5 Tips For Surviving A Mount Kinabalu Climb
No two steps are the same, with the surrounding scenery changing every few hundred meters to give you a new, breathtaking view of Borneo.
About Mount Kinabalu
The first, and maybe most important thing you should know about Mount Kinabalu, is that it’s the largest mountain in the entirety of Southeast Asia. It’s 4,095 meters tall, and is surrounded (and covered on the lower parts of the climbing route) by dense, lush rainforests. It’s a popular climbing challenge for tourists and locals alike, who see summiting the peak a great adventure. To help you make the climb up Mount Kinabalu, there are dozens of tour operators (including us!) who run transportation, guide services and arrange accommodation for the climb. For most it’s a two-day hike, starting in the early morning and staying overnight in a bunkhouse at the halfway point. If you get up early enough on day two, you’ll be in time to catch the sun rising over the mountain peaks – and believe us, that’s one you won’t forget in a hurry!
#1 – Take The Right Equipment
This climb is not for the faint of heart, so you need to make sure that you have everything you need to stay safe and keep your energy up. If you’re fit and healthy, then you should only need basic climbing gear – there won’t be any scaling sheer cliff faces for this one! Wear comfortable clothes that won’t soak up water and will keep you cool, and warm if you need it. You should also take:
• A small rucksack
• Waterproof jacket, and trousers if you want them
• A head torch for the early morning portions
• A water bottle – there are plenty of spots to refill along the way
• High energy snack foods, including lunch
• A basic first aid kit, including blister plasters
• Thick hiking socks
• Clean clothing for the second day
• Basic toiletries – don’t forget some painkillers for those aching legs!
• Sunglasses (for if you’re really lucky)
• Your camera – you won’t want to miss a shot!
If you don’t own any of this already, don’t worry. There are hiking and outdoor shops in the city of Kota Kinabalu that can kit you out with everything you need.
#2 – Be Prepared For Altitude Sickness
Altitude sickness can take down any climber, no matter how seasoned you are or what your level of fitness. Just as many experienced climbers have suffered from it as first-timers, so don’t take it lightly. Instead, take precautions to ensure it doesn’t ruin your trip. You can try a variety of medications or techniques (you can read more about those here), but the ideal way to avoid altitude sickness is through acclimatisation. So if you can, stay at high altitude overnight before the climb, in somewhere like Kinabalu Park, which is offered as part of our 3 Day Mount Kinabalu Climb package. If you feel yourself getting dizzy or nauseous during the climb, don’t try to push through it. Instead, stand still (don’t sit or lie down) and see if you return to normal after a few minutes. If you don’t, you may have to abandon your climb.
#3 – Take Your Time
It can be really tempting when you first start off on your climb to race off, enjoying the surrounding views while keeping your eyes firmly fixed on summiting quickly. But when it comes to Mount Kinabalu, slow and steady is the best policy. The mountainside is slippery, covered in moisture and plant life, and very easy to injure yourself on. So make sure you keep a steady pace, and take regular (but short) breaks. Stopping for too long can let your body cool down, making it much harder to keep going. On the descent, you might struggle with gravity trying to pull you down quickly, Try walking in a zig zag and leaning your body weight back a little – this will reduce joint pains and help stop you from slipping.
#4 – Stay Hydrated
Hydration is really important during your day to day life, but when it comes to the physical exertion and altitude of climbing a mountain, it’s essential. Mount Kinabalu might be a tropical paradise, but all of that humidity will just dehydrate you even faster! Keeping your fluids up is an essential part of maintaining your energy and surviving a climb. We estimate you will need to drink a minimum of four to five litres of water a day as you climb, so you’ll need to bring a big water bottle (or 2 smaller ones) to refill as you climb. We also recommend you bring some water purification tablets to use at the refill stations, since the water quality can be variable!
#5 – Post-Climb Recovery
When you finish your decent of the mountain, you’ll be feeling exhausted and ready to collapse into your bed and sleep for a week. And trust us, you will need to do that. But first, take a long well earned hot-soak in a bath to relax your muscles. In the days afterwards it's best to keep gently moving your legs as your muscles recover - try gently swimming in the tropical waters of Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park or join a snorkeling tour if you feel you're up for finding Nemo too!
At Borneo Dream, we run a wide variety of jungle trekking and mountain climbing expeditions, ideal if you want to see the sights of Borneo from up above. We regularly run 2, 3 or 4 day guided mount Kinabalu climbs, so that you can make the most of the sights and sounds with an expert at your side. If you’d like to find out more about the famous Mount Kinabalu climb, or to book your expedition, just get in touch with us today.
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