Climbing Mount Kinabalu
Climbing the mountain is strongly encouraged, but be forewarned that it can be strenuous.
Also, it is best to book accommodation beforehand — indeed, the hike has become so
popular that you may have to book months in advance. The park can be very full
especially during clear weather periods. Note that it is not possible to stay overnight on the
mountain except in the accommodation provided at Laban Rata, and camping is not permitted
- you must, therefore, have pre-booked accommodation. (See Sleep for details.) However,
sometimes there are cancellations. If you are unable to book mountain hut accommodation in
advance, get to the Park HQ as early as possible on the day of your intended climb and
inquire there. You may luck out and get a bed. By regulation, booking must include guide
As you struggle up the mountain, do look out for porters laden with 14 kilogram gas cylinder
tanks. Some wear slippers and most have jury-rigged harnesses (some made of rice sacks)
piled high with supplies. The porters scale the 6.5km distance between Timpohon Gate and
Laban Rata resthouse several times a day on supply runs and can easily outpace better-
equipped climbers who are unfamiliar with the trail.
Once you complete the strenuous hike up to 11,000ft, you might have enough energy to do
the only via ferrata ("iron road", a set of cables and ladders bolted to the mountain)  to be
found in Asia, which happens to be the world's highest. It is still relatively unknown so take
the opportunity to do it without a crowd of people pushing you. There are 3 different paths to
take on the via ferrata, with times ranging from 4-5 hours for the longest to 2-3 for the shortest.
Keep your travel plans in mind when booking the via ferrata and after-mountain activities, as
this time is added to the 4-5 hours it takes to descend the mountain on the second day of
For the more advenurous and physically fit, there is also an option to climb to the summit and
down in one day. This is not widely publicised - presumably to maintain patronage at the
expensive mountain huts. To arrange this, you should speak to the park ranger at the park
office - turning up in person is generally more effective, so that the ranger can see that are
serious and is less likley to fob you off than if you were to enquire by phone. The one day
climb is more weather dependend than the two day option, and there are set time limits for
each stage of the climb which must be met, otherwise the rules say you will be turned around
(it's not clear whether this actually happends, but be aware that the time limits would require
you to climb at a reasonable pace). You will be required to hire a guide. You can expect to
start at 0730 and will be required to come down by 1730 before the Timpohon Gate is locked.
Because the one day climb will bring you to the summit well after sunrise, you should
consider the sesonal weather patterns - at times, the mountain top clouds over shortly after
sunrise and you may not get a view from the summit. The climb to the summit is almost
2300m, and the one day climb is physically tough. Nevertheless, it is achievable, and during
the Mt Kinabalu Climbathon  top runners complete this route in under 2 hours 40 mintues.