I’ll blame Greg. It was his idea I’m sure. We decided that since climbing Mt Kilimanjaro was out of our time and budget constraints in Africa that Mt Kinabalu in Borneo seemed the next best thing.
There are a lot of hoops to jump through to get on the mountain. The climb has a mandatory permit, accommodation, guide and misc fees. It’s not as expensive as Kilimanjaro but it’s by no means dirt cheap. There is a limited number of beds up at the base camp, 6km up the trail from where you start. To book them on your own you need to contact Sabah parks, but these are often booked out weeks if not months in advance. We looked about two months in advance and the dates we were interested in were booked solid. Now sometimes you can call up and there will be last minute cancellations, but you might have to sit in Kota Kinabalu for a few days waiting (not ideal really), so on to plan B.
Plan B: book with a tour company, there are lots out there but we found one with great reviews and availability (Amazing Borneo, helpful, prompt and good prices). Going with a tour company does mean you will pay more (not too much more though), but logistically it can really be worth it. In our case, we were both in a world of pain when we got back down and were so thankful the tour company was driving us back direct to our hostel. We saw another couple pretty much begging every group that came down for a lift for about 2hrs. Who knows they could still be there now!
The climb itself was challenging, especially getting used to the altitude. The key is go slow, then slower. It’s not a race (unless you’re doing the mt Kinabalu race up and down in less than three hrs!). Getting up at 2:20am and climbing up sheer granite faces using ropes as guides in pitch darkness was interesting. But nothing really prepares you for the knee crunching way down.
Can you do it? If you’re of average fitness and can handle a bit of altitude (one couple in our room couldn’t and didn’t summit) and are prepared to mentally keep going, then yes, you can do it. Just be aware, long bus journeys the next day are NOT recommended, it took about a week before I could walk up or down anything. Good luck!
If you want to see what it’s like check out the video below.