A Comprehensive Guide To The God’s Mountain – Mount Kinabalu

Mount Kinabalu (Malay: Gunung Kinabalu), is located at Kinabalu National Park in Sabah, Borneo, Malaysia. It is the highest mountain in the southeast Asia with 4095.2 meters.

Although It has been already formed for about 10 to 15 million years, the mountain is still young according to geology and being uplifted with 0.5 millimetre per year.

There are many stories about its name – Kinabalu. One of the most acknowledged story is that the name is from the Kadazan’s “Aki Nabalu”: Aki means the ancestor, Nabalu is mountain – together, it means the mountain of the ancestor.

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About Kinabalu National Park

The area covering the mountain itself and the nearby area is conservation area, known as Kinabalu National Park or Holy Mountain Park. It has been listed as the first World Nature Site in Malaysia by the United Nation since 2000 for its outstanding geological value as well as being one of the most important natural regions.

The Park covers 754 square kilometres. It is the home of around 6000 plants, including more than 1000 kinds of orchid (accounting for 30 percent of all orchid in Borneo), more than 600 kinds of fern (among which, 50 kinds cannot be found elsewhere. The total number of the kinds outnumbers those of the African continent), and one third of the total number of nepenthes all over the world. In addition, there are 1000 kinds of butterflies, 320 kinds of birds, more than 40 kinds of fish, around 78 kinds of amphibious creatures and 112 kinds of reptilians with new species still being discovered.

The ecological environment of the Holy Mountain Park has been protected quite well. There are all different kinds of plants from tropical plants to frigid ones. The very existence of the Holy Mountain is a legend. From the tropical rainforest at the bottom of the mountain, to the coniferous forest and plateau grassland, to the shrub at the top of the mountain – the Holy Mountain Park is one of the largest and the most important wild plant conservation areas in the world.

There are numerous nature lovers coming here from all over the world every year to explore and admire all the precious natural resources of the Park. There are so many flowers and plants here, including ark, kingcup, orchid, azalea and nepenthes. It is also the home of the world largest rafflesia and various animals and incest. Hence, the Holy Mountain Park is also known as the paradise of the animals and plants.

In addition, it only takes two hours to drive from Kota Kinabalu City. You can take a good rest with the fresh air at the Holy Mountain Park.


Climbing Route

There are two durations provided for the climbers; two days and one night, and three days and two nights. It does not require special equipment and skills, although a good strength is a must.

# it is compulsory to have a mountain guide tag along. It is also optional to hire a porter.

There are two routes from the bottom to the middle of the mountain. Those two routes meet at Layang-Layang located at the middle of the mountain.

1.   Summit Trail: a short route with stone stairs. There is not much to see along the way.

2.  Masilau Trail: it starts with Masilau with a 5.5 miles long road. It is long and steep, which is quite appealing to those with experience, especially with wonderful scenery along the way. (closed for now)

(Below is the map provided by the Department of Tourism of Sabah)

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Related Information and Tips for the Climbers

If you would like to climb the mountain, it is necessary for you to book the accommodation in advance. The number of the climbers is limited for the sake of the environment of the mountain. The accommodation is provided at “first come, first serve” basis; hence it is recommended to book the accommodation one to three months earlier. You can either complete the reservation through travel agency or Sutera Santurary Lodg at etronella.t@suteraharbour.com.my.

There are many hotels; however, it is recommended to choose the largest one –  Laban Rata. Compared with other hotels which does not have proper dining area, the dinning of Laban Rata resides in the first floor. Also, it has the best facilities with indoor heating and hot water showering. It is noted to pay attention to which room you are allocated in the corresponding email.

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Meals package

The first day:

  • The lunch: Half sandwich, one fruit, water, a pair of chicken wing
  • The dinner: Buffet from 5 p.m to 7 p.m.

The second day:

  • 00:00 a.m. before reaching the top of the mountain: Buffet
  • Morning – coming back from the top of the mountain: Buffet
  • At the Headquarter located at bottom of the mountain: Buffet until 2 p.m.

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It usually takes 4 to 6 hours reach the accommodation, after which you can start to have a better meal.

You might need to get up at 2 a.m. on the next day to have an extra meal and then you would watch the sun rise at the top of the mountain. It usually takes 3 hours to reach the top of the mountain, during which you can enjoy the scenery along the way. So don’t forget to bring the camera.

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After enjoying the sunrise, you can have a lovely breakfast along with a short break. Please noted that you need to check out before 10:30 a.m.

It takes less time to reach the gate – around 3 hours to come back from the top. Just be careful with your steps.


Best Season to Climb Mount Kinabalu

Mount Kinabalu is open for visit during the whole year. It is noted that the raining season is from November to January, and May to July, during which there would be heavy rain; as a result, Mount Kinabalu might be closed for the safety concern. The best season for the climbers is during the dry season which lasts from February to April and August to October.

The altitude of the Headquarter of the Park is 1563 meters, with the temperature ranging from 15 to 24 degrees Celsius in the daytime. The temperature would be 6 to 14 degrees Celsius at the middle of the mountain (the altitude being 3270 meters); sometimes it could even reach 0 degree Celsius. It is noted that the temperature of Low’s Peak is 5 degrees Celsius lower than that of the middle of the mountain.

Warnings: it is strongly recommended that those who would like to climb the mountain should undergo a body check in advance. If you are suffering or have suffered the diseases listed below, please do not climb the mountain:  heart disease, high blood pressure, asthma, gastric ulcer, anaemia, diabetes, epilepsy, arthritis, palpitation, hepatitis, muscle cramp, obesity, or any other diseases that could triggered by low temperature and air pressures as well as would hinder the mountain climbing activity. It is noted that there will not be any refund due to personal health issue, cancelled flight, extreme weather, riots and other natural disasters from the Park administration.

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Recommended Equipment for the Climbers.

  • Comfortable sneakers or muscle cramp with grains at the bottom
  • Clothes that can dry quickly (from the sweat), can keep your warm. It would be better to bring water-proof wind coat. Sleeping bag would be provided by the hotel.
  • Water bottle with 1-liter capacity. You can refill it at the water refilling station along the way. There is one water station stop per mile.
  • Snacks with high calories, for example, chocolates, nuts, glucose, candies, raisins, fruit bar, energy drink and so on.
  • Gloves, flashlight or head lamp.
  • Raincoat
  • Think sport socks
  • Tissue, small towel
  • Tooth brush, tooth paste
  • Water-proof backpack
  • Related medicine and unguent for sore muscle, blisters, headache, altitude reaction, mosquito’s bites; as well as gauze
  • Plastic bag
  • Sunscreen cream, sunglasses, lip pomade and hat. If you would like to play Via Ferrata, it is necessary to tie a rope on your sunglasses.
  • If you would like to bring the camera with you, please bring the backup battery because the low temperature up in the mountain could shorten the life of the battery


Other Information that You Need to Pay Attention:

  • Food and Water

There is no need to bring a lot of water with you because there are many water refilling stations along the way with drinking water provided

The mineral water sells at RM 4.40/500 ml and a can of coca sells at RM 11 at Laban Rata. So please purchase what you would like to eat at the bottom of the mountain where the price is lower

  • Rest Stop

There are several rest stops along the way for the route Summit Trail. Each stop has bathroom and provides drinking water. There is a sign board at every stop saying the altitude and the distance from the next stop.

Please do not litter around. It is our responsibility to protect the environment.

  • Mountain Climbing

What is needed to bring varies from people to people. It is recommended to bring only the necessities. You can deposit your other luggage at the Headquarter of the park. Although you can hire a porter to take your luggage and climb the mountain but not necessarily with you, it is important to remember to take necessities with you (e.g. drinking water, food, rain coats, medicine, etc.). If you are willing to tip more to the tour guide, the guide would be willing to take some of your luggage too.

It is important to bring clothes that can keep you warm, rain coat, head lamp and gloves when you would like to reach the top of the mountain.

The tour guide is usually from the local, so most of them do not understand English or only understand a little.

What is less known by most climbers is that: if you are unable to walk due to injuries or other emergencies, the tour guide can assist you with the fee charged at RM 100 per mile. Please do not force yourself if to walk under this situation.

The air would become think with the increased altitude. In order to prevent the altitude reaction from happening (the symptom of which includes fever, headache, difficult to breathe, cannot see things clearly, gasp, etc.), it would be better to walk slowly, drink more water and take medicine for the headache with you.

It is okay to wear T-shirts at the early stage; however, when it comes to the Laban Rata, the temperature would drop by 10 degrees Celsius or more. It would be much colder at the top of the mountain, so it is important to bring clothes that can keep you warm.

The road is muddy and wet; it is recommended to wear old, antiskid and high climbing boot to protect the ankle.

It would be better to wear kneecap since there are a lot of stairs to climb on the first day

  • Phone and Network

There is signal all over the Park. It is recommended to use Celcom. There are also Telekom paid phones at the Park

There are also Telekom paid phones at Laban Rata along with strong 019/013 phone network, although the signal for the 012/017 network is not strong. However, there will not be too many problems if you would like to text. It is noted that if your phone number starts with 012/017, you might need to text at some certain areas in order for the message to be sent.

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