Mount Kinabula at 4,095m high is one of the tallest mountains in South East Asia (there are a number of mountains in Myanmar and Indonesia West Papua which are higher than Kinabula). It is one of the most accessible high mountains (above 3,000 m) in the world. The starting points of the climbing trails located near the park HQ area are reachable via normal road and the summit can be scaled under normal climbing pace in 2 days 1 night (though top conditioned climbers can climb to the top and back in less than four hours).
There are two main climbing routes: Timpohon trail (6km in length) and Mesilau trail (8km in length and more undulating). Both trails end at Laban Rata (3,314 m asl) where climbers stay for one night before commencing on the summit climb between 2-3 am. From Laban Rata, the climb to the summit is 2.7 km. The aim is to reach the summit before 6 am to see the sunrise. After the summit, majority of the climbers will trek back to Laban Rata (via the same route as coming up) and then back to park HQ (via either Timpohon or Mesilau trail). For the more adventurous, they can make the descend back to Laban Rata via Via Ferrarta which is a mountain path (on the cliff side of the mountain) consisting of a series of rungs, rails and cables embracing the rock face.
Day 1 – Singapore to Kota Kinabalu
We visited Kota Kinabula during the Chinese New Year period (btw, i’m a Chinese Singaporean). Our AirAsia flight (2 hrs 30 min) reached Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA) around 8 pm. We took a pre-paid taxi (RM 40) to our hotel (Gaya Center Hotel) in the city center, a 15 min drive away from the airport. After hotel check-in we patronised a nearby coffeeshop for dinner and retired back to hotel for an early sleep.
“Kota Kinabalu International Airport is a pretty new (expanded and renovated) airport. There are two terminals (Terminal 1 and Terminal 2) which together serve more than 19 airlines. It is the second busiest airport in Malaysia after Kuala Lumpur International Airport. There is a tourist information counter (with staff inside), a pre-paid taxi booth (selling vouchers for travel into the city centre), a left luggage service and a booth selling local SIM card (from my experience it is always useful to have a local SIM card on hand to help save on calling charges especially if you are staying more than a few days).”
Day 2 – Park Headquarters to Laban Rata
At 6 am, we waited at the hotel lobby for the tour agency to pick us up to the headquarters of Mt K. As the hotel breakfast hours only started at 7 am, we requested the hotel to prepare for us some simple take-away breakfast. It turned up to be bread toasts with jam and hard boiled eggs. The mini-van journey to Mt K was about 2 hrs.
We reached the headquarters around 830 am. The driver handed us over to our mountain guide who then directed us to wait inside the climber reception area (with some sofa) while he made the climbing registration on our behalf.
“There is a left luggage service at the climber reception area where climbers can deposit thier luggages (whatever you don’t need to bring up the mountain) for RM 10 per piece. The headquarters also provided porter service (available at the time of request, i.e no need to make prior booking). The prevailing porter fee (to and fro) is about RM 8 – 9 per kg with minimum weight commitment of 10 kg” The load will be weighed with a weighing machine in front of both hirer and porter to verify the load.
After depositing our main luggages, we were still left with 1o kg of stuffs (excluding our daypacks containing water, camera, valuables, poncho, medication which would be carried by ourselves) that we wanted to bring up the mountain. Don’t ask me why we carried so many things up the mountain=). We informed our guide that we need to hire one porter to carry some of our stuffs. To our surprise, he offered to be the porter himself and charged us RM 9 per kg. Not sure whether this is the usual practice among guides. But it does not seems appropriate to me for it deprieves some business from the true porters. We took a mini-van to the Timpohon Gate – starting point of the trail which is 4.5 km from the headquarters.
The distance from Timpohon Gate to Laban Rata is about 6 km. There is a shelter and a distance marker (which acts as checkpoint) every 500 m. Water points (for drinking and washing) and toilets are available at each shelter.