Marai Parai Route: climbing Kinabalu from the north-west flank

As a continuation of the articles about Western plateau of Kinabalu, I now give you an idea on what you are going to face while climbing Kinabalu from Marai Parai route. You will need a special permission from Sabah Park Authorities to get the permit and guide for this climb. Resource:

The first recorded ascent of this route was done in 1987. The route description as described by the first ascent party appears below. Be aware that, particularly on the initial approach, paths may have changed over the years since this description was documented. The first ascent team took two days and did not use any ropes. Ropes, however, may be necessary in wet weather. Few parties ever use this route.

Day 1
From park HQ, drive to Kampung Kian Satu by Land Cruiser (~1 hr.). From the road, take the prominent footpath which traverses the mountain northwards. The path traverses for about 30 minutes and then dips down to the Haya Haya River. Cross this river. The path then crosses three ridges and three more rivers called Sungai Makai Tukan, Dohatang and Kinotoki respectively. These rivers are easily crossed after a prolonged dry period, although it is understood that they are almost impassable with heavy rains. 2.5 hrs.

From Sungai Kinotoki, the path rises steeply and continuously to meet a ridge after about 20 minutes Here there is a T-junction. Turn right to climb up the ridge towards the mountain. A small clearing is reached in about 30 minutes (may be remnants of a camp here). This is the Marai Parai camp which is used by Sabah Park Staff and water is available within 50 m.

Continue following the ridge upwards from the Marai Parai camp for about 20 minutes until it opens out into grassy terrain. This is Marai Parai. The vegetation changes here due to a small zone of ultrabasic soil underlying the area. Nepenthes Raja, the park’s largest Nepenthes sp. (an genera of insect eating pitcher plants) is found here. The path continues upwards relentlessly but is fairly clear. Eventually, another open grassy clearing (known as Komburongoh Sodikas) is reached. This is where the cut trail ends. 2.5 hrs.

West Gurkha HutFrom the end of the cut trail, the route consists of finding ones way through the vegetation. The first ascent party followed various pig and deer trails which continued up the ridge to their first bivvy amongst the mossy forest at 9500 ft. Be prepared for thick vegetation and vicious rattan plants. No water is available here. The first ascent team reported making tea with water collected from Nepenthes, however, excessive use of this as a source of water has been known to cause diarrhea. 2.5 hrs.

Day 2
Continue up the ridge staying on the left side. The ground begins to fall steeply to the left and the vegetation becomes increasingly entangled. After about 30 minutes, you will reach a small hillock. From here, drop down to the north and across to the next ridge. The easiest line takes the bottom of a gully, however, the first ascentionists decided to head north after walking about 20 minutes as the gully was taking them to far to the West. Fight the tiresome vegetation heading North to a stream bed with water. 1.5 hrs.

Follow the stream bed upstream for about 100 m until the scrambling becomes more difficult. Head left over vegetated rock and back into mossy forest. Continue working upwards and left and cross another stream. After some more vegetation, the terrain becomes more rocky with scattered Leptospernum trees. 1.5 hrs.

Continue upwards and left to meet mossy forest. Eventually, you will reach the upper limit of vegetation against the steep rock face below Alexandra Peak. Follow the edge of the vegetation which rises up and left until it drops steeply away below a buttress at the North end of the Dewali Pinnacles. 1.5 hrs.

A gully drops down from the North from here. Easy scrambling gains access to the slabs below the buttresses of Dewali Pinnacles and on to the bottom of the gully between No Name Peak and Dewali. In dry conditions, the steep slabs are easily climbed directly to the West Gurkha Hut. 2 hrs.

April 16-17th, 1987 Steve Pinfield, Ansow Gunsalam, Robert New

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About drizad

A self employed General Practitioner who lives with his lovely family in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. He dedicates his spare time serving people with precious information on climbing the Majestic Mountain of the Borneo, Mt Kinabalu. Reachable at drizad(at)

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