Visit and Climb Mount Kinabalu Sabah

Visit and Climb Mount Kinabalu Sabah

Lofty and awesome, the summit of Mount Kinabalu (Sabah, Malaysia), which rises 4095m (13432 ft) above the rainforests of north Borneo, poses a challenge to the conquering spirit of man. Since British colonial officer Hugh Low began its climbing craze in 1851, the granite massif has seen countless attempts to scale this peak in Sabah, Malaysia. The true summit of Kinabalu is named Low's Peak in honor of the first foreigner to reach it. Spenser St. John has a peak named after him next to Kinabalu South which he succeeded in scaling when accompanying Hugh Low on his second trip in 1858. A UNESCO-listed world heritage site, its brooding landscape is both inviting and forbidding to extreme sports fans. Among the dozen peaks on Mount Kinabalu, the most dramatic are the twin crags known as Donkey's Ears.

For most people, no climbing experience is needed but fitness helps a lot. From Kota Kinabalu, it is  a two-hour drive to the Kinabalu National Park headquarters where food and lodgings are available at 1500m. The park encompasses the mountain and its surrounding where many unique flora and fauna exist. The huge butterfly called Rajah Brooke's birdwing, the rafflesia renowned as the world's largest flower, the hairy orang utan and other unique species of animals and plants inhibit the lower montane forests of the park. Monkey cups or pitcher plants are common in the montane forests below the 3350m level. A wide range of plants including ferns thrive well in Kinabalu Park.

But nothing can compare with the mountain's rocky pinnacles and summit plateau as you ascend to the highest point between India and Papua New Guinea. From Timpohon Gate, porter guides lead climbers up the well-marked trail to the wooden huts for shelter, rest and fresh water. As the scenery and vegetation changes with the altitude, the exhilaration of communing with nature is sufficient reward. The two-day track is a botanist's dream as rare rhododendrons, wild orchids, pitcher plants, ferns mosses and lichens are to be seen en route.

The views from the cliffs and precipices are stunning and mind-blowing. One false step and oblivion awaits you below in a chasm. Yet people persevere and continue to face the daunting task of surmounting this massive peak. For some, the adrenalin-pumping adventure and sheer thrill of the journey are worth all the efforts. From the Laban Lata rest hut at 3280m, climbers awaken well before dawn to venture out in the pitch blackness with torchlight. Warmly clad to counter the near freezing temperature and cold air, they reach the stairs that lead to the last 300m of Mount Kinabalu which is crowned with 12 peaks. The rope along the steep granite slopes is of immense help as the wind howls, your teeth chatter and knees go soft confronting this majestic mountain with altitude and attitude.

The pace quickens, the heart races and muscles exert their strength in this final assault under a starry sky above. It is important to get to the top before sunrise when the clouds usually start swirling in and obscure the entire route and vision. As daybreak begins, the panorama is awesome. First, a streak of gold paints the horizon. Then, orange and red hues light up the sky as the sun emerges over the features of Low's Peak and Low's Gully. For some precious moments, you feel on top of the world as daylight reveals everything before your eyes. Victoria Peak looks rosy pink in the early morn and South China Sea can even be discerned in the distance on a clear day.

The joy and jubilation may be elusive but the sense of achievement is real. You have made it! Conquering Mount Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia can finally be added into your diary as another "been there, done that" experience. Pushing yourself the limit is its very own reward. If you are fit enough, you may consider to compete for the US$26000 prize money offered by the Kinabalu International Climbathon, one of the world's toughest mountain races testing true grit, stamina and endurance; they jagged pinnacles of the summit.

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