Scaling the mysterious, misty and mighty 4.095m Mount Kinabalu
> Trek on Mt Kinabalu in Sabah (Territory of Malaysia on Borneo) during August <
Standing at an impressive 4.095m, Mount Kinabalu is a classical trekking peak. Some believe that it’s the highest in SE Asia, but Myanmar’s Hakakabo Razi and Irian Jaya’s Carstenz Pyramid are both higher (and far more technical peaks). It is "only" the highest peak in Borneo.
Nevertheless, we visited during off-season late August, and less than half an hour after leaving Kota Kinabalu, the “capital” of Sabah in northeast Borneo Island, the stegosaurus-backed Mount Kinabalu came into view, promising a real tropical adventure. Arriving at the park HQ we organized right on the spot accommodation, climbing permits, and the compulsory booking of a guide. We found no need to book in advance, neither did we opt for the 4N/3D or 3N/2D trips that was sold in Kota Kinabalu as well as in the park HQ. Instead, we tailored our own programme and decided to do the trip in 1N/2D as we had good levels of fitness that particular summer (after climbing several volcanoes in other SE Asian wildernesses).
The first leg was from the Timpohon Gate up to the Laban Rata hut, where we continued all the way to the summit. We saw several primitive shelters on the way for small acclimatization breaks. We reached the summit after 11 hours of hiking. The ascent to Low's Peak, which is the final 3km of the climb, was quite steep. The summit climb involved long sections of steep wooden steps, followed by smooth granite slabs with plug-in ropes. We had caught the periphery of a typhoon centered on the Philippines and torrential rain turned these slabs into slippery waterfalls, so we pulled ourselves up using ropes. At the near-freezing summit, we had mixed clouds and sun as the clouds cleared momentarily. We had good views at several moments and descended to the Laban Rata Hut for a good night’s sleep. The next day we went slowly down.
Even though we came prepared, the temperature at the top and the very volatile nature of the weather came as a bit of a surprise to us. We were happy that we had brought with us warm clothes (thermal, fleece, waterproof), a good headlamp and supplies of high-energy food. It was a good experience although quite wet. Persistent rain and all-enveloping clouds left us with thoughts of trekking in Scotland, Wales or even Lapland in autumn.
For travels in the vicinity or Borneo and in Malaysia, check our trips sites to the Malaysian Islands, Palawan or Sulawesi. For other great climbs in SEA, check our obsession with climbing volcanoes in Indonesia.