Published: Aug 02, 2018

How hard is the Kinabalu climb?

The trail to the summit is certaily not for the faint-hearted.

At the height of 4,095 metres, Mount Kinabalu is regarded as one of the tallest peaks in Southeast Asia. Its tropical rainforest setting which has numerous species of flora and fauna below the peak further elevates its significance. There are many Mount Kinabalu climbing package offered by tour operators to let people attempt the climb to the summit. Many have attempted the challenge to climb to the peak of Mount Kinabalu and return victorious. It is safe to say that the climb to the peak of Mount Kinabalu is not very challenging nor dangerous seeing so many that have successfully done the climb. However, there are a number of people that have also considered is as one the more difficult climb. So, how hard actually is the Kinabalu climb?

The Mount Kinabalu height is only half of the world’s tallest Mount Everest, makes Kinabalu fairly underwhelming comparing to it. Mount Kinabalu is considered that one of the most accessible taller peaks in the world because it does not require any special skills or equipment to reach the top. Simply say you just need to have a reasonably good fitness to reach the top of the mountain. This is what most of those who have climbed would say and how it was marketed. In fact, it is really an easy climb if you just listen or look at how does the trail goes.

The starting point and also ending point for the Mount Kinabalu climb, Timpohon Gate. (Image Credit: Flickr//John Hammond)

In the beginning of the climb, you will start at the Timpohon Gate and trek to the Laban Rata Rest house for approximately 5 to 8 hours depending on your fitness level. The initial part of the climb is a normal walking trail towards the deep jungle, you will pass by a waterfall and some shelters along the way. These shelters are meant for climbers to take a break and recharge themselves before they continue on their climb. As you progress through the trail, it will get steeper and taller. You will need to pace yourself in order to conserve your energy as it will be a long climb as it will go steeper as you go on. The trail as you know by now is mostly uphill paths or inclined and uneven trails. It will be physically challenging for most of the people.

A picturesque view from the pendant hut in the morning!

After a few hours of climbing, the rest house which serves as a base camp will be there. Climbers will need to spend the night here and then wake up before dawn and start the hike towards the summit. The summit climb is also another walk to the top. However, it is much steeper and guiding ropes will support you as you climb to the top. You will be climbing on rocky terrains which could be very slippery if it rains. Climbers just need to take extra care of their footing. There will also be an experienced guide to lead you. It will take another 2 hours or so to reach the peak of Mount Kinabalu to enjoy the magnificent scenery on top.

The Sayat-Sayat Checkpoint just slightly below the peak of Mount Kinabalu. (Image Credit: Flickr//Imran Jaafar)

After a brief moment at the top, climbers will need to descent to the rest house and ready to get back to the starting point. The descent down the mountain might be the most challenging according to many climbers because it is very steep. The steep trails will make your leg take quite a beating and it will be a continuous descent all the way to the Timpohon Gate to end the climb.

The base camp at Laban Rata for climbers to rest before challenging to the top of Mount Kinabalu.

Is it safe to climb Mount Kinabalu?

Many have been concerned about the safety issues of Mount Kinabalu and whether is it safe to climb the mountain since the recent events of earthquakes. The mountain is still operating (as of July 2018) and available for people to climb. The Mesilau trail have been closed due to the earthquake damaging the trails. Nonetheless, Mount Kinabalu is still deemed safe to climb. The trails to the peak of Mount Kinabalu is very safe and well guided in addition to having numerous people successfully completed the climb.

The Mesilau Trail which is now closed after the earthquake in 2015. (As of July 2018)

However, the incident of natural disaster is not under the control of human. As long as you follow the instructions of your mountain guide and stay on track, the risk of accident or injury will be lowered. Those who have suffered from accident on the mountain usually happens when they leave the designated trails or left their group. Besides that, the safety of the trail is often affected by the bad weather. However, your guide will stop the climb if it was deemed unsafe to ensure the safety of climbers.

How fit do I need to be?

First of all, mountain climbing is an activity that requires stamina and perseverance. In order to reach the peak of the mountain, you should be reasonably fit. You do not need to be very athletic to complete the climb. Among those who successfully reached the top, there are all sorts of people and many of them are not athletes obviously. If you are engage to sports activity or regular exercises every week, you are most probably fit enough to reach the summit.

Nevertheless, it doesn’t hurt to prepare yourself better to avoid disappointment. A few months before your climb, start jogging, running or walking in a park or your local neighbourhood for about an hour twice a week. This will help your cardio abilities and also keep you fit. Then as you near your date to challenge the peak, start to walk on some inclined or steeper trails to make your legs familiar with what will it be going through during the climb.

You should be fine to go if you have been able to do these easily. Intensive training is really not needed. However, you should not climb if your legs or arm have any injury as the climb might pressure it and worsen the injury.

Just a few steps to reach the top!

Other than that, altitude sickness can affect or impact any climbers on Mount Kinabalu whether he or she is fit or not. This is caused by the sudden elevation on climbing the mountain where you practically climb to a height of 4000 metres over in one day. Climbers can choose to stay near the Kinabalu Park area to acclimatize themselves to the high altitude. Besides that, remember to pace your climb and take adequate rests during the climb. If you felt the effects during the climb, it is not advised to sit down or lie down. You should stand and rest yourself to see whether the effect wears off, if it doesn’t and keeps becoming worse, you might have to abandon your climb.

How long does it take to climb Mount Kinabalu?

The climb will take about 2 days which includes a night stay at the Laban Rata Rest house. You will first go on a hike for around 7 hours depending on your fitness level from Timpohon Gate to the rest house. Then, you will spend your night there and wake up at 1 or 2 am before dawn to get ready for the climb up the summit. You will climb the summit trails before dawn in order to catch the sunrise at the peak of Mount Kinabalu. The climb to summit usually takes around 3 hours or so which is also dependant on your fitness level. Then you will descent the peak to the rest house first for the same amount of time used to reach the peak. After a brief rest and hearty breakfast at the rest house, you will begin your last part of the journey to descent the mountain to Timpohon Gate. The descent will take around 7 to 8 hours.

The final part of the climb towards the peak is full of rocky terrains and very steep with only guiding rope as a support.

Who can climb Mount Kinabalu? Any age limit?

Among those who climbed and successfully reach the peak of Mount Kinabalu, there are no short of people who are of elder ages. Basically anyone who is fit enough can climb the mountain if they wish to do so. Regarding the age limit, there is no particular age limit for those who intend to climb the mountain. As long as you are in good health or fit, you can climb the mountain. If you are on medication, as long as your doctor approves you to do the climb then you are able to do so. Mount Kinabalu have been climbed thousands of people from age 7 to 80 years old. However, it is suggested that children to be at least 10 years old to climb the mountain because it is a very long climb and there are quite a few steep slopes. For those who are elder, you need to be in good state of health and fitness level to go for the climb.

An absolutely rewarding view after all the hard work reaching the peak of Mount Kinabalu. (Image Credit: Flickr//Jon)

All in all, for those who are ready to cross off Mount Kinabalu from your bucket list, it is better to be well prepared before you go on the climb. Get yourself ready with the adequate things to bring and keep your body fit. It will never hurt to prepare yourself fully with some physical training as it is better safe than sorry. You do not want to reach the mountain with the peak in sight but to find out that you cannot reach the peak.

The majestic Mount Kinabalu is waiting for its challengers!


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