How to Ascend Mount Kinabalu on a Budget
BORNEO, INDONESIA- Climbing Mount Kinabalu can be expensive if you don’t take care to watch your costs. The main lodge at base camp costs up to $150 per person depending what season you visit, and paying for your own guide, required, can be expensive as well. Kinabalu Park used to issue single day passes for climbers looking to dodge the overnight fee, but they have since done away with the one-day pass after building hostel accommodation at the Laban Rata base camp.
Make sure you stay somewhere near the mountain the night before you begin your trek. Even if it costs a bit more money, it will save you a ton of hassle when getting to the starting gate in the morning. The last climbers leave at 10:30 a.m., so there isn’t a lot of time to organize a cab or a bus to get to the base if you happen to be staying far away, such as in Poring Hot Springs (where I so foolishly booked). Save yourself the trouble and stay near the base. Personally, I would recommend Jungle Jack’s. I met a bunch of people on my climb that were staying there, and went back to Jack’s after our descent—he took me in with open arms and gave me a shower and a meal for 10 ringgit. He gave us a ride from the base, and as on old-school Bornean traveler (with tales to tell, I may add)—it’s worth it to stay at Jungle Jack’s the night before your trek.
Here are the fixed costs for your summit, and what you can expect to pay for them:
-Your Conservation Fees, 15 ringgit: you need to pay when entering any Kinabalu Park facility (such as the Poring Reserve), so save your ticket if you've already purchased one!
-Your guide, 150 ringgit: it's required that you hike the mountain with a guide, regardless of how experienced you are
-Your overnight costs, 330ringgit: since the park only issues two-day passes, you must stay overnight in a lodge if you want to make it to the summit. This includes food.
-Your guide: your guide costs 150 ringgit for up to 5 people. Ensuring you have 4-5 people in your climbing group greatly reduces the cost of hiring a guide.
-Your overnight costs: stay in the hostel. Pack warmly, since it's absolutely freezing and you will likely get a poor night's sleep, but staying in the hostel will save you lots (330 ringgit vs. ~500 ringgit)
-Bring as much food as possible so that you don't have to purchase snacks on the way (meals are included in your lodging cost)
-Hiking poles are 10 ringgit, and will be a lifesaver on the way down--your quads will be killing you.
-Return shuttle from the base lodge to the Timpohon Gate, where you begin the trek, is 30 ringgit. You can try to save a bit by walking, but it's really quite far and a poor way to start or end a trek.
Be sure to follow these rules, and you’ll spend as little money as possible trekking to the top: stay near the base, hike in a group to minimize guide costs, bring your own food, and stay in the hostel, and you’ll be spending as little money as you possibly can to get to the summit. It’s well worth it.