Monday 14 September 2009, by Wolf
Properly spoken, climbing up the Gunung (Mount) Kinabalu is not actually a run, though the record is somewhere below 3 hours for the 20 km+. However, hiking up the highest peak in South East Asia within one single day is very demanding and quite comparable in terms of effort with a long distance run for performance. Morever, the 2000m of altitude to climb in order to reach the Low s Peak summit at 4095m is just spectacular.
How to get there:
Firstly, it is necessary to call (in advance) to ensure there are guides available for a so-called "day-climb". The Kinabalu Park reception at +6088889095 seems to be a bit hesitant with giving information, possibly because the day-climb is quite a challenge and number of persons might underestimate the effort. Once there is a confirmed availability, the Reception Park asks to come in person to the Park so that the guide can estimate the fitness. However, as in my case, some references to previous long-distance races spared me the additional trip to the park.
Once the guide confirmed, you just come in the morning of the climb and fill out the necessary papers before you go : the climb permit (including the guide you will pay a total of around 200 MYR) and the disclaimer "if-i-am-dead-it-is-my-fault". Note there is a bus that brings you to the beginning of the trail that will cost you again 35 MYR.
By public transport: You can get by bus to the Kinabalu park, however for a day climb there is no such possibility. In fact, the best and cheapest solution might be to stay in a guest house near the park entrance (there are one or two), thus getting to the park on the evening of day 1, climb on day 2 and take the bus back to Kota Kinabalu on day 3.
By taxi: Alternatively, you can hire a taxi for 250-400 MYR two-way. Note that you have to be at the park entrance a 7am, thus plan to leave Kota Kinabalu at 5-5.30am.
The track: The track is 8.72km long. It starts quite gently for the first few kilometres, but get’s increasingly difficult because of numerous stairs and steps that can really wear out. Try to save the energy and don’t go too fast. Every kilometer or so there is a small hut where you can rest and, more important, refill your drinking water reserves from a fresh water tank. After 3-4 hours you reach the guest house of Laban Rata at km 6, where you can break before the final assault of the summit.
After a new series of very tiring steps until km 7 you reach the end of all vegetation and the bare rock. The slope is quite steep and there is a rope that helps to pull you up, but if the weather is dry you can quite walk up the wall without holding the rope - amazing and spectacular! You should reach the summit within 4-6 hours from the departure. Note there is a cut-off time set by the guides to ensure you can return by night fall.
The descent is much faster but it is challenging for the knees - many many steps again, this time down. You should be able to get down from the summit in 2.5-5 hours back to the departure point.
Water point: It is not required to carry litres of water, in fact, a small bottle is enough; as there are water tanks on the way to the summit. At Laban Rata at km 6 you can buy (expensive!) water from the bottle and have a cup of hot tea.
Good to know: It can get cold at the summit : bring a pullover and - very important - a good rain and wind coat for the last two kilometres.
Bring some energy food - raisins, chocolate and fruits. There is no place to buy anything on the way except Laban Rata which is relatively expensive.
Good trailing shoes are better : the path is rocky and it can be slippery when it is raining. But it is not a must - in fact, the guides wear sneakers and i even saw one walking in crocs.
Don’t forget the sunblock : high altitude = less UV protection!
And last but not least, bring a camera for the spectacular views!