A mum, dad and their three kids from Tasmania, go on an epic adventure in Borneo for 3 weeks in December

Peak Bagging Mt Kinabalu – or not.

It’s taken me a while to make the call, but in the end, the idea of climbing Mt Kinabalu was doing my head in.

From booking the lodges, obtaining a permit, to getting a guide and all the ifs and buts of getting a family of five up and down the mountain, there was just too many variables that could have made the whole experience a bad one.

Mt Kinabalu is the tallest mountain in South East asia at 4,101 m high and reasonably easy to climb terrain-wise. It seems the logistics is probably the hardest part of getting it done. You can use tour guide companies to do your booking or book direct with although you will be forced to book two nights accommodation in the park if you do it online.

The climb involves walking up to the accommodation at Laban Rata, stopping in a cabin there for the night and then departing at around 2 a.m to summit at sunrise, no doubt a spectacular experience. Descending to the bottom all the way from the summit is probably harder than the climb up. The issue I had with that deal, was departing with three primary school aged children in the dark in what could be a foggy, cold and wet night making the terrain slippery and slow going. In peak season when the huts are fairly solidly booked, if the kids struggled with all of that and I wasn’t confident of getting back down, it could mean another night at Laban Rata and trying to find a bed there for them. The cold temperatures on the mountain would also mean having to carry extra warm clothing and lugging that around for four weeks.

The cost of it all would be around 550 MYR each, so it would be a hefty price to pay for what could be a really disappointing experience, so I’ve nixed it.

One climber blogged

Edging along steep drop offs that dropped away into inky abyss was scary but worse was to come when faced with steep smooth rock faces that required you to physically haul your body up. After two of these rock faces, the effort started to take their toll on us and our stops became more frequent and our progress slower but the prospect of the climb back down in the dark with now numb hands possibly failing to hold the rope, we pushed on.

But soon the rain and winds came stronger and made progress even slower still. At 3825m we stopped again and when our ‘Mountain Goat of Guides’ stood up and got blown sideways the decision was made that it was now getting too dangerous to continue and sadly so close to the summit we made the decision to turn back … only 8 fellower Summit Attempters made it that day and all they saw was clouds!

Climbing back down to the accommodation was scary. Our guides helped Kat and Sarah by holding their hands but I initially preferred to hold onto the rope little realising that when we hit a vertical bit my slow progress would mean the others would disappear from sight and I would be left totally alone in the darkness trying to control increasing panic.

Our kids love hiking and climbing and are really adventurous, but I’m not ready to gamble 2700 MYR to peak bag Kinabalu. So instead, we plan to do some of the fantastic walks around the park and check out the 5-acre Mount Kinabalu Botanical Garden (Mountain Garden) rich with biodiversity. The 6km Liwagu Trail, which follows the Liwagu River, is reportedly the most rewarding trail around park HQ, and it’s a great option for those who just can’t face the trek up Mt Kinabalu. We’ll stay nearby, spend a couple of days, admire the mountain and say to one another “one day”.


One response to “Peak Bagging Mt Kinabalu – or not.

  1. John May 12, 2011 at 11:38 pm

    Just saw a really good post on Lonely Planet Forums from someone who “recently” climbed the mountain with some great tips. Their experience suggests the guidebooks downplay the level of difficulty, and warn that gloves and a headlamp should be mandatory!
    They also offer some ideas on booking, and a contact who can help with that. Worth reading if you’re planning on bagging it.

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