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Climbing Mount Kinabalu Guide for 2022

Climbing Mount Kinabalu is an incredible experience and a challenging trek. In this blog post we discuss all climbing package options, how to do the hike, accommodation, best season for hiking and what to expect.

Climbing Mt Kinabalu, start of our climb, still a long way to go!
Climbing Mt Kinabalu, start of our climb, still a long way to go!

At 4101m above sea level Mount Kinabalu is the tallest mountain in Borneo and one of the highest in South East Asia. Low’s Peak is the highest point and can be climbed without any special gear or training. It is a steep hike that involves the use of some guide ropes scrambling up and down the steepest parts. Climbing Kinabalu is a challenge and the views spectacular. Unfortunately like most other longer hikes in South East Asia it is not possible to do independent and thus basically impossible to do for cheap.

Book your Mount Kinabalu Hiking Package including accommodation on the mountain, breakfast and Return Kota Kinabalu town hotel transfer here.

Hiking Mount Kinabalu

Mount Kinabalu is the highest peak in Sabah’s Crocker Range. The landscape is really beautiful and range from tropical rainforest to subalpine near the summit. Climbing the mountain is steep and quite tough with more than 20 000 people attempting to reach Low’s Peak per year. The route is easy to follow, but can be slippery and visibility bad when it rains and the fog gets very dense.

Rules for climbing Mount Kinabalu changed significantly in the last couple of years. I have climbed Mount Kinabalu in 1 day, splitting the compulsory guide with 4 other hikers, you can only do the hike over 2 days, staying on the mountain for one night.

Mount Kinabalu Climb Itinerary

The entire hike is 8.72km one way, so 17,4 km return over two days with an elevation gain of 2300m and of course 2300m to walk down. Climbers have two days to attempt the climb. On day one hikers start at Timpohon Gate ascending to Laban Rata where they overnight. Day two is a very early start with climbers starting at around 2 a.m. climbing to Low’s Peak to make it for sunrise before turning around and descending along the same trail.

Day 1 – from Timpohon Gate to Laban Rata

  • The cut-off time for starting the hike is 10:30, so try to get to Kinabalu Park Headquarters early.
  • Register, receive tags and meal vouchers, and pick up packed lunch from the restaurant. Meet your guide and go to the starting gate together. Hike 6km to Laban Rata Resthouse (3300m above sea level), check in.
  • The hike is mainly stairs and rocky terrain with the last km the toughest.
  • Avg hiking time 4 to 6 hours
  • Stay in the dormitory, bedding provided, bring clothes for cold weather thermals, beanie etc.
  • Apparently buffet food is good, can refill water bottles at dinner

The hike up Mount Kinabalu usually starts between 7.30 and 10.30 am. The hike takes between 3-5 hours to reach Laban Rata from Timpohon Gate. From Timpohon Gate the route is well marked with signs marking the trail every couple of hundred meters. The trail starts out going up, the incline for the first four kilometers is moderate to difficult on a rocky surface, and a lot of stairs, mainly stone steps with a couple of wooden staircases, about half the trail is climbing upstairs! I did not count but heard there are 380 flights of stairs on the first day! The last two kilometers to Laban Rata are steep and very rocky. The vertical ascent is 1400 meters from Kinabalu Park.

Day Two – the Summit

  • Get up at 2:30 for the ascent, and bring headlamp
  • Hike 3-4 hours to summit for sunrise
  • The descent takes avg 5-6 hours

The total distance for day two is 11.4 km, from the summit it is still a long way down. From Laban Rata, the climb is very steep, it is only 2.7 km to the summit with an increase in elevation of 800m! mostly slow progress up steps and over smooth rock faces.

There are about 180 sets of steps on the second day almost all in the first 700m, from here the next 2 km is on smooth granite rock surfaces, and there are guide ropes to assist and follow the summit. There is a lot of scrambling getting up this tough part, often using the ropes to get up over the smooth surface. Some sections are really steep and holding on to the ropes when going down is sometimes necessary.

 Mount Kinabalu via Ferrata

Mount Kinabalu has the highest via Ferrata route in the world and is renowned for its spectacular views. A via ferrata, meaning ‘iron road’ in Italian, is a protected mountain pathway consisting of rails, cables, and bridges on the steep rock face. By using the via Ferrata, steep rock faces that can normally only be climbed by mountaineers and rock climbers with experience can be climbed by anyone of average fitness, even without any experience.

This road starts at 3,200 meters and ends at 3,776 meters above sea level. This mountain pathway consists of a series of rails, cables, and bridges that lead you from the starting point to the end, walking next to the rock’s face.

The Mount Kinabalu Via Ferrata has 2 routes; Walk the Torq and Low’s Peak Circuit. Lows Peak Circuit is the more difficult route. No climbing experience is required to attempt either of the routes.

The route has a length of 1.2km and an increase in elevation of 365m.

The via ferrata is done after reaching the summit. If you do the normal hike you will start going down after reaching the summit, but if you have opted for the via Ferrata (Walk the Torq or Low’s Peak) you will do the additional activity after reaching the summit before they head down the mountain.

Accommodation on Mount Kinabalu

  • Laban Rata Hut – Hosts 77 standard summit climbers both international and Malaysian.
  • Pendant Hut Hosts 33 Via Ferrata climbers, both international and Malaysian
  • Lemaing Hostel 25 standard summit climbers, only Malaysian 
Early morning, the start of the hike was not to tough.
Early morning, the start of the hike was not too tough.

How to Climb Mount Kinabalu with or without a Tour.

Mount Kinabalu can not be climbed independently, it is compulsory to use a guide. Up to 5 people are allowed to share one guide so this is not a big expense. It is however not compulsory to do an organised tour. You can book everything on your own, or use an agency, which is obviously easier, but more costly.

Climbing Kinabalu without an agency – It is possible to organize the hike on your own, the most important thing that is usually fully booked ahead of time is the accommodation on the mountain. Do all your own booking the following way:

  • Book a bed at Laban Rata accommodation on the mountain by contacting Sutera Sanctuary Lodges (SSL) the management of accommodation in Kinabalu Park and Laban Rata or visiting their office in Kota Kinabalu
  • Go to Park Headquarters the day before in the morning and book a guide.
  • Arrive at the Park Headquarters, and pay for permits, insurance, mountain guide, shuttle bus, and park entrance fee. Receive a packed lunch and identification tag (must be worn during the hike)
  • Meet your guide
  • Get on the shuttle bus
  • Start trekking

Since there are limited spaces available people book as far ahead as possible. It is always possible to get a last minute booking, people often cancel, if you are alone your chances of getting a last-minute booking is much better.

Booking through an agency – booking through an agency is more expensive, but they usually make it hassle free, with many packages starting and ending in Kota Kinabalu and including several services. We list a couple here, I will recommend you read reviews on the various tours. Please read the terms and conditions careful when booking, most bookings is not refunded upon cancellation of the climb for any reason.

Climbing Mount Kinabalu Packages

There are several options for climbing mt Kinabalu; the two day one night option (2D1N), the three day 2 night option (3d2N) and hiking Mount Kinabalu via Ferrata. There are many companies offering packages to climb the mountain.

Sutera Sanctuary Lodges

  • Sutera Sanctuary lodges are well priced since they own the accommodation on the mountain, what you get is very basic.
    • Packages do not include transport.
    • Arrange your own climb permit, climb insurance, mountain guide services, and transportation before your climb.
    • Hire a porter at Kinabalu Park HQ if required.
    • Bring cash in MYR to pay Sabah Parks authorities for various expenses.

Mt Kinabalu – the two day one night option (2D1N) – without a tour

The two-day one-night option is the shortest and most popular way of currently climbing Mt Kinabalu.   When you book your hiking package through SSL you reserve a spot for climbing and your dormitory bed on the mountain. The package includes food and accommodation, you still need to pay a couple of other fees:

  • Sabah Parks entrance fee Malaysian RM3/foreigner RM15 – $3.30
  • Climbing permit Malaysian RM50/foreigner RM200 – $50
  • Climbing insurance, compulsory RM7 – $1.72
  • Compulsory Guide RM230 can split one guide with up to 6 hikers =RM38 – $8.50
  • Sutera Sanctuary hiking package RM 1330 staying in dormitory accommodation – $295
  • TOTAL $352 price for solo international climber staying in dormitory accommodation*

* Private Rooms are available (sleeps 2)

Optional fees

  • Souvenir certificate: RM10
  • Left-luggage storage: RM12
  • Hiking pole rental : RM15
  • Hire porters: The rate is RM65. – you should not need a porter to carry your gear for one night.

Klook Budget 2D1N Inclusive Climb

Great prices, solo non-Malaysian climbers $446, great discounts couple from $324 pp – more info prices booking – Climb Kinabalu

  • 1-night accommodation at Laban Rata Rest House (non-heated dormitory bunk-bed with sharing bathroom & toilet)
  • Return Kota Kinabalu town hotel transfer (Sit-In-Coach)
  • Return transfer (Park HQ – Timpohon Gate – Park HQ)
  • 1 x breakfast / 1 x packed lunch / 1 x lunch / 1 x dinner / 1 x supper
  • Entrance fees
  • Climbing insurance
  • Climbing permit
  • Certificate
  • Mountain guide
Scrambling up some steep parts with the help of the guide ropes.
Scrambling up some steep parts with the help of the guide ropes.
hiking mount kinabalu
After 4 hours of hiking I was above the clouds!

The three day two night option (3D2N)

These packages don’t take any longer to summit, you get an extra night around Kinabalu park, combined with extra activities. The advantage is that these packages can be booked more than 30 days in advance.

hike mt kinabalu
Beautiful scenery climbing mt Kinabalu!

The Best season to climb Mt Kinabalu

The best months to climb mt Kinabalu are February, March and April the dry season.  The worst time is October to January during monsoon season due to heavy rains. Summit climb is sometimes cancelled during heavy rain, climbers have to go down after spending the night in the resthouse.

Mt Kinabalu accommodation

Kinabalu Park is located about 2 hours from the capital, Kota Kinabalu. There are many public buses of different budgets doing this trip. If you need to book accommodation close to the park there is a variety available for every budget we recommend the following:

Backpacker Budget Kinabalu Valley Homestay – For $10 per night, room is a very good deal. Good location near Kinabalu park, friendly owners, shared bathroom, use of kitchen great for budget travelers.

Want a bit more luxury after the hike? Ren – Hana Kampungstay Kundasang – awesome location near the park, good view of Mount Kinabalu, private bathroom- $27 for room

Gear for climbing Kinabalu

Disclosure: Stingy Nomads take part in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. When you buy something recommended in this post, we may get an affiliate commission — but it never affects your price or what we pick.

Gear that is essential for this hike:

Low's Peak mount kinabalu
Making it to Low’s Peak, the top of Mount Kinabalu in one day!

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Climbing Mt.Kinabalu Malaysia
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Oliver

Sunday 14th of May 2023

Hello, I see the tour package which are quite expensive. I am planing to go at the end of July. Do you know if it's possible to reverve the guide and buy the day before?

Stingy Nomads

Sunday 14th of May 2023

Hello Oliver, as far as I know you can still organize it yourself without a package. The most important thing that is usually fully booked ahead of time is the accommodation on the mountain. Only 160 beds are available each night. Reserve the accommodation well ahead of time to secure a spot. The guide is not a problem and you can pay at park HQ along with some other fees.

Aldo

Sunday 12th of February 2023

I am planning to climb Mt. Kinabalu on March 9th. I have a reservation confirmation for Laban Rata Rest House for the night of Mar. 8th, and a booking at a hotel for the night of Mar. 7th. I will arrive at Park HQ on March 7th, and I'm hoping to be able to reserve a guide that day. Is it possible to reserve a guide in advance, or contact others in advance to share a guide? I see that the 2023 price of the guide is RM350 / 5 persons, and I've read that it can be shared.

Stingy Nomads

Tuesday 21st of February 2023

Hello Aldo, your plan sounds good to me, as far as I know you can share a guide and reserve the guide the day before. If you are going on your own asking around your accommodation or at Park HQ you might be able to find others with the same plan.

Mark

Wednesday 12th of October 2022

Great article! I'm planning to hike this kinda last minute week of 18 or 25 October 2022 - if anyone is thinking the same let me know!

Esther

Tuesday 14th of June 2022

I would like to hike at 2022 November 18 or 22 and finding for groups please contact me if there are anyone else would like to hike together too thank you~

Guillaume B.

Tuesday 31st of May 2022

Hi, I plan to climb Mount Kinabalu on August 15th 2022. I want to do it on a single day but informations are scarce on this and the Park HQ never answers phone calls. Do you recall how you manage to arrange everything to do it on a single day? Thanks

Stingy Nomads

Saturday 4th of June 2022

As far as I know it is still like I said in the article, 'permits to climb Kinabalu in 1 day are no longer available'. Goodluck and Safe Travels!

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