Sea of Cloud on the Summit Plateau of Mount Kinabalu

It is not easy to climb to the summit of Mount Kinabalu. However, when you stand at the summit looking at the spectacular view, you will realise that all the hard work and difficulties are worthwhile.

The amazing clouds formation at dawn on the plateau.

Another photo on clouds.

The clouds look like sea waves. I used a zoom lens to take this photo during descend.

Beautiful view of South Peak and the cloud. Climbers must follow the rope to avoid straying to wrong path that can be dangerous.

Dawn on the Plateau of Mount Kinabalu's Summit

Twice, I was unable to reach Low's Peak before dawn. Both times, I was at the plateau near Donkey Ears Peak at the dawn break. Both times, the experience was wonderful.

Beautiful dawn at the summit of Mount Kinabalu.

South Peak at dawn. The cloud is beautiful.

Panar Laban Huts: Accommodation at Laban Rata

Panar Laban Huts (3,314.3 meters above sea level) located at approximately 200 meters away from Laban Rata Rest House. It is a short distance uphill walk. If you are allocated to stay in Panar Laban, after reaching Laban Rata Rest House, you will go to the Reception counter to get your keys and towels.

Panar Laban Huts are made of two huts. There are 4 beds in each hut. Both huts come with attached pantry with basic cooking facilities. You can boil water for tea or to cook instant noodle. Hot water is useful here as the bathroom has no hot water and you have to walk 20 meter away to the bathroom. The water is very cold here. I poured hot water to my towel. Then I wiped my body with the hot wet towel, instead of bathing.

Panar Laban Huts

The toilets and bathrooms at Panar Laban. It is reasonably clean, but don't hope for 3 stars.
The cozy beds in Panar Laban Hut

These are the pro and con staying at Panar Laban instead of Laban Rata Rest House.

1. You have full control of electricity (Those who stay in Laban Rata Rest House has no control over the switches of electricity.)
2. Fantastic views
3. Attached pantry. You can boil hot water and have instant noodle.

1. Need to walk downhill to Laban Rata Rest House for buffet meals.
2. Need to walk outside to go toilet.

Though it is not heated, from my experience, the temperature in the hut is not cold. There is sufficient warm blankets in the hut. You can find more information about accommodation at Laban Rata, Panar Laban, Gunting Lagadan, Waras Hut, etc. at this website.

The view at Panar Laban is beautiful. The building at the bottom left of the photo is Laban Rata.
Mountain at the back of Panar Laban Huts.

Mountain at the back of Panar Laban Huts.

When you make your booking, remember to confirm with the receptionist your preferred accommodation, i.e. Laban Rata Rest House, Panar Laban, Gunting Lagadan, Waras Hut, etc.

More Resources

Mobile Phones on Mount Kinabalu

Mobile Phone Signals

In both my climbs, September 2010 and September 2011, the only mobile service available at Laban Rata Resthouse was Maxis. There was no signal from other service providers at Laban Rata.

For summit, there was no signal above Sayat Sayat which is the last check point before reaching summit's plateau. Therefore, at summit, i.e. the plateau near Donkey Ears, South peak, Low's peak, etc. there was no mobile phone reception.

(Edited on 18 Feb 2012: a reader informed that his Celcom network works and "managed to have mobile coverage all the way up till just before the summit, i.e. on the plateau before the final 100m climb up the rocks to Low's Summit." Amazing Celcom.)

Phone Chargers

You can bring along your phone charger to Laban Rata. There is electricity.

In Laban Rata Rest House, the main building, electricity is not stable and all electricity shut off after, if I remember correctly, 7.00 pm.

However, for other lodging huts around Laban Rata Rest House, i.e. Panar Laban, Waras Hut, Burlington Hut, Gunting Lagadan Hut, etc. you are in control of the electric switches. The electricity here is more stable.

Laban Rata Rest House 3,270 meter above sea level at Mt Kinabalu

Laban Rata Rest House is the place for climbers to rest, eat and sleep before the summit climb at night. It is a big building located at 3,273 meter above sea level with large and small dormitories, a restaurant serving buffet dinner, supper and breakfast and a store with post office that sell and rent clothes and some climbing accessories.

You can read more about Laban Rata at wikitravel on Laban Rata. This is another website about the facilities at Laban Rata Rest House.

The store at Laban Rata Rest House that sell and rent clothes, etc.
Go to the Reception to collect your towels and key. 

Getting There
Starting from Timpohon Gate, you will climb 6 km upward to reach Laban Rata Rest House. With average fitness, you will probably take about 6 hours to reach the rest house. Generally, climbers start the climb before 9.00am and reach Laban Rata before 3.00pm. Once you reach Laban Rata Rest House, remember to get your towels and keys (if you stay at Panar Laban, Waras Hut, Gunting Lagadan, etc.)

There is a nice map on the road to Laban Rata from the operator of Mount Kinabalu. Click here for Laban Rata's map.

We were at Laban Rata Rest House's restaurent waiting for dinner buffet to start.

Hygiene and Bath
Whether and temperature is COLD and water is freezing at Laban Rata. You will probably want to clean yourself after the 6 km climb but there is no hot water here, except for a small dormitory (that is still elusive to me). The rest house provides dry towel though.

Read more about the hygiene and bathing issue at Laban Rata here.

Food & Drinks
Buffet dinner available at approximately 5pm - 6pm. Lights at Laban Rata off at approximately 7pm and climbers sleep until 1.30am. Buffet supper is served at 2.00am. Most climbers eat and start their summit climb at 2.30am. It serves free flow of hot coffee and tea during dining hours. Cold water is always available at the dining area for climbers to refill water bottle.

Food is...simple and ok. It is buffet with sausage, eggs, rice, mee, chicken, vegetables, etc.

The buffet breakfast close at 10.00am. After that you can only order a la carte, which you need to pay extra. Most people manage to come back to Laban Rata Rest House after the summit climb by 10.00am.

Climbers have their supper/ breakfast buffet at 2.00am early in the morning before starting their climb to summit.

Beds and Sleep
Laban Rata Rest House and its dormitories are heated. Therefore it will not be cold inside the building. The bed is comfortable, though it is not so easy to sleep at 7pm and wake up at 1.30am to the summit. The dormitory we slept has 10 beds (in one big room). Men and women share the same dormitories, there is no segregation.

At Laban Rata, there are a few more hostels other than the Laban Rata Rest House itself, i.e. Panar Laban, Waras Hut, Burlington Hut, Gunting Lagadan Hut, etc. They are located withint 200 meters away from Laban Rata Rest House. However, since the only restaurant in this area which is in the rest house, those who stay in these hostels will have to walk to Laban Rata Rest House to have their meal.

These are a few photo of Laban Rata from other website.

You can read about some discussion of Laban Rata at lonely planet forum here.

Laban Rata Rest House's view from top. I was standing at Panar Laban taking this photo.

Sayat Sayat Check Point at Mt Kinabalu

I was looking down from the plateau of the summit at Sayat Sayat check point. To me. the most mesmerizing part of the entire climb of Mount Kinabalu is the descent from the summit. You can see the grandiose landscape while you walk downhill. My magical moment is not the point when I stood on the highest point of the mountain, Low's peak, but when I walked down the rocky plateau looking at the magnificent rocky formation of the summit.

Click on the photo to see the larger version of this photo that gives you perspective.

The hut is Sayat Sayat check point, at approximately 3,700 meters  (12,140 feet) above sea level. Look at the people at distance right side of the photo, then you can see the scale of the mountain.

Balsam Buffet Restaurant at Kinabalu Park

We had buffet meals at Balsam Buffet Restaurant in the evening before the climb, the next morning before the climb and the afternoon after descent from the mountain.

The mountain climbing package offered by the park operator, Sutera Sanctuary Lodge, include 7 meals, i.e. 6 buffets and 1 pack lunch. We had 3 buffets and were given one packed lunch in Balsam Buffet Restaurant. We had another 3 buffets meal at Laban Rata, i.e. buffet dinner on arrival to Laban Rata, buffet supper before we started our mid night climb to summit and the breakfast returning from the summit.

Below are the photos of Balsam Buffet Restaurant:

Weather at Low's Peak of Mount Kinabalu

For both of my climbs (19 September 2010 and 16 September 2011), the weather during the climbs from Laban Rata to to Low's Peak, summit of Mount Kinabalu (mid night 2.00 am to dawn and late morning 9.00am) were good.

There were no rains. The sky above was clear, although at times there were mist. For instance:

The sky was clear initially at approximately 6.16am on 16 September 2011.

Low's Peak, Mount Kinabalu. At 4,095.2 meters (131435.7 feet) above sea level, it is the highest peak in Malaysia and arguably the highest in South East Asia too. 

But it was all misty two minutes later. As below.

A misty Low's peak at the summit of Mount Kinabalu.

I remember it was freaking cold with the strong mountain wind.

Another view of misty Low's Peak.

But in just another 20 minutes, the sky was all clear again.
Clear sky, 6.40am 16 September 2011, at the plateau of Mount Kinabalu's summit.

And it was all clear when we reach the top of the mountain at 7.05am, 16 September 2011.

However, I can't claim that the weather on the summit is fickle, for in both of my climbs the weather had been dry and the sky was clear, no rain, from 12.00 mid night to 10.00am.

I can only suspect such good weather is due to the altitude of cloud. At night, it is cold and the cloud goes down. In the morning, the sun heat up the cloud and the cloud moves up. Therefore, when the cloud is below the summit in the night and dawn, the weather is always good. And when the cloud is above the summit in the afternoon, the weather becomes unpredictable.

On the opposite, the weather from Kinabalu Park to Laban Rata is always unpredictable. Occasionally there are rains after 11.00 am till night. In both climbs, while we had clear weather in the morning at summit, we experienced heavy rains during descend in the afternoon.

You can read more about the weather and the seasons to climb Mount Kinabalu here.