Training (for Busy People) to Climb Mount Kinabalu

I write this training guide for person like me, a busy-9-to-5-office-worker. We probably sit too long during office hours and have too little exercise after office hours. We want to spend minimum time in training but yet we want to reach the summit of Mount Kinabalu.

It is a big slanting plateau at the summit of Mount Kinabalu. After the last checkpoint, Sayat Sayat, you will be walking, with only 62% of oxygen of sea level,  for about 1.75KM to reach Low's Peak. The elevation of this 1.75KM is 442Meters (from 3,653M at Sayat Sayat to 4,095M at Low's Peak.)

Bare Minimum Training Objectives

  • Get your body to get use to walk on jungle trail and uneven hiking terrain
  • Prepare for reasonable fitness, especially for exercise-lacking-middle-age-office-workers. First, you can't reach Laban Rata too late in the evening because you need to sleep and wake up in the mid night for the climb to summit. Second, you need to cross Sayat Sayat checkpoint before 5am
  • Get use to walk in the dark with headlamp
  • Get use to your gear and shoes, i.e. headlamp and climbing shoes

These are the minimum objectives of training in order for a person to reach the summit of Mount Kinabalu and descend safely.

Advance Training Objective

  • Fit enough to reach Low's Peak before sunrise
  • I failed twice to reach Low's Peak before sunrise. So I am not so good in this part of training. ;-)
Descending after Sayat Sayat checkpoint.

Training Schedule and Method

  • Hike at hills or jungle trail nearby your home at least two weeks once for 3 months
  • Hike for 1 - 2 hours each time
  • Hike in the dark at dawn or evening with headlamp
  • Hike with the shoes that you will be wearing to climb Mt Kinabalu. Don't wear a shining new sport shoes or new hiking shoes that you have not tried before to climb Mt Kinabalu.

Timpohon Trail, Mount Kinabalu Climb
Never ending uphill climb.

Summit Trail, Mt Kinabalu.
Uphill hike along Summit Trail.

Places to Train

For those who stay near Klang Valley in Malaysia, I highly recommend to hike at Gasing Hill for training. The last stretch of about 300 steps of uphill walk to reach the peak of Gasing Hill is very similar to the trail of Mount Kinabalu. In fact, many climbers choose to train at Gasing Hill before their 'real' climb at Mount Kinabalu. The photo below shows terrain of Gasing Hill, which is very similar to that of Mount Kinabalu.

This is not Mount Kinabalu. This is Gasing Hill.

In preparation for our climb, we also tried Broga Hill at Kajang. The view in the morning is stunning.

Beautiful Broga Hill.

Borga Hill, dawn.
Broga Hill in the morning.

Borga Hill, Kajang
Broga Hill.

There are more hills that you can train to climb Mt Kinabalu. This is only a small list.
  • Gasing Hill (The most look alike terrain)
  • Borga Hill, Kajang
  • Bukit Putih, Ah Pek Hill, Taman Cheras
  • Mt Ophir (I heard is technically more difficult than Mt Kinabalu) for those in South Peninsular of Malaysia or Singapore

Avoid this Place

Avoid accident prompt hill like Bukit Tabur. There were a few fatal accidents happened in this hill. This hill is truly not for beginner.

People to Train With

  • Avoid training alone, especially if this is your first time attempting to climb a mountain
  • Always train with a few friends in group
  • Always have someone in the group who is familiar with the trail

More Details on Training:

Here are our detail training experiences in preparing for our Mt. Kinabalu climb:

A Glimpse on Terrain

We can divided Mount Kinabalu terrain into a few stretches in general.

  • The 6 KM before Laban Rata.
  • The stretch right after Laban Rata
  • The stretch right before Sayat Sayat and after Sayat Sayat
  • The stretch on the summit plateau till Low's Peak

Terrain before Laban Rata

Terrain After Laban Rata, before Summit.
Terrain After Laban Rata before the summit's plateau.
Terrain reaching Sayat Sayat
Terrain after Laban Rata and near to the Last Checkpoint Sayat Sayat
Low's Peak Mount Kinabalu
Walking on the summit plateau.


I truly hope the photographs above show you the reason why training is so important before attempting to climb this majestic mountain. Your body need to be ready.