Overview

Climb the Highest Mountain in Borneo

This trek to Mount Kinabalu in Borneo is a fantastic opportunity to visit lush rainforest, stay in an eco-lodge and climb to the highest point in Borneo. Explore primary rainforest and the diverse flora and fauna around Lupa Masa Jungle Camp before embarking on a two-day climb of Mount Kinabalu and including the Via Ferrata experience on the granite slopes of South East Asia's highest peak.

Dates are custom, so please contact us with your preferences and we can check availability in the mountain huts. Group size can be a minimum of two. 

The Youngest Mountain in the World Rising out of the Oldest Rainforest in the World

At 4,095 metres (13,435 ft) Mount Kinabalu is the highest mountain in Borneo, and the highest point between the Himalayas and the snow-capped mountains of New Guinea. Lacking foothills, it appears to shoot straight up into the sky, it's jagged granite peaks floating above the clouds.

The mountain is "u" shaped, with bare rock plateaux at about 3,900 metres like two arms with the infamous Low’s Gully between which is over one kilometre deep in places. Few mountains can beat Mount Kinabalu for stark simplicity. It is set near the equator, rising straight out of the tropical rain forest, a continuous, clean, black, bare rock mass, to the summit. Because of its breathtaking isolation Kinabalu has its own climate, a constant flux of cloud and wind, rain and cold, and the warmth from the forests below.

Mount Kinabalu climb itinerary

Day 1 -  Transfer to Poring Hot Springs and Lupa Masa jungle lodge, night safari
Day 2 -  Choice of activities at Lupa Masa
Day 3 -  Transfer to Mountain Park HQ and hike up to Pendant Hut at 3289m, Via Ferrata familiarisation.
Day 4 –  Early start to summit, descend to complete the via ferrata, return to Pendant Hut and descent to park gate and mountain lodge
Day 5 –  Walks around the forest to see the pitcher plants, collect certificates, transfer back to KK.
Please note that ample advance notice must be given to book places in the huts on the mountain and once reserved, full payment for the mountain section has to be given one week later to the park. Therefore we would ask that a minimum 50% deposit is paid for this trip to secure your places in the huts.

Kit list for Mount Kinabalu and the jungle

  • Rucksack 50+ litres, with waterproof liner, various size stuff sacks
  • Daysack of about 40 litres for trekking and the hikes on the mountain
  • Fleece sleep sheet
  • Trekking shorts, T shirts, lightweight shirts and trousers, trainers
  • Fleece top, warm clothes. Fleece hat and gloves, waterproofs
  • Hiking boots (lightweight, good tread), sandals/ flip flops
  • Two water bottles of 1 litre capacity
  • Personal washing kit, swimming costume, towel, sun cream, personal 1st aid kit
  • Sunglasses, sunhat, head torch and batteries, camera

It can get very hot and humid in the low levels, so light clothing is better. On the trail in the jungle, light shoes and light clothing with a set of dry clothes to change into on arrival at the village. 

On the mountain you need to have light gear for the heat in the forest and warm clothes plus waterproofs for the high camps. 

Trainers are fine for the trekking but on the mountain you will need lightweight hiking shoes/boots with good tread. Also sandals or flip flops. Sun injuries are common, so bring good cover, UV lip salves, good sunglasses and after sun. Kit can get wet and damp, so dry-bags are important. 

 Check out our advice for clothing and equipment for your trip to Borneo and here for a more detailed mountain kit list

How Fit do I Need to Be for Climbing Kinabalu?

You do not need to be super-fit for this trip, however, Mount Kinabalu section is moderately demanding with some long days of sustained walking with a backpack. The effects of heat and humidity will also further tax your body. You will enjoy the trip all the more if you are in good physical shape having exercised regularly and eaten nutritiously over at least the 6 months leading up to the trip.

The lower slopes are steep, but the path is well trodden with regular water stops and many wooden steps that meander ever upwards. There is no doubt that it seems never-ending, especially in the midday heat! As you trek through the vegetation zones, there are many viewpoints to enjoy and lots of stops. A lot of people climb the mountain, so you are rarely alone, although you do feel very jealous of those coming down.

Above the hut, at Laban Rata you pass onto the high plateau, from vegetation to rock, and the terrain is altogether different. It is utterly bare of plant life, just miles of granite and many peaks and spires. It is easy to walk across, but when the surface is wet you have to be very careful of slipping. When the cloud comes down it is very easy to get lost up on this remote plateau, so be very aware of the weather.

It is important to point out that the challenge is a non-technical trek to climb Mt Kinabalu alongside the various other elements of the trip. You will need to be reasonably fit and any regular hill walker will find this expedition within his or her capabilities. A training programme should include regular hill walking with a small pack of around 5-10kgs, and regular visits to the gym or the swimming pool for the final two months before departure.

Coming down the mountain can be difficult too, with hundreds of steps to negotiate until your knees are complaining and your feet are sore. Again, it seems never-ending, but at least you are now passing people on their way up who are feeling jealous of you!

Travelling in the Rainforest

The rainforest is actually a very clean and pure place to visit. The canopy offers excellent shade from the intense sun and traps moisture however it can be very humid and you will need to continually drink water. We travel using trails which have been the jungle arteries for the local native residents for thousands of years. Sometimes the paths can be muddy and slippery, there are logs to clamber over, and the terrain is up and down, but the movement is never fast.

We will carry little, and there will be lots of stops for drinking and cooling off in the streams. Travel in the jungle is up and down, a lot of hills and only the canopy above you and the impenetrable forest around you. Stand still for a moment and the animals will suddenly be seen and heard. The trails are wide enough for one person and it is important to stick together.

Clearly, this trip is quite challenging if you are expecting modern amenities, since there are none in the jungle, so the trip will require a willingness to work with Mother Nature! Sometimes the heat and humidity can be debilitating, and sap the most positive of minds. Mental preparation and an open mind are essential!

Accommodation on the Mount Kinabalu Jungle Trek

In the jungle, lodge accommodation at Lupa Masa is basic but comfortable. In the bathrooms, there are bucket showers, or an option which many guests prefer is to shower in one of the beautiful waterfalls or streams surrounding the lodge. Toilets are squat toilets, which you pour water into to flush.

Accommodation on Mount Kinabalu is in the Pendant Rata Hut which is a bit higher than the other mount guesthouses. The Pendant hut is a comfortable hut with dormitory style bedrooms, toilets, and showers. It is heated and provides a buffet dinner and breakfast. 

Mount Kinabalu Climate

As you would expect, the weather in the rainforest is warm and humid year round. Temperatures will usually be between 23-31degC with Relative Humidity ranging from 70-90%. Trips can be taken to the area at any time of year but usually, the best time is from March to May when the weather is generally a bit more dry and clear. Annual rainfall is in the region of 4000mm.

At any time of the year, the trek through the rainforest will leave you drenched in sweat a lot of the time and it becomes very important to re-hydrate regularly and to take time to acclimatise to the heat and humidity without overstretching yourself. We will take regular breaks and the river crossings will provide some degree of refreshing cooling.

On Mt Kinabalu we ascend to higher and more exposed regions, breaking through the forest canopy and onto a rocky plateau. Up here early morning temperatures can drop to freezing level and you may see frost in shaded spots. In addition, we are also exposed to the wind. The wind speeds are likely to be 10-20km/h but can increase in excess of 50km/h at short notice and be accompanied by sheets of torrential rain. In addition to the rain its self we may spend some time literally in the clouds as they make their way across the mountain. In this situation, the Relative Humidity will, of course, approach 100% and we will see water condensing all over us. There is, however, a payback for the rainstorms; some of the most spectacular and memorable sunsets that you will see anywhere on earth.

Mount Kinabalu_view to peak across forest and clouds.jpg

A view of Mount Kinabalu across the jungle.

Mount Kinabalu Weather Patterns

As you would expect, the weather in the rainforest is warm and humid year round. Temperatures will usually be between 23-31degC with Relative Humidity ranging from 70-90%. Trips can be taken to the area at any time of year but usually, the best time is from March to May when the weather is generally a bit more dry and clear. Annual rainfall is in the region of 4000mm.

At any time of the year, the trek through the rainforest will leave you drenched in sweat a lot of the time and it becomes very important to re-hydrate regularly and to take time to acclimatise to the heat and humidity without overstretching yourself. We will take regular breaks and the river crossings will provide some degree of refreshing cooling.

Mount Kinabalu_Kotal Route group dropping off plateau.jpg

Arriving on an airy bit of rock towards the summit of Mount Kinabalu.

On Mt Kinabalu we ascend to higher and more exposed regions, breaking through the forest canopy and onto a rocky plateau. Up here early morning temperatures can drop to freezing level and you may see frost in shaded spots. In addition, we are also exposed to the wind. The wind speeds are likely to be 10-20km/h but can increase in excess of 50km/h at short notice and be accompanied by sheets of torrential rain. In addition to the rain its self we may spend some time literally in the clouds as they make their way across the mountain. In this situation, the Relative Humidity will, of course, approach 100% and we will see water condensing all over us. There is, however, a payback for the rainstorms; some of the most spectacular and memorable sunsets that you will see anywhere on earth.

Kotal route

The following gives the profile for a full traverse of Kinabalu. However, if you are to ascend and return by the normal route read only as far as Low's Peak.

Mount Kinabalu Books and Maps

Kinabalu Region Guides
Globetrotter Visitor's Guide Kinabalu Park, Globetrotter, ISBN-10: 1859744052, ISBN-13: 978-1859744055
Borneo: Regional Guide, Lonely Planet, ISBN-10: 1741792150, ISBN-13: 978-1741792157
Borneo, Footprint Handbooks, ISBN-10: 190609814X, ISBN-13: 978-1906098148
The Rough Guide to Southeast Asia On A Budget, Rough Guides, ISBN-10: 1848365225, ISBN-13: 978-1848365223
The Rough Guide to Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei, Rough Guides, ISBN-10: 1843530945, ISBN-13: 978-1843530947

Kinabalu maps
Sabah & Kota Kinabalu Travel Map, 1:100,000/1:25,000, Periplus Editions, ISBN-10: 0794606229, ISBN-13: 978-0794606220

Sabah and Sarawak, 1:100,000, New Holland Publishers Ltd, ISBN-10: 1845379381, ISBN-13: 978-1845379384
Borneo, 1:1,200,000, Reise Know-How Verlag, ISBN-10: 3831772347, ISBN-13: 978-3831772346 
Borneo - Kalimantan, 1:1,130,000, ITMB - International Travel Maps, ISBN-10: 1553410653, ISBN-13: 978-1553410652

Interactive route map, description and photos


Kinabalu books
Descent into Chaos: Doomed Expedition to Low's Gully, Connaughton, Brassey's, ISBN-10: 1857531477, ISBN-13: 978-1857531473
Into the Heart of Borneo, O'Hanlon, Penguin, ISBN-10: 0140073973, ISBN-13: 978-0140073973

 

Dates & Bookings

Bespoke Dates
Fixed Itineraries
Start Date
12/07/2017
End Date
14/07/2017
Days
2
Price
£1bn dollars
£1bn dollars
Start Date
05/01/2019
End Date
09/01/2019
Days
5
Price
£825.00

Itinerary

Mount Kinabalu climb itinerary

You may also be interested in adding some days to your itinerary to experience a bit more of the diverse flora and fauna that is on offer in and around Sabah, click on the links to Deramakot Forest Reserve and the Imbak Canyon Conservation Area to read some feedback and see photos of these areas on Trip Advisor.

DETAILED ITINERARY

DayElevationInfo
1  900m

You will be met at your Kota Kinabalu hotel and driven overland to Poring, a small village at the base of Mount Kinabalu. From here, you will trek 30mins to Lupa Masa Jungle Camp, a small authentic camp set amongst primary Borneo rainforest. Lupa Masa is built from natural materials in the heart of the rainforest. It is the perfect place for an introduction to the diversity of the Borneo rainforest, as well as a retreat for those who simply want to get away from the modern world and relax in a beautiful environment surrounded by nature.

After settling into camp and exploring the rivers and waterfalls, you will take a guided night trek to find some of the rare and diverse nocturnal wildlife of Kinabalu.

2  900m Today is a full activity day for you to warm up your legs for the climb ahead and explore some of this pristine environment. From jungle trekking, to river tubing and mountain biking, you can choose a range of activities near the eco-lodge. 
3,4    4095m 

The next few days are spent on our Mt Kinabalu climb, including the via ferrata activity. Ascend to Pendant Hut on day 3 and rise early on day 4 to reach the summit and do the via ferrata on the descent. Afternoon rest. 

5  

Descend from the Pendant Hut to the Park head quarters and collect certificates. It is possible to summit on this morning and complete the ascent and descent in one day, arriving later at the park hq. 

You are perfectly placed to travel onwards and explore some of Borneo premium wildlife viewing locations in the East, or head north to hidden white sand beaches of the Kudat coast. Alternatively, we can arrange transport back to Kota Kinabalu- please get in touch for options.

Cost

Mount Kinabalu trek cost £825.00

INCLUDES

  • Mount Kinabalu climbing permit and accommodation in the huts
  • Via Ferrata climb on Mount Kinabalu
  • Local Mountain guide
  • All transport 
  • All food and accommodation
  • Activities at the Lupa Masa Jungle Camp

EXCLUDES

  • International flight to Kota Kinabalu
  • Travel Insurance
  • Personal expenses

 Please note that ample advance notice must be given for this trip because accommodation on the mountain is difficult to secure, and we need to book beds in the huts on the mountain well in advance. Full payment for the mountain section has to be given on booking, so therefore we would ask that a minimum 50% deposit is paid for this trip. 

Our local provider is Adventure Alternative Borneo and Mountain Torq for the via ferrata day on the mountain. Where we do use providers such as hostel and guesthouse owners and homestays these are people our Adventure Alternative Borneo staff have known for years, and spent time with to build up the trust between both parties. 

Photos

£825pp

You can book your Adventure Alternative holiday for as little as £100.00 and pay the balance in as many instalments as you like. Choose a scheduled date or contact us for private dates, a bespoke itinerary or more trip details. 

Tours from only 825pp Dates & Bookings

Borneo - a wonderful and unforgettable experience with so many fantastic memories. Did so much in 3 weeks. This trip wil…

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Key Information
  • Duration 5 Days
  • Numbers 2 - 10
  • Altitude 4095m
  • Comfort Eco lodge and mountain hut
  • Challenge Moderate