Nepenthes Lodge at Kinabalu Park Headquarters

We stayed another night at Nepenthes Lodge at Kinabalu Park Headquarters after the climb in my second climb. Staying a night at Kinabalu Park after the climb gave us a much needed rest and a less taxing schedule.

It is a fine lodge with 2 family size bedrooms, a living room, a kitchen and a dining room. All transports within Kinabalu Park Headquarters are free. We just need to call the operator to send a driver to fetch us to anyway in Kinabalu Park Headquarters.

In September 2011, SSL charged RM685 per night per lodge. It includes two big rooms with master beds. It is good enough for 4 adults and a few more children. I am not sure what is the latest price now.

More photo on Nepenthes lodge

Overview of the climb

From Timpohon gate to Laban Rata
The entire journey of climbing Mount Kinabalu is a long uphill walk. There is only an approximately 50 metres stretch of trail near the summit that you need to use your hands to hold a rope.

Yes, I mean walking and not rock climbing. Technically it is an "easy" climb and that you don't need to perform rock climbing. Just WALK.

We can divide the journey into 3 stretches:
  • Climb from Kinabalu Park Headquarters to Laban Rata Resthouse. This is either a 6km hike (walking upward) if you start from Timpohon Gate or an 8km hike if you start from Mesilau Gate.
  • Climb from Laban Rata to summit, 2.75km, and descent back to Laban Rata, 2.75km.
  • Descent from Laban to Kinabalu Park HQ, 6km to Timpohon Gate.

Most people do this (or we did this):

Day 1 

  • 3pm: Reach Kinabalu Park Headquarters.
  • 6pm: Buffet dinner at Balsam Cafeteria and stay one night at Grace hostel.


Day 2 
Stretch 1: From Kinabalu Park Headquarters (1,866 metres/ 6,122 ft) To Laban Rata (3,270 metres/ 10,730 ft)
  • 7am: Buffet breakfast at Balsam Cafeteria. Collect your packed lunch.
  • 8am: Start climbing up to Laban Rata (6km)
  • Afternoon: Most people reach LR between 1pm to 5pm
  • 6pm: Buffet dinner and sleep till next morning 1.30am


Day 3
Stretch 2: To summit (4,095 metres/ 13,435 ft) and back from summit
  • 1.30am: Wake up
  • 2.00am: Buffett supper
  • 2.30am: Start the climb to summit (2.75km)
  • By 5am: Sayat-Sayat checkpoint gate closes at 5am. Climbers must cross this checkpoint by 5am.
  • By 7.30am: Reach Summit (many people reach summit before 5.30am for sunrise)

Stretch 3: From Laban Rata back to Kinabalu Park Headquarters
  • By 9.30am: Back to Laban Rata (2.75km), take buffet breakfast and get ready to descend to Kinabalu Park (6km)
  • By 6.30am: Reach Kinabalu Park, have buffet dinner and leave for airport/ Kota Kinabalu, etc.

Day 3 night
Some choose to stay one more night at Kinabalu Park Headquarters. In my second climb, we stayed one more night at a beautiful lodge, Nepenthes Lodge, at Kinabalu Park Headquarters.


For Day 3, it is a 5.5km + 6km hike. It could take up to 14 hours of walking.

After 4.5KM from Timpohon Gate towards Laban Rata

Beautiful flora and scenery at Pondok Villosa, in the mid point between 4.5KM and 5.0KM.

Read "How to climb Mount Kinabalu?"

Descend: How to walk downhill?

Most injuries happen during descent, i.e. the downhill walk.

I started training for Mount Kinabalu in early 2010, hiking in a nearby forest reserve hill. In first two rounds of climbing, I slipped and landed on my back twice during the downhill walks. Once, the back of my head hit the ground. I was lucky as my head landed on soft soil.

In my first Mount Kinabalu climb, during the 9km descend from Low's Peak to Headquarter of Kinabalu Park, both my knees suffered severe pain. It was a 2.5 hours downhill walk from summit to Laban Rata and another 7 hours downhill walk from Laban Rata to Headquarter of Kinabalu Park in heavy downpour. With the help of walking stick, I wrongly decided to walk side way to "reduce" the worsening knee pains. The knee pains continued a few weeks after the climb.

I knew I have problem with downhill walk and I started to research on proper downhill walk methods.

Descend from the Peak, after Sayat Sayat checkpoint

How to walk downhill?

I had a good downhill walk in my second climb to Mount Kinabalu. Below are the downhill walking methods.

Walk front way (not side way)
I got a piece of very good advice from my hiking friend, who got the advice from his physiotherapist friend: when we walk downhill, we walk front way (as opposite to back way or side way), walk toward where your toes are pointing. This is especially true when you started to feel pain in your knees. Don't walk side way to "reduce" pain, insist to walk front way downhill.

During the descend of my first climb, I walked side way when I started to have knee pain. Although it seemed to reduce my knee pain at that moment, it actually aggravated it subsequently. It got worse every step I took. I could hardly walk when I reach the foot of the mountain. In my second climb, I stuck to walking front way when I felt knee pain early in the descend downhill walk. The knee pain went off after a while, and I walked downhill without further problem.

Lean slightly forward and don’t land on your heel
During downhill walk, lean forward and land on full sole of feet or land slightly on ball of feet. I used to have the habit of leaning backward and land on heel. This was the reason why I slipped easily during downhill walk. Landing on heel will also create direct impact on your knees that would cause knee pain.

Walk in small stride (and, therefore zigzag)
Walking small stride will avoid slip and knee pain. This means you will probably walk in a zigzag route (still, walk front way, toward where your toes are pointing) as the height of steps in Mount Kinabalu are relatively (or slightly) big.

Change your landing legs frequently
The height of steps of Mt Kinabalu are relatively big. So you will always land on next step with one leg and follow by another leg. Systematically and frequently change your landing leg. You may land with your left leg 5 steps downhill and land with your right leg the next 5 steps downhill. The mountain guide praised my uncle who adopted this method of walking.

Shoes matter, but branded shoes don’t matter

  • Wear a pair of snug fit shoes. Tighten shoelaces when walking downhill. This is to protect your toes.
  • Wear a pair of shoes with good grip. I like Adidas Kampung. In fact, I wore Adidas Kampung for my entire second climb of Mount Kinabalu and I plan to wear it for my numerous future climbs.
  • Branded hiking shoes like Nike or Adidas are good, but not as good as Adidas Kampung. When I wear my Adidas or Nike shoes with thick cushion, I tend to land on my heels and that hurts my knees. Moreover, the grip of these branded shoes is not as good as that cheap rubber shoes called Adidas Kampung.

Walking pole
It is really helpful to have a walking pole or walking stick while walking downhill. You can put some of your body weight on the pole and lessen the burden on your legs.

Trim your toenails
During the downhill walk, my friend who forgot to trim his long toenails had one of his toenails broken and flipped up. It was really really painful.

More resources and links on Walking Downhill on How to Walk Downhill?
Live for the outdoor's The Best Way to Walk Downhill
Mountaineering and mountain survival on Mountain Walking Techniques
My rain forest adventure on Adidas Kampung shoes on Adidas Kampung shoes
My site on Adidas Kampung and other branded shoes

The view of walking downhill.


To prepare for uphill walk, read here.