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Climbing Mount Kinabalu via Kota Belud Trail

Climbing Mount Kinabalu

A 6.0 magnitude earthquake on 5 June 2015 destroyed part of the old summit trails on Mt. Kinabalu. On 1 Dec 2015, a new summit trail named Ranau Trail is open and becomes the Standard trail to climb Mt. Kinabalu until now, and I had covered this trail in detail in my article “How to Climb Mount Kinabalu and How Much it Cost?”.

Map of Ranau and Kota Belud Trails

Ranau and Kota Belud Trails (Click to Zoom In). Both start from Laban Rata and meet at Sayat-Sayat (checkpoint 1.6 Kilometres before the summit)

New! Kota Belud Trail

The second new trail called Kota Belud Trail is open on 9 Dec 2016. I had climbed it three months ago (with special permit by Sabah Parks, as it wasn’t open to public that time), and this post will give you an overall of this new trail.

1. Kota Belud Trail is 170 Metres longer than Ranau (Standard) Trail

The one-way distance (from Timpohon Gate starting point to the Summit) of Kota Belud Trail is 8.97 KM, while Ranau Trail is 8.8 KM. The starting point of Kota Belud Trail is next to Gunting Lagadan Hut and Panar Laban Hut, while Ranau Trail is started behind the Pendant Hut.

Ranau trail and peak

Ranau Trail is less challenging than the old trail

Please note Kota Belud trail doesn’t start at Kota Belud town, and Ranau Trail doesn’t start from Ranau town too. You can see these districts from the trails on mountain hence their names.

Descending via Ranau Trail

Descending via Ranau Trail

Kota Belud Trail

Though Kota Belud Trail is more challenging, the experience is more thrilling.

2. Kota Belud Trail is more Challenging than Ranau Trail

Ranau Trail is more tourist-friendly and safer because there are a lot of staircase and climbing aid. Kota Belud Trail is quite “raw” with limited support, so it is meant for adventurers who want to do real climbing. You need to be quite fit, and more upper body strength is required for climbing at the steep section.

Staircase on Ranau Trail

Staircase on Ranau Trail

The most difficult part of Ranau Trail

The most difficult part of Ranau Trail is still quite easy to climb

Rock climbing section on Kota Belud Trail

Rock climbing section on Kota Belud Trail

3. Kota Belud Trail is more Rocky

Most of the time you will walk on rock face and rocky ground, while Ranau Trail is flanked by dense vegetation most of the time.

Granite rock trail of Kota Belud Trail

Granite rock trail of Kota Belud Trail

Nice open view at Kota Belud Trail

Nice open view at Kota Belud Trail. You can see Aki Point platform far behind

Nature path of Ranau Trail

Nature path of Ranau Trail

4. Both trails start at Panalaban (then Laban Rata) and meet at Sayat-Sayat

Sayat-Sayat is a checkpoint 1.6 KM before the summit. The following routes are unchanged (before and after the earthquake):

  • Timpohon Gate (Starting Point) → Panalaban (Laban Rata, the location of midway accommodation): 6 KM
  • Sayat-Sayat Checkpoint → Summit: 1.6 KM
Kota Belud Trail ends at Sayat-Sayat

Kota Belud Trail ends at Sayat-Sayat (see green building in photo), where it meets Ranau Trail too.

5. Both trails have very different scenery

Climbing via Ranau Trail is like walking in a garden because climbers will see many flora along the way. On Kota Belud Trail, you climb on bare rock face most of the time, but the panoramic view of the landscape is magnificent!

Panoramic view from Kota Belud Trail

Panoramic view from Kota Belud Trail. You can see Laban Rata Resthouse from there.

Ranau Trail is flanked by dense vegetation

Ranau Trail is flanked by dense vegetation

Aki Point on Ranau Trail

Aki Point on Ranau Trail

Ranau trail

Ranau Trail: See the man in red?

Below is a table to summarize the differences between these two summit trails:

Ranau Trail (Standard) Kota Belud Trail
Distance (one way) 8.8 KM 8.97 KM
Difficulty Easy. Many staircases. Relatively less steep Steep and challenging. Limited climbing aid.
Features Dense and rich variety of summit vegetation along the trail Route on rock face and rocky ground. Beautiful panoramic view.

You know what. You can get better idea by watching the following video of Kota Belud trail. It shows our climb from the starting point to the summit. You can jump to 3:27 to see Kota Belud Trail:

The following is a photo walk-through of Kota Belud trail in chronological order:

Starting point of Kota Belud Trail

Starting point of Kota Belud Trail

20161202_11

Kota Belud Trail is more challenging than Ranau Trail

Kota Belud Trail is more challenging than Ranau Trail

The waterfall section not far from the starting point

The “waterfall section” not far from the starting point

Nice view at Kota Belud Trail

Nice view at Kota Belud Trail

Beginning section of the Kota Belud Trail

Beginning section of the Kota Belud Trail

Climbing along the slope of Kota Belud Trail

Climbing along the slope of Kota Belud Trail

Resting on the rockface

Resting on the rockface

Wide and long rockface section of Kota Belud Trail

Wide and long rockface section of Kota Belud Trail

Staircase on Kota Belud Trail

Staircase on Kota Belud Trail

Starting point of the steepest rock climbing section

Starting point of the steepest rock climbing section

The most challenging part of Kota Belud Trail

This is the most challenging part of Kota Belud Trail.

steep slope of Kota Belud Trail

Steep slope of Kota Belud Trail. It’s no joke if you fall from there.

Climbing via Kota Belud Trail

The most difficult part is almost over

Reaching the Sayat-Sayat Checkpoint (green building at the left). At the right are climbers on Ranau Trail.

Reaching the Sayat-Sayat Checkpoint (green building at the left). At the right are climbers on Ranau Trail.

Both Kota Belud and Ranau trails end and meet at Sayat-Sayat Checkpoint.

girls rest on slope

Relax after overcoming the hardest part

Walking on the rockface

Walking on the rockface (about 1.5 KM before the summit)

Group photo in front of Wishing Pond at the foot of Low's Peak

Group photo in front of Wishing Pond at the foot of Low’s Peak

On the way to the summit of Mt. Kinabalu

On the way to the summit of Mt. Kinabalu

Happy lady climbers on the summit

Happy lady climbers on the summit

Group photo on top of Mount Kinabalu

Group photo on top of Mount Kinabalu

At the moment, I’m not sure if we will need special permit or requirement to climb Mt. Kinabalu via Kota Belud Trail. If this trail is open to public, you can get the most fun by ascending via Kota Belud Trail and descending via Ranau Trail. I’ll update this post when I get the latest information.

Photos taken on Mount Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

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Climbing Mount Wakid (Gunung Wakid)

Mountain Wakid

If you want to feel on top of the world and enjoy some breathtaking view, climb a mountain! For hikers who only want a day trip to conquer a mountain that is not too high to be overwhelming, but also not too low to be unexciting, Mount Wakid (Gunung Wakid in Malay language) in Tambunan is for you then. Even if you live in Kota Kinabalu City (KK), which is 80 KM away from Tambunan, you can finish the climb and back home on the same day.

Mount Wakid (Gunung Wakid) at the roadside near Tambunan

You can see Mount Wakid (Gunung Wakid) at the roadside near Tambunan

Sabah is mountainous with over half of its land above 1,000 Meters above sea level, and Mt. Kinabalu is not the only beautiful mountain. No two mountains look the same. Standing at 1,372 Meters (4,501 Feet), Mount Wakid is distinctly different from other Sabah mountains that I climbed before. It’s also about the same height as Ben Nevis (1,346 Meters), the highest mountain on island of Great Britain and a popular destination that attracts about 100,000 ascents annually.

wakid

Wakid is a bamboo basket used by villagers to carry fruits & vegetables until today.

According to locals, in the past, an Odu-Odu (grandma) went to Mount Wakid to harvest some forest produces. She disappeared, so every villagers were searching for her on the mountain. However, villagers couldn’t find her except her wakid (a bamboo basket used by native to collect fruit & vegetables). That’s how Mount Wakid got its name.

Mount Wakid (Gunung Wakid)

View of Mount Wakid (Gunung Wakid) from the road

When you head to Tambunan town from KK, about 10 KM before the town, you could see Mount Wakid prominently at the left of the road. Its long and crooked crest running parallel to the hilly road, like the spine of a dragon. No wonder the locals believe a Tombuokar (dragon) is living in this mountain. Every time I looked at this “crouching dragon”, it was like calling me to have a ride on its back. The most unique characteristics of Mount Wakid is – it is chartreuse in color.

Climbing Mt. Wakid (Gunung Wakid)

Mount Wakid is located in the state land of Kampung Sunsuron (Sunsuron Village). Its hill forest is kept intact to protect this mountain as a water catchment area. The villagers see Mount Wakid as an important source of water to irrigate their crops. It is only in Nov 2015 that they started promoting their “backyard” mountain as an attraction.

Group photo of climbers

Group photo of climbers (with Mt. Wakid behind us, note the red arrow)

Yes, 1,372-Meter is quite an enormous height for a day climb. But no worry, we started our climb from Sunsuron Village, which is located at 780 Meter above sea level, so we only need to ascend less than 600 Meters (1,969 feet) to reach the top. Sound easy but remember three rules of mountaineering, which state, “It’s always further than it looks. It’s always taller than it looks. And it’s always harder than it looks.”

Trail map and elevation profile of our climb to Mount Wakid

Route map and elevation profile of our climb to Mount Wakid. You can download the KML (for Google Earth) or GPX (for GPS device such as Can-Am Garmin Montana 650T GPS 715002081) file of the route map to see full detail.

Here is the summary of the climb. The total distance of return trip is 9.75 KM. We hiked 5 KM via the new Jinkung Trail to the summit (GPS of the Highest Peak: 5.770667, 116.369209; see Location Map), then descend via the 4.75-KM Standard Trail back to Sunsuron Village.

Pass by the village on the way to the summit

Pass by the village on the way to the summit

We departed from Sunsuron Village at 8:30 AM, reached the summit at 12:30pm and came back at 4pm. If possible, you should move as early as 7am. Though Tambunan has cooling weather (about 25ºC / 77ºF), it’s still pretty warm in the afternoon.

Waving at the cute kindergarten children

Waving at the cute preschool children

In the beginning, we walked through the village houses and the local schools, before we entered the plantation at the edge of the village.

Lovely children of Tambunan

Awww….♥♥♥! These lovely local children will melt your heart

We passed by a preschool and the kids were so excited to see us. They screamed and waved at us, so adorable. Actually their smiles are the most memorable part of my climb.

Scenic countryside view along the way

Scenic countryside view along the way

After 10 minutes, we exited the residential area and passed through the farmland and grassland outside the village.

The clean river from Mt. Wakid

The clean river from Mt. Wakid

In the first 3 KM, we walked on flat ground most of the time. We only came across a few gradual slopes. It wasn’t challenging but we needed to be vigilant, especially at the narrow and slippery soil trail on the slope. We took a short break every 1 KM.

Mount Wakid is far ahead

Mount Wakid is far ahead

When we walked in paddy fields and meadow in open space, the sun was baking us. It’s so warm and I saw no farmer working in the field. Luckily I brought an umbrella so I just used it. Other climbers may think that I’m a wuss. Anyway, I think it’s a good idea because the shade reduces the heat and keeps me comfortable.

Crossing the creek

Crossing the creek

We crossed a few creeks without getting wet. The water is cold and super clean. I saw some “salad rivers” because the water is planted with a lot of leafy green “Sayur Hong Kong” (Watercress), which is commonly used in salad and sandwiches. As we moved deeper to backcountry zone, the forest was getting denser.

Jingkung Trail

We arrived the starting point of Jingkung Trail around 11:15am and prepared for the last 1 KM push to the summit. Jingkung Trail is a new summit trail which is longer and more challenging than the standard trail. This route is thrilling for veteran hikers who want more adventurous experience.

The start of challenging Jingkung Trail

The start of challenging Jingkung Trail

However, Jingkung Trail could be quite tough and risky for inexperienced climbers, though all our newbie team members made it with some efforts. The trail is fairly steep, and we have to use our hands to move up some near-vertical route. We joked with one another that this trail should be named as the “Spiderman Trail”.

Jingkung Trail to the summit

Jingkung Trail to the summit

Mount Wakid is a new destination, so the trail is 100% nature and have no climbing aid such as ladder, handrail, boardwalk and trail signage. Our guide setup rope support in a few difficult spots. You would be happy to know that there is no leech all the way.

The last 1 KM trail to the top is quite steep

The last 1 KM trail to the top is quite steep. It’s Mr. Jingkung in the photo at the right

Someone says, “Climbing is action, it’s about doing, acting, trying. Words don’t get you up a vertical rock face or to a remote mountain summit.” That’s right, either you are up there, or you are not. Talking won’t take you there. I love the moment of keeping my mouth shut and fight my way up with crystal clear goal, as I believe action speaks louder than words.

Reaching the first high point

Reaching the ridge

As I was approaching the top at crawling speed, the trees became shorter and sparser. I knew I was near when I saw light on top. Then we we were welcomed by a PVC banner which meant we had reached the ridge and the summit wasn’t far away. I was gasping for breath and glad that the hardest part was over.

View from the mountain

View from the mountain (behind the PVC banner)

The Peaks

Here we were on the ridge of Mount Wakid. At this altitude, I expected to see lower montane forest with mossy environment. Instead, the top of Mt Wakid is dominated by a dwarf tree called Pokok Tagai locally. Its yellowish green leaves form the beautiful cap of Mt. Wakid.

The top of this mountain is covered with shrubs only 1 to 6 Meters high

The top of Mount Wakid is covered by these evergreen shrubs only 1 to 6 Meters high

Special Thanks to Dr. Arthur Chung, Dr. Reuben Nilus and John Sugau for the identification of the vegetation. According to them, these trees are Kerangas forest with berungis trees (Baeckea frutescens) and bracken fern (Pteridium esculentum), and part of the forest was burnt in 1983.

The chartreuse color / yellowish green vegetation on the top

The color of Mt. Wakid is a big contrast with adjacent mountains

I googled and learned that the leaves and flowers of berungis tree can be harvested for medicinal uses and to make a refreshing herbal tea. All aerial parts of the plant are credited with antibacterial, anti-febrile and haemostatic properties. However, the local community doesn’t seem to use this plant.

Two distinct forest of Mt Wakid, the darker lowland rainforest and lighter heath forest near the top

You can see two distinct forest of Mt Wakid, the darker lowland rainforest and lighter heath forest (Kerangas) near the top

We walked along the narrow ridge. After 10 minutes, we arrived the summit of Mt Wakid marked by a trig station. There are six peaks on Mount Wakid, and the highest peak is called Peak No.3. We celebrated the moment by taking a lot of photographs.

The highest peak of Mt. Wakid (Gunung Wakid)

Everyone made it to the highest peak of Mt. Wakid (Gunung Wakid)

Climbers are often asked why they climb. We would reply, “If you have to ask, you’ll never understand,” so you have to climb a mountain to find the answer. When asked “What is the use of climbing Mount Everest?”, George Mallory, an English mountaineer, said, “It is no use… What shall not bring back a single bit of gold or silver, not a gem… What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy… We do not live to eat and make money.”

View of Sunsuron Village from the mountain

View of Sunsuron Village from the mountain

Therefore, if money can’t buy you any happiness, go climb a mountain! I also can’t explain why it’s cheerful, probably mountain is nearer to heaven. From the ridge, I can see that we are surrounded by rolling hills, lush forest, gorge and valley, what a spectacular view.

Moving on to the next peak of Mt. Wakid

You could see the dense undergrowth of Pteridium esculentum (Esculentum means edible), commonly known as Austral bracken or simply bracken.

We continued moving to the next peak along the spine of Mount Wakid. By the way, Mount Wakid has a secret that our guide doesn’t want me to share it online. You can ask them if you climb.

Group photo on the Cross Peak

Group photo on Peak No.1

It’s an easy hike. Within 20 minutes, we reached Peak No.1, which has a big cross erected. Every year before Good Friday, the local Catholic paid homage to Jesus Christ by carrying a big cross to this peak, but now this annual activity is moved to Kolindasan Hill.

Local Christians would climb to this Cross Peak on Good Friday

Another group photo on Peak No.1 but facing different side.

If treated well, mountains give us clean water and fresh air, or they will hit back with flood and landslide. I’m glad that the forest on hills and mountains of Tambunan are in good condition, making Tambunan one of the greenest districts in Sabah. It’s sad that the Signal Hill of KK, which was used to be a lively hill with dense jungle, now has became a “Condo Hill”.

The following video is a good overview of our climb.

Descending

Next we were on our way descending to Sunsuron Village via the Standard Trail, which is about 4.75 KM in distance. Climbing up a mountain isn’t easy, but climbing down is more difficult. It’s advisable to bring packed lunch to the peak, so you can restore your energy level after eating.

Descending to Sunsuron Village

Descending to Sunsuron Village

Though the Standard Trail is less challenging than Jingkung Trail, there are a few steep sections that need rope support, which our mountain guide has provided. Even if it was drought season and the soil was fairly dry, I still found it hard not to slip.

Small Kolopis Sunsuron Waterfall

Small Kolopis Waterfall

The descending wasn’t easy, but it was faster and less tiring. We arrived Kolopis Waterfalls near the foothill after an hour. It’s a cascading waterfall with the small and deep waterfall in upstream and the big one 10 Meters downstream.

Big Kolopis Sunsuron Waterfall

Big Kolopis Waterfall

The big Kolopis Waterfall is a great spot for abseiling. A few of us couldn’t resist the temptation of clean mountain stream and decided to take a dip in the cold water.

Swimming under Kolopis Sunsuron Waterfall

Swimming under Kolopis Waterfall

Mountains are water towers of the earth because they provide 60 to 80% of the world’s fresh water. It’s quite amazing that Mount Wakid has flowing water after many dry months. Forest can do the magic of holding and releasing the water slowly.

Camping site at the foothill

Camping site at the foothill

Not far away from the waterfall is a camping site next to a stream. For those who want to enjoy the nature more, they can join the 2-day camping tour which includes mountain climbing, camping, abseiling at waterfall (by certified climbers) and night walk. A toilet is constructed for this campsite recently.

tall bamboo trees

Tambunan is also known as the Valley of Bamboo

During the climb, you would see bamboo everywhere, that’s why Tambunan is called the Valley of Bamboo. In Malaysia, there are 80 species of bamboo, and some can grow more than 20 Meters high.

Picnic next to Sunsuron River

Picnic next to Sunsuron River

Finally we arrived the farmland of Sunsuron Village at the end of the climb.

Crystal clear water of Sunsuron River

Crystal clear water of Sunsuron River

There were a few local farmers having their lunch at the riverside. They are so friendly that they even invite us to join them. Their food is really fresh and yummy.

River side picnic with local food

River side picnic with local food

In this trip we see not only the beauty of mountain, but also the beauty of clean rivers. Tell me, how often you see river as clean as the one shown in photos here?

Enjoying drink with the villagers at the river side

Enjoying drink with the villagers at the river side

A toast to Tambunan, a land free of pollution.

How to get there

To climb Mt. Wakid, you can appoint a mountain guide to bring you to the summit. The guide fee is RM70 (≈USD$17) per head. A certificate costs RM10 (≈USD$2.50). You can get a guide through the following contact, or hire one via Sunsuron Homestay.

E-mail: jingcom2004@yahoo.com
Tel: +60 13-8991857 (Mel)
Facebook: GunungWakid
Instagram: @gunungwakid
See More Photos of Mt. Wakid

For safety, you should get a guide to follow you. The trail is not well-marked, so you can lose your way easily like the grandma. There was a Korean who lost in the mountain. Luckily he was found and saved. If we only found his iPhone, we would have to rename this mountain to Mount iPhone.

Things to Bring

It’s warm during daytime, so you don’t really need extra warm clothing. The most important thing is to wear a pair of good hiking shoes. Below is a list of recommended items to bring:

  • Bottle of Water (min. 1 Litre)
  • Raincoat / Poncho
  • Snack / Energy Bar
  • Packed Lunch
  • Climbing Rope
  • Walking Pole
  • Optional: Swimwear

Photos taken in Tambunan, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

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