1. It’s tougher than you think. Do not underestimate the Mt Kinabalu. Respect it.
I thought I was ready for this climb. Turns out I was not as ready as I thought. Unless this is the kind of thing you do often, I can assure you that this mountain will challenge you. Be prepared for a tough climb and always respect the mountain. What got me through is telling myself to take just one more step. The slow and steady turtle does win the race.
2. Keep your group size small and insist to your booking company that you are assigned a good mountain guide.
Keep your group size small. My suggestion would be to have one guide for no more than a group size of three. You may find that not every member of your group will conquer this climb at the same speed. If you do happen to be the slower climber that’s ok, but you do want to have a guide with you, especially when you do the summit climb in pitch darkness.
We had the misfortune of being assigned a very pessimistic guide. He was not present with our group at most times. Instead he binged watched some show on his phone, listened to the local radio and smoked every opportunity he got. He repeated statements like "It will be very scary coming down in daylight", "You will miss surely your flight if you go further because coming down you will be slow”, "You go back down now". We were also not lucky with the weather. There was a wind storm and the visibility was very low. With the weather being like it was and the guide with his pessimistic attitude, I was unsure if he would actually guide me and keep me safe. I decided to return to Laban Rata. It did upset me that I was not able to reach the summit but it does give me a reason to go back.
Sometimes your mountain guide is the key for a successful climb. Make sure he/she is not the reason you do not finish your hike.
3. Do not book your return flight on the same day as your descent.
With small kids waiting back home, we decided to fly out of Kota Kinabalu the same evening of the decent. In retrospect this was not the best decision. We would have had more time to reach the summit and would not have felt pressured to descend quickly. I would recommend staying one night in the city. Your drop off to your hotel in the city should usually be included in your climb package.
4. Weather can be unpredictable. Be prepared for anything.
Rain, humidity, extreme winds, sub zero temperature or hot sun, in this two day hike you could experience any or all of these weather conditions. Layering is the key. Carry a fleece/down jacket in your light day hiking backpack so that you can put it on as you ascend. This jacket and your rain poncho is usually sufficient for the first days climb.
You will need to layer up for the summit climb but can remove these layers as the weather gets warmer on the way down.
5. Hire a porter and carry only the essentials in your backpack. Keep your day backpack as light as possible.
We had packed three separate bags. First one for the day 1 hike, second one for the second days hike and a third one with all the things we didn’t need on day 1 and day 2. We either wore or carried the day 1 things, the second bag is what our porter carried up for us and the third one we left back at HQ.
Our backpacks weighed no more than 5kg and had only the essential things like medication, fleece jacket, food and water. A light backpack on your back makes for an easier climb.
Here is everything I packed for the climb up Mt Kinabalu
Click the image to download a PDF version of the checklist.
Need more info regarding training in Singapore for a climb?
MOUNT KINABALU CLIMB - Training in Singapore
Looking for more info regarding the climb?
FLIGHTS, TRAVEL TO HQ AND INFORMATION ABOUT MT KINABALU CLIMB