The very peak of Mount Kinabalu pierce the sky at 4095m, and patiently waits to be touched by anyone who is brave enough to attempt to reach her. 

Two hours away from Kota Kinabalu lies Kinabalu Park (please read more under that attraction for further details), host to Timpohon Gate, the portal to the summit trail of Mt. Kinabalu.  The summit, on the map at least, is misleadingly nearby.  Only 8.7km from the start, the reward of the summit awaits.  What most eager climbers don’t factor in though, is that the altitude rise from 1563m at the gate, to 4095 meters at the peak.  The gradient is what makes this a challenging onslaught.

  The Monolith that is Mt. Kinabalu

Not for nothing, Mt. Kinabalu is the highest peak between Mt. Everest in the Himalayas in the north, and the peaks of Puncak Jaya in New Guinea in the South.  Mitigating factors include the fact that Mt. Kinabalu is one of very few peaks at this altitude, which can be reached without any specialised climbing gear or actual climbing as such.  There are no extremely hazardous areas on the marked route and thus, the only challenge you face is the limit of your endurance with failure the only real fear.

Most people prefer to make this a 3 day 2 night affair, although some can do it in 2 days 1 night.  The bare minimum requires you to arrive and start before at least 11am.  Estimate a good 6 hours or so to reach the rest point of Laban Rata, or which ever accommodation you choose nearby.  Eat, shower and sleep until you have to wake up at least around 2am, that is if you want to see the sun rise as you reach the summit, which most do.  Then it’s another 3 or 4 hours until you reach the roof of Borneo.

If you fancy staying over before or after you climb, please refer to the Kinabalu Park page for details about what accommodation you will find in Kinabalu Park.  As for actually climbing, here’s a list of expenses you will incur on your journey to the summit (current at the date of this post):

  Laban Rata at night  

Laban Rata, the name of the most comfortable hostel on the mountain and also unofficially the name of everybody’s rest stop for the night, is located at 3272 meters.  It has 52 dormitory style bunk beds with a common bathroom, unheated showers and no more room heaters since 2010 expect for private rooms, conveniently located in the same building as the restaurant. It also has three private units the first of which can sleep 6 and 2 other private units sleeping two each(2 twin beds). All the private units have attached bathrooms and heated rooms and showers and is still in the same building.


  • Dormitory bunks @ RM 589 per person per night;
  • 6 pax unit @ RM 3602 for the unit per night;
  • 2 pax unit @ RM 1186 for the unit per night;

Another 10 minutes walk further up from Laban Rata is the Gunting Lagandan Hut, a second dormitory style accommodation.  Featuring 60 beds at RM 589 per person per night, it’s usually the next option when Laban Rata is full.  It has basic cooking facilities (as Laban Rata has the only restaurant) and a common bathroom, which does not have hot water.  The rooms, however, are still not heated.

Two additional units, further away from Laban Rata than just quick walk, is the Panar Laban Hut and the Waras Hut.  Each able to sleep up to 8 people on dormitory style bunk beds, it has basic cooking facilities with common bathrooms.  The water is not heated, as are the rooms. The rate is also RM518 per person per night.

From the store at Laban Rata you can rent the following items:

  • Sleeping Bag @ RM15 each;
  • Jackets @ RM20 each (limited numbers of these);
  • Blanket @ RM25 each;
  • Towels @ RM35 each;
  • Torch lights @ RM25 each (with battery) or RM20 without battery;

The restaurant at Laban Rata is open from 2am to 3.30am for those wishing to eat before they start for the summit.  A light buffet breakfast is served at RM25 per person.  For the rest of the day the restaurant operates between 7.30am and 7.30pm.  The usual buffet breakfast is from 7.30am – 10.30am @ RM 35 per person.  A buffet dinner is served from 5 – 7.30pm and is RM 65 per person.  An ala carte menu applies at all times.

In addition to the restaurant, there is also a reception area/check-in for your accommodation, as well as a souvenir/supply shop for if you still don’t have everything you need.  There’s also limited facilities for excess luggage you deem unnecessary for your final stretch to the summit.

Sunrise at the top of Mt Kinabalu

The sun rises between 5.30 and 6.15am depending on the time of year.  The very rock that is the highest on the summit features a smallish board announcing the significance of your location, named Low’s Peak after the first recorded person to summit the mountain.  The area around it is relatively small, so make sure you get there early, take your pictures and vacate to give others a chance.

The summit area is a fascinating landscape, nearly devoid of plant life and in stark contrast to the lush tropical jungle at the start of the trail.  It’s reminiscent of a moon landscape, and worth while walk around for a bit to explore this unique place.  On that note, your last place to answer nature’s call is the Sayat-Sayat hut. Remember this, because beyond that point there’s not even a small bush to hide you doing your business.

South Peak and the actual peak of Mt. Kinabalu

The outcrop that will tempt you closer when you are near the peak, which looks like it could be pretty high itself, is the Oyayubi Iwu Peak, commonly known as South Peak.  Visible from the peak itself are oddly, but obviously named peaks. Ugly Sister Peak, King Edward Peak, Donkey Ears Peak are all named because of some visual resemblance to their name sakes. Find them and see if you can see why.

The view of Laban Rata on the way down

The trek back down also consists of two parts.  First part is usually back down to Laban Rata for a rest and breakfast, estimated to take 1 to 2 hours.  After recharging your batteries and replenishing your supply, the descent typically takes another 4 hours or so.  Most climbers arrive back at the Timpohon gate around lunch time or later.

Compare your notes with the handy list of items to bring below:

  • Excess baggage - At the Sutera Sanctuary Lodge check-in at the Park entrance, you can leave excess baggage in a secure facility;
  • Rain coat;
  • Your favourite energy food;
  • Suitable walking shoes. Doesn’t have to be hardcore walking boots, but definitely something that can grip on wet rock;
  • Warm clothing (something you can layer as you go up and cold and down and hot);
  • Beanie and Gloves
  • Camera plus plenty of battery power and memory
  • Torch light, preferably a head light for when you’re scampering up the mountain in the dark;
  • Spare batteries, you’ll need your torch for about 3 or so hours on the walk alone;

Many tour operators specialise in the summit of Mt Kinabalu as a tour package which often includes return land transfers, mountain guides, climb permit, insurance, certificate, meals and accommodation. Usually though, the park and climbing fees still need to be paid prior to your start. Some offer ferrata climb packages. 

Since the completion of repair works, on the trails, after the earthquake in June 2015, Sabah Parks have reduced the permits per day drastically, they have also doubled the guide fee and permit fee.  

There are now only 100 permits available per day with only around 80% of those available for international climbers (non-Malaysian) and as a result its already almost fully booked, for 2016,  from March onwards. Some travel agencies have pre booked places.

Sabah Parks imposed a new Mt. Kinabalu climbing permit fee with effect from 1st January 2016. *All rates are inclusive of GST.


18 years old & above 50.00/per person 200.00/per person
Below 18 years old 30.00/per person 80.00/per person

Rates for Mountain Guide (Effective from 1st December 2015) :

DestinationNumber of climberFee(RM)


*One mountain guide is allowed to take a maximum of five(5) climbers aged 16 years and above.

One mountain guide is allowed to take a maximum of two(2) climbers aged below 16 years.
1-5 (16 years and above) / 1 guide

1-2 (below 16 years) / 1 guide

Rates for Porter (Effective from 1st December 2015) :


1. Timpohon - Laban Rata 10.00  RM65.00
2. Laban Rata - Timpohon 10.00  RM65.00
3. Timpohon - Sayat-Sayat 10.00  RM75.00
4. Sayat-Sayat - Timpohon 10.00  RM75.00
5. Timpohon - Summit 10.00  RM80.00
6. Summit - Timpohon 10.00  RM80.00

*Maximum weight is 10 Kgs and additional weight will be charged base on daily rate Per Kg.

There are several reported scams, offering apparently reduced rates,  on bogus websites that fail to secure climb permits for climbers.