Climbing Mount Kinabalu? Let us tell you when is the best time to do it and why!

Climbing Mount Kinabalu

22 January 2020

Consider this situation: you overcame your fear and finally decided to climb Mount Kinabalu. Congratulations! That is not an easy decision, and we are so proud of you. But now comes the hard part: picking the date to scale the mountain.

As you are picking the date, you might wonder about the best time to climb Mount Kinabalu (or Akinabalu, as the locals fondly call it), right? Well, the short answer is between March to September.

Locals generally recommend around March to September because of the dry season. During the months, the weather is usually nicer with a low chance of rain to come down, which makes it the perfect time to conquer Mount Kinabalu.

However, that is not the only best time to climb the mountain. Contrary to popular beliefs, the months between October to January is also a good period for your hiking session up Akinabalu. Locals might advise you to avoid those months because Malaysia experiences more rain in the beginning and at the end of the year, which can make the climb more challenging.

But true as that may be, there are perks to climbing the mountain from October to January. Despite what people say, we would still recommend hikers to scale Mount Kinabalu during that period and here are the reasons why:

The monsoon season in Sabah is not the same as the rest of Malaysia

Malaysia experiences two monsoon seasons annually: the Southwest Monsoon, happening between May and September; and Northeast Monsoon, falling between October and March. So people tend to avoid going for the climb during the wetter Northeast Monsoon, and instead, opt for the dryer weather during the Southwest Monsoon.

But that does not paint the whole picture.

You see, Sabah experiences the monsoon a little bit different than the rest of Malaysia. During the Northeast Monsoon, only the state’s Northeast Coast experiences more rain while the rest of Sabah is relatively unaffected. That means while we still experience slightly more rainfall, it is not as severe as the Peninsular Malaysia and Sarawak. So basically, climbing the mountain between October to January is not that different compared to other months of the year.

Chance of summiting is high

So, let us get the big question out of the way: is it more likely for Sabah Parks to close the summit from October to January? The answer is yes, but not by a large margin. And even when that happened, it is likely due to an unusual weather condition. Still do not believe us? Just look at the table below:

Summit Closure From 2016 to 2019

  2016 2017 2018 2019 Average percentage of closure in a month
January 0 2 2 2 4.84%
February 0 0 1 0 0.89%
March 0 1 1 0 1.61%
April 1 1 0 0 1.67%
May 0 1 0 0 0.81%
June 2 0 0 0 1.67%
July 0 0 3 2 4.03%
August 0 1 6 1 6.45%
September 1 0 0 2 2.50%
October 2 11 0 0 10.48%
November 1 0 0 5 5.00%
December 0 4 1 0 4.03%
TOTAL 7 21 14 12 Source:

Take 2019, for instance. From October to January, the summit was only closed for seven times altogether. And the five closures in November? It is actually due to unusually bad weather happening in that month, which does not occur every year.

Another example would be in 2017, where half of the year’s total closure happened in October. Typically, that period would be a pretty good time to scale the mountain. In fact, Sabah used to hold the annual Mount Kinabalu International Climbathon in October. But in October 2017, Typhoon Lan hit the Philippines, and Sabah experienced strong winds and severe storms because of that. As a result, Sabah Parks closed the summit for more than one week.

Sabah Parks will only close the summit during extremely bad weather, and on average, that happens for about 10 to 15 times throughout the year, and sometimes, even less than that. Considering that we have 365 days per year, having your climb date falling on one those days is pretty rare!

It is easier to secure climbing slots

Sabah Parks allocates 165 climbing permits per day for everyone, meaning that there is not a lot of people allowed to scale Akinabalu each day. The situation gets worse in peak season where it will be a challenge for you to get any available slots, and even if there is any, your options will be extremely limited.

On the flip side, there will be fewer people wanting to climb the mountain around October to January. That means you will have more options and you do not have to compete with many people to get the date that you want. And with fewer people around, you will be able to appreciate the mountain better as you climb to the summit!

As a side bonus, fewer people also means that you do not have to wait too long in the buffet line at the resthouse.

Cheaper rates from tour operators

While climbing the mountain will not cost you an arm and a leg, we are sure every climber will appreciate a cheaper price tag, right? Well, what if we say there is a sure way for you to get a low price from tour operators?

In microeconomics, the rule of supply and demand states that a decrease in demand for a particular good causes its price to go down. That is an oversimplification of the economic principle, but it is true for Mount Kinabalu.

Remember when we said that there are more slots available from October to January? That is good news for you because that means tour operators had to lower their price to attract more people to climb the mountain during that period. And do you know what that means? More bang for your bucks!

Higher chance of seeing a spectacular sunrise

One of the highlights of climbing Mount Kinabalu is watching the sun going up slowly and lighting up the surrounding land. But not every sunrise promise a brilliant technicolour show of pink and orange in the morning. However, you do have a higher chance of seeing a beautiful sunrise when there are clouds around. And do you know when you can get many clouds? After a rainy day!

Okay, here is a big disclaimer: sunrises are beautiful regardless of the weather condition. That said, there is something special about looking at the sun as it peeks over the horizon and clouds hovering past the mountain. The clouds’ movement creates a dynamic scenery of the sunrise, and believe us when we say the view will take your breath away!


There you have it; five reasons why you should conquer Mount Kinabalu from October to January. In all honesty, you can climb the mountain whenever you want to because it all boils down to your preference in the end.

Generally speaking, March to September would be the best time to hike Mount Kinabalu because of the dry weather, making the climb much more pleasant. During those months, however, the climbing slots will be fully booked, and it will be harder for hikers to secure any slots unless they book months beforehand.

On the other hand, October to January would also be a good time for your hiking session. Since Sabah’s monsoon weather is different from the rest of Malaysia, the hiking condition would not be vastly different compared to other months. Besides that, since not many people are climbing the mountain, the price for the climb tend to be cheaper and securing climbing slots will be much easier.

In short, conquer Mount Kinabalu whenever you feel like it because there is no wrong time to do it. The only mistake you can make is if you think that you can only enjoy going up Mount Kinabalu at a specific time of the year. If you do that, you will be missing out on a lot!

Challenge yourself and book your Mount Kinabalu climb now!

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