Contemplating on climbing Mount Kinabalu? Have already researched and, coming from a place of the world where mountains are still free and not subjected to the irrational claims of some arbitrary power, found the demands of Kinabalu National Park authorities extravagant, absurd and ludicrous? Not feeling rich or stupid enough to concede to such abusing claims, but still want to climb Mount Kinabalu? If so, you might want to consider the following instructions on how to climb it without sparing a single dime for its self-so-proclaimed proprietors…
After having befound myself in the above-described predicament, I gave every possible trifle of my energy to the effort of discovering a manner which would let me climb this mountain without needing to accept all the ridiculous fees imposed upon it. And after having given all this effort I’m led securely to the conclusion that there is only one way to achieve such a task. And that is to sneak oneself up to the mountain. In the beginning, I also gave some effort to scrutinize the details of how such a venture could be worked out. Due to lack of information, however, of what I’d be to encounter up there, I did not after all attempt it. I rather yielded accepting an offer of about half the value of money originally asked. After having climbed the mountain, though, and having the chance to see how the whole thing works, I now safely believe that a sneaking venture up to it is not only plausible but fairly easy as well. And here’s how:
There is only one open trail leading up to the mountain, which, not only because you probably wouldn’t want to enter into some illegal and precarious expedition of many days trying to find a different route, but also because the success of your sneaky project chiefly depends upon effectively commixing and synchronizing yourself with the rest of the climbers, you are obliged to follow. A sufficiently replete moon should also be of your aid, as you will need to move around in the night without using a torchlight. You are going to spend one night on the mountain, so you will need a tent, a sleeping bag, and cooking gear, all of which you must cram well into your backpack, so to keep them hidden, as it is not allowed to camp on the mountain, and them being seen will inevitably mean ‘game over’. Other things you need are: warm clothing preferably of gray hue, torch, and GPS.
You should arrive at the Kinabalu National Park entrance early in the morning. There you will need to pay a small fee to enter the park. You could as well quite easily shun it, but it’s so paltry that it doesn’t really worth the trouble. From there it should take about half an hour’s walk to Timpohon Gate, where the trail to the top starts and, to pass through, you are normally compelled to have a guide and the costly permission. That’s where you need to sneak yourself past, and shall probably be the hardest and trickiest part of the whole thing. The gate is premeditatedly installed on the narrowest point of a ridge-pass with deep and densely vegetated precipices falling steeply on either side. A rather bold and straightforward attempt to pass through the gate unnoticed wouldn’t be impossible at all, but it would presuppose you are quite an expert in ninja-like techniques. Safer and more logical would rather be to bypass the gate detouring through the forest. The right, east slope seemed to me quite fitter for this job, it could though be done from any side. Leave some good distance from the gate, before reaching the wire-fence, and, when sure nobody’s watching, enter the forest. It will be quite steep but you should encounter no serious difficulties moving through. As quietly and carefully as possible, complete your detour and once at some good distance past the gate you come to the trail and start hiking like nothing happens.
From here on the rest should be easy. You should normally carry with you the card which functions as a ticket, but it is extremely unlikely anyone should ask you to display it at any point, given you raise no suspicion. The hikers are usually combined into larger groups with only one guide who must be following the last person of the group, so being seen to hike all by yourself is totally fine. You should avoid starting any conversation with anybody. Keep your distance from the others while trekking and take not your rests at the signified posts. If you somehow come into a conversation with someone keep it short. Pretending your English skills are limited should be a very good way to do that. In case anybody asks you of your trip details, make up a story of your friends and guide following behind.
After a couple of hours of trekking, you should be approaching Laban Rata lodge. That’s where all the hikers shall spend their night. You don’t have any good reason for coming too close to it, so allow yourself some range, choose the right moment and make a dash for the bush. Once you have found a quiet and well-hidden spot, you can pitch up your tent and spend the rest of the day in peace.
You should be up again by 1 or 2 am. That’s when everybody’s gonna start to reach the summit before sunrise. Pack up your stuff, put your warm clothes on, your lamp aforehead, and you are ready to start. Another good idea would be to leave your backpack down, not only to rid yourself of all the unnecessary weight, but also to avoid the suspicion which shall inevitably be raised if you are the only one up there carrying his entire backpack. You shouldn’t though leave it at the spot you camped as to get back to it by sunlight will be even more problematic. You should rather hole it up somewhere nearby the trail, so you will be able to reach it undetectably in the morning.
The night is your greatest ally. You just take the trail up and keep moving normally. The vegetation shall give out and you’ll be following a rope along the naked granite surface of the mountain. A while after you shall be approximating the checkpoint situated before reaching the top. Bypassing it shall be an effortless business. Just turn off your light, make a short detour and get back to the trail again. The trickier part shall be when you need to pass it again in the morning. An idea would be that you make it very rapidly to the top, coming first there, and heading down right away with your torch off and abandoning the trail altogether, so you pass the checkpoint before sunrise. Since you have made it up there, though, I believe it definitely worths seeing the sunrise from the top, which is an absolutely splendid phenomenon. On your way down you should do pretty much the same detour you did in the night past the checkpoint, though it will be manifold as difficult. You shouldn’t worry that much for the controller, as he will be surely perching in his warm den playing some video game on his phone, or something, while irksomely performing his tedious task every time someone passes. You should be more worried of the guides who will be descending simultaneously with you. You are driving these guys out of business, they’d surely be more than eager to snitch you at their first sight of yours. You should rather choose a short and swift detour right from the back side of the guard-post. As long as you started first, right after sunrise, having gained well ahead of all the guides, you should have no problem.
From there on you just head down normally. Pick up your backpack and when back in the forest you better hide and wait for a little while till the first of the people reach you. That way you will not look suspicious, by being far ahead of the customary timing, to the guides you will encounter on the way ascending. Once back to Timpohon Gate use the same route as the day before to sidestep the control, and here you are out again, having climbed Mount Kinabalu for free.
Just in case, now, you get busted… The most appropriate information would only be gotten after consulting the Malaysian law. However, I deem it very unlikely that anything really bad should happen. Most probably you’ll end up walking away with a fine, which, if you are not a Malaysian citizen or resident, you never need to pay of course.