Hiking Tips for Mount Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia

Survival Tips when climbing Mount Kota Kinabalu 

Things You Should Prepare For Mountain Climb: (All packed in plastic bags /ziplocks)

Waterproof backpack
Trekking Shoes with good grip
Heat tech top (Uniqlo)
Dri - Fit Top (first and third climb)
Compression tights (first and third climb)
Lightweight Windbreaker Jacket (first and third climb)
Windbreaker Jacket with fleece (summit climb)
Waterproof Hiking Pants (summit climb)
3 Trekking Socks 
2 Disposable Raincoat 

Head torch plus Extra Batteries
Pen light 
Small towel / Bandana
Waterproof Climbing Gloves  (i brought ski gloves)
Undergarments (3D2N)
Personal-(soap, deo,facial wash) 
Tissue paper 
Wet Tissue 
Ear plugs (Optional)
Lip gloss / small Vaseline 
Water bottle (1 Litre) 
Camera with water proof bag
Waterproof phone case
Extra Plastic bags / ziplocks
High energy food such as biscuits, chocolates, energy bars, nuts (for summit climb and descending down the mountain)
Milo 3in1 powder (optional, beverage is provided in Laban Rata like coffee and tea)
Pack of Sour Sweet Candy 

Medication such as headache tablets (panadol) or altitude sickness tablets (dimenate)
First aid kit: Bactroban (antibacterial), Panadol , Imodium, Vicks Vaporub, bandage (cloth and cohesive), Gauze, plaster, alcohol swab and a Whistle

2 heat packs (My friend gave this to me as a gift, it was intended for my summit climb. However, I've only managed to use it during the descend down the mountain, minimal heat was provided).

Some things we decided to distribute to each one of us to avoid overpacking:
Tre - Sun block lotion, Bactroban, Toothpaste, Panadol , Imodium 
Idell -Cogesic Cream (muscle cramps), Shampoo, Dimenate, Charcoal, White Flower 
Katharina -Mosquito repellent, Lotion, Vaseline, Electrical tape ,Sterilization Tablets, Universal Charger
Extra luggage can be stored at Kinabalu Park HQ at a nominal fee of MYR 12 per piece prior climb. Passport will be required for verification at the Kinabalu Park office. Please bring it along with you.

Best Month to Climb is during Summer Season

Kota Kinabalu Itinerary:
23rd April - Arrival 8:05 pm
24th till 26th April - Mt. Kota Kinabalu Climb
2 Extra Clothing for: 26th and 27th April - City Tour and Food Trip 
27th April - Flight  2:45 PM

First Climb: Mount Kota Kinabalu 

Timpohon Gate to Laban Rata

Our first climb to Mount Kota Kinabalu begins! The climb started from Timpohon Gate to Laban Rata, where we stayed for the night and continued the ascend to the summit the following day. 

1. Secure Bags
Wake up early to double check your things for the first climb. If you're  planning to hire a porter packed all your things in a waterproof bag and packed in ziplock. The porter can carry all your things for the second and third climb ( HQ To Laban Rata and vice versa). All three of us combined our things in two bags and one bag was left in the Kota Kinabalu HQ for safekeeping. 

Baggage can be stored at Kinabalu Park HQ at a nominal fee of MYR 10 per piece prior climb.
Porter Fee: MYR 100/SGD 50 (The weather is unpredictable so All your things must be packed in plastic bags /ziplock)

Travel Light. Packed for Small hiking Bag: (unfit climbers make sure to keep your bag light)
Lightweight Windbreaker
Water bottle (1 Litre) 
High energy food such as biscuits, chocolates, energy bars, nuts, sour sweet candies 
Medication such as headache tablets or altitude sickness tablets
Disposable raincoat
Small towel /bandana
Ear plugs (optional)
Camera with waterproof bag
First Aid kit: Gauze, plaster, roller bandage, alcohol swab, safety pins, and rubber bands. 

To avoid over-packing we decided to assigned specific items to each one of us. 
Idell- Cogesic(muscle cramps), Dimenate(altitude sickness), Charcoal(bloated) and White Flower 
Katharina- Mosquito repellent, Vaseline(cracked lips), Electrical tape , Sterilization Tablets 
Tre- Sun block lotion, Bactroban (antibacterial cream), Toothpaste, Panadol , Imodium (diarrhea), Kefentech Plaster (muscle cramps)

Trekking Pole/ Walking Sticks is available for rent at Kota Kinabalu HQ for MYR 10-MYR 12. Ask your assigned agent and mountain guide about it. 

2. Have a light breakfast in Balsam Buffet Restaurant. Don't forget to collect your packed lunch there before heading to Timpohon Gate. 

3. Start at slow pace and try to enjoy your surroundings. Take it more easy especially when you reached the 3.5 km mark, as you get to the top the chance of having altitude sickness is higher. 

4. It's not a marathon, save your breathe and energy. This is quite important so I'll repeat this again. The stairs ahead will get more steeper and you will need an enough supply of energy and proper breathing to make it to Laban Rata , and to make sure you're significantly still in good condition. If you already felt sick when you get to Laban Rata, that's already a bad sign and a factor of lowering your chance of getting to the peak the next day. 

5. Hydrate and Fuel up. Take sips of water. We managed to empty our 1 litre of bottled water. Energy foods like oatmeal biscuits, chocolates and banana's are great options.

6. Take lots of pictures with your friends and the mountain view. Catch the energy and laughter's with the first climb and compare the pictures with the second climb. Watch your friends images as they crumble during the second climb and yourself! with the collection of pictures you've taken. Ahahaa I love my climbing buddies and I wouldn't ask for more. 

I love the part when we the reached the 4 km mark, the misty mountain was mesmerizing with all the gray scale colored trees. The view resembled like from the movie entitled "Lord of the Rings." 

Check out different kinds of flora growing in the mountain like the white small orchid, fruit-bearing raspberry plant and the famous insect eater Pitcher Plant. 

7. Climbing Buddies. You must have the same goal and motivation. If not at least you watch each others back. Safety comes first and with that you need people whom you can trust.

8. Try to walk in Zigzags. Alternate from left to right. Do not put more strain on one leg. If you feel the need to rest both legs it should be in one platform, do not leave the other leg behind putting all the weight on the other leg in front of you. Don't forget to flex your toes, refrain from wearing tight shoes and buy trekking socks. 

9. Breathe. Sometimes we forget to do this when we exert too much effort on being fast, this will leave you breathless and you might get altitude sickness. I tried to avoid breathing in the mouth as much as possible, to make sure all the muscles in my body are oxygenated. You will take in more oxygen if your breathing came from your nose.

10. Do not rest for more than 3-5 minutes. Mr. Roland, our mountain guide told us is sitting down was fine but we should avoid doing this especially on the second climb. I tried to refrain from taking a seat as much as possible except for the 3.5 mark and when we had our lunch break at Layang Layang Hut. 

Our first climb lasted for 6 hrs and 30 minutes from 0900-1530 not bad for amateur and unfit climbers. We took our time chit chatting with our mountain guide, taken lots of snapshot pictures and enjoying the scenery especially when we've reached the 4 km mark. The mist started to be visible and the cold air creep in the nearby bushes. 

Second Climb: Kota Kinabalu Summit 
Laban Rata to Low's Peak

The Second Climb will resume 2:30 early in the morning the following day. A non-heated dormitory will host everyone for a night. This is crucial for the body's temperature to adjust and to recharged your energy. Prepare yourself because the real challenge begins on the second day. 

11. Get some sleepBe reminded that the second climb starts at 2:30 AM. Have your dinner early in the afternoon. Be in bed before 7 in the evening or earlier than that. Keep in mind its a non-heated dormitory. Wear your warm clothing, the temperature drops at night, having cold feet will not get you a goodnight sleep. This is the time to bring out your ear plugs and eye mask to ensure or at least help you get some sleep.

12. Prepare all your things ahead of time. 
Packed for Small hiking Bag: (All packed in ziplock/waterproof bag) 
Whistle (emergency) and a Extra batteries (head torch)
Water bottle (1 Litre) 
High energy food such as biscuits, chocolates, energy bars, nuts, sour sweet candies 
Disposable raincoat
Lip Gloss
Medications such as headache tablets or altitude sickness tablets 

Some items we distribute in each bags: to avoid overpacking 
Idell- Cogesic (muscle cramps), Dimenate (altitude sickness, Charcoal (bloated), White Flower 
Kath- Mosquito repellent, Vaseline(cracked lips), Electrical tape , Sterilization Tablets 
Tre- Sun block lotion, Bactroban (antibacterial cream), Toothpaste, Panadol , Imodium (diarrhea), Kefentech Plaster (muscle cramps)

13. Wear proper clothing: 
Trekking Shoes (seriously buy one!)
Waterproof Windbreaker Jacket with fleece (with Hood)
Uniqlo Heat tech top (inner wear) and a Neck Warmer
Waterproof Hiking Pants
Waterproof Climbing Gloves (bought ski gloves)
Head torch on top of your Beanie
Hiking Socks (buy specific one to avoid blisters)
Make sure your bag is big enough for your jacket and fleece. You will eventually have to remove your warm clothing when descending back to Laban Rata. 

14. Have a light breakfast in Laban Rata. Don't forget to have some bananas it's rich in potassium that will surely fuel up your climb. 

15. Start at a low pace. The air is thinner up in the mountains. Be reminded you're already 3,000 metres above sea level. It doesn't mean by making it in the first stop you're chances of having altitude sickness is gone. The only sure cure for altitude sickness is to go down the mountain. My friend had it when we reached Laban Rata, she was vomiting and no appetite for food. However, her strong to will to reach the summit was immeasurable. In case you're wondering my friend made it to the summit. 

16. Find your motivation. The mountain will test your endurance, even your mental and spiritual state. I was motivated to reach another mountain to add in my adventure checklist. I wanted to prove to myself that I can do and I know I can do it. I told myself even before the climb that I will reach the summit no matter what. Even if I had to use drastic measures like crawling or using my teeth to move myself up the slope. I was that motivated! Ahahaa

17. Hold the Ropes and Watch your Step. This is why you have to secure a head torch, a waterproof climbing gloves and your trekking shoes. Listen to your mountain guide and hold on to the ropes. Get ready to be amaze when the sun rises and lights up the trail you've climb at dawn. 

18. Again Try to walk in Zigzag's. Alternate from left to right. Do not put more strain on one leg. If you feel the need to rest both legs it should be in one platform, do not leave the other leg behind putting all the weight on the other leg in front of you. This technique will lower the chance of having strains or sprains. You don't think of just reaching the summit you also need to take good care of your lower limbs to make it down the mountain. Keep in mind to use the same technique when going down the mountain. 

19. Breathe. Sometimes we forget to do this when we exert too much effort on being fast, this will leave you breathless and you might get altitude sickness. I tried to avoid breathing in the mouth as much as possible, to make sure all the muscles in my body are oxygenated. You will take in more oxygen if your breathing came from your nose. Make sure to get to know your body especially when it comes to breathing. You will eventually know this when you go for preparatory hikes a few months before your climb. 

20. Do not rest for more than 3-5 minutes, refrain from sitting as much as possible. I didn't even dare to lean on a rock. Resting for too long during the second will increase the chance of getting altitude sickness and muscle cramps. Reminders: Try to reach the checkpoint before 5 in the morning or else you will be politely asked to go back to your way to Laban Rata. The patrol officer will check all climbers by showing each of the name tags to make sure the climb is documented. 

21. Supportive Comrades. Roland, our exceptional mountain guide was one of the reason why we made it on top . He always reminded us not to sit down, rest for too long and he never fails to say two hunting words in the climb, "keep moving." It really did kept us moving. If your mountain guide is not that motivating then you just have to deal with it. This is the reason why we choose our climbing buddies. My climbing buddies were positive and energetic. You should surround yourself with positive energy and in that way you will be motivated spiritually and emotionally during the climb. 

22. When you're up there stop,pause and breath in the wonders of nature. Take it all in! Say a prayer, give thanks or make a wish. They said if its your first time to be on a mountain you can make a wish, it wont hurt if you try. The queue to Low's Peak signboard will take some time, so for the mean snap some pictures while in line. Heading back to Laban Rata. You will still follow the path you've taken back to the starting point when descending the mountain.

23. Hold the Rope, turn your backside to the front side (just like you're rappelling down). Slowly walk yourself down the slope. A safety measure and an easy way down the mountain. 

24. You made it on top so you can make it down too. As what they say "What goes up must come down" , a good thought motivator. 

25. Be back in Laban Rata before lunch time. Checking out should be done before 1130 in the morning or you have to pay for the extended time,another great motivation! Try to reach Kota Kinabalu Park before 1530 to have lunch, later than that will be converted to packed lunch. 

Last Climb in Mount Kota Kinabalu
Tips for descending down Mount Kota Kinabalu

The summit climb was exhausting good thing we had an hour break back at Laban Rata for our brunch. The climb down resumed around 11:30 before noon. Descending down was a piece of cake! Ahahaa. We were able to let go of our stress and struggles during the summit climb so I guess that explains our fast paced and carefree spirit trek down the mountain. 

26. Be back in Kota Kinabalu HQ before 3:30 in the afternoon. For two main reasons: 

a. A porter fee will be added if you don't reached the designated time. This is quite reasonable the guys deserves a break and keep in mind that they're bringing your heavy bags.
b. The next reason kept me motivated.Late lunch at Balsam Restaurant in Kota Kinabalu HQ. If you dont reach on time your meal will be converted to a packed lunch. 

27. Same rules applies, descend down in Zigzags. Alternate from left to right. Do not put more strain on one leg. If you feel the need to rest both legs it should be in one platform, do not leave the other leg behind putting all the weight on the other leg in front of you. We we're almost done with the climb so we try to ensure not to get any injury descending down the mountain.

28. Don't hold your breath. Sometimes we forget to do this when we exert too much effort on being fast, this will leave you breathless. I tried to avoid breathing in the mouth as much as possible, to make sure all the muscles in my body are oxygenated. You will take in more oxygen if your breathing came from your nose. The air is fresh and invigorating when we went down the mountain, getting breathless was not a problem. 

29. Enjoy the misty mountain. Once you reached the 4 km marked, it will eventually fade away. Take a peak of the last steepest rock stairway, the mist around the bushes and the untold heroes of Mount Kota Kinabalu. The untold heroes are the porters who brings food and supplies to mountain guides and climbers up in the mountain. 

30. Less pictorial session. By this time I bet you've already taken hundreds of pictures during the first day and summit climb. Instead on focusing on taking a self portrait or capturing your foot try to enjoy your surroundings. See the beauty of the trail, the stairs, boulders and the different kinds of flora around the mountain. We made it back to Timpohon Gate about 4 hrs and 15 mins from 11:30-1545, just enough time to have our late lunch in Kota Kinabalu HQ. Unfortunately, we we're picked up late from the Timpohon gate to the headquarters. In the end we had to eat our packed lunch inside the transport van back to the city. Drop off transfer was provided in the package. Travel time from Kota Kinabalu HQ to city proper: 1-2 hours, depends on the traffic. 

After the climb:  Reward Yourself

31. Find a nice affordable hotel. 
Sky Hotel - Check in for one night:$120 / MYR 320

The room was spacious, has its own kitchen, living room and a nice view of the city. We don't really need this kind of accommodation yet after living in bunk beds, shared toilet and no privacy for a few days, it was a good haven. My friend booked this hotel for the rooftop swimming pool, unfortunately we we're not informed that it was under renovation-too bad. A massage was needed after an exhausting 2 days climb, all the muscles in our body needed some intensive touch to put it back in place. The taxi seemed to have its own fixed price in the city for MYR 30. Even if the nearest massage outlet was just 10 minutes away. 

32. Get a Full Body Massage (with Ginger Oil) : MYR 65/ SGD 32
The massage was painfully sweet especially the head massage I was blissfully lost with every stroke of her hand, that doesn't sound right ahahaa. Im so glad she knows where to press gently and harder. I always get a massage with every country I go to , its part of my vacation checklist aside from my adventure and bucketlist checklist. 

33. After the climb
The muscle pain on the first day was not that visible however, the following day it tickles you painfully with every step you make. Ahahaa Its not really that bad the pain is tolerable. Apply some muscle rub in the painful areas or muscle cramps plasters. After 3-4 days you'll be good as new, this time around don't hesitate to take the stairs. 

34. Share your experience. I learned a lot of tips from different travel sites and blogs I've read. Now I'm sharing the experience and providing helpful tips to other climbers. Please consider the fact that I am not a professional climber, all tips are based on my experience. 

35. Check out the whole story here: Mount Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia

Guest Bloggers (Climbing Buddies Post):

Have fun and be safe ^__^


Itinerary Reminders:

1. Flight Details
Make sure to write down your booking reference number, be at the airport two hours before your flight and allocate time for your travel to the airport.

2. Accommodation Details
Write down your hotel/motel/resort/bnb booking number. Contact your place to inform them around when you'll be arriving — it really does help.  Also, ask if your accommodation has any discounted activities.  You'd be surprised!

3a. Transportation
List possible times your bus/train/boat arrives and leaves so you don't miss an activity.  Always give yourself an extra 30-45 minutes in case you get lost, get stuck in traffic, or are looking for parking.  Better early than late.  Of utmost importance: check for the last trip and fares!  So you still have time and money to get back.

3b. Car Rentals
Take note of your pick-up address and time allotted.  Our last car rental told us to bring the car back by a certain time with a certain amount of gas.  Allot money for fuel and parking.

4. Budgeting
Set aside a minimum and maximum spending amount for: meals, transportation, entrance fees, activities, souvenirs and emergencies.  3 meals a day + snacks adds up quickly, so keep track!  As well as tips for restaurants and activities.

5. Activities
Call to confirm your booking(s) a day or so beforehand.  Set alarms and/or calendar reminders for things you plan to do (i.e- bungee-jumping, river-rafting, or even city / food tours).

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