Kinabalu quickly hit on my list of amazing places. As the first Malaysian summit, but another mountain Asia. Why I love to climb mountains on tgis continent? Because they are extraordinary. It is really hard to find another mount with shape and geological origin like Kinabalu. It is not a volcano as many think but a huge plutonic rock* pushed out from the Earth crust only 10 milion years ago, of which steep slopes where exceptionally smoothed out some 100 thousand years ago. It is also unique for its beliefs and stories. KadazanDusun legends have been told and retold over the years from one generation to the next.

Mount Kinabalu legends

KadazanDusun legends about Mount Kinabalu have been told and retold over the years from one generation to the next.

Kinohiringan and Umunsumundu Deities

One of them is about two supreme deities – Kinohiringan and his wife Umunsumundu – creators of the universe. She formed the Earth, he made the Sky. Sometime later eagle called Kondiu was sent to examine what they created, he told, that clouds were to small compared to the Earth. That was hard for Kinohiringan, his pride was devastated. His wife Umunsumundu knowing how he feels decided to recreate the Earth and in the center of it she shaped Mount Kinabalu.

Gayo Nakan Giant

There was once lived a giant king named Gayo Nakan. He lived at the base of the mountain and was called “Big Eater”. His people were exhausted of feeding him. After complaines king asked people to bury him alive at the top of the mountain. They worked hard in vain, until king cast a spell and sunk in the rock up to the shoulders. Then he told people that drought and famine will affect them due to the lack of patience. However he promised to help people in times of war. Fearful and regretful people made the first sacrifice at the wishing pool below the summit.


Biała linia widoczna na skale to ścieżka na szczyt

Biała linia widoczna na skale to ścieżka na szczyt

Origins of the name Kinabalu

The origin of the mountain name is not clear however there are two main theories. The first one recalls the legend of chinese prince who as a result of sea catastrophe landed on Borneo where married Kadazan girl. After some time he decided to go home to inform the family that he is alive and got the wife. When he arrived to his kingdom it turned out that father has other arrangements for him and so prince agreed to fulfill the will of King. The woman awaiting husband’s return climbed Kinabalu every day to spot returning ship of prince. She died eventually from weakness but protective spirit of the mountain which observed her every day let her waiting forever for husband’s return by turning her into rock. Cina Balu which means chinese widow. The second theory derives the name from the Kadazan expression “revered place of the dead” which translates into Aki Nabalu. Whichever is truth it is clear that Kinabalu is a sacred place. Remember to respect it.

Kinabalu is called the sacred symbol of Borneo and was its first UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Kinabalu summit

Mount Kinabalu

Mount Kinabalu



The way up to the Kinabalu Summit

We started about 9:30 AM. First we were dropped off at Parks headquarter and we met our guide who was great man and journey with him was very nice. Unfortunately the way up is not so nice. A lot of people, you cannot go your own pace, you have to take over or you have to wait for others’ steps. Later a distance between hikkers gets bigger so it becomes a bit easier. But also those who are coming back from the summit are passing down and there is not much space for that. It is not a smooth route, mostly there are kind of stairs made from wood – I guess to stop the mud from flowing down. Big stones are also like stairs. In other parts there is red, sticky mud. Misty weather dominates, humid air is not helping, but it makes the surrounding more mysterious.

When we reached Laban Rata we saw few other buildings and even a volleyball pitch. Than there is some time for lunch and relax. About 6 PM almost all people went sleep because at 2:30 AM is time to start for the summit. It is cold and quite bright so I had problems to fall asleep. We are one of the first at starting point. Soon I discover that I am wearing too many clothes and it takes some time to take them off. I am the last one in our group but I like to climb alone, I am not very fast. At the beginning the way goes between trees in stair-like terrain. Later turns into slippery rocks and eventually one can see stars and human settlements far away down below. From now on it is possible to use thick ropes to climb but I preferred to go by myself and it is not a problem to go like this safely. One part is really steep but later it is OK and one just have to go steadily to the summit to take the best place to watch the stars and rising sun.

View is spectacular and for such performance of nature it is worth to overcome your weaknesses. Good we had sleeping bag, it is really cold there especially when you are warm and sweaty after trekking and have to wait for the sun quite some time. After sunrise more people appear and there is a queue for photo with a Kinabalu summit sign. The way back, all at once down with only short stop for breakfast, is not easy and nice if you have injured knees – if you have the same problem prepare your legs and use some kind of knee protection and also trekking poles. Next time I will take them for sure…



History of Climbing

Sir Hugh Low later the Colonial Secretary of Labuan is credited the first person to climb the Mount Kinabalu in 1851. It took him and his 41 companions nine days to reach the summit plateau. However Low did not reach the peak that bears his name. First person that reached the summit in 1888 was John Whitehead. Both Low and Whitehead started their ascent from Kiau village on the southern flank of the mountain near the Kadamaian Waterfall. They recruited the porters from locals. The route they chosen was steep and strenuous, and when the Kinabalu Park was founded the route was changed to what we see today.

In the next post information how to climb Kinabalu cheap:




*plutonic rock – magma rock cooling deep (5-30 km) below surface of the Earth, creates intrusions of significant size

** intrusion – body of rock created from magma which got in between older rock formation and cooled deep in the Earth’s crust

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