- Elevation: 2,046 m (6,713 ft)
- Prominence: 400 m
- Ribu category: Spesial
- Province: Sarawak (Malaysia)
- Range: Kelabit Highlands
- Division: Bahagian Limbang
- Google Earth: kml
- Other names: Batu Lawih
Batu Lawi, also spelt ‘Lawih’, is one of Borneo’s most iconic mountains, with two steep sandstone summit pinnacles. It can be clearly seen from the small aircraft that fly daily from Miri to Bario. The lower ‘female’ one of the two is about 1,850m whereas the taller ‘male’ peak further north is around 2,046m above sea level. The mountain is of great significance to local people including the Kelabit and the Penan. They successfully campaigned to have it included in the Pulong Tau (‘our forest’) National Park which also covers nearby Gunung Murud, the highest in Sarawak, and much of Gunung Tama Abu (2,113m and a prominence of around 702 metres) a vast fortification-like range stretching down to the south-west of Bario which is one of Sarawak’s least accessible peaks and was only summited first in 2009 from the west side via Long Lellang. This Park was gazetted in 2005 but the foothills of the great mountain have been heavily scarred by logging activities over the years.
The city of Kuching fell during the Japanese occupation in late 1941, and much of coastal Borneo was under Japanese control by early 1942. The self-sufficient Kelabit Highlands were a different story, being so remote and rather far from the coasts. Batu Lawi, being so iconic, was known to the Allies as ‘Mount 200’ and used as a key landmark for aviators flying over the interior (usually from Morotai airbase, in present-day North Maluku, Indonesia via The Philippines). In March 1945, Tom Harrisson parachuted into the “Plains of Bah” around Bario with seven other Westerners, in order to assist the local people and work together to prevent Japanese conquest of the interior. Tragically, the plane that Harrisson travelled on never made it back to the Philippines and no trace was ever found. Harrisson didn’t find this out for several months.
A little later, in 1946, Harrisson along with a team of local Kelabit people – including Lejau Unad Doolinih – finally made it to the top of the female peak where Harrisson left a wooden memorial to Flight 200. After the surrender of Japanese forces, Harrisson became Curator at Kuching’s Sarawak Museum and wrote an excellent book on the Kelabit Highlands entitled ‘World Within’ (first published in 1959) which includes many sentences devoted to the near-mythical ‘great twin white pinnacles’. 40 years later in 1986, a British and Australian team led by Jonny Beardsall reached the top of the male peak. And in 1987, a second memorial made of bronze was erected next to Harrisson’s wooden memorial on the female peak. In 1999, Lightner and Volker climbed the highest peak in an expedition which was written about in Lightner’s 2002 book ‘All Elevations Unknown’. The Swiss campaigner Bruno Manser supposedly planned to climb Batu Lawi in May 2000 – after a failed attempt in 1988 – and was never seen again. The male peak was successfully climbed again in 2007 by Malaysians from a university in Cyberjaya on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur.
Bario is one of the very finest places in Borneo to spend a few days and has genuinely rich culture and history with hundreds of ancient megaliths dotted around the landscape including the famous Batu Ritung dolmen at Pa’ Lungan. One of the reasons for its great success as a settlement is the salt springs found in several of the villages which has a high natural mineral content. To reach the base of the mountain from Bario takes a couple of days, so a proper trip to view the summit cliffs up-close requires a minimum of 4 or 5 days in total. Experts would need several more days for an actual rock climb up to the top of the male peak. The lower female peak is a scramble, especially near the very top where a rope ladder is usually required, but there is only very limited space for erecting tents. John Briggs, author of ‘Mountains of Malaysia’ (published in 1988) was of the opinion that the dawn view here is the second best in all of Malaysia (after Gunung Trusmadi). Batu Lawi is perhaps one of the best examples of a peak which is visually extremely prominent, being a vertical finger of rock, yet because it is connected via a high pass to the higher Gunung Murud it has only 400 metres of topographic prominence.
The usual trailhead is in the village of Pa Ukat (1,075m). This leads northwards via many stream crossings and Shelter 3 (1,780m), Shelter 4 (1,640) which is near a logging road and finally Shelter 5 (1,485m) which is at the foot of the peak. The trek passes the Tamu Abu cliffs, Ulu Limbang and Pa Tabun.
The standard itinerary looks like this (will be updated with clearer information in late 2024):
Day 0 – Arrive in Bario. Have a briefing with your guide prior to starting the hike the next morning.
Day 1 – 8-12 hours of hiking to Shelter Batu Buli at a gap in the Tama Abu cliffs. Batu Buli is to the left (west) of the trail, with the north or main peak being 2,082m (6830ft – 3.8294, 115.4319 – and P283) and the southern peak being 2,094m (6870ft – 3.8114, 115.4403 – and P360). The mountain is famous for its pitcher plants.
Day 2 – 6-10 hours of hiking descending via mossy forest and Ulu Limbang to Shelter Batu Lawih which appears to be near Pa Tabun.
Day 3 – 4-8 hours of hiking to Batu Lawih saddle (and optionally the female peak) and back to Shelter Batu Lawih.
Day 4 – 8-10 hours of hiking from Shelter Batu Lawih to Arur Bila’ Bigan Shelter.
Day 5 – 10-16 hours of hiking from Arur Bila’ Bigan Shelter to Pa Ukat.
Day 6 – Fly back to Miri from Bario, and onward to Kuala Lumpur or wherever you are headed. The flight from Bario is usually at 11am so you do have time for a very quick ascent of Prayer Mountain on the edge of Bario before leaving.
For a high quality PDF version of this and other trail maps, please download from our Trail Maps page.
- Getting there: Fly to Bario with MASWings from Miri.
- Trip planning assistance: Would you like Gunung Bagging to personally help you in arranging your whole trip? Please contact us here.
- Permits: Register with locals and take a local guide from Bario, booked at last a week in advance. Typically RM1350 per person for a minimum of 2 hikers, with slighly lower prices for larger groups. Porters and food preparation available for an additional fee.
- Water sources: Lots of streams. Available as far as Shelter 4.
Local Average Monthly Rainfall (mm):