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Climbing Mount Nombuyukong (1,603.57 Meters)

View of Mount Nombuyukon behind the chalet in Serinsim park

In a dreadful climb to Mount Tambuyukon, the third highest mountain of Malaysia, I rested on a high ground where I could enjoy a panoramic view of rolling mountain range. Then I noticed Mt. Nombuyukong (Gunung Nombuyukong), which has a pointy peak like a witch hat. I was bewitched by its beautiful tit tip and wanted to climb it since then, and I did, after 6 years.

View of Nombuyukong Peak from Mt. Tambuyukon

View of Nombuyukong Peak from Mt. Tambuyukon

Compared to Mt. Tambuyukon (2,579M), Mt. Nombuyukong’s height at 1,603.57 M is less intimidating and can be conquered within half-day. Since it’s on the same mountain range with higher Mt. Tambuyukon, technically it’s a peak, but people call it Mount Nombuyukong anyway.

View of Mount Nombuyukong behind the chalet in Serinsim park

View of Mount Nombuyukong behind the chalet in Serinsim park

Managed by Sabah Parks, Mt. Nombuyukong is located in Serinsim Park substation (in Kota Marudu) at north of Kinabalu Park. The park is highly accessible by paved road and about 130 KM away from Kota Kinabalu City (KK), the capital of Sabah, Malaysia. Currently, this mountain is not well-known, and most climbers are hardcore adventurers from Peninsular Malaysia, who would try to conquer Mt. Tambuyukon and Nombuyukong in one trip.

Summary of Mt. Nombuyukong

Height: 1,603.57 Meters (5,261 feet)
Starting Point: Serinsim Park, Kota Marudu. GPS: 6.292631, 116.707422 (see Location Map) (130 KM away from Kota Kinabalu City)
Hiking Distance to Summit: 6.47 KM one way (You will use the same route to ascend & descend)
Time: Return trip (nearly 13 KM) normally takes 9 or more hours

Peak of Mt. Nombuyukong in the cloud

Peak of Mt. Nombuyukong in the cloud

Difficulty: 3.5 out of 5 (I’m a seasoned hiker)
Temperature: about 27°C. On the Peak: 20-24°C
Minimum Cost of Climbing: MYR59.80 (Malaysian) or MYR146.00 (Non-Malaysian) per adult (approximately USD$15 and 35 respectively). More details on this later.
Notes: Register and pay first before climbing. Sabah Parks requires climbers to start climbing before 7:00am, and you must hire a guide from them.

The 6-min video below will show you how the climb looks like:

How soon you reach the summit is depend on your fitness and “style”. For example, I started climbing at 7:00am, reached the top at 1:15pm, and return to the park at 6:20pm (a total of 11 hours & 20 minutes!). I was slow because I stopped a lot to take photos.

The Climb

The following is my climbing log. You can click any photo in this article to enlarge it.

Trail map of Mount Nombuyukong

Trail Map of Mount Nombuyukong

Start of Climb

I met my guide, Mr. Hendrick, at the starting point of the climb, which is just behind my hostel (Name: Asrama Kanarom) in Serinsim Park. After a short briefing, we started the climb at 7:00am. Please note you will pass through 6 gazebos along the way (about one for every 1 KM)(Pondok is Gazebo in Malay language). I use them as markers here.

Starting Point→Gazebo No.1

We reached Gazebo No.1 (Pondok Damar) at 7:25am.

Junction to the peak of Mt. Nombuyukong

Junction to the peak of Mt. Nombuyukong after 400 Meters

Gazebo No.1: Pondok Damar, 1,000 Meters to Gazebo No.2. (Pondok = Gazebo)

Gazebo No.1: Pondok Damar, 1,000 Meters to Gazebo No.2. (Pondok = Gazebo)

The trail is mostly flat in the beginning and under the shade of lowland rainforest. Mt. Nombuyukong is a mini version of Mt. Tambuyukon. Whatever hardship you experience in climbing Mt. Nombuyukong, multiple it by 3 and that’s what you will face on Mt. Tambuyukon. Both look quite alike in terms of vegetation and trail condition.

Gazebo No.1→Gazebo No.2

We reached Gazebo No.2 (Pondok Seraya) at 7:45am.

Gazebo No.2: Pondok Seraya, 1,000 Meters to gazebo No.3

Gazebo No.2: Pondok Seraya, 1,000 Meters to gazebo No.3

The peak looks so far away, even for car. But sorry, no shortcut such as cable car and helicopter.

Mt. Nombuyukong 6.5 KM away

The peak of Mt. Nombuyukong is about 6.47 KM away

With a few gentle slopes, this trail section is relatively flat and a bit muddy. Next to Gazebo No.2 (Pondok Seraya) is a portable toilet (squat type) with a broken door.

Earthstar mushroom (Geastrum sp.)

Earthstar mushroom (Geastrum sp.) looks like miniature orange before mature (left). When mature (right), the outer layer of its fruiting body splits into segments which turn outward creating a star-like pattern and reveals a smooth, grayish-brown and egg-like spore sac. Then it waits for rain drops on its central pore to force a jet of spores out through a small opening in the middle. They are generally not toxic but inedible.

Gazebo No.2→Gazebo No.3

We reached Gazebo No.3 (Pondok Gaharu) at 8:36am.

Gazebo No.3: Pondok Gaharu, 1,000 Meters to gazebo No.4

Gazebo No.3: Pondok Gaharu, 1,000 Meters to gazebo No.4

Walking in mixed hill dipterocarp and lowland rainforest

We walked in mixed hill dipterocarp and lowland rainforest in the beginning

There are about 300 Meters of steep trail, and the trail is relatively flat after that.

Second junction to Mount Nombuyukong

Second junction to Mount Nombuyukong

The popular version of Kinabalu Park is its mossy and foggy montane forest in cooling Kundasang highland. In Serinsim, you will see different face of Kinabalu Park, which is dominated by lowland rainforest and mixed hill dipterocarp abundant with tall trees under warm and humid environment.

Tall tree in Serinsim Park

Tall tree is common in Serinsim Park

As we were in higher altitude, we were rewarded by soothing breeze and cooling air.

Gazebo No.3→Gazebo No.4

We reached Gazebo No.4 (Pondok Menggilan) at 9:50am. We were only 2.3 KM away from the summit now.

Gazebo No.4: Pondok Menggilan, 1,000 Meters to gazebo No.5

Gazebo No.4: Pondok Menggilan, 1,000 Meters to gazebo No.5

The trail was getting more undulating, and we started to feel like real climbing.

Trail after 3rd gazebo

Trail after 3rd gazebo

Things I saw between 3rd and 4th gazebo

Things I saw between 3rd and 4th gazebo

From Serinsim Park, you also can walk two days to the Musang Camp about 18 KM away, the last campsite on Mt. Tambuyukon. The distance is longer but less challenging than the standard summit trail to Mt. Tambuyukon, according to Hendrick.

Gazebo No.4→Gazebo No.5

We reached Gazebo No.5 (Pondok Aru) at 11:03am.

Gazebo No.5: Pondok Aru, 1,000 Meters to last gazebo

Gazebo No.5: Pondok Aru, 1,000 Meters to the last gazebo

After 200 Meters of flat trail, we ascended on a gentle slope to the ridge. The trail 200 Meters before Gazebo No.5 is quite steep.

Big waterfall next to Gazebo No.5: Pondok Aru

Big waterfall next to Gazebo No.5 (Pondok Aru)

As we were deep inside the jungle, we saw the holes dug by wild boar, heard woodpecker pecking the wood, and spot a herd of red leaf monkey on the tree. This is a healthy rainforest, so inevitably there are some leeches. Just put on anti-leech socks and you shall be fine.

Beautiful trees and rainforest

Beautiful trees and rainforest

Hendrick said if we were lucky, we would see Orangutan, Pygmy Squirrel, Clouded Leopard and Tufted Ground Squirrel.

Interesting plant along the trail

Interesting plant along the trail. The water of mountain creek is so cold and fresh to drink

Gazebo No.5→Gazebo No.6

We reached Gazebo No.6 (Pondok Wasai) at 11:48am.

Gazebo No.6: Pondok Wasai, 720 Meters to the peak

Gazebo No.6: Pondok Wasai, 720 Meters to the peak. (Puncak = Peak)

This section is the most difficult part of the climb. Minimal rope support is available along the steep or narrow trail.

The hardest part of the climb

The hardest part of the climb begins

Summit trail with rope support

Summit trail with rope support

We started to see green moss, lichen and algae on the tree barks and ground, a characteristic of lower montane forest (cloud forest) in mountain region.

Gazebo No.6→Summit

We reached the summit at 1:15pm!

Steep gravel trail

Steep gravel trail

The last 720 Meters to the summit is mainly steep trail with loose soil and gravel, and flanked by dense undergrowth.

View after the last gazebo

View after the last gazebo

There is a camping ground about 200 Meters before the summit. Some climbers camped there so they could catch the sunrise next morning.

Trilobite Beetle (family Lycidae)

Trilobite Beetle (family Lycidae) feeds on rotten wood. Its bright color warns predators of its distastefulness.

The Summit

Finally we were standing on the peak about 1,603.57 Meters (5,261 feet) above sea level.

Approaching the summit of Mt. Nombuyukong

Approaching the summit

summit of Mount Nombuyukong

It’s me on the summit of Mount Nombuyukong

It was windy and cooling up there, with dense cloud passing by the peak swiftly.

signage on top of Mt. Nombuyukong

You can see Kota Marudu, Kota Belud and Poring from the peak

On the summit, you can have a bird-eye view of Kota Belud, Kota Marudu, and Poring. However, sometimes the peak is enveloped by fog then you would see nothing.

Upper Left: pine tree on the peak, Upper Right: marker of ending point, Lower Left: highest point, Lower Right: Sayat-Sayat flower

Upper Left: pine tree on the peak, Upper Right: marker of ending point, Lower Left: highest point, Lower Right: Sayat-Sayat flower

View from the peak of Mt. Nombuyukong

View from the peak of Mt. Nombuyukong

After taking enough photos and selfie, we descended at 1:53pm and reached the park at 6:20pm (a total of 4 hours 13 minutes).

How to Climb

Easy, just go to the Sabah Parks office in Serinsim Park, register and hire a guide one day in advance.

Item Fee / Rate
Climb Permit Malaysian: MYR31.80
Foreigner: MYR106
Student below 18: MYR12.75
Insurance MYR7.00
Certificate (optional) MYR5.30
Mountain Guide MYR90 (can guide up to 5 people)
Conservation Fee Malaysian: MYR3.00
Foreigner: MYR15.00
Below 18: MYR1.00 and MYR10.00 respectively

Since the Park requires climber to depart at 7:00am, it’ll be easier if you stay in the park. The accommodation fee for adult range from MYR42.40 (per bed in hostel) to MYR106 (per room of chalet) per night. I leave the math of final budget to you.

Certificate for climber who conquers Mount Nombuyukong

Certificate for climber who conquers Mount Nombuyukong

Contact of Sabah Parks

For further info, you may contact Sabah Parks:
Tel: +60 88-523500 (KK Head Office)
Website: www.sabahparks.org.my
E-mail: sabahparks@gmail.com / sabahparks@sabah.gov.my
Facebook: Sabah-Parks-122393837931233

If you plan to stay in the park, you should call in advance to check if the accommodation is fully booked, especially during school holiday.

What to Bring

The most important of all is to wear comfortable hiking shoes that work well for muddy and slippery trail.

  • Packed lunch
  • Water
  • Raincoat / Poncho
  • Camera & spare batteries
  • Energy bar
  • Insect repellent
  • Anti-leech socks
  • Toilet paper
  • Walking stick
  • Torchlight (in case you come back really late)

When you go back to KK, you may try using the new highway (asphalt road in great condition) that takes 46 minutes to reach Poring. The view is scenic when you pass through small villages and mountain along the way.

Photos taken in Kota Marudu, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

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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

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. Both trails start at Laban Rata and end at Sayat-Sayat checkpoint.

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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