Mount Kinabalu (Malay: Gunung Kinabalu) is a prominent mountain in Southeast Asia. It is located in Kinabalu National Park (a World Heritage Site) in the east Malaysian state of Sabah, which is on the island of Borneo in the tropics. It is the tallest mountain in the Malay Archipelago.
In 1997, a re-survey using satellite technology established its summit (known as Low’s Peak) height at 4,095 metres (13,435 ft) above sea level, which is some 6 metres (20 ft) less than the previously thought and hitherto published figure of 4,101 metres (13,455 ft).
The mountain and its surroundings are among the most important biological sites in the world, with over 600 species of ferns, 326 species of birds, and 100 mammalian species identified. Among them are the gigantic Rafflesia plants and the orangutan. Mount Kinabalu has been accorded UNESCO World Heritage status.
The main peak of the mountain (Low’s Peak) can be climbed easily by a person with a good physical condition, and requires no mountaineering equipment. Other peaks along the massif, however, require rock climbing skills.
Climbers must be accompanied by guides at all times. The climb starts at the Kinabalu park headquarters at 1,563 m (5,128 feet).
Accommodation is available inside the park or outside near the headquarters. From there, climbers proceed to the Timpohon gate at 1800 m (5900 ft), either by minibus or by walking, and then walk to the Laban Rata hut at 3300 m (10,800 ft). Most people accomplish this part of the climb in 3 to 6 hours. Since there are no roads, the supplies for the Laban Rata hut are carried by porters, who bring up to 30 kilograms of supplies on their backs.
Hot food and beverages, hot showers and heated rooms are available at the hut. The last 2 km (2600 ft), from the Laban Rata hut at 3300 m to Low’s Peak (summit) at 4100 m, takes between 2 and 4 hours. The last part of the climb is on naked granite rock.
Given the high altitude, some people may suffer from altitude sickness and should return immediately to the bottom of the mountain, as breathing and any further movement becomes increasingly difficult.
A typical descent from the summit is quicker but it is often equally painful as the ascent: knee joints, ankle joints and toes tend to suffer as the climbers descend more than 3000 m (9850 ft) in five hours.