemen and ladies bathrooms are separated and are not attached to sleeping room.
    • The resort provides dry towel, body shampoo and shampoo.
    • We stayed in a 4 beds dormitory. There is no separated room for man or woman. It is up to your arrangement with your teammates.
    • The beds are clean and comfortable.
  4. At Laban Rata Resthouse, the place climbers rest and sleep before the night climb to summit:

    • They are clean bathrooms at Laban Rata Resthouse.
    • Gentlemen and ladies bathrooms are separated.
    • Laban Rata provides dry towel, but not body shampoo and shampoo. So remember to take the shampoo and body shampoo from Kinabalu Park along.
    • We stayed in a 10 beds large dormitory. There is no separated room for man or woman.
    • The beds are clean and comfortable.

    Theoretically there is hot shower water at Laban Rata Resthouse. But since the electricity at Laban Rata is not stable, practically we still had to take freezing cold bath water. In a different trip, my friends (another team) managed to upgrade to a smaller dormitory with lesser beds. They had hot shower (arrrhhh....!)

    Shower water in Laban Rata is freezing if you do not have the luck to stay in that small dormitory. My teammates shivered in bed covered by blanket for an hour after taking the cold water bath. This was how I dealt with cold bath water:
    a. shower your head and face clean
    b. while washing your head and face, cover your body with towel provided by Laban Rata Resthouse
    c. then, wipe clean your whole body with the wet part of the towel and wipe your body dry with the dry part of the towel
  5. As the electricity at Laban Rata is unstable, hair dryer or charger can hardly be used. I found only one power point in that ten-bed dormitory.
  6. After the climb, when we descended back to Kinabalu Park from Laban Rata, we had a problem taking bath. Since we were to leave Kinabalu Park for airport the same day, we had already checked-out from Kinabalu Park's hostels the morning we climbed up to Laban Rata. We had to use the toilet beside the HQ's Operation Office & Reception O7. ffice to change clothes before leaving for airport. No bath.

    My colleagues who came earlier with another team simply went back to the hostel they stayed (and checked-out earlier) and just used the bathroom (as the bathrooms are not attached bathroom).

    Another group of colleagues simply booked to stay for another night in Kinabalu Park after descended from Mt Kinabalu. This solves the problem.
  7. Remember to clear bowel in Kinabalu Park the morning before going up to Laban Rata, because your next morning is at Summit.
  8. Please don't think that there are 5 stars toilets and bathrooms. This is National Park, not luxury hotel. I found dead moth in a toilet. One of the hot showers at Grace Hostel was not working. Sutera Sanctuary Lodges had not been doing a very good (though reasonably decent) job in maintaining the facilities.

Outside the ladies' bathroom/ toilet
of Grace Hostel at Kinabalu Park.

Outside the men's bathroom/ toilet
of Grace Hostel at Kinabalu Park

Climbing Mt Kinabalu, the terrain

Terrain of Mount Kinabalu:
The climb of Mt Kinabalu through Timpohon Gate starts with walking downhill. It is a short walk until you reach a waterfall. This is probably the best scenery that you could have until reaching 5km.

I agree with most opinions that I heard or read in blogs or websites that Timpohon trail has very little scenery to be worth mentioning. As I am really not a person into nature, so I am perfectly fine with the scenery or, well, simply lack of scenery of the trail.

After the waterfall, it is all the way uphill.

From Timpohon Gate to 5km, the hike is relatively easy if you don't suffer from altitude sickness and you have correct walking strategy of conserving energy by walking at your own pace.

Since early this year, I have been hiking with my friends up a hill nearby, Bukit Gasing, on most Sunday morning. We start before dawn and walk with torchlight. It usually takes us 35 minutes to reach the top and another 20 minutes back to the bottom of the hill. In the last stretch of Bukit Gasing trail before reaching the "peak", there is a final uphill walk of 320 - 350 steps.

That stretch is not a difficult walk, but it is just keep going uphill for 320 - 350 steps.

And yes, the entire 6KM of Timpohon Trail toward Laban Rata is not more technically challenging than the last stretch of Bukit Gasing. In fact, I consider the first 5KM walk to Laban Rata Resthouse to be easy, technically. The only thing is that the trail is simply steep and long for hikers to not to feel tired.

We have got the best scenic view in 5km.
5km: I wish I had taken better photo here. It was
really beautiful, even with fog covering the
mountain top. 

5.5km onward. Walking on the stones.
I found the last 0.5km toward Laban Rata is extremely tiring, though technically easy. I found it challenging to balance myself  walking on the stones due to altitude sickness. I moved slowly as every quick move would caused a rush of blood up from my neck toward my head. My ankles were aching.

5.5km onward, altitude sickness caused me to find it
difficult to balance myself walking on the stones.

Laban Rata to Sayat Sayat
You will probably start the climb at 2.30pm after the buffet supper at Laban Rata Resthouse.

There are two parts in this stretch of route. The first half of the route towards Sayat Sayat checkpoint is an uphill walk on staircases and rock faces. Again, a simple but steep uphill walk.

The second part of this route requires you to hold a rope, walk horizontally on a ladge (at a slope approximately between 45 degree to 70 degree) for a while, and ultimately pull yourself up with the rope on a slope.
Photo in Alice's camera. Zoe pulled herself up the slope.
A very short distance. The next stop is the last check
point, Sayat Sayat.

After the slope part, you will reach Sayat Sayat, the last check point hut before the summit. This is the place where you confirm, with the guard sitting in the hut, your attendance to the peak. When you are back to Kinabalu Park Headquarters, you will receive a colorful certificate to prove that you had reached the summit.

Sayat Sayat is also the last toilet place before reaching summit. Therefore, it is advisable to clear your bladder there. Don't miss the toilet here. There is no more toilet above this line.

Sayat Sayat to Summit, Low's Peak

After Sayat Sayat, you will walk on a big wide slope all the way to the summit, Low's peak. It is a big wide rocky plateau on top of the mountain. The plateau is steep. It is extremely uncomfortable for my ankles to walk on the steep rock face. A few times I thought I was about to twist my ankles.

The altitude is high and the oxygen is low. I could not move fast then, as every simple move seems to be a strenuous exercise. This is the place, right after Sayat Sayat and before Donkey Ears peak, that many said that they were pondering to give up the climb or regretting of climbing the mountain, etc. At that point, I only regretted why I brought my heavy SLR.

Ultimately, at approximately 5.30am, I had to stop at somewhere near Donkey Ears Peak to rest and to watch the sunrise.

From here onward the difficult part is over. It is all the way up to the foot of Low's Peak. We followed the white rope laid on the ground. The rope leads the hikers to Low's Peak. Don't walk too far away from the rope. There was a fatal accident when an English girl, Ellie James, lost trace of the rope and walked astray in a foggy weather.

Climbing Low's Peak is easy. Yes, you will use hands and legs to climb. But it is easy as like you walk a few steps and climb on a table, and walk two steps, climb on another table, etc.

I found these two very funny articles sharing their experience of climbing Mt Kinabalu from Teun and Derek. Teun is a Dutch. He did not make it to the summit. He has an interesting account on how he struggled the climb. While Derek is a Canadian. His writing is comprehensive and  funny.

Terrain of Mount Kinabalu:

Terrain of Mt Kinabalu, Easy or Difficult?

"Is climbing Mount Kinabalu easy? (or hard)", you ask.

The truth is that you will get different answers from different people. Many say "YES" and equally many say "NO". Here is why.

1. The "absolutely YES":

Photo taken by Junious. We stayed a night at Kinabalu
Park's Grace Lodge. We also had similar cozy beds at
Laban Rata.
For it is technically easy. You don't need to have rock climbing experience. The entire journey to the summit is simply hiking upward. You walk!

There is only a very short distance during the night climb to summit that you need to use your hands to pull a rope. Click here to see. Even if you are a working-9-to-5-exercise-lacking middle age city dweller like me, with some preparation, you can get up there easily.

You have warm bed to sleep at night, sanitary journey like clean toilets (all the way up to approximately 7.0km Sayat Sayat check point right before summit), clean bathroom, hot water, dry towels, etc. and are reasonably well-fed with good food like buffet breakfast, buffet dinner, free flow of hot tea and coffee, even buffet supper at 2.30am right before your night climb to the summit.

This is the only stretch of the entire trail that requires you to use your hand to pull a rope. It is not very steep.

2. "Oh definitely NO~~":

The trek itself is considered reasonably difficult, though most of the literature I have seen says “anyone of reasonable fitness can complete this hike”. Don’t be fooled, it is not easy, and some training beforehand would not go astray.

- Martin S Pribble

If you think you can just walk up to Mt Kinabalu without proper preparation of fitness and equipments, you are heading for a hard time. It is still a 6km (probably 6-hour, some took longer) steep uphill walk to Laban Rata, and another 3km (longer than 3-hour) steeper night uphill walk up to a summit of 13,435 ft above sea level with only 62% of oxygen available at sea level.

Easy or hard? It is the matter of subjective opinion.

The weather can be a problem. Heavy rain makes you wet and uncomfortable and slows down your move. The temperature can go down to freezing level during your night climb.

Without headlamp and battery you should kiss your summit attempt goodbye. Without a proper hiking shoes, like my friend who wore a pair of badminton shoes, you are bound to get yourselves hurt (He slipped and hurt his leg. He was not able to continue to summit but luckily was able to walk downhill).

Without training, like the Malaysian's Deputy Minister of Youth and Sports, you are heading for injuries (He injured his ankle). You could subject to altitude sickness.

Finally, with the exception of those ultra fit, your thigh muscles, legs, knees, ankles and or toes will go through a few days of pain after the heroic journey of climbing Mt Kinabalu.

I like the comment of a blogger who climbed Mount Kinabalu. He said, "easy" is a matter of subjective opinion.

  • But is it fun? Absolutely.
  • Is it safe? If you prepare properly and are able to follow instructions, YES.
  • Will I go again? Yes, I am planning for another climb through Mesilau Trail next year.
  • Will I recommend anyone to go? This is a no-brainer, YES.

Overview of the Terrain

1. Timpohon Trail: Start from Timpohon Gate of Kinabalu Park's HQ to Laban Rata Resthouse (base camp, 3,270M)
2. Summit: Start from Laban Rata Resthouse to Low's Peak (4,095M)

Thank you Junious for this beautiful photo taken
along Timpohon Trail.

Terrain of Timpohon Trail

Take a look at the terrain photograph of Timpohon Trail, km by km, from Kinabalu Park's Timpohon Gate to Laban Rata Resthouse. Click here for the KM by KM photograph.

View from the top of the world. I can see white cloud
floating below me.

Terrain of Summit Trail

Laban Rata Resthouse to Low's Peak

Take a look at the terrain photo of Summit Trail, km by km, from Laban Rata Resthouse to the summit. Click here to view the terrain photograph, KM by KM.

More resources:

First Aid and Medication to climb Mt Kinabalu

Remember to bring a few medications along with your climb:

1. Fast pain relief ointments or creams like Yoko-yoko, Deep Heat, etc.
2. Muscle relax pill
3. Painkiller like Panadol
4. Altitude Sickness pill (Go to pharmacy and ask. It takes 1 hour to have effect. Ask pharmacist to advise frequency & doses.)
5. Plasters (in case if you have blisters, etc.)

You must read this advice from a doctor who blog about climbing Mt Kinabalu. Read another advice from this experienced hiker.

See! My teammate applied Yoko-Yoko in every stop climbing Mt Kinabalu while
others were eating bananas. She had a much easier climb than that of mine.

South Peak 3,933 Metres (12,904 ft) Above Sea Level

Click on the photo to see the photo in full screen. It is spectacular.
South Peak, 3,933 Meter, is the most famous landmark of Mt Kinabalu.
I suspect it is due to its natural shape that it becomes famous.
Posted by Picasa

The most recognizable landmark of Mt Kinabalu, South Peak at the top of Mount Kinabalu. On my way up to Low's peak, I turned toward my back and took this photo.

If you like this photo, you can download it as your wallpaper.


If you like this wallpaper, click the buttons below and share this post in facebook, twitter, buzz, etc. As such, you are helping us too. Thank you.

Low's Peak 4,095 Metres Above Sea Level

Click on the photo to see the photo in full screen. It is spectacular.
Low's Peak 4,095.2 metres or 13,435 ft above sea level, at the summit plateau
of Mt Kinabalu. Unforgettable climb of a life time. Spectacular view on the plateau.

The highest point of South East Asia (geographical sense), Low's Peak at the top of Mount Kinabalu. I took this photo on the way up to the peak.

If you like this photo, you can download it as your wallpaper.

Just click and download this image as wallpaper.

You can get more Mount Kinabalu Wallpaper here.

If you like this wallpaper, click the buttons below and share this post in FACEBOOK, twitter, buzz, etc. As such, you are helping us too. Thank you.

Gears & Equipments

What do you need to hike to and stay at Laban Rata? What do you need to climb to summit?

1. Disposable lightweight rain coats (1 or 2 sets)
2. Hiking gloves (to hold your hiking pole and fence at the side of the trail). Cotton gloves is good for summit too but it will get wet.
3. Two to three bags:
  • You will need to carry one small lightweight hiking backpack from Kinabalu Park to Laban Rata. This is the bag you can put 2 - 4 bottles of water, a few energy bars, a set of dry cloth, etc.
  • You will let porter to carry your luggage bag to Laban Rata. You will need to pay the porter. In our case, RM8 (less than USD$3) per KG, up and down.
  • One luggage for flight & things that you don't need in the climb to Laban Rata and Mt Kinabalu peak. Leave the things you don’t need in Laban Rata & Summit at Kinabalu National Park's Operation Office. The cost is RM10 per bag.

Shoes & Slippers

Hiking Shoes

Walking on rocky and uneven landscape, choice of shoes is important.

The trail can be very slippery when it rains (which is very often).

You must wear a pair of hiking or trekking shoes to climb Mt Kinabalu. Yes, HIKING shoes, not any other sports shoes like running or jogging shoes, badminton shoes, squash shoes, golf shoes, etc.

Hiking shoes give good grip to walk on mud, stones or slope and they protect your toes, ankles and knees. Without a pair of shoes with good grips, it takes more body energy to balance yourself while walking and, if you are unlucky, you could slip and fall.

Good hiking shoes wrap your toes and support your ankles in appropriate place. You will be less likely to hurt your toes or sprain your ankle.

Most people do not realise the stability of hiking shoes actually protect knees, especially during descending of a climb. The impact and shock placed on your knees during descending is tremendous. Read this article on protecting knee while running to understand how to protect your knees. Another two articles here and here on protecting your knees while descending from a mountain.

Kampung Adidas

The famous Kampung Adidas.

Kampung Adidas is actually the nickname given to a very inexpensive, locally made rubber shoes for hiking and mountain climbing. It is light, it is waterproofed (made of rubber) and it gives astonishingly good grip on ground. It costs between RM6 to RM10, which is less than USD$5.

My Kampung Adidas that I wore to the summit 
of Mt Kinabalu.
It was originally used by the local rubber tapers, estate workers, etc. During the climb, I saw many porters and mountain guides were wearing this genre of shoes.

Here is a detail account of Kampung Adidas.

However, to certain extend, I think the usefulness of Kampung Adidas is over exaggerated. My take is that:

1. It gives really good grip, even walking in the rain.
2. It is waterproof. You can just drain the water out and wipe it dry.
3. It is light.
4. It protects your knees. Since it does not have thick cushion, you will avoid landing on heels. As such, your knees are protected from impacts.

1. It does not give sufficient protection to toes.
2. It does not support your ankles.
3. Without sufficient stability, it does not give sufficient protection to knees.
4. It causes blisters, unless you wear two layer of socks.

A good pair of hiking shoes will not cause you to slip.

Very uneven and slippery trail.

I wore Kampung Addidas during my climb to the summit of Mt Kinabalu for its good grip. But for the long 6km hike from Kinabalu Park to Laban Rata and another 6km descending walk from Laban Rata to Kinabalu Park, I wore a good, comfortable and branded hiking shoes (Yes, the authentic Adidas. But anyway, Nike would work perfectly fine for me too.) to give reasonably good grip and protection to my toes, ankles and knees.

Look at the trail: wet, rocky, slippery, uneven and uphill.

(Edited on 30 Sep 2011: After my second climb, I changed my view. Expensive shoes with good cushion CANNOT protect your knees. My Adidas Kampung, cheap rubber shoes, is far more superior than my authentic Adidas and Nike in tropical mountain hiking. When we wear a pair of expensive shoes with good cushion, we tend to land on heel. And this hurts our knees unknowing to ourselves. When we walk with shoes without cushion, we tend to walk as such to protect our heels, and this protect our knees too.)

You can buy Kampung Adidas at a shop next to Reception Office and Transport Office of Kinabalu National Park's Headquater.

More on Kampung Adidas at wikipedia and this useful Mt Kinabalu guides website.

Wet trail.

Important Tips

  1. You must try your hiking shoes in practices, to know if you have problem with the shoes you choose.
  2. You can get Kampung Adidas in small shoes shop in the cheaper side of town or city in Malaysia. You may not find this kind of rubber shoes in popular high class shopping malls.
  3. Hiking poles will help in protecting your knees during descend.
  4. (Edited on 30 Sep 2011: Due to the experience of my second climb. I have changed my view. Now I believe that walking techniques will protect your knees, not expensive hiking shoes with cushion.)

Without proper hiking shoes, things can get pretty nasty when it rains.

Wet, uneven and rocky trail.
You really should not try this trail if you don't have proper shoes.


Kinabalu Park does not provide slipper. You may want to bring one pair for use in common bathroom, toilets or simply walking around comfortably.

However, slippers are provided in Laban Rata. Therefore, you don't need to bring slippers up to Laban Rata. You can leave it with your other luggage in Kinabalu Park.

Another rocky and wet stretch.

Add caption

My case on Shoes and Slippers

I wore a pair of real Adidas hiking shoes for the 6km hike from Kinabalu Park to Laban Rata. I switched to Kampung Adidas for the climb to summit. I switched back to real Adidas for 6km descending from Laban Rata back to Kinabalu Park.

For the purpose of bathroom and toilet, I use the Kampung Adidas as my slippers too.

(Edited: In my second climb, I wore Adidas Kampung all the way from Kinabalu Park Headquarters to Laban Rata, to summit, back from summit to Laban Rata and down to Kinabalu Park Headquarters. And this time, I did not have problem with my knees.)

Other information:

1. Differentiating hiking boots and trekking shoes.

More Resources

Clothing to Hike

It is important to keep yourself dry during the 2 days climb, from sweat and rain.

These are the apparel: t-shirt, collar shirt, long sleeves shirt,
track pants, Bermuda pants, headband, baseball cap, etc.

How many sets of clothes do you need for the climb?

From Kinabalu Park to Summit, back to Kinabalu Park and leave for airport, you need at least 4 sets of clothes to keep yourself comfortably dry.

This is how:
  1. 1st set - From Kinabalu Park HQ to Laban Rata Resthouse (Remember to bring along 2nd set of clothes with you in your backpack. Sometime, your porter who carry your luggage may come a few hours after you reach Laban Rata. You would want to have your 2nd set of clothes to change once you reach Laban Rata.)
  2. 2nd set - From Laban Rata Resthouse to Summit and back to Laban Rata. If the temperature is low you may want to add another layer of T shirt. Wear long track pants for Summit.
  3. 3rd set - From Laban Rata back to Kinabalu Park's HQ.
  4. 4th set - From Kinabalu Park's HQ to airport and go home.
(A set of clothing includes shirt, pants, underwear & socks.)

More Resources

What can you wear during the hike or climb to Laban Rata?

(not include the night climb to summit)
Well, almost anything comfortable for sports.
  • T-Shirt
  • Bermuda short OR lightweight (and water resistant) track pants
  • A pair of good trekking shoes
  • Socks
  • Knee guards & ankle guards
  • Headband or baseball cap
  • Towel
  • Gloves (if you want)
  • Don't wear jeans during the climb. Jeans will become heavy if there is rain.

To prepare for sudden bad whether like heavy rain, you will need to bring
  • rain coats (disposable type is lighter in weight)
  • Water proof jacket or wind breaking (temperature may drop during rain or night)
  • spare socks and underwear

Well...does not look
very good though.

Alice from the back. Track
pants, gloves, towel, etc.

What should you wear during the night climb to summit?

  • T shirt
  • I added a layer of thermal wear outside T shirt
    • Some simply add a few more layers of T shirt
    • Some may opt of lightweight jumper/ sweater instead of multi layers of T shirt.
  • Water proof jacket or wind breaker with hood (to cover ears in cold whether)
  • Beanie, to cover ears in cold whether
  • Long lightweight track pants (water resistant)
  • A pair of good trekking shoes & socks
  • Knee guards & ankle guards
  • Headband or baseball cap
  • Towel
  • Gloves (Important: there will be a part of the trail that you will need to hold and pull a rope. The night can be very cold too.)
  • Headlamp (Important: you must have this to climb safely during the night. Make sure you check your battery before you start.)
  • Bring along rain coat

Junious and his beanie.

Still wearing my headlamp. But
promptly recovered from altitude

One useful suggestion, water proof your clothes by putting each set of clothe in different plastic bags.
You can find good advises here on clothing to climb Mt Kinabalu: Mt Kinabalu: a guide to the climb of a lifetime.
More Resources

Training: Preparing Your Body For A Long Uphill Walk

Despite having height of 4,095.2 M (13,435 ft) above sea level, climbing Mt Kinabalu is technically easy. It does not require rock climbing skills. In most part of the trail you will just walk on steps or on a big wide slanting slope.

Full 6 KM of such uphill hike.

Never ending uphill walk.

Long hour, long journey, uphill.

To Be Fit

However, there is still a basic requirement of being healthy and fit enough for a long, never seems to end, uphill walk of 6km to Laban Rata and another 2.75km walk from Laban Rata (Laban Rata is to Mt Kinabalu is similar to Base Camp is to Mt Everest) to the summit.

You will probably start the summit climb at 2.30am and will reach the summit before 7.00am. You will probably reaching back to Laban Rata before 9.30am and will take another descending walk of 6km (6 hours) back to Kinabalu Park HQ the same day.

In total you will probably walk for 12 hours to 14 hours on the day you climb to the summit and descended back to the Park.


If you are not physically active you will probably need to train your body just a little bit.

1. Try a few rounds of hikes on the hills nearby until your body get a little more use to hiking
2. Try your equipments and hiking shoes in a real hike
3. Use the trackmill as often as you can to build up stamina
4. Walking up apartment staircase (but take lift down to protect your knee)

In my case, I am definitely not physically active. I don't like to play sport games and my work requires me to sit in the office always. ;-)

I started to train 9 months (!!) before the climb (NO, you DON'T need to train for 9 months to get up to Mt Kinabalu. Read on). One week once. Every Sunday 6.00 am, I hiked with my friends at a hill nearby my house for an hour. However, 9 months may be a bit too long.

Walking up hill in the rains.

Zoe, one of our Mt Kinabalu climbing team member, started to follow my Sunday climb 3 months before the actual climb. She started with physical conditions much worse than that of mine. Sometime she would missed a Sunday and came the next Sunday. In just a few hikes in the local hill, she improved tremendously. With the help of mountain guide, she walked up to summit of Mt Kinabalu with little problem.

It seems the climb was like a breeze to her, while I was struggling to climb due to altitude sickness. :-P

Even if you are physically active, you may still need to try to hike a few times. First, to let your body get use to long hour hiking and walking in the jungle trail. I slipped and fell a few times during the first two hikes of my training.

You climb up this stretch at night in the dark. Training with head lamp in the dark is definitely a must.

This would be your perspective during the night climb, if you can see in the dark.

Second, a 6 hour walk requires strategy of conserving energy and walk with consistent output. A good jogger understands this, but a basketball player may not. One of our fittest teammates suffered  from fatigue due to wrong walking strategy of rush-rest-rush-rest. Since he is fit, he just could not understand our advice of walking slowly and consistently. He struggled to reach Laban Rata late behind everyone and was unable to go for the summit climb during the night.

Ultimately, even if you climb without training, with right walking strategy, you may still able to make it to summit like the Deputy Youth and Sports Minister of Malaysia, Mr Gan Peng Shie. Read his Mt Kinabalu climbing story here. But of course, you are risking to hurt yourself, i.e. sprain your ankle, etc. and take medical leave just like him.

To Be Healthy

You need to be healthy. This is extremely important for the sake of personal safety. The mountain operator, SSL, includes special note below in the booking confirmation documents:

"It is recommended that all climbers should have themselves medically checked before attempting any mountain climb. If you have a history of suffering from the following ailments, it is highly recommend that you should refrain from climbing: Hypertension, Diabetes, Palpitation, Arthritis, Heart Disease, Severe Anemia, Peptic ulcers, Epileptic fits, Obesity (Overweight), Chronic Asthma, Muscular Cramps, Hepatitis (Jaundice); or any other disease which may hamper the climber."

Look at the yellow figurine to have a feel of the scale of the summit plateau. You walk on the rocky and uneven surface for more than 1.5 KM to reach Low's Peak. It is the most difficult walk of the entire climb.


Read about techniques of downhill walk

More Resources

Flood on the Summit of Mt Kinabalu

It can be dangerous at the summit of Mt Kinabalu when there is heavy rain and strong wind. I found this video in showing flood on the Summit of Mount Kinabalu.

Therefore, when the weather is bad during the night, your mountain guide* may cancel the trip from Laban Rata to the Summit of Mt Kinabalu.

* At least one mountain guide will be assigned to you when you start the climb. The climbing package you book with Sutera Sanctuary Lodges or Mountain Torq for a place to stay at Laban Rata includes service of mountain guides. You can find more about the mountain guides here.

Booking to Climb Mount Kinabalu

Sutera Sanctuary Lodges is the operator of Kinabalu National Park. To book a place to climb Mount Kinabalu you need to book a place to stay at Laban Rata Resthouse.

To book through SSL, you need to book your place 6 months ahead of your climb. Read this if you want to book a place to climb Mount Kinabalu urgently (i.e. in less than 6 months)

Panar Laban warm tiny room.

For lodging at Kinabalu National Park and Laban Rata Resthouse:

Photo from Junious's camera. Lodging (the night before
climbing Mt Kinabalu) at Kinabalu Park.
Sutera Sanctuary Lodges,
Sutera Harbour Resorts
Level 1, The Pacific Sutera Hotel
88100 Kota Kinabalu
Sabah, Malaysia

General: +60 88 303 900 - EXT '2'
Fax: +60 88 317 540 / +60 88 310 118

You can find more information at Sutera Sanctuary Lodges' web site.

I found SSL's website to book a place in Laban Rata is not very user friendly. There are opinions expressed in this very useful website of a local doctor on booking a place to climb Mt Kinabalu. Some bigger operators are booking in bulk to resell. To book a tour package to climb Mount Kinabalu from travel agents, read this.

Photo by Junious. The lodge. The night before the climb.

The beds at Panar Laban Hut. We would woke up at 1.30am after midnight to have supper and to climb to the summit.

For transport from Airport to Kinabalu Park:

There are many transport companies, we used the below.

Bimaz Tours & Travel And Rent-A-Car Sdn Bhd
(Co.625562-P) KPL/LN:3958 MATTA No.2904
Kota Kinabalu Sabah
Tel : (+6) 088 767214 | Fax : (+6) 088 766214

Syarikat Gunung Kinabalu
Contact person: Charles Kong
Tel : (+6) 088 492 535
Mobile : (+6) 012 869 7677 | (+6) 016 552 7177
Email :

(One more, we had not used their service before, but we add the info here purely based on goodwill and suggestion.)
GBMS Management Services
Contact person: Hani NJ
Tel : (+6) 088 760 521
Mobile : (+6) 014 658 7181
Email :;


On the way from Airport to Kinabalu National Park nearing Tuaran.

More Resources