trekky question…

mt kinabalu borneoIn response to a recent blog question about climbing Mt Kinabalu in Borneo, we asked Intrepid’s Karen Porter for advice. Not just because she’s got the right name, but she’s been there, done that and loved every challenging step!

“Further to your comparison regarding Nepal’s Annapurna trek and Mt Kinabalu, it would be my personal opinion that if you can trek the Himalayas, you should have no problems with Mt Kinabalu. I have trekked the Annapurna Circuit, Mt Kinabalu and Mt Kilimanjaro and while all 3 treks require a certain level of fitness, with some physical preparation there’s every chance your mountain dreams will be realised.

Mt Kinabalu is still a difficult 2 day trek. I would compare it to some of the harder days of the Annapurna circuit (for example similar to the day hikes leading up to and including Poon Hill or perhaps if you took the high route when you reach Pisang. Upper Pisang and Ghyaru, before Manang.) The main difference with Mt Kinabalu is that the weather can be quite HOT making the climb a little more arduous and the climb is continuous.. Up up up… and very steep in parts.

There are plenty of rest spots on the way but no tea houses or lodges to stop and refuel. But the good news is you have the full day to climb and you can rest that night at the lodge before summiting the next morning….so take your time and should have no problems…. and after the 2 days the hard work is all over! The good news is the effects of altitude should be less too (as you are just reaching above 4000m, compared to over 5000m on the Thorung La Pass).

At the very least I would attempt the hike and if fit and healthy try to summit the following day. At the very worst you can turn around and come back down if you are feeling unwell or the climb becomes too difficult. But in my honest opinion, if you have trekked the Annapurna’s you will have a great chance of summiting Mt. Kinabalu and witnessing an amazing sunrise (and sunset the night prior).

Keep up your aerobic fitness, dress prepared, carry enough water and you will have an amazing experience on Mt Kinabalu.”

If you have questions about your next Intrepid adventure or want some help with places you are considering travelling, you can post a comment and we’ll answer you personally, or email intrepidexpress@intrepidtravel.com and we will contact you soon.

* photo by Astrid Ross – Intrepid Photography Competition

About the author

Sue Elliot - Like many of us, Sue contracted a serious travel bug at an early age. She's visited over 90 countries in search of a cure, but her wanderlust just seems to get worse. Thankfully at Intrepid Travel she's amongst people who understand the affliction and since 1998 Sue has enjoyed being our blog and newsletter editor. Here you'll read about Sue's travel experiences, find helpful travel advice and she loves sharing great tales from Intrepid travellers.

5 comments

I’m a keen walker and have done many multi-day treks, some at altitude in South America, but must say Kinabalu was one of the most punishing I’ve encountered. Going up is tough aerobically but do-able. It’s hot and every step up is a big one – no winding your way up on this mountain! The food at the overnight guesthouse is abominable – and this comes from someone who loves Asian food of pretty much all standards. The altitude on the second day really knocked my boyfriend and I around and we both felt extremely nauseous in the two hours before reaching the summit. It is also FREEZING up there. We were almost going to turn around except we had already come so far. The view from the top was amazing and we were pleased to have got there but what we didn’t realise was that going down was going to be harder. Sure, it doesn’t take as long to get down, but I really don’t know how you can prepare your knees and ankles for the assault. I am short 5″2 and a medium build so perhaps if I had longer legs it wouldn’t have been so much of a drop off each step. In summary – great view from the top, but not the most enjoyable experience getting there and back. Take a walking pole for support.

julie connaughton / Reply

I have just recently attempted to climb Mt Kinabalu. I was reasonably fit and active as i train 3 times a week, running, boxing and weights; not to mention my job requires a certain level of fitness, however i found the climb extremely punishing on my knees and feet. Climbing up the pressure is taken on the leg muscles but coming down takes it’s toll on your knees and your feet slide forward in your boots. I lost 2 toe nails after the trek. In saying that ,it was an experience of a life time and well worth the pain and suffering . My advice is to train on stairs and hills, put foam in the toes of your shoes and travel light. Have fun.

Hi, myself and a friend are looking to climb mountain over a 2 day trek in May 2010. Can you advise of some reputable companies to look at using. I have looked on web but some charge upwards of $800 each. Cheers

Hi Gail,
Thanks for your Borneo trekking question. The great thing about climbing Mt Kinabalu is that you certainly have time to do it at your own pace and don’t need to worry about delaying the group. It’s a pre-dawn start so you have a chance of seeing the sun rise from the summit, but even if you don’t make the top by then, there is still time to attempt the final climb at your own speed and return to Laban Rata guesthouse before the group starts to descend the mountain. Our local mountain guides are very experienced and there will always be one of them at the tail of the group to ensure you are OK.
In regards to being vegetarian that’s no problem. You or your travel agent can let our reservations team know before departure and your Intrepid leader will be able to assist when you are dining together as a group.
Have a wonderful time in Borneo!
Best wishes,
Sue, Intrepid Express editor

am booking for the BSS trip to Borneo and am a bit unsure of the climb up the mountain
I walk all day and am reasonably fit but a little weak in the legs so if i take my time will i be ok as I don’t want to hold anyone up on the trek and also want to ask about the food as i am a practicing vegetarian
Thank You

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