Climbing Mount Kinabalu, Borneo

Interested in climbing Mount Kinabalu, are we? ARE YOU CRAZY?! Good. You need to be!

As one of the highest mountains in South East Asia, it’s quite the challenge, but worth the sacrifice of your knees for one of the greatest views and achievements of your life, guaranteed!

mount kinabalu

Here’s our experience, with some ideas of what to expect:

With no prior research, we decided to book a last minute flight to Borneo to climb a mountain we’d never heard of. Pretty much how we roll.

Speaking of rolls, we weren’t exactly in the peak (geddit?) of fitness. Overhearing people’s training schedules that they had been following for months, wasn’t exactly comforting. But we were determined to prove that couch potatoes can climb mountains too.

Stage 1 – Ignorant optimism
La la la, isn’t this wonderful. Ooh, look at the pretty waterfall.

Stage 2 – Nearly there, right?climbing
500 METRES?!? That’s all we’ve done?? I’M TIRED.

Stage 3 – Acceptance
Life becomes a never ending staircase. And after that, a never ending pile of rock-case. You begin to lose hope that life exists beyond the mountain.

Stage 4 – Thank the Lard
Thanks to our fat supplies (with additional snacks), we finally made it to Laban Rata – home for the night. After about seven sightings of it in the distance, only to see it disappear behind yet more rocks, we were delighted to find warm food and a bed. No heating or hot water, but, whatever.

Stage 5 – Seeing Dawn’s crack
There is nothing more thrilling than waking up at 2am, apart from not waking up at 2am. Stiff as Rod, we ascended further, with nothing but a small Ray of light from our head torches, illuminating the way.

Stage 6 – Nearly over? I’m a frayed knot
This part literally involved pulling the weight of our bottoms up a near vertical rock face, with the help of a (hopefully) sturdy rope. As if destroying our legs wasn’t enough.

Stage 7 – We’ve peaked!!
Summit was definitely up with us, we were feeling a little peaky. Emotions ran higher than the clouds below us. We were literally (not in literal sense of the word) on top of the world.

at top woohoo  at top

Stage 8 – Goodbye knees and dignityback down
So you think the worst is over? Mwahaha, says Mr Kinabalu. In return for your freedom, you must hold a sacrificial ceremony for your knees. Simple.

Kiss goodbye to any social engagements for at least three days.

Still tempted? Here’s what you need to do:

Get planning
There are only a limited number of permits available, so book well in advance (3 months ahead if possible) to avoid disappointment. We didn’t, but were very lucky with a last minute cancellation.

Equipmentpacking kinabalu
Luckily no specialist stuff required, but make sure you have the following: (most can be bought in Kota Kinabalu).

Lots and lots of water. Dehydration is a bitch.
A decent head torch – otherwise you may as well do it with your eyes closed.
Snacks galore – preferably nuts and chocolate for that slow release baby.
Sturdy gloves – essential for tugging that rope and general frostbite protection.

Be warned – the weather changes very quickly on the mountain! Bring warm and cool clothing, and spare socks! And don’t forget a waterproof jacket/rucksack cover. (We used a bin bag. We wouldn’t exactly recommend it).


Number one tip is to pace yourself! When you think the climb can’t get any harder, it will laugh in your face. It’s also the only real way to reduce the risk of altitude sickness, so take it easy buddy!

The altitude will make it almost impossible to catch a breath between each step and you will feel like you’re going at 0.0001mph, but slow and steady progress will get you to the top. Eventually.

The experts will recommend you take hiking sticks. Our ignorant minds told us that they would be a pain in the arse to carry. Luckily we heeded their advice – and the pain in our arses was therefore lessened. You can hire these for 10RM – about £1.68. Don’t be a tight arse, or an arse, you arse.

Post climb – stretch and rest is essential. Stay on ground level at all times.


In short, we achieved something which we never thought was possible. Reaching the peak of a mountain and seeing the sun break through the clouds is truly one of the most breath taking moments you could ever experience. That moment will stay with us as one of our most treasured memories and greatest accomplishments, for the rest of our lives.

Check out our video of the climb here:

Have you also climbed Mount Kinabalu? Or are you thinking of it? We’d love to hear your experiences and comments below!

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5 thoughts on “Climbing Mount Kinabalu, Borneo

  1. It is really sad what happened. Anyway Mount Kinabalu is open again for tourist. There are still repairs works being carried out. Hopefully by next year everything will back to normal. Nice to hear you girls enjoyed Mount Kinabalu.

    1. Hey Helen – we hired a guide directly from the information center at Mount Kinabalu :). We booked the permits in Kota Kinabalu (It’s a place opposite the Mall – can’t remember the name I’m afraid). Seemed to be the cheapest way to do it! We did leave it to the last minute so were very lucky to get permits, so would consider booking those as much in advance as possible!

  2. Thank you for posting ! Me and my sister will go there end of this march ! Gonna be epic.
    Did you stay in a hostel before the hike ?
    Such a good story teller by the way 😉

    1. Thanks Mark :D. That’s awesome! You’ll absolutely love it. Yes, we stayed in a hostel before the hike in Kota Kinabalu and got a bus from the bus station to the information centre at the bottom of the mountain. There are loads of hostels in Kota Kinabalu so you shouldn’t have any problems finding somewhere to stay! Let us know how it goes!!

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