Mount Kinabalu Summit Trail map comparison between a climbathon runner and a casual climber

by drizad on July 22, 2013

While browsing through Every Trail, one of the best website which has a connecting apps for the smartphone to track any jungle or mountain trail that you took, I found two different trail profiles of Mount Kinabalu. One trail profile was posted by a Mount Kinabalu Climbathon runner and the other one was posted by a casual climber. Both showed the elevation profile of the mountain in simple term of how did they do while running / walking / hiking / climbing / scrambling the trail in relation of the time they took and the elevation of the trail from sea level.

Although both person took the same Summit Trail, you can see the difference in the profile of how they took the trail. I just would like to inform you that the most immediate difference that you could see from the profiles was the TIME taken to finish the trail climb. While the average climbathon runner took less than 6 hours to complete the course (some climbathon runners can make it in less than 3 hour mark), casual average climber will take at least one and a half day. Haha. (Click image to enlarge)

Mount Kinabalu Climbathon Summit Trail profile information

Mount Kinabalu casual climber's profile information

The Climbathon Runner

If could see the red button with the word “GO”, that is the point where climbathon runners starts their run, just few hundred meters before Timpohon Gate. Timpohon Gate is situated at about 1600 meters above sea level (the start of the blue line in the graph) where this is also the official gate for anybody who would like to enter the Summit Trail up the mountain.

everytrail-2

You could see the starting speed of the runner, the first 800 meters of the climb showed the climber ran about 9 km/h. That’s a pretty fast starting speed as these few hundred meters was run on a paved road. After entering the gate, the runner will start climbing stairs – some says that its the unending stairway to hell – and starting from this point, you could see that the speed goes down to around 6 km/h for the next 6 kilometers. As the runner gets higher and higher, the speed is significantly slower, as fatigue sets in.

After the 6 kilometer mark where Laban Rata is, the speed of the runner gets slower, just around 4 km/h for the next 2.5 kilometers. The runner actually ran on barren rock – the summit plateau – for the last 2 km up until Low’s Peak.¬†This slowing down of the speed may be due to exhaustion and exertion of the runners running up into thinner air. At 3200 meters above sea level, there is a significant drop in temperature, barometric pressure and thinning of air, making the runner hard to breath. It can be a significant stress to the runner’s wearing body, scrambling slowly to reach the peak at 4095 meters after running uphill for about 8.5 kilometers.

After tapping the signboard at Low’s Peak, 4095.2 m above sea level, the climbathon runner must run down the mountain as fast as they could back to Kinabalu Park HQ. You can see the runner running down fast at about 9 km/h for the first 2 km on the Summit Plateau, and the speed gets slower just as he reached the stairs. From kilometers 10 to kilometers 12, the speed was about 5 km/h and the speed gradually increased to about 20 km/h as the distance nearing the 20 km mark. These last few kilometers was fast because it was run on paved roads.

In total, a climbathon runner will cover 20 km of trail running (including paved road) with 2565 meters of vertical up and 2837 of vertical down. The fastest that a climbathon runner can finish the race in less than 3 hours. This runner finished the race in less than 6 hours. Almost double the time. Not sure about the pain.

The Casual Climber

Any casual, slow, relaxed and unfit climber of Kinabalu will start the climb from the same point as the climbathon runner – The Timpohon Gate. As you can see from the graph, from kilometer 0 to kilometer 6, the speed of the climber never reaches 9 km/h. The elevation gradually increased from 1600 meters above sea level to 3200 meters, and you could see that at this point, the elevation does not increases although he walked the distance.The climber walked about 2 kilometers at this level because he is at Laban Rata Resthouse, a point where every casual climber has to stop and have a rest.

summit-trail-graph

After taking a rest for few hours, recharge the energy, refuel the body and maybe taking a bath, climbers have to wake very early to continue their journey up the peak. At 2 am in the morning, casual climber has to wake up to complete another 2.5 kilometers journey to the Low’s Peak. As you can see, the climb starts at 10 kilometer mark up to 12 kilometer mark, where he reaches the peak. The speed was really, really slow at about 1-2 km/h (snail pace) at this moment because they were walking in the dark, cold and high altitude. Usually they will reaches the peak after scrambling about 2-3 hours, just a nice time to catch the sunrise.

Ah… at that point, you have reached the highest peak of Borneo. It was such a relief to achieved one of your dream of a lifetime. But wait. The pain is NOT OVER yet. After spending less than 10 minutes at the peak, taking photos and congratulating other climbers that reached there after you, its time to go down. For those who love mother nature, this will be the time where you can see one of the most beautiful scene of your life - Mount Kinabalu at its heart.

Climbing down after the peak was also very slow at about 4 km/h, and the speed were consistent for the next 8.5 kilometers down back to Timpohon Gate. When a climber reaches Timpohon Gate, they will be picked up by a shuttle bus back to Kinabalu Park HQ. That is why you could see that the speed increases up to 40 km/h.

In total, a casual climber will cover about 25 kilometers of hiking (including walking about at Laban Rata) with 2710 meters of vertical up and 3057 meters of vertical down. An average climber will usually finishes this trail in one and a half day. Just to remind you that the post-climbing pain and agony will last for about a week.

Happy climbing!

*For geeks who want to know what did the climbathon runner used to track their trail, it was Garmin Forerunner 305. The data was then transferred / synced with Every Trail. For your information, Forerunner 305 is now obsolete. Get Garmin Forerunner 310XT GPS Sports Watch with Heart Rate Monitor instead.

I have helped thousands of climbers of Mount Kinabalu to book their climbing spot since 2006. If you want me to help you, just fill in the form below and send it to me. Thank you very much! 

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