Steep, steep and steep! There is no sugar coating it this trek sure is a vertical climb but like most things worth working hard for this definitely doesn’t disappoint. The change in flora keeps the walk interesting and the mountain squirrels do their best to keep you entertained.
How do I climb Mt K?
Getting creative with the mountains.
Every climber needs to be associated with a Mountain guide. I would highly recommend Amazing Borneo Tours as they are as professional as they are knowledgeable. Their prices may be higher then other companies but their service truly is amazing as reflected in their name.
Due to the unpredictable weather on Mt K all climbers must spend at least 1 night on the mountain, with Amazing Borneo guests residing for the evening at Pendant Hut. The weather could also inhibit you from ascending the summit so be mindful that not everyone ascends when they are expected too.
I’d recommend booking in advance as there is a high chance permits may be sold out already if you try to purchase on arrival, especially in the high seasons. We booked months in advanced and still could not get the date we desired due to permit sales already being exceeded.
What should I expect before ascending?
The journey takes approximately 2 hours via van from Kota Kinabalu with ample opportunities for sight seeing along the way, via van window, witnessing the mosque and clock tower along the waterfront and catching glimpses of Mt K.
In a nutshell:
- You can securely store any luggage at the hotel at the registration point which will cost you 12 RM per bag.
- There are NO ATM or card facilities so get cash out before arriving on the mountain.
- You must have your passport with you for registration – keep this tag/ pass on you at all times. This will also be your pass for free lunch upon descending so hold onto it on your way down.
- Head torches can be purchased at the registration point. I’d recommend purchasing some spare batteries as your torches are used for hours on end for dinner and ascending the summit in the morning.
- Hiking poles can be rented at 10 RM each.
- Ask the staff to confirm what time the bus will collect passengers and depart back to Kota Kinabalu so you know your ETA for the following day.
What to expect during the climb (Track notes):
After registering and passing through Timpohon gates be prepared for a series of vertical efforts. From Timpohon gate you dip before ascending, ascending and more ascending. The flora changes from rainforest ground plants through to trekking along the middle and upper canopies. There are huts along the way for you to rest where the squirrels are not afraid to jump on your for a quick nibble on your snacks.
The track is signposted along the way to inform you of your position on the mountain and how much more vertical limits your legs have to endure. Watch for snakes on the forest floor. We were (un)fortunate enough to witness the rare sight of one at about the 3 km mark which sent my heart racing some more.
Expect to take big steps (for little people) up the rocky path which begins above the 1/2 way point. Take a much earned rest for lunch here at the hut before this point. The track becomes scarce with vegetation above 5km in comparison with the early part of the walk and is much more rocky. Depending on cloud cover you can catch glimpses of the summit along your walk from here.
Weather is unpredictable and we were lucky to have no rain on the day we were heading up. However, when we were descending it was absolutely pouring with rain meaning the trekkers were toughing it out in torrential rain. Pack a light weight rain jacket for this reason. See my post Mt Kinabalu- What to Pack for more details on what to take with you on this trek.
What to expect from Pendant Hut:
Honestly, no one could have prepared us for just how good the meal and view you have from the dining hall really was. The food was absolutely divine and ample which is not what you are expecting amongst the clouds. Knowing that anything up there must be carried by the porters makes you mush more grateful. Enjoy your meal as you witness the sun sleep over Kota Kinabalu and the rest of Borneo.
There is also a general store here where you can purchase expensive snacks and cure those chocolate cravings.
The sleeping arrangements are single bunk beds with approximately 4 sets of bunks per room. The hut is cosy and there are board games and cards for your entertainment.
What to expect summiting:
The ants go marching one by one, Hoorah! Hoorah! Imagine this song and picture hundreds of humans, with head torches, meandering up the mountain right behind one another, One by one.
You begin to climb above the hut from 3:30 am in the pitch black. You absolutely must use your head torch for this. The weather was temperate at this point so I would save rugging up for the summit.
There are some parts where you need to hold the rope to ascend a rocky outcrop but there is nothing too serious to worry about. Keep your eyes on your feet, stay present and focused on what you’re doing and you’ll be fine. Above the last hut it’s quite steep and you need to follow the rope to remain on the path. The mountain rounds here where you cannot see the peak. For me personally, not being able to see the summit was disheartening as I wasn’t sure where my goal was. I felt like I was just endlessly taking steep steps into nowhere.
The actual peak is small and somewhat underwhelming with so many people around. However, be one of the first up there and find yourself an individual ledge to perch yourself on to witness the awesome sunrise over Borneo. It is cold so don’t expect to spend hours up here. 45 minutes is suffice to breathe it in, embrace your accomplishment and of course get some photos to prove you did it before beginning to descend.
What to expect descending:
Naturally you’ll descend much quicker then ascending. We were keeping up the pace to escape the torrential rains and our total time from the hut to the bottom was around the 3 hour mark. It can take you anywhere from 2 hours at a run to 7-8 hours walking.
The weather certainly determines which pace you’ll choose. Also keep in mind the bus departure times back to the city along with time for your buffet lunch which is included in your ticket.
My hiking pole was a god send on the descent as it saved my legs taking the brunt of gravity. It is literally the same track so you’ll revisit all you saw on your ascent.
What is Via Ferrata ?
Via Ferrata is essentially a mountaineering mix between rock climbing and abseiling run by Mountain Torq. You wear a harness and utilise carabiners to clip in and out of the supportive rope course down the mountainside, across bridges (some made of rope) and off cliff edges. It is an absolute must for the thrill seekers and adventurers at heart who wish to embrace all they can on Mount Kinabalu.
Lows peak circuit
This is the worlds highest via Ferrata beginning near the summit at approximately 3776m above sea levels (a.s.l). The total distance of the track is 1.2 km meandering down the mountain and across one of the worlds highest suspension bridges. Book in early with this one too as we missed out but were fortunate and grateful to complete Walk the Torq. You can book through Amazing Borneo at the time of booking in your trek.
Walk the Torq
I’d recommend this for any beginners and/or the anxiously adventurous. This is the shorter of the two routes which follows a 430m circuit and begins at 3520m a.s.l. This sure is a workout and takes you anywhere between 1.5-3 hours dependent on fitness levels and number of people in your group. We were so lucky as it was only the two of us plus the guides hanging off the side of the mountain.
Overall, you will not be disappointed by your Mount Kinabalu experience. Book in early to get the dates you desire and I’d 100% recommend booking into one of the Via Ferrata experiences.
I’d love to hear about your Mount Kinabalu adventure. What was your greatest challenge? What was your highlight or favourite memory of the event?