It is a 2.510m climb that is 8.72 km long trek. I would breakdown the climb to 3 stages -
Stage 1 - Kinabalu Park HQ (1,585m) to Laban Rata Resthouse (3,272m) - 6km trek
Clothing should be light - cotton T-shirt and shorts. Have a poncho on standby, as rain can be frequent and sporadic.
The climb was a long and sweaty one for an average urbanite. It took me 5 1/2 hours to get to Laban Rata from Timpohon - a 1,687m 6km climb. Temperature was around 17 - 25 degree C.
Didn't find mosquitoes a problem at this stage of the climb. They were all over the place at the Park HQ and lowland especially in the evenings.
A walking stick does come in handy. It is available at the Park's souvenir's store located in the same block as the restaurant. A retractable one cost about RM85 and a rattan one cost RM15.
I took 1.5 liter of water along although there were free mountain water available on tap at each of the 8 shelters along the way to Laban Rata. I didn't want to risk having a tummy ache before the actual climb to the summit. Yes, my daypack was heavy but that was the price I have to pay.
Stage 2 - Laban Rata to Summit (4,095.2m)
The climb started at 2.30am to reach the summit at 6.30am in time to witness the sunrise till 7am before trekking back down again to reach Laban Rata at 8.30am.
Unless you have the retractable walking stick, leave your rattan walking stick behind, as your will need both your hands for pulling yourself up the robe on some steep rock faces.
Temperature can fall to 3 degree C plus chill factor, so do wear appropriate warm clothing.
A third of my group was down with altitude sickness. I had a bad headache and felt like throwing out when I woke up at 1.30am to prepare for the submit climb. So do bring along altitude sickness pill a contingency.
Equipment: Equipment: The robes and rocks were wet with freezing dew. Gloves should be waterproof, if not, wear a pair of plastic / rubber gloves under your non-waterproof ones, to protect your hands from getting wet. I've to stop using my wet diving gloves near the summit because the chill was numbing my hands.
Against advise from others, I decided to carry my backpack with 600ml of water, energy bar and spare warm clothing, and I was glad I did. The water came in handy. Some who didn't bring along their water have to beg for water from me. It was all dried up well before I reached the summit.
On the way down at Sayat-Sayat hut (the only water stop along the route), I refilled my water bottle with mountain water that flows out from a pipe three times and drunk it right away. It was very "sweet" and refreshing. No chemicals or recycled water. Kept a full bottle of it to enjoy its refreshing quality when I was down at the Park HQ.
Stage 3 - Summit to Kinabalu Park HQ
We had a quick shower, and change to lighter clothing for our trek down to Timpohon. We started at 9.30am and complete it 4 hours. It was not a good timing, but our knees were breaking apart from having to support the body over the high steps.
Knee guards are essential here to prevent any permanent injury to your knees. Invest in a pair.
In addition, invest in a pair of good trekking shoes with deep traction, and "break-in" before using them for the actual climb. Don't use any shoe that you have not used for a period of time. They will break apart in those terrance. Tennis or jogging shoes are not appropriate for the rocky and slippery terrain. Bring a spare pair of shoes or trekking sandals (two in my group had their shoes torn apart. One of them didn't have a spare pair and couldn't continue their climb, and have to flip over the top side of his shoes to use as soles and tie it to his feet).
Mount Kinabalu (4095.2m) summit climb can be achieved in a two days trek. The climb to Low's Peak does not require any technical skills. However, a clean bill of health is strongly encouraged.
Licensed mountain guides (regulated by Sabah Parks) are mandatory, at a ratio of 1 guide to 8 climbers. Porters are optional. The summit trail officially starts from Timpohon Gate at 1866m, from where it is an 8.72km walk to the summit (approximately four to six hours to reach Laban Rata - rest point for the night, the duration of the trek is dependent on individual pace and fitness level). There are six shelters along the trail where we can take a rest and refill our drinking water. We spent a night at Laban Rata (3272.7m).
Our summit attempt to the top of Borneo continues at 3am. The use of head torch is recommended. This will leave our hands free to hold on to the railings and the ropes guiding us at the steep granite rock faces. Our final destination is the 4095.2 m high, Low's Peak - the highest point in Southeast Asia!
Equipment: As long as it is not raining, you can walk as far as Laban Rata in normal hiking gear. Dress in layers so you can take off and put on clothes as necessary. It is only at the summit that you will need warm clothes. Woollen hat, gloves, long pants, raincoat or poncho are recommended. Wear strong, comfortable shoes with good grip.
A torch (flashlight) is required if you are getting up before dawn. Bring snacks for the climb and food if you intend to do your own cooking. Water bottles can be filled along the trail. Do not be fooled by the clouds - the sun is fierce at that altitude and to avoid sunburn, sun block is necessary.