If you’ve ever dreamed of scaling the highest mountain in Malaysia, here is a quick guide.
To start, pre-book with an authorised agent several months in advance as fewer than 200 climbers are allowed a day.
Your journey begins at the Kinabalu Park office to get your visitor tag and paperwork such as the indemnity form sorted out. Porters are waiting eagerly here, offering their services at a flat rate of RM14 per kilo.
The park’s shuttle then drops you off at Timpohon Gate, where your climb begins.
Your first objective is Panalaban Base Camp, a 6km hike to 1,400m above sea level with six resting points.
You need to spend a night in Panabalan to get acclimatised before attempting to attack the summit.
The summit attack begins at 2.30am the next day. It is a steep 2.5km hike and another 800m in elevation.
You get only one resting point here, called Sayat Sayat, which you must reach before 5.30am or you will not be allowed to continue.
This is a critical cut-off point because all climbers must reach the summit by 7.30am as the wind and UV ray intensity increases after that.
Packing requires thorough planning for tropical weather at the bottom and alpine temperatures at the top.
You need a large backpack (you leave this bag with the porter at Panabalan) and a smaller bag with essentials to be carried throughout your hike. A raincoat is necessary and temperatures drop to below 0°C, so make sure you are covered from head to toe.
Bring a small towel or wet wipes to wipe yourself clean because there are no water heaters in Panabalan and you might catch a cold if you bathe with icy water.
You will be climbing to the summit for hours in the dark, so a headlamp is a must.
Heat pads will keep you warm and hiking poles will help your fatigued legs.
Beware of acute mountain sickness (AMS). Oxygen levels dip after 3,000m and you might experience headaches, tiredness, nausea, loss of appetite and difficulty breathing.
Last month alone, there were a few deaths and emergencies in which hikers had to be stretchered down and sent to hospital.
To avoid AMS, ascend gradually; do not rush.
There are altitude sickness pills available in pharmacies and keep paracetamol ready.
Train your cardiovascular fitness and take natural supplements which improve blood circulation such as beetroot powder or ginkgo extract.
At the narrow, craggy summit, be considerate and spend no more than 10 minutes at the top to give a chance for other climbers on the way up to earn their bragging rights.
Visit the highest post office in Malaysia at Panabalan Base Camp to get your free Mount Kinabalu themed postcard. Write a note and send it to your loved ones and friends.
The stamp only costs RM1 for domestic addresses and RM2 and above for overseas addresses.