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To climb or not to climb the Mount Kinabalu

Updated: Mar 12

Scrolling through forums and old tripadvisor comments to find out if climbing the Mt Kinabalu is doable or not? Well, I was doing the exact same thing a few weeks before traveling to Malaysia and the differences in opinion got me so confused that it took away a bit of my excitement but I really appreciated all the honest comments and feedbacks I read online.

Elevation: 4,095 m / Prominence: 4,095 m / Location: Sabah, Malaysia / Mountain range: Crocker Range / First ascender: Hugh Low

So here’s my view on things.


Do you need to be in shape?

You don’t need a six-pack obviously to climb a mountain but a good overall physical condition is a must. I really recommend to listen to your guide’s advice; keep a good but steady pace while climbing. I work out 5-6 hours a week and I found it definitely doable but it was not easy by any means. My husband runs marathons but found it equally hard, especially going up, you really need a lot of stamina. Don’t rush it, but don’t go too slow either.


What's the deal with all those carbs?

Do you really need to eat all that food? Yes! Don’t be scared of all the carbs coming your way, you will need it. Two breakfasts? Don’t skip any meal! I think I ate my lunch package at 11am because I was already starving. Fried cold chicken never tasted this good..



Mixed dorm or private room?

If you have a little more money to spend I would say yes yes yes to the private room. It has a small heater, a private bathroom, two separate beds...I really needed some privacy and a good night's sleep after climbing the first part. The room is still not very warm though but those flashes of hot air when you are tired and cold, is pure heaven.


What to bring?

Here is the ultimate tip: bring at least 3 sets of clothing! If you have perfect weather on your way up and down, you will not need them but if you climb in rainy conditions you will. One outfit to change when you reach Labanrata (it is really not so warm inside!), another outfit to climb in the middle of the night, and other one when you go back after breakfast. I did not pack enough clothes and I ended up wearing my boyfriend's dry-fit outfit. We also dried our hiking shoes with newspapers, says enough :)


Also please consider hiking shoes. There are a lot of sites that say that sneakers with a good grip are enough but I slipped even with my hiking shoes, so please leave those running shoes at home!


What is the view like on the top?

Honestly, I don't remember too well. Have you seen any pictures of the sunrise on this blogpost? Well no, because it was rainy and cloudy when we reached the top and instead of enjoying the beautiful view, we had to rush back down. Chances of seeing the sun coming up are 50/50 I believe.

Enjoying the beautiful sunrise..NOT! ;) Our five seconds of fame on the top of the mountain in the cold cold rain!


There is ALWAYS the chance you might not reach the top

Not trying to discourage you but there is a chance that you might not reach the top...Here's why:

  • If the weather is too bad they will close the gate just before doing the last step, which makes it really hard because you will be exhausted from climbing and you cannot go any further.

  • You might get altitude sickness and this is somehing you cannot control, ultramarathon runner or not...



What is next on your itinerary?

Please keep in mind that your legs and knees will feel like rubber from climbing down the mountain, so don't do anything too active in the next few days. We went to the Kinabantangan river to spot animals in the wild after climbing the mountain.


Also a quick tip if you are flying in from Mulu Park: make sure you foresee a few days in Kota Kinabalu before your climb. Flighs often get canceled and you might reach KK with at least a one day delay. This happened to us and we had to reschedule our climb..

"I work out 5-6 hours a week and I found it definitely doable but it was not easy by any means. My husband runs marathons but found it equally hard, especially going up, you really need a lot of stamina. Don’t rush it, but don’t go too slow either"

Conclusion; when my husband and I had to fill in a survey for our marriage ceremony there was a question on the most funniest moment in our lives and we both filled in – separately – climbing the Mount Kinabalu…So that says enough right? I really enjoyed the change of scenery every time you moved up a few hundred meters and the feeling of reaching the top in not so great weather conditions, felt like a true victory. The only negative aspect of this whole experience is the price you have to pay to climb. We had the pleasure to book the climb with Amazing Borneo but spent at least a few hundred euros for the package (which included a guide, lunch package, a private roam - there are only a few! - and all meals). Great service but it comes at a price.



A private room at Labanrata - would truly recommend it!