Mt Rinjani vs Mt Kinabalu: which is tougher?

Mt Kinabalu (4,096 m) in Sabah, Malaysia
Mt Kinabalu (4,096 m) in Sabah, Malaysia
Mt Rinjani (3,726m) in Lombok, Indonesia
Mt Rinjani (3,726m) in Lombok, Indonesia

At the end of our trek, we compared the level of difficulty of the Rinjani trek with the many Kinabalu treks we have done. Most of the trekkers have done Kinabalu a few times. It was unanimously agreed by all who have done both, that the Rinjani trek was tougher. I had talked about this with trekkers – people I do not know – I had met in Bukit Timah and most of them tell me Rinjani was tougher. When these fellow hikers in Bukit Timah mentioned the comparative difficulty I found it hard to believe because Mt Kinabalu is higher than Mt Rinjani. However, now that I have done Rinjani and am in a better position to compare, I have to agree with all the other people’s opinions.

Perhaps one factor that weakens my opinion is that I climbed Kinabalu about 5 years ago. Memory of the hardship and challenge has faded. However, my friends have climbed Kinabalu recently and their opinions are that Rinjani is tougher.

My friends and I are easy trekkers. We are kiasu, kiasi, and kia bo. These friends have done several treks in Nepal like Poon Hill, Annapura Base Camp, Thorong la Pass and other Everest treks. They have done Mt Fuji in Japan, Mt Agung in Bali, and a tough Trans Gopeng Cameron trek. When compared all other treks with Rinjani – everyone said this was tougher.

The comparison between Rinjani and Kinabalu will look like this in a table of comparison:


Mt Rinjani

Mt Kinabalu


3726 m

4096 m

Difficulty level of first leg

2.5 out of 4

3 out of 4


3.8 out of 4

3.5 out of 4

Nature of challenge

-Loose gravel that sinks as you step forward.

-Sleep overnight in tents and inconvenience.

-Possible altitude sickness and thin air.

-Sleep overnight in relative comfort.

Return leg

3 out of 4

2.5 out of 4






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  • Hey there~

    Nice brief comparison you got there.

    I’m a Sabahan currently working in Singapore and actually just completed my 3rd ascent to Mt Kinabalu summit (which I’m kinda bored of by now, although the legs still hurt like hell after coming down).

    Just want to ask if there are any other treks that are similar or slightly more challenging in difficulty than Mt. Kinabalu? (and hopefully not too pricey) Next on my list is probably Rinjani, which led me to your post, but I just want to learn if there’s any others that I could do before tackling it.


    • Hi Cuthbert, Mt Kinabalu is a beautiful climb that is challenging yet doable. It is still for me the most wonderful introduction to trekking. I am no expert but having made three climbs of Kinabalu you should be able to handle the difficulty of Rinjani if you are a young man, except for the last stretch of volcanic grainy sands that sink with every step. You may want to do Mt Batur in Bali (much easier than Kinabalu) to experience what it means to climb the last stretch of Rinjani. When I did my climb in my late 50’s I noticed many young people who manage to do it hours ahead of me. Haha. You should be able to do it too, with dogged perseverance.

  • Hi there

    Me and my wife have just climbed Kinabalu, our first ever climb. The climb up and summit were good, but we found the climb down very tough on our legs.

    Reading about Rinjani I think it may be a bit too much for now, but wondered if a 2D1N trek just to the crater rim would be a more comparable challenge to Kinabalu. What do you think ?

    Many thanks

  • Hi Nick
    You are quite right but I think you would not have to face the altitude challenge of Mt Kinabalu. Instead you will face the challenge of soft volcanic sand of the summit.
    The return down will be more gentle for the 2D1N trek of Rinjani. Doable.

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