The magnificent Mount Kinabalu is the tallest mountain in Malaysia and lies within the Kinabalu National Park. Standing at an astounding 4095.2 meters, it is the highest peak between the glaciated islands of New Guinea and the Himalayas.
Geologically, Mount Kinabalu is still considerably young; it comprises of an oval-shaped granite dome which formed when magma broke to the surface of the Earth's crust millions of years ago. The violent explosions formed the surrounding sedimentary shale and sandstones into the Crocker and TrusMadi mountain ranges.
Kinabalu was listed as one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites in the year 2000 because of the diverse biological life that resides around the mountain.
Mount Kinabalu has one of the world’s richest and most diversified concentration of flora and fauna. This is due to its great climatic variation – from tropical rainforests in the lowlands to temperate climates at high altitudes. There is abundant rainfall and sunshine throughout the area year round.
Many wildlife species are exclusively found in Kinabalu. It therefore comes as no surprise that Kinabalu has been designated as a Centre of Plant Diversity for Southeast Asia.
The question of how the name ‘Kinabalu’ came about is tied to many folklores and myths: the most popular belief is that it derived from the Kadazan term, Aki Nabalu, which means ‘the revered place of the dead’. Local Kadazans believe that spirits dwell on the mountain top.
Another myth suggests that the name came from the term CinaBalu, which directly translates as ‘Chinese widow’. Folklore says that a Chinese prince was in search of a huge pearl guarded by a ferocious dragon on the mountain summit. Upon his success, he married a Kadazan woman but soon abandoned her and returned to China. His estranged wife is said to have wandered into the mountains and turned into stone.
Climbing Mount Kinabalu is not difficult as no special skills or equipment are required. However, the ascending trail is physically tough and it takes a minimum of two days to reach the peak. There are two trails to the top of Mount Kinabalu; the Summit Trail and the Mesilau Trail.
The Summit Trail (also known as the Timpohon Trail) is the main route which starts at the Kinabalu Park Headquarters where you will be able to secure your climbing permit, name tag, and a guide.
The Kinabalu Park Headquarters will provide buses for climbers at MYR 5.00 per person – that will bring you to the Timpohon Gate, which is the entrance of the Summit Trail.
There are seven shelters (pondok) before reaching Laban Rata (basecamp) along the trail. It takes roughly 4 to 6 hours to get from the Timpohon Gate to Laban Rata depending on your fitness level, pace and the weather.
The Mesilau trail is an alternate route - starting at the Mesilau Nature Resort, which is 15 kilometres past the Kinabalu Park Headquarters. The Mesilau trail involves trekking through the Mesilau Nature Park on the Mesilau plateau.
The first 1.5 kilometres will involve climbing while the next 1.5 kilometres is a downhill walk. The trail eventually becomes tougher as the trail gets steeper. The Mesilau Trail is longer and more arduous than the Summit Trail, as the distance from Mesilau to the Layang-Layang Hut (the intersection of both the Summit and Mesilau trails) is approximately 5.7 kilometres (3.5 miles) and takes 5 - 6 hours instead of the standard 2 - 3 hours via the Summit Trail.
Via Ferrata (with Mountain Torq)
Another exciting trail on Mount Kinabalu is the Via Ferrata. The term ‘Via Ferrata’ originates from the Italian word, ‘Via Attrezata’ which directly translates as ‘fully equipped road’ – it is a protected mountain pathway secured with handrails, rungs, bridges and cables.
This route is a lot more challenging (and the go-to path for adrenaline junkies) as Mount Kinabalu has one of the world’s highest Via Ferratas.
The Via Ferrata is run by the Mountain Torq Company. The Via Ferrata begins at Mount Kinabalu Panar Laban Rock Face (at approximately 3,300 meters) and reaches its highest peak at 3,800 meters.
Accomodation for Via Ferrata climbers is at the Sayat-Sayat and Pendant Hut, more than 3,000 metres above sea level and accommodates up to 10 and 30 climbers respectively.
There are various packages run by Mountain Torq – namely: Walk The Torq, Low’s Peak Circuit, The Preamble, The Balancing Act, The High Path, and Conquer the Torq.