Climb Borneo's Mount Kinabalu

Climbing to over 13,000 feet above sea level, through an ever-changing landscape and stunning flora and fauna, you’ll reach the summit of Mount Kinabalu - the highest mountain in Malaysia - on your second day, just before dawn. With the spectacular sunrise illuminating the view for miles in every direction and a huge sense of achievement lifting your spirit, you'll discover a deeply personal and unique moment that you’re unlikely to forget.

What to expect on a Kinabalu climb...

The trip starts gently with a drive through the magnificent Crocker Range of mountains to Kinabalu National Park, one of Malaysia’s first National Parks, dating back to 1964. Expect stunning mountain views as you near your destination and the road becomes steeper, cutting its way through the wild jungle landscape.

Your first day will be spent exploring the National Park, which is blessed with trails to suit all abilities, from those who prefer a relaxed stroll to the keen all-day trekker. UNESCO designated the park a World Heritage Site in 2000 for its ‘outstanding universal values’ and its diverse and distinctive ecology is hard to beat. Home to more than 4,500 species of plants and animals, this remarkable habitat is a nature lover’s dream come true.

Day two really kicks into action once you arrive at ‘The Power Station’ at the base of the mountain, and register your climb. On your first day on the mountain you’ll be trekking for about four or five hours, accompanied by your own National Park guide (and essential packed lunch). 

One of the fascinating things you’ll notice as you climb is how the landscape and plant life changes the higher you go. Look out for areas of nepenthes (pitcher plants) and, as you climb higher, stunted wind bent trees with air plants and lichens hanging down. Coupled with the cloud and mist that often shrouds the mountain, this can make for a very atmospheric (if not a little spooky) experience.

Don’t expect a lie-in on day three; climbing starts at around 2am. It’s worth it to ensure you arrive at the peak before dawn, in time to see the sun rise over the summit and cast an awe-inspiring early morning light across the forests below. Then it’s back to the guesthouse for a well earned breakfast before making your way down to base camp, where you'll receive a certificate to celebrate your successfully completed climb.

There are shelters all the way along the climbing routes, so you will be able to stop for comfort breaks, and if plain old climbing the tallest mountain in Malaysia isn't enough for you, there's an alternative route along what is reputedly the world's highest via ferrata - 1.2 stomach-flipping kilometres long, and reaching 3,776 metres as it approaches Kinabalu's peak.

Selective Asia's Borneo specialist Simon finds that the Kinabalu climb is surprisingly doable. 'The great thing is that Mt Kin is very achievable for most people. You do need to be the motivated to reach the top of a relatively high mountain, but it's not too hardcore in terms of fitness, ability to deal with heights or needing mountaineering experience. There is some altitude impact for most people, but few suffer really badly, and I actually found the effects quite fascinating, having not been to an altitude that affects the body before.'

Location: Sabah, Borneo

Duration: 2 nights

Accommodation: overnight stays in Kinabalu National Park and the Laban Rata Guesthouse on Mount Kinabalu

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Our client Catherine P said...

'The lodge at the base of the Mount Kinabalu climb was more luxurious than we had anticipated. The staff were very attentive and treated us with a lot of care. Watching sunrise from the top of Mount Kinabalu was the highlight of our trip.'

Important Note

Although no Kilimanjaro, the climb does still require a certain amount of effort. Breathing can become hard from about half way up and some climbers do suffer from altitude sickness, especially nearer the peak. So long as you have a basic level of fitness though you should be absolutely fine.

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