Mount Kinabalu is the highest mountain (4,101 metres or 13,455 feet high) in South East Asia. The origins of the name Kinabalu is also somewhat shrouded in mystery and myth. Some believe Kina-balu means Chinese widow. Kina being a corruption of China and Balu a widespread native dialectical term for widow.
A story tells of a Chinese Prince seeking a huge pink pearl that exists at the very top of the mountain and guarded by a ferocious dragon. After a terrific battle he slayed the dragon and took the pearl, whereon he married a local Kadazan woman. Homesick himself he deserted his wife to return to China and the heartbroken wife wandered to the mountain and was turned to stone. But perhaps the most plausible explanation is that the name is derived from Aki Nabalu – meaning ‘The revered place of dead’, in local Dusunic languages.
Located conveniently about 90 km away from Kota Kinabalu along a good road, Mount Kinabalu, at 4,101 metres or 13,455 feet is the highest mountain in Southeast Asia. The road journey which takes between 1 ½ to 2 hours climbs up to heights of 1,500 metres on the southern boundary. There is a bus service which runs past the Park Headquarter twice a day from Kota Kinabalu on the way to Ranau.
Mount Kinabalu is a young mountain that is still growing at the rate of 5 mm a year. The mountain itself is a hard granite massif that forced its way through the surrounding sandstone rocks of the Crocker range less than one million years ago and there is still evidence of the ice-age which melted less than 10,000 years ago. Climbers after passing by the last shelter of Sayat-Sayat will be able to walk along what is part of a glacier many years ago and they will be able to see evidence of scratches and striations in the rocks and flaking and moulding in the vast granite slabs.
Each year thousands of visitors made the climb along the scenic Kinabalu Mountain Trail. The trip requires no special abilities but is very tiring. Anyone in good health and vigor can reach the summit. Two days is the minimum for a climb from Park (i.e., Kinabalu Park) Headquarters and Mt. Kinabalu has much to offer to those who stay longer.
While the main route to the summit is simple and direct, the Kinabalu massif offers some of the best opportunities in South East Asia for expedition work and technical rock climbing. Information about conditions, preparations and routes can be obtained from the Park Warden.
Power Station – (1,824 metres) at the end of the Kambarangoh Road, is a 15 Minute drive or a 1 ¾ hour walk from the Power Park Hq. The Kinabalu Mountain Trail begins here. Carson’s Camp (2,706 metres) – is about a two hours walk from the Power Station. Panar Laban Huts – (3,344 metres) – 2 ½ hours beyond Carson’s Camp, is the usual overnight stop for climbing parties.
Located at the base of the first of the great rock faces, the two huts together sleep 10. The new Laban Rata Resthouse equipped with water heaters and electric heaters can sleep 56 persons. A third hut about 10 minutes walk below Panar Laban has bunks for 20 persons. Another hut can accommodate 44 persons. Sayat-Sayat Hut – (3,800 metres) – is the highest shelter on the mountain, and can sleep 8 persons. It is one hour climb from Panar Laban. From here the summit may be reached in another hour. A hut is also available for hire to climbing and scientific expeditions as base camp. It can sleep 12 persons.
The ordinary mountain huts provide plank bunks with mattresses, gas stoves, cooking and eating utensils. For those who prefer to do their own cooking, they must bring their own food. However, a canteen is also provided in the Laban Rata Resthouse where climbers can buy simple hot meals.
Climbers are advised to bring plenty of warm clothings, adequate rain gears, walking shoes, a torch, a water bottle, a hat and a pair of gloves for the climb. Energy-giving food e.g. chocolate, nuts, raisins and glucose sweets are good during the ascent. Sleeping bags can be rented at the Laban Rata Resthouse.
Visitors must utilise the services of an authorised guide the ascent to the summit of Mt. Kinabalu. The climb normally takes two days.
Porters may be hired. The basic load for a porter is 18 katis or 24 pounds up as far as Panar Laban (3,344 metres) on the first day. Additional charges are levied if porters carry heavier loads or are required to proceed above Panar Laban on the first day of the trip. All arrangements for the climb, including the booking of guide and porter, should be made well in advance through the Park Warden.
Guides and porters are not employees of the Park, and the Park only undertakes to put visitors in touch with them. Please settle the charges involved before you climb the mountain.
Water is always available at Carson’s Falls (near the Power Station), at Paka Cave (3,192 metres) and near all the mountain huts and shelters along the Summit Trail.
While early mornings on Mount Kinabalu are usually clear, the weather frequently deteriorates quickly. Thus, hikers are urged to stay close to the guide and to begin their day as early as possible.
All successful climbers will be issued certificates. Please ensure you submit your name (spelt correctly) to the team leader early.
Mountains can be dangerous and you climb Kinabalu at your own risk.