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Thread 1 - 3 August 2006
Mt. Kinabalu in Sabah, Borneo, 4095 m of granite. Tallest mt in SEA. Two trails, Timpohon and Melisau, the former being the usual trail that most people take and Melisau being about two clicks longer if I'm not mistaken. You can ascend via one and descend by the other if you want. Most people start the climb in the morning (I started at around 10 a.m.) and get to Laban Rata in the afternoon. After dindins and an early sleep we wake up around 2 a.m. and start the second leg by 2.45 to make it to the peak for sunrise. After that it all goes downhill. :p
Getting to the park:Bus from KK - Kinabalu Park: RM 15 one way (1 1/2 hour trip)Bus from Sandakan - Kinabalu Park - not sure, but probably around RM 25-30
Entrance fee to Kinabalu park:Malaysian adult - RM 3, Below 18 - RM 1Non-Malaysian adult - RM 15, Below 18 - RM 10
Climbing Permit:Malaysian adult - RM 30, below 18 - RM 12Non-Malaysian adult - RM 100, below 18 - RM 40
Insurance: RM 7
Shuttle to Timpohon gate: Less than 5 ppl: RM 30/van (return trip)More than 5: RM 8/person
Guide Fee:Timpohon-Peak-Timpohon: 1-3 pax [RM 70] 4-6 pax [RM 74] 7-8 pax [RM 80]Timpohon-Peak-Melisau: 1-3 pax RM 80, 4-6 pax RM 86, 7-8 pax RM 92Melisau-Peak-Melisau: 1-3 pax RM 84, 4-6 pax RM 90, 7-8 pax RM 100
Porter (optional) for 10 kg max: Timpohon-Timpohon: RM 66 to Laban Rata, RM 80 to Sayat-Sayat, RM 88 to SummitTimpohon-Melisau: RM 76 to Laban Rata, RM 88 to Sayat-Sayat, RM 100 to SummitMelisau-Melisau: RM 88 to Laban Rata, RM 100 to Sayat-Sayat, RM 110 to Summit
Certificate (optional): RM 10Accommodation at Laban Rata:All monopololized by Sutera Sanctuary: www.suterasanctuarylodges.comUnheated huts/dorm: RM 30/nightHeated: RM 46
Food:Laban Rata ranges from RM 13/plate of fried noodles - RM 30 or 35? not sure for dinner buffet.
Fitness (from info sheet):
"It is recommended that all climbers should have themselves medically checked before attempting any mountain climb. If you have a history of suffering from the following ailments, it is highly recommended that you should refrain from climbing: Hypertension, Diabetes, Palpitations, Arthritis, Heart Disease, Severe Anemia, Peptic Ulcers, Epileptic Fits, Obesity, Chronic Asthma, Muscular Cramps, Hepatitis, etc.
"It's said that anyone can climb Kinabalu, but I'd recommend that you be at least somewhat fit or it'll probably be a little strenuous. :p It *is* hauling your butt up 13500 feet. I did it without any form of training.
Climbing time:Climbathon people do base-summit-base in just under three hours. Don't expect to do anything near that. If you're crazy like a Canadian dude I once knew, he ran down from Laban Rata in two hours which is impressive enough. Don't feel too ashamed as porters jog by you with baskets of rice and gas tanks on their backs!
For an averagely unfit bum like me I took 5 hours to Laban Rata, 3 hours from Laban Rata to the peak, 1 and a half hours from the Peak to Laban Rata, and 4 and a half hours from Laban Rata to the bottom. Coming down was harder than going up. If you have knee problems, watchout. If you're like me and started out without knee problems, I definitely had problems halfway down. :p I hobbled around for a few days after and had a vendetta against stairs of any sort and really did not like the four flights of stairs up to my hostel room.
Things to bring:-walking shoes, warm clothes, windbreaker, change of clothes, raincoat-water (there are tanks of untreated mountain water (no problems with the water), rest huts and toilets along the way up to Laban Rata. No refills from Laban Rata to summit)-high energy food/chocolate, etc-headache tablets, sunblock, lip gloss, deep heat lotion (for cramps), band aids, repellent-torchlight/headlamp-regular stuff. toiletries, towel, camera, etc.
Good shoes are important. Hiking sandals for the way down unless you want to kill your toenails like me from slamming into the front of your hiking shoes - I was most definitely in pain from that on the way down and right now I have a black toenail as a souvenier. Bring something to keep you warm at the peak unless you're crazy and feel at home in near-freezing temps. It was about 8 degrees Celcius at Laban Rata when we left in the early a.m. and colder at the peak.
Chocolate tasted amazing at the peak. I was glad I'd brought it. Haha. Pack light though, I was definitely feeling the 5 kg on my back. And bring a raincoat! It rained while I was going up and coming down (poured, I was miserable).
Altitude Sickness:Watch out for altitude sickness, I got away with being very out of breath (pacing yourself is key) and a mild headache. I popped an aspirin before starting the second leg so I was fine, but one of my cabin mates puked up on the floor at some point in the night, and some friends of mine failed to make it to the summit because of dizziness.
Booking rooms:Often the hardest part of climbing independently is getting a room at Laban Rata. You MUST have accommodation at Laban Rata to get a climbing permit. I booked (and paid for) my room about three months in advance BUT even then the first two times I called they had no vacancies. Most of the time tour operators book up the rooms so that you have to go through them, but being a budget traveller I wasn't going to pay a jacked up price. I guess perseverance paid off in this case.
Check with the HQ in KK for vacancies when you get in, and prepare to be flexible. The couple I climbed with was staying at the Park, on a wait-list and got room last minute (they shared a bed though), so that's an option too - so just keep trying and hope to get lucky!
I waited around at the Park HQ for about 20 minutes and bumped into the couple that I split the cost of a guide with, so if you're traveling solo and want to share a guide get there early enough so that you have time to spare waiting around while still managing to start the climb with good time to get to Laban Rata

Reply info by others:
Reply 1 - It is Mesilau....not melisau

Reply 2 - if you go by taxi from kinabalu airport directly to the park, it costs 150 RM (feb 06).from the park, if you charter a car directly to KK, it costs 135 RM.

Reply 3 - Plenty of express buses that goes east from Kk to sandakan, lahad datu and tawau passed the kinabalu park on at least hourly bases in the morning just hop on one at the Inanam bus terminal at Jalan Tuaran. On the return back to kota kinabalu it is unpredictable but there will be lots in the afternoon or into evening.If you book through agent it may not be cheap at all. i got one who quote me up to RM400.00 per person excluding meals.

Reply 4 - To get to Inanam, catch the shuttle from downtown KK. It costs RM 1.50 for the 10-min bus ride to the long-distance bus terminal. Shuttles are supposed to run every 15 mins starting from about 6 a.m. The first time I took it it was smooth as could be, the second time, I waited half an hour for the shuttle and when it arrived, the driver dwadled around for another half hour before he actually left. Needless to say I almost missed the bus to Sandakan - I managed to jump on the last 9.30 a.m. bus out of KK.Plenty of providers, just tell them you want to go to Kinabalu Park.

Reply 5 - There a beef stew shop in Inanam that sells on every sunday, absolutely good. It is located at the corner lot near a hardware store, if i remembered it correctly. I can't remember the street name though...

Reply 6 - Looking at the website, are all the dorm huts in Laban Rata pretty much the same? - any preferences between Panar Laban Hut, Waras Hut and Gunting Lagadan Hut???

Reply 7 - didn't really get to see the other huts but I'm guessing they're all about the room at Waras Hut was roomier than the room my climbing buds had at Gunting Lagadan though. The thing is that I reserved a room at Panar Laban but when I got there they gave me a room in Waras Hut you might end up with something other than what you booked. Just remember you have to check in and check out at Laban Rata. I was too lazy to climb down to Waras before dinner so I sneaked my shower at Laban Rata and hung around till dinner before climbing back down...and the next day I took my stuff up to Gunting Lagadan and left it at my friend's room before heading up to the peak so I wouldn't have to climb down to Waras and back up to Laban Rata to check out. Yes I am a lazy bum. :pHave fun, and DON'T trust the online booking! Didn't work for me...better to call in, I say.

Reply 8 - From Mesilau you start at 2000m but you have to climb up, then down into a valley, then back up again. If you come down from the mountain then you'll have to climb back up out of the valley (just as your legs are giving out) about 400m before going down to the Mesilau trailhead. This is why most people prefer to leave from Mesilau for the ascent. You can book transport to Mesilau or you can take a bus to the turnoff and hitch a ride. From Mesilau (a dead end) you'll probably find someone to give you a lift to the main road. From there you can hail a bus. Don't miss the largest pitcher plant (you have to take a guided tour) while you're there.If you don't get a room, don't worry. Show up and wait for a cancellation. Even at the last minute something usually turns up. If you don't have a confirmed room they might let you go up anyhow (provided you "promise" to come down if nothing is available). Given the amount of rooms and the number of unprepared climbers, there is a very high chance that someone will turn back and you'll get a room. You can climb without a guide. Ask for the "waiver form". Be persistent. Guide is useless.Bring warm clothes for the top. Expect rain. Go for a heated room to dry your stuff.You forgot the best part - soaking your bones at Poring Hot Springs after the climb. The private rooms with the "rafflesia" hot tubs are simply the best! (Those who have been will know what I mean!)

Reply 9 - Here are some notes I posted on LP from a climb 6 mths ago. Budget travellers DIY climb of Mt KinabaluSutera Sanctuary Lodges have a monopoly on the compulsory accommodation halfway up the mt, so you must have a confirmed booking in one of those huts before you can do the trek.
I recommend one of the unheated huts M$46/night dorm bed, rather than the heated Laban Rata M$69/night dorm bed. You can wrap up well (a couple of blankets provided) and you’re only sleeping say from 7pm to 2am. The unheated huts now all have hot showers, and good self catering facilities (take some tea or coffee sachets – as many brews as you like for free).
Food at Laban Rata (no self catering facilities) e.g.M$30 for evening smorgasbord, cup of coffee M$4.60 Fees that all non Malaysians must pay:
Park Entrance M$15 (valid 3 days incl Poring Hot Springs also)
Climbing Permit M$100 (a plastic necklace tag – don’t lose it; gets checked a several places up the mt)
Climbing Insurance M$7Return transport to Timpohon Gate start of actual trek M$6. Don’t be too much of a cheap charlie –you’ll appreciate the lift at the end of your walk back down the mt.
Guide fee 1-3 in group M$84 (shared cost)
Guide fee 4-6 in group M$90 (shared cost)
Guide fee 7-8 in group M$100 (shared cost)
I heard rumour of a guide waiver form, but I don’t know how you obtain one or prove that you don’t need a guide.
Option 1 (for group 4-8) Kota Kinabalu> Mt Kinabalu> Kota Kinabalu (2 or 3 days)
Option 2 (for solo traveller or couple) Kota Kinabalu> Mt Kinabalu> Kota Kinabalu (2 or 3 days)Option 3 Kota Kinabalu> Mt Kinabalu> Poring,Sandakan,Sepilok etc
Option 1.Organise a group of friends beforehand in KK (as many as possible 4-8? to cut down on guide fees and transport costs). The track up to Laban Rata is quite obvious and well maintained, so the guide walks just behind the last person in the group - the faster walkers can proceed at their own pace and simply report back to guide at Laban Rata so that he can cross you safely off his list for the first day.
Arrange a taxi/minibus (Inquire at v good tourist info office for shuttle service companies or try Suniland Ph: 088 702 188/198 M$50 rtn KK>MtK>KK) for as early as possible in the morning for pickup in KK (5:30-6am) to get you to Park HQ (journey 2 hrs) in early morning to start walking before midday rainfall (afternoon rain and mist quite common).
Park rules: must proceed from Timpohon Gate no later than midday.
Public bus is cheaper, but remember that firstly you have to get yourself out to the bus station 4km out of KK centre, and I think first bus doesn’t leave till 7:30 am. You’ll only save a few M$ doing that, and may have hassles flagging down a bus on the main road outside Park HQ for your return to KK after the trek.
Day 1: It’s 6 kms from Timpohon Gate to Laban Rata. Mainly an uphill slog, but just walk at your own pace. Stop to rest if you’re tired. Every kilometre there are rest shelters and untreated (but I had no problems with it) clear mt water tanks.
Day2: Start at 2-3am depending on your walking speed to reach the summit for dawn. It’s very cold on top (near freezing), so you don’t want to be hanging around up there too long. Ask your guide for estimate of your walking time. 2.7 kms to summit from Laban Rata. Occasionally steeper than Day 1, thinner air and colder. Some ropes to hold onto, but there’s no risk of falling to your death as long as you stick to the clearly marked path. Anyone who is reasonably fit can do it. Some people are susceptible to altitude sickness. (one person amongst approx 100 climbers on the day I did it felt ill and turned back).
After summiting, return to your hut to collect stored luggage, have a brew and a bite to eat. Then descend to Timpohon Gate and Park HQ for arranged return transport to KK. Advantage: you can be back in a budget guest house in KK within 2 hours from park entrance with a huge choice of eating places to relax in.Disadvantage if you’re travelling through the rest of Sabah, it’s backtracking the 2 hours past Park HQ again.
Option 2 (for solo traveller or couples, or folks who simply want to acclimatize an extra day in the park)Stay an extra day at Park HQ “before” commencing walk next day so that you can join someone else’s group.
Either,stay at Park HQ Sutera Sanctuary Lodge’s v clean dorm hostel the night before the trek M$46/night. Only a kettle and a few cups to make your own brew or perhaps a pot noodle. There is a cafĂ© within the Park – evening meal M$12?? There’s a superb restaurant too with wines… the works, if money is no object. Across the road from the entrance to Park HQ there is a very good reasonably priced private restaurant and shop. Some nice walks and gardens nr Park HQ, and a chance to acclimatize.
Or,Investigate staying at one of the places just outside Park HQ or even 6 kms away in Kundasang (visit Sandakan Death March Memorial Park there).
Advantage for solo traveller and even couples is that you can add your name to a list of others wanting to join a group to cut down on guide fees. But you must be at Park HQ by 7:30-8 am to hook other with others in this ad hoc group. You may be lucky coming up from KK later in the morning to join an another group, but chances are slimmer.Tip: when you’re paying your park entrance and climbing fees etc “ask” if you can join another group’s guide. They won’t tell you. You walk at your own pace and not as a group anyway.
Transport – arrange with a shuttle service company as above, or since you have a day to spare, save money by taking the public bus up to the park. You still have the problem of getting back to KK by flagging down a Ranau/Sandakan>KK bus. If you’re wet, tired and bedraggled at the end of the trek, this may not be so appealing.
Option 3 Kota Kinabalu> Mt Kinabalu> Poring,Sandakan,Sepilok etc i.e those who want to continue their journey through Sabah without backtracking to KK.Left luggage at Park HQ M$10 for 2 days.As above in Option 1 or 2, but only arrange o/w transport to Park HQ.When I finished the walk, I enjoyed soaking in the hot springs at Poring.
To get there:Either, prearrange with one of the shuttle service companies such as Suniland to be waiting at say 1:30-2pm to take you to PoringOr, try to share the Sutera Lodge taxi to Poring (a hefty M$75)
Or, haggle with a private taxi hanging around the Park HQ. A friend negotiated one taxi for M$20 for herself alone, but had to wait while the driver picked up his racing winnings from a betting shop in Ranau
Or, flag down a passing express bus going to Ranau or Sandakan. Alight at Ranau and try to get transport from Ranau to Poring.You could possibly get to Sandakan or Uncle Tan’s or Sepilok just outside Sandakan the same day after finishing your trek. But hassles and uncertainty of flagging down buses in the rain for a 4 hour plus journey was not very appealing, when all I wanted was a hot bath and a chance to rest my weary bones.
Tips:If flexible choose your trek day after googling the 7 day weather forecast for Ranau. Mt Kinabalu has its own mini climate, but it may give you a better chance of a good view from the summit.Agencies block book some of the accommodation, but if you turn up at Sutera’s KK office, they can probably fit you in somehow.Keep some warm “dry” gloves for summit. Headlamp torch handy.
At Park HQ you can hire/buy a walking stick M$10.At Laban Rata you can hire a torch,blanket,towel for M$5, sleeping bag, jacket for M$10.Total cost incl transfer but excluding meals
Option1 KK>MtK>KK(2 days,1 night) – M$239
Option2 KK>MtK>KK(3 days,2 nights) – M$285 (poss cheaper if stay outside Park one night )Option3 KK>MtK>Poring(4 days,3 nights) – M$331 (Incl shared transport and accomm at Poring - poss cheaper if stay outside Park first night )
You can of course pay much more than this, if money is no object like staying in the Rajah Lodge at Park HQ for M$1500/night and dining in the best restaurant with choicest wines. But if you’re a long term budget traveller, a few $$ saved here and there without depriving yourself too much will keep you on the road for weeks longer.Happy Trekking.PS. Budget travellers DIY Gunung Mulu Caves and Pinnacles climb coming soon

Reply 10 - We got caught out because we didn't have enough cash and some options on the mountain are cash only. Someone else may be able to be a bit more specific on this. We ended up catching a taxi to the nearest town but couldn't get money out using our Australian credit cards becuase they only had a magnetic strip and not the smart thingy that they use in most countries now. We couldn't get money out over the counter there either - we ended up getting it out at the bank in the next town on (sorry i can't remember the town names now).
Also the LP listed the hike as 'suitable for all ages and fitness ranges'. I would suggest if you're really really unfit it may be slow going and a bit of a struggle. Both of us are not overly fit and did it in around the same time as freespiritz but we thought we'd motor up there! There are hardly any flat bits to give the muscles a rest so the trick is slow and steady, take breaks when you need them and eat small snacks along the way. Drink lots of water too - the water in the tanks is fine to drink. Start early to avoid the rain.It's a fantastic experience and a big achievement for non-mountain climbers like me.

Reply 11 - I'm flying into Brunei - BSB. Planning to spend a day or two there, then head to that park with the wildlife & lookout tower thing. How long does it take to get from eastern Brunei up to KK (I assume by speedboat?). Oh guess I'll need to stop at a border control somewhere....I'll probably stay in KK a day or two, heard it's quite interesting. Then off to Mt K, my main goal of the 2 week stopover!So it's best to ring them to book?This number here ? Will I get someone who speaks english. And do I need to pay in advance

Reply 12 - >>How long does it take to get from eastern Brunei up to KK (I assume by speedboat?)... not sure I went to Brunei from KK via Labuan island where I spent a couple of days.KK>Labuan 2-3hrs?? can't rememberLabuan>Brunei 1.5 hrs then bus into BSB 20-30 mins.Yes, they speak English at Sutera. I had to pay in advance.

Thread 2 - 22 Oct 2006

Can anyone recommend a good tour operator for climbing Mt. Kinabalu? Will most likely be on my own (26f) so a good, reliable tour operator would be good.

Answer from others

Reply 1- u can try this .last year , this agent help me arrange everything from KK town to Mt.Kinabalu..they charge us Rm360 per person for 2 day 1 nite packages include 4 meals , transport return from KK to entrance and room with attach bathroom in laban rata.if u are non- malaysian , they will charge extra may be more than Rm50...

Reply 2 - Just do it yourself, it ain't that difficult to do it on your own. The main thing that you need to have is a bed to spend the night in Laban Rata

Reply 3 - Thanks for the info.No. 1 - Hey wow that's pretty cheap. KK - is that Kota Kinabalu? Anyways, if it is, it's still pretty cheap compared to everything else I've been looking at. No. 2 - Well if I do end up going to SEA, it'll be my first time backpacking on my own, Thailand seems fine, but a mountain on my own is pretty intimidating just coz I've not done a "big" climb yet. Kili's supposed to be my first one next year.Anyways, since you guys have already climbed could you give me more info about gear and stuff? I'm also trying to buy gear for my Kili climb so will need things like thermal underwear - do you need that for Mt. Kinabalu? And what are summit rates like? Was suprised to hear it can be done overnight or in a day.

Reply 4 - yup, what i meant was mt. kinabalu :), you dont need thermal underwear for this climb but a head lamp would be useful, a cheap one would do the trick. i cant really remember the rates already but i remember paying less than myr200 for the whole trip in 2003.

Reply 5 - I have clilmbed both Kili and Kinabalu and unfortunately they dont really compare gear wise. you might as well get a decent head lamp as you could use that on both climbs and possibly a day pack as well. As written above, you dont really need thermals on kinabalu. It is cold but nothing like Kili. You wll also need warmer shoes on Kili as on Kinabalu you can just wear anytyhing with some decent grip. The first time I climbed Kinabalu I just had on jogging shoes, the next time, cross country running shoes. Also as written above, you dont need a travel agency, unless things have changed, u have to have a guide anyway and you can hire someone at the gate. The trickiest part of the organisation part is getting a berth at the Labun Rata Hut If you can arrange that, everything else will be fine.

Reply 6 - Absolutely no need for a tour operator.Just go to the gate and pay for a guide -- it's mandatory. You can get one for yourself, or share with someone else.You might want to book your lodging at the top where you can rest before going to the summit. I recommend Laban Rata; it's the best built of all huts up there, and some rooms even have heaters. In other huts, there is a mad scramble for blankets and mattresses. Get to the gate no later than 10 a.m. unless you're a fast walker. Starting the climb at 10 a.m. can get you to the hut at 3 or 4 p.m. which gives you just enough time to rest and get 6 hours of sleep.Your guide (they have their own sleeping area) will wake you up at 12 midnight for the climb to the summit, in order to get a good view of the sunrise. Nothing stops you, though, from doing it at a later time. (Except, perhaps, transport considerations -- buses out of Kinabalu National Park to anywhere do not come frequently.) I don't know when you're climbing, but layers are always good -- undershirt, shirt, thick fleece and windbreaker should be good. Bring an extra shirt if you like. Normal hiking pants are okay, but bring light termals just in case.There will be some steep parts that have fixed ropes -- if you like, bring thin gloves to prevent rope burn.Bring a headlamp so that if the skies are dark, you don't have to rely on other's lights. A headlamp (as opposed to a flashlight) also frees up your hands for when you need to hold on to the rope.Bring lots of water and some snacks. No need to worry about food, as there is a restaurant at Laban Rata that's open for early dinner and the midnight climb.