Across Land & Sea Travel Blog

Six things you need to know before climbing Mount Kinabalu

It was 2.00am, and after hours of torrential rain hitting the windows of our mountainside cabin, we were given the news that we could start the hike to the summit.

We shuffled on our waterproof jackets, beanies and head torches and, groaning, started our ascent.

One day earlier we had climbed to 3, 272 metres to spend the night at Laban Rata and now we were ready to conquer the last stretch and reach Mount Kinabalu's peak sits at 4, 095 metres above sea level.

Altitudes such as this were unfamiliar to us, with Ben Nevis being the highest mountain in Britain at under 1,500 metres (and only one of us had conquered that!) 

Nevertheless, we walked on and we were soon sitting on the granite waiting for sunrise. It goes without saying, however, that conquering Mount Kinablu was not an easy task. Here’s five things you need to know before attempting the climb.


Despite how warm it is in Kota Kinabalu, you should bring plenty of layers. If you are climbing the 2D/1N package as we were, you should also bring a head torch as you will be climbing to the summit in the dark. Finally, you never know when it might rain so always bring a waterproof, even if it is a small thing. If you need to buy any items, there are plenty of shops in Kota Kinabalu.


We didn’t have much of an appetite during the climb, perhaps because of the adrenalin or altitude sickness (see below), so we failed to eat enough. Fast forward one day and we were projectile vomiting, had awful diarrhoea, all because we had exhaustion for not eating enough. It’s not fun, trust me.


f you’ve never been at altitudes that high before, or never reached a significant height above sea level in such a short space of time, you may not know that you’ll suffer from altitude sickness. It’s your body’s way of telling you that you’re not getting enough oxygen, and it can give you a headache, make you lose your appetite, feel nauseous or dizzy and even vomit. Whilst we are not medical experts, cannot be liable for any information we give and strongly advise you to seek medical advice if symptoms develop, we found that drinking lots of water and descending soon after feelings worsened helped. Luckily, Rachel only felt unwell when we were already at the summit so down was the only way we could go!

Nº 4 - You should not get naked!

Remember those tourists in 2015 who decided to strip off at the summit? They disrespected what many Malaysians see as a sacred spot and broke Malaysian law, landing them in jail for a few days. Don't be like those guys. 

Nº 5 - You will ache for at least 48 hours afterwards

Unless your Bear Grylls, you will ache. A lot. In odd places as well as your legs and feet. So do not plan anything strenuous (or anything at all) for a day or two after your climb. We struggled to get up the stairs (and Rachel even had to hop on and off the curb). That should give you an indication of how sore we were.

Nº 5 - The porters carry everything up the mountain

You will see all sorts being carried by locals up the mountain: mattresses, food containers, chickens... They can pace the mountain 10x quicker than you or I and are carrying heavy loads, so be on look out for when you can let someone past. 

We paid RM 1150 per person with Downbelow back in 2013, which equated to around £220 back then. The cost included all transfers to and from Kota Kinabalu, all meals, two nights accommodation (one near the foot of the mountain prior to the climb and one 2/3 up), our guide, entrance fee to the park, climbing fee and insurance. Yes, it's quite expensive, and you can no doubt find cheaper deals. We had a fantastic guide for just the two of us and the service was impeccable, so would recommend Downbelow.


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