Low’s Peak Via Ferrata
Photograph by Christian Kober, Corbis
Kinabalu National Park, Malaysia
Best for: The shortest way to the top of Malaysia’s highest peak
Distance: 1,198 vertical feet
Jutting out of the surrounding Borneo rain forest, 13,435-foot Mount Kinabalu (or Low’s Peak) is not just the highest point in Malaysia, it also ranks number 20 on the list of mountains with the most prominence—it rises to that height straight from sea level, a similar prominence to higher peaks including Mount Rainier and K2. The granitic uplift is also a rare treat, providing an alpine environment close to the Equator, and the alpine meadows on the high peak support one of the highest concentrations of endemic plant life on the planet, including the world’s highest concentration of wild orchids.
The hike up this monster is grueling no matter how you try it, but the most fun way to the top is on what the park bills as the highest via ferrata in the world. The route is a true fun ride—it heads straight up sheer cliffs, crosses swaying suspension bridges, and requires nerve to climb hand over hand on metal rungs in the rock face with nothing but open air all around.
Thrill Factor: Though it dishes out a ton of gripping moments with high exposure, this is not a particularly difficult or inherently dangerous via ferrata. It is rated AD, Assez Difficile or fairly difficult, on the French via ferrata rating system and 3 on the Fletcher/Smith system. Mountain Torq, the company that runs tours on the via ferrata, guides the trip and requires participants to be age 17 or over. The elevation gain from sea level can be rough, too. Most hikers take two days to scale the peak.
Take It Easy: You do not have to take the via ferrata to summit Mount Kinabalu. Both the Timpohon (5 miles round-trip) and Mesilau (7.6 miles round-trip) trails will take you on tours to the lodge at Laban Rata and 10,735 feet. From here, the intrepid can hike the standard Summit Trail, a difficult 3.6-mile, 2,625-vertical-foot round trip that does require navigating steep ledges and staircases. There is also an easier version of the via ferrata, called the Walk the Torq, rated PD, Peu Difficile or “just a bit” difficult, on the French system, that also runs to the summit. All hikes and via ferrata ascents require a guide.
courtesy of: http://adventure.nationalgeographic.com/adventure