Mesilau Trail is another trail to climb Mount Kinabalu, Sabah besides the Timpohon trail. The Timpohon trail is said to be a shorter route to the mountain base camp in Laban Rata and is expected to take about six hours.
The Mesilau trail is longer and takes more than 11 hours to reach the summit of Mount Kinabalu but despite the longer hiking hours, Mesilau trail is more scenic and less strenuous. This route is used mainly for scientists and researchers as it takes longer (about 5-6 hours to Layang-Layang from Mesilau, as compared to 2-3 hours on the standard route to Timpohon Gate), and many parts are steep and slippery, particularly in wet weather.
If you wish to use this trail, you must register and pay a small fee either at the Kinabalu Park Headquarters or the Mesilau Gate before they start.
The trail begins from Mesilau Nature Resort, 15 kilometers away from Kinabalu Park Headquarters. To reach the resort, you have to follow the main road past the Kinabalu Park Headquarters, 6 kilometers down to Kundasang. Just beyond the vegetable stalls that are such a feature of Kundasang, the road turns left for another 11 kilometres, descending steeply to cross the small Liwagu River.
It is here, in the shadow of Kinabalu, that the garden memorial to Allied soldiers (Kundasang War Memorial Park) who died during the Second World War was built. Kundasang is also the centre of the highland vegetable industry in Sabah that grows cabbages, tomatoes and onions along the hills.
The Mesilau Trail leading from Mesilau Nature Resort to Layang-Layang (Carson’s Camp) on the Summit Trail was opened only in October 1998. The start of the trail from Mesilau Gate up to the first steep descent is an enjoyable walk in itself that only takes about one hour, one way. The trail starts from a shelter just above the reception office in the tall oak-chestnut forest, but conifers soon become more common and climbing bamboos dominate the undergrowth.
After about 20 minutes, near the ridge crest at about 2,000 meters, the forest suddenly becomes much shorter and more stunted, with rocks and boulders jumbled among tangled tree roots, covered in spongy mosses and liverworts.
The path soon rises steeply once again to an open patch, before levelling off slightly, still following the narrowing ridge crest which opens out at the top, giving stunning views of the mountain above, if the weather is clear, you can see waterfalls and rock faces above the resort, as well as views over to the Trus Madi range to the south-east.
The ridge-top is reached just before the 1.5 km mark. Here the trail starts to descend quite steeply down the other side, through taller forest with climbing bamboos. Some little streams are crossed before reaching the Kipuyut bridge, a suspension bridge across the swift-floating West Mesilau river at 2,073 meters, that cascades down from the precipitous slopes of the Eastern plateau above.
From here the trails follows the ridge, rising steeply and continuously, up and up and up in almost never-ending series of steps for about 2.5 kilometers with occasional views across to the Summit Trail as you get higher. At last you reach a very narrow col which joins onto the main Kinabalu massif. From here another 500 meters of trail, more or less contouring around the massif, will bring you out onto the Summit Trail, a little way above Layang-Layang (Carson’s Camp). The whole route from Mesilau to Layang-Layang is 5.7 kilometers.
This route has been promoted in the past as an alternate path to the first part of the peak climb, but it is very much lengthier and more arduous than the usual trail which is only about 3 km from Timpohon Gate to Layang-Layang.