Mount Kinabalu – a MUST in everyone’s bucket list

An overview of Mount Kinabalu – excerpted from Wiki

Kinabalu from a distance – it looked rather erie, forewarning what is waiting for us ahead…

Mount Kinabalu is a prominent mountain on the island of Borneo in the Southeast Asia. It is located in the East Malaysia state of Sabah and is protected as Kinabalu National Park, a World Heritage Site. Kinabalu is the highest peak in Borneo’s Crocker Range and is debatably  the highest mountain in Southeast Asia. Mount Kinabalu is also the 20th most prominent mountain in the world by topographic prominence.

In 1997, a re-survey using satellite technology established its summit (known as Low’s Peak) height at 4,095 metres (13,435 ft) above sea level,

Low’s Peak can be climbed quite easily by a person in good physical condition and there is no need for mountaineering equipment at any point on the main route. Other peaks along the massif, however, require rock climbing skills.

Map of the hiking trail

Mount Kinabalu hiking trail

Mount Kinabalu can be attempted in two days. If you start from Timpohon gate, it will take you about 6-7 hours to reach Laba Ratan rest house at about 3300m elevation. You would have dinner there and take a quick rest/nap till 2am of the next day to start ascend to the summit. That later part would take approximately 4 hours and hopefully you could make it for the sun rise. The descending part will start from there, straight down to Timpohon gate.


For more details about all the costs involved and what to prepare, you can research Wikitravel site.

Part 1: Timpohon gate to Laba Ratan hut – about 7 hours from 1500m to 3300m elevation

The first half of the trip should go pretty well. The scene doesn’t offer anything spectacular. There are some pretty rough patches but mostly very easy to walk with clearly laid out steps.

Most of the first part of the hike would look like this

The weather can change very rapidly. One minute it is shining, the next it can be pouring heavily. So be prepared for this. Bring layer clothings, water proof hiking boots and rain coats.

I ran out of water so I drank the mountain water because according to the above mentioned  Wikitravel site that I found, it was supposed to be safe to drink. No it was not. It made my tummy feel funny.

Tip 1: DON’T DRINK THE MOUNTAIN WATER. Bring plenty of water with you. They did sell water at the hut but it cost something like RM10 a bottle.

The mountain water that almost killed my Kinabalu dream

After 7 hour of hard labor, you would reach Laba Ratan hut for dinner and energy recharge.

We were so excited to see this at last … Pendunt hut where we would have a quick nap

The hut looked cozy but there was no heater. It was so cold. We couldn’t book the one with heater.

Tip 2: BOOK EARLY because it’s crowded up there. We booked 1 month in advance but still couldn’t get the heated huts.

The super packed hut where everybody scrambled for food which tasted pretty decent. But who cared, at that time I could gobble down anything.

Part 2: Laba Ratan hut to Low’s Peak Summit – about 4 hours from 3300m to 4100m elevation

After a quick and much needed rest, your guide will come and wake you up at around 1.30 am.

Tip 3: bring INSTANT CUP NOODLES for an enjoyable and energy packed quick breakfast.

Although this part of the hike is supposed to be much shorter than the earlier part, it is much more dangerous. There are neither laid out foot steps nor stairs. There’s only a big rope for us to hold on to and pull ourselves up on almost vertical giant rocks. I almost couldn’t pull myself up at one part but fortunately my partner was right behind me pushing my butts up.

Most of the time you would look up and see butts and probably would also push some strangers’ butts


Tip 4: keep going, DON’T LOOK DOWN at all costs. Doing all these in the dark kinda helped because you don’t know how dangerous the situation is and you just kep moving and following others.

People mostly give up during this part. Just take it slow and take as much rest as you need. You would appreciate a good pair of hiking boots with really good traction.

Almost there

A little bit more

The last 200m which also poses great difficulty… so near… yet so far…

Finally we made it, though a little bit later for the sun rise.

What you could see from the summit would make all your effort worthwhile.

Looking at South Peak near by which is not reachable without climbing equipment

It’s time to descend, which is not much easier. Some parts, it’s better to crawl.

Walking down – looked like it’s flat, but it’s going down at least 45 degrees

The view was so spectacular looking down

Part 3: Via Ferrata walk – the highest Via Ferrata in the world – this is optional but it’s recommended to try with a good guide that is patient and can carefully show you how to use your equipment properly. Ours was not. Consequently, we suffered through the Via Ferrata walk. It was supposed to be an almost effortless trip that a seven-year-old kid could easily attempt but it turnt out to be hard labor for us because we used too much strength. The guide ignored our suffering. But still, we enjoyed it even sometimes my partner screamed: I wanted to turn backkkk.

Tip 5: Choose a good guide for your Via Ferrata. If you have recommendations for some good guides, let us know at the Comments 🙂


Mama I miss you

After Via Ferrata walk, you can have a quick lunch at the same Laba Ratan hut before descending down to mountain gate. The descending part will not tire you very much but will take a quick toll on your knees.

Part 4: Descending to Timpohon gate

Tip 6: BRING CLIMBING POLES even while descending. It would help your knees. Wear your knee supports if you have them.

Most people take only 4 hours to complete this stretch but we took almost 6 hours. Partly because it was raining so the steps were slippery. The sky also went dark pretty fast which even slowed us further down.

Next morning, you probably couldn’t walk normally and the pain may last for a week.

Tip 7: BRING COUNTER PAIN and apply generously immediately after the climb.

If you have time, you can spend a day or two at Kota Kinabalu city. It has beautiful beaches and awesome fresh seafood.


A list of MUST HAVE items for the trip (besides other stuff that you might need, but these items are MUST HAVE)

–       Good walking boots – preferably water proof because it is very likely to rain

–       Hand gloves – this is not because it’s too cold. This is to protect your hands while you try to pull yourselves up by a rope

–       Rain coats – the disposable ones work fine

–       Head-mounted torch light – you must free your hand to hold onto whatever you can

–       Counter Pain cream

–       Anti-motion sickness peels – some people suffer from altitude sickness even though normally they don’t suffer from motion sickness. This is the number one reason people give up the climb even though some are physically fit

–       At least 2 litters of water for each person – keep the empty bottles to top them up at the hut. By all means, don’t drink the so-called-untreated-but-drinkable water on the mountain

–       Energy food such as chocolate, instant noodles or muesli bars


If you also had great experiences conquering Mount Kinabalu, please share them with us at This definitely must be in every road-trip-worm’s bucket lists.