Mount Kinabalu Summit, Sabah, Malaysia

Start: Timpohon Trail, Kinabalu National Park (1866m)

Time: The 17.5m return hike is usually done in 2 days and 1 night but there is a limit of 100 permits (and places to sleep) each day. I actually completed the return hike in one day (at the time, in 2011 they allowed 4 people to do this each day).

Grade: Medium- Hard (While the surface is mostly even, there are many stairs and it is quite steep)

Highest Point: Lows Peak (4095m)

Special Notes: Due to the Malaysian earthquake in 2015, the trail closed due to damage. In September2015, it reopened to allow 100 climbers to the Laban Rata point (6km). The entire summit trail is set to reopen on 1st December 2015.

This trail was one of the hardest hikes that I have ever done.  Admittedly, completing it in  one day was tough because you ascend greater than 2200m in a day (and then have the steep steps to descend). I gave my hiking pole to a Canadian guy who had twisted his ankle on the descent. So, without the extra support, with the altitude changes and the many stairs, my legs were like jelly by the end and I needed to hold the hand of my guide, Jamulis at the end of the day. I could hardly walk the next couple of days. In saying that, this walk is absolutely possible for all people from young to not-so young. Doing it over two days allows you to take your time but also, to reach the summit for sunrise. However, with the difficulty of the one day climb, I was rewarded with the summit without the crowds!

View of Mount Kinabulu

Mount Kinabalu is the highest mountain in southeast Asia. The return hike starts at Timpohon Gate within Kinabalu National Park. I stayed in the National Park the night prior and met my guide, Jamulis (guides are required to walk the trail) the next morning at 7:00am where we got our ID tag and set off.

The trail meanders through various types of vegetation from more dense forest of chestnut and oak, to mossy lush greenery to Laban Rata. If you’re lucky, you can see some various wildlife including squirrels and beautiful local birds.

There are shelters that run along the trail and markers about every kilometre of the track to give you an idea of how far you have walked. A great majority of the climb is with the support of man-made, mainly wooden stairs. Some people love this safety and support, but I am not a fan of having stairs on trails and find them harder on my body, especially on the descent.

To complete the summit in one day, you need to reach Laban Rata rest house (at the 6km mark) by midday- although some guides might have different requirements. If you complete the regular 2 Day, 1 night trip, you will stay the night in Laban Rata and awake in the early hours of the morning to reach the summit (another 2.75km away) for sunrise.

Map of Mt Kinabalu Summit Trail
Laban Rata

Not long after leaving Laban Rata, you ascend above the forest areas to reach alpine vegetation and fabulous views of the rocky peaks. When you reach this area, you are required to continue the climb holding onto a rope. This is some of the most spectacular open space where you feel (and are literally) above the clouds. A magnificent feeling. The mountain itself is a place of significance to the local Kadasan Dunsun who believe that the mountain is the sacred resting ground of the spirits of their ancestors.

Me at Summit

Once you arrive at the summit you will greeted with the sign that you have reached the top and if you’re lucky like me, the summit with only Jamulis and myself- pretty special!

Return the way that you came. I recommend having a lot of food, a trekking pole and a strong head torch to do this hike- particularly in one day. It took me almost as long to descend the hike as it did to climb to the summit because my legs were burning with lactic acid build-upon the steep stair down. I was completely cocky thinking that I would race up and down the mountain but the altitude and the stairs took their toll. The whole trail took me about 11 hours to do, I did it without much food and I finished in the dark. Two Canadian brothers were doing the day summit and one twisted their ankle on the descent. I gave him my trekking pole but was devastated when their guide ran down the mountain piggy-backing him while his able-bodied brother trailed behind using my pole.

All in all, it was a wonderful achievement and definitely an experience that I would recommend to all.


To find out more visit: or if you are keen to attempt the one day summit.

Taken from (accessed 25/09/2015)