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.

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