With its 4095,2 meters, Mount Kinabalu is the highest reachable mountain in South East Asia. It’s part of the mountain range Crocker Range that is located in the Kinabalu National Park in the Sabah Province on the Malaysian side of Borneo. Mount Kinabalu is associated with mystic and is very precious to the Malays, which might be an explanation why the majority of people climbing Mount Kinabalu are Malaysian tourists from all over the country. Even though the mountain is the main attraction, the national park that surrounds it has a lot to offer too. Kinabalu National Park is one of the richest habitats for plant life and many of the plants are only to find here. In addition, the park is one of the few places where you can see the Rafflesia, the biggest flower in the world. You can read my experience of climbing Mount Kinabalu here.
Climbing options and prices
Climbing Mount Kinabalu is popular and you have to book up to six months in advance to secure a climb. When you book there are different packages to choose from. The most popular option is the two days/one night hike, which was the package we chose. It includes a six-kilometer hike from Timpohon Gate to the base camp on day one, a three-kilometer hike from base camp to the summit and a nine-kilometer hike from the summit to Timpohon Gate on day two. In addition, it includes accommodation and all meals at base camp.
It is very expensive to climb Mount Kinabalu but there are different price ranges. Climbing on a budget in a big group where you share a mountain guide cost between 960 and 1,080 MYR (227 – 255 USD) depending on the group size. Climbing in a small group where you have your own mountain guide cost between 1,880 and 2,130 MYR (445 – 504 USD) depending on the group size. You can read about the different packages offered and book it here. Be aware that this is the official Mount Kinabalu website. Other companies also offer climbs to the summit of Mount Kinabalu and their prices might differ.
How to get there
Kinabalu National Park is located 100 km east of Kota Kinabalu that is the capital of the Sabah Province. The easiest way to get to the park is by car and it takes approximately two hours from Kota Kinabalu depending on the traffic. In addition, a mini-bus goes from Kota Kinabalu’s city center (Merdeka Square) to Ranau that passes Kinabalu National Park on the way. However, be aware that they don’t operate with a timetable but leaves when the bus is full, which I’ve heard is approximately every hour. Buses from Sandakan, Lahad Datu and Semporna to Kota Kinabalu also pass Kinabalu National Park if you ask them to. However, you will be charged the full fare to Kota Kinabalu.
Climbing Mount Kinabalu is definitely not as easy as a walk in the park. On the way to the summit, you will walk on dirt trails, rocky trails and several stairs where some are steeper and more challenging than others. Sometimes you will also need to use a rope to pull yourself up if the area is too steep for stairs. In addition, the air gets thin on the way to the summit (4095,2 meters) and altitude sickness can occur. Climbing Mount Kinabalu thus requires an average fitness level.
What to bring
It can be very difficult to figure out what to bring when climbing Mount Kinabalu. The average temperature from the park to base camp is 15-24 degrees while the average temperature from base camp to the summit is 6-14 degrees. In addition, it’s often nice and sunny on the first part and windy and foggy on the second part. Thus, you really have to think carefully about what to bring. Here is my recommended packing list for a two days/one night hike:
3 pairs of underwear
2 sports bras
3 pairs of socks
2 sports t-shirts
1 sports shirt
1 pair of running tights/hiking pants
1 raincoat/rain poncho
1 pair of running/hiking shoes
1 pair of sunglasses
1 pair of ski gloves
Medium size backpack
Go Pro camera