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Sabah can be traveled throughout the year, but June to September can be hot. Climbing Mount Kota Kinabalu is best during the dry season in March and April with a higher chance for clear views. Anyhow, rain can also occur at this time of the year. October to January is the North-East Monsoon that brings heavy and frequent rain. It is worst in November and December. Dry periods can occur, but the monsoon can spoil the whole trip.
Nowadays it's a very popular hike; early booking is essential minimum 6 months in advance! Climbing is limited to 135 people per day since the earthquake in 2015 where people and even children died.
If you want to explore a less busy part of the mountain; at Panar Laban Rock Face on 3.300 m elevation starts the world highest via ferrata. It was opened in 2007 with different routes and difficulties. More information about climbing activities.
Where to Stay
If you like to climb Mount Kota Kinabalu you should book an exceptional lodge before. It'll be pretty strenuous. If you want to explore Mount Kinabalu National Park without climbing to the summit choose a lodge which is not too far located. The very best location already inside the Kinabalu Park offers the Sutera Sanctuary Lodges At Kinabalu Park. An alternative but not as comfortable is the Happy Garden Resort close to the Kinabalu Park Entrance.
Mount Kota Kinabalu is 4.095 meters high and is a solitary mountain. It's not only the highest point of Borneo but also the highest point between the Himalayas and Papua New Guinea. Contrary to what many people think, it's not a volcano, but mostly granite pushed up by tectonic forces. The oldest person who climbed the mountain is a 92-year-old Japanese woman, but it's not an easy hike in the park. It's a challenging climb from almost sea level, straight up to Laban Rata Refuge on 3.272 m elevation. Between midnight and 3 a.m., most climbers start the route to the summit which takes 3 hours to watch the sunrise. So you definitely need to be in good physical condition! The way back to the headquarter is a knee satisfying experience....
Mount Kinabalu is one of the most significant sights in Borneo and declared as UNESCO World Heritage Side in 2000. On a clear day, the view from the top is exceptional. Even if climbing to the top is too challenging for you, it’s worth spending a view days exploring the park with an outstanding biodiversity.
Since the earthquake in 2015 rules changed. It’s a must hiring a guide to climb the summit. One guide for a group up to five adults and an additional one when climbing with children; one for a maximum of two. It’s also possible to hire a porter who carries max. 10 kg for you. Guides and if necessary porters should be booked at least a day before. It’s an outstanding but pricey experience. Different fees are requested; one for the permit, the Kinabalu Park fee, the guide fee and in addition an accommodation is necessary. Agencies offer a climbing package where everything is included.
It is best to stay close to the Park headquarter to start early the next day. The headquarter is located 1.585 m above sea level, and the climb to the Laban Rata refuge or the Pendant rest house takes 4-6 hours almost 2000 m ascent. Therefore, it’s not recommended to start after 11 a.m. In the night, the temp can drop below zero. It’s freezing before sunrise, and the wind can be very strong. Wear several thick layers, best made of wool like Icebreaker and a wind- and rainproof jacket. The most significant issues for this trip are altitude sickness, and weather conditions can change dramatically.
Equipment for the hike to the summit:
- thick jacket, best if rain- and windproof
- gloves and hat (for cold and sun protection)
- sunglasses and sunscreen
- torch for the climb before sunrise
- headache pill! and blistering plasters
- water and food
- rescue blanket (golden)
(updated by When to be Where)