Mt. Kinabalu was one of my main reasons for heading to Borneo, so when I discovered the cost of going up it I was pretty shocked. Lots of research later and I’d eventually found the cheapest option through a guy called “Jungle Jack’.

The setup seemed a bit dodgy with his only presence online being through facebook and a significant amount of money having to be wired to him in advance, but there were enough reviews for me to deem the risk worthwhile taking.

From Kota Kinabalu it was couple of hours squished into a van that dropped me on the side of the road with a small trail signed down to his place. I headed down and was greeted with a group tucking into some lunch. I said my hellos, took a vacant spot and was given a plate and told to load up. It was some of the best food that I had whilst in Borneo.

Jungle Jack’s and Jack himself turned out to be an amazing place to stay and hike with.  Jack is a character that livens up every meal and the ladies that worked there created absolute feasts. I was very fortunate to meet a lovely group of travellers at Jack’s to summit with, many Germans, (who heavily populate the travelling landscape), and an Aussie.

The hike itself is straightforward to anyone who has hiked before. It’s one route up and down and no more than 12km in a day. You have to hire a guide for your group, although there was a feeling the guides had had a bit of party the previous evening as they all seemed to be struggling hard on the way up. Ours was normally a good ten minutes behind us and just kept waving us to keep going.

The accommodation on the mountain was unnecessary, but supposedly we’d got a free upgrade and it was very nice. The hike could easily be done in one long day, but to get the cash out of you the government have banned 1 day hiking trips. So in the hours of darkness the next day we set off for the short steep climb up to the summit.

I went off at my own pace to get to the summit and was swiftly alone in the darkness scaling up the rocks. The top of Mt. Kinabalu is a fairly unique environment with great slabs of smooth rock face. There was a single rope outlining the way to follow up to the top and the darkness was engulfing.

I reached the top over an hour before sunrise and so huddled up into a crevice and watched the stars and distant lightning storm that was taking place. It took me back to a year earlier when I had been doing the same thing, but atop Mt. Rinjani. This climb was significantly easier than that one, but the serenity on the top was the same.

Other climbers arrived closer to sunrise and thanks to the beautiful weather that we were treated to we had a stunning sunrise that slowly lit up the rock faces. After taking it all in we ambled our way back down ready for some more food.

Just the area around the base of the climb at Jack’s was amazing. Still fairly high up and with shots like this to enjoy as you sipped some morning coffee.

The only disappointment of my time around the Mt. Kinabalu national park was the nearby hot springs, that turned out to be quite the let down. Luke-warm springs that scored poorly for both their aesthetic and hygiene standards. I can see how people who are doing a long backpacking trip are put off climbing, with two days setting you back over $300 on the cheapest package, but as I was treating this trip as a short holiday it was a fantastic experience.

More from this trip:

Solo Travel

Kota Kinabalu

Into the Jungles