How risky is climbing Mt Kinabalu?
Not very. Aside from the earthquake earlier this year, there have been only five deaths of climbers since 2001.
- two of these were due to mistakes on the climbers’ part (leaving the trail in fog and climbing over a safety rail)
- two from slipping on wet rocks and banging their head (easy to do… like slipping on a wet bathroom floor)
- one from severe weather. This occurred during a climbathon and the victim was unprepared when unexpectedly severe weather (low temperatures/high winds) hit the summit
Between 2000 and 2015, hundreds of thousands of climbers have done the climb. There’s an element of risk, of course, but it’s no more dangerous than taking a shower. Or riding a motorbike. Here’s a list of safety tips I’ve stolen or borrowed from several sources. It’s all common sense, really.
- Remember the three Ps: planning, preparation, practice.
- Follow the white rope. Stay on the path.
- Wear proper hiking shoes/boots.
- Bring a whistle for emergencies. (Bagpipes would be really cool, though)
- Make sure you have everything you’ll need.
- Dress for the occasion (cold/wet weather gear)
- Step carefully when the trail is wet.
- Wear a headlamp for the night climb.
- Don’t climb over fences or safety railings.
- Don’t leave your last teammate walking alone.
- Try to reach Laban Rata on time.
- Always abide by the rules and regulations.
- You must be reasonably fit and healthy.
- Take altitude sickness medicine.
- Don’t climb in bad weather.
- Take extra care on the descent – this is where most injuries occur.
- Listen to your guide.
- Don’t curse or yell at the mountain.
- Keep your clothes on when you reach the summit.
There’s a more detailed article on the subject at Safety and Tragedy: Is climbing Mount Kinabalu dangerous?
The outlier, of course, is the deadly earthquake that shook the mountain on June 5th, 2015. This event tragically took the lives of eighteen hikers including two of the guides and many members of a group of young students from schools in Singapore. Most of the deaths occurred on the Via Ferrata when climbers were swept away by falling rocks. More on the tragedy can by found at 2015 Sabah earthquake and Malaysia quake: 16 dead, 2 still missing on Mount Kinabalu.
Much of the trail was badly damaged from avalanches and rockfalls and Mt Kinabalu was closed to climbers for several months while repairs were undertaken. The lower route from Timpohon Gate to Laban Rata was re-opened on September 1st, 2015, while the upper route to Low’s Peak will re-open on December 1st. The Mesilau Trail remains closed until further notice.