Kinabalu National Park
This hotel is already very cheap, I would have gladly paid double just for the view out of the balcony - an unobstructed view of the mighty Mount Kinabalu and the dense forest surrounding it - it is simply breathtaking - you can see for yourself in the pic on the left - taken from the balcony. The rooms are very clean & spacious, and hot water is available. The food is good - the staff are Chinese and the food is good Chinese food! There is also TV with some interesting channels (thankfully even in English - not only CNN!!). The staff is very nice and helpful. You can also leave some stuff at the reception if you plan to attempt to climb the Kinabalu and want to leave some stuff behind and pick it up later. All rooms have balconies facing Mount Kinabalu.
Excellent place to take pictures of Mt. Kinabalu
The Kinabalu Park HQ is the most popular place for climbers to take the "me-and-the-mountain-I-had-conquered" picture.The spot is OK but sometimes the view gets marred by passing vans and pedestrians making the setting less "natural".
I found this great spot to take the great view of Mount Kinabalu with all its glory. It is at a small hotel called Kinabalu Rose Cabin at Km 18, Jalan Ranau-Tamparuli.
From the base HQ, drive towards Kundasang town.The cabin is on the left hand side. It has a lovely garden next to the hotel. The view of Mount Kinabalu from here is magnificent!
Conquering Mount Kinabalu
This is the highlight activity to do in Sabah; in fact it is the main tourist attraction of the area. The mountain stands at 4095m tall and is the centrepiece of the Kinabalu National Park.
Now to the climb ... thousands of people climb the Mountain each year, as the mountain is relatively easy to climb especially considering its size. This means that there is no need of specialised mountain climbing equipment, and no need to do any stunts! Still this is not an easy task. In my opinion there are 2 secrets to manage the climb - walk very slowly with a consistent pace (no bursts of speed!) and have plenty of determination to go on. If you are not determined to make the climb you can simply stay and admire it from the park headquarters, unless you are really that fit that you can jog it up and down in a couple of hours (yes, there are people who actually did this!).
Anyway, the walk in itself is not that hard. Just take it slowly and be prepared that this is a mountain and you are going to hike uphill for more than 99% of the time ... and at times it gets really really steep. You may experience altitude sickness (headache, nausea, general ill being) but this is normal at altitudes over 3000m. Some people get it, some people don't. I happened to fall under the latter (luckier) category. What you will surely experience is shortness of breath, oxygen levels are low for everyone at such an altitude. Also be prepared for rain ... it starts raining between 10am and 1pm and it usually does not let up until late afternoon. In the wet season it may rain more than this. Rain can get really heavy as well.
You have to hire a guide (compulsory) to take you to the summit. It takes 2 days and 1 night to make the climb. You start in the morning and hike up 6 km to the Laban Rata Resthouse. On the way you will pass some wildlife, and amazing botanical wonders including the famous carnivorous pitcher plants (plants which are pitcher shaped and filled with insect attracting liquids. The insects get caught in the liquid- they die - pitcher plant has an easy meal). Don't worry, the guide will make sure to show them to you. These are found after the 4 km mark in the trail. You will also encounter friendly squirrels and they are quite tame ... just try offering them a titbit and they will practically climb on your hand :)
In some parts of the hike you are actually walking through the clouds! This gives the forest a wonderful eerie look, and will get your clothes, hair and belongings damp as well! (Unless of course they have already been soaked by the rain!)
After about 6km of hiking, you will reach the Laban Rata. After some much needed rest at the Laban Rata, and hopefully a glimpse at a spectacular sunset; people usually wake up at 2.30am to continue the climb to the summit. Why such an atrocious time? Well the answer is simple - to see the sunrise from the peak - otherwise you will see only the clouds! It is quite an adventure to make this last part of the climb ... everyone has torches so you can see a stream of lights slowly inching its way up the mountain. For the first half hour of this part I experienced some severe shortness of breath (I smoke, what the hell was I expecting and what the hell was I thinking??) but after I got into the rhythm I found myself feeling much better and actually enjoying the climb.
Finally after approximately 4 hours you arrive to the summit (Low's Peak) and feel like you have made a really great achievement. Really the satisfaction you feel is really worth it, and even the view! It is really cold at the summit so you just take a couple of pictures, admire the scenery, regain your strength and head back down. You think that it is over but, as I was suspecting all along the descent is actually more difficult than going up. In summary the descent (where it rained really heavily as well) was quite a nightmare - it is difficult and there is nothing to aim to which I think deflates your strength! Once at the park headquarters again you are awarded a certificate (cool!) to prove that you have conquered SE Asia's highest mountain.
When I arrived back down to the Kinabalu Rose Cabin (the hotel at the foot of the mountain where I was staying) my muscles were really sore, and I had a really early night - and next morning I woke up feeling like an airoplane crashed on my bed while I slept - you really strain your muscles getting down the mountain. I got no sore muscles at all when I woke up at the Laban Rata to continue the climb upwards. Duh! Just means that I have really got to get more exercise when I am not on holiday!
View from Kinabalu Rose Cabin
Accommodation climbing Kinabalu
We are climbing Kinabalu in Feb. I have heard that the Sutera chain have a monopoly of accommodation in the park and that it is somewhat overpriced. Looking at options outside such as Kinabalu Rose Cabin but cannot find any reviews for these options. Do not want a long walk to the hotel after descent from the mountain either. Any advice on best place to stay appreciated.
Re: Accommodation climbing Kinabalu
If you are climbing the mountain, accommodation in the park is a must have, included in the climbing package. Without booking the accommodation, you are not allowed to climb the mountain.
Yes, Sutera have the monopoly control of all accommodation in the mark.
You can visit the park and stay outside like Kinabalu Rose Cabin, but to climb Kinabalu, you have to book with Sutera.
Re: Accommodation climbing Kinabalu
Your options are rather limited.
I do not know of the situation now. There were times that taxi or the scuttle readily available at the Timpohon Gate, waiting to transfer trekkers back to park HQ. Private users pay Rgt5 pax for this trip.
It is easy to get private transport at the park HQ to get to the accomodation outside. But from the "Gate" I am not sure the reliablity of its being available. But not too worry, you could firm up that doubt upon your arrival.