First Aid Kit for your Mount Kinabalu climbing trip

These are the most common incidents that can make climbers injured during the trip up the Summit of Borneo.

Muscular aches

Everybody knows that climbing Mount Kinabalu is a strenuous activity. Muscular aches happens to all climbers. Most of the aches involves lower limbs – both legs, thighs, knees, calves, ankle and foot – because of the 8-12 hours of trekking up and down the mountain. Upper body aches happens if you bring too much of a load in your backpack – anything around 10kg is considered to much for an average casual climber. Apart from the strenuous activities, low fluid intake with inadequate minerals and electrolytes, can worsen the muscle aches, as it can’t function properly. Fatigue may sets in, and climbers can feel very week to continue the climb.

Minimize muscular aches by having a regular training before the climbing journey. Do cardio workout, at least 30 minutes a day, 3-4 days a week, and try to concentrate more on your lower limbs. Optimally, you should do the training and exercise at least 1 month before the climb.

Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS)

Low’s Peak of Kinabalu is categorized in Very High altitude scale (12,000 – 18,000 feet [3,658 – 5,487 meters]). The risk of you getting altitude sickness or acute mountain sickness (AMS) is there. Laban Rata, the place for you to stay overnight before ascending to Low’s Peak is at the High altitude scale (8,000 – 12,000 feet [2,438 – 3,658 meters]). It is really difficult to say who are susceptible to AMS and who will get it, until they really make it up there.

However, you should know what are the symptoms of AMS, so that you will be alert of this conditions. The symptoms of Mild AMS are;

  • headache
  • dizziness
  • fatigue
  • shortness of breath
  • loss of appetite
  • nausea
  • disturbed sleep
  • general feeling of malaise

Minimize the effect of AMS by climbing the mountain slowly, better still, at your own pace. A simple Panadol or Ibuprofen can relief the symptoms. Stay properly hydrated – make sure you take a lot of fluid during the journey. There are 7 “pondok” (huts) along Summit Trail where you can refill your water bottle with untreated water. I elaborated more on the prevention of AMS here.

Trip & Falls

Climbing in a wet seasons gives extra challenges to climbers because of the water. Wet boulders and rocks can be very slippery sometimes. Wrong judgement and misaligned foot while walking through slippery surfaces can leads to fall. It is not about the mountain all the time, but climbers can sometimes be careless and ignorant.

Getting a pair of good shoes for the climb is necessary. Don’t follow what your porters and guides wears for their foot. A good trekking / climbing boots should at least have a traction sole, and high cut boots (which covers your ankle) is an option if you are afraid of ankle injury. Shoes guideline for climbathon runners can be a good reference for your trip.

Blisters

Blisters can be an annoying condition to have during your trip. New shoes with new socks can aggravate the production of blisters on your foot. That is why you need to “run in” your shoes for at least 2 weeks before the climb, so that your foot can get use to the new shoes. Prevention of blisters involves wearing a good thick socks and a well padded shoes. If it happens, you should know how to treat a simple blister.

Hand blisters can happen if you don’t wear gloves properly. During the second phase of the climb (all the way from Laban Rata), you will have to depends and hang on the rope that has been put there by the authorities. Waterproof gloves is better, but it may be a bit expensive. Normal wool gloves gives you some protection against the friction while using the rope.

Acute gastroenteritis (means that food & water poisoning)

Untreated water tankA well known medical problem to climbers who has a sensitive stomach. There is a water tank in each and every hut on the Summit Trail. However, the water comes from the mountain directly – hence, the tanks are all painted with “Untreated Water” sign. Wet season is slightly safer, as the water amounts are huge and it “dilutes” the microorganism inside, and the dynamic of the water makes the tank a “not so good” place for them to grow. Compared to dry season, when the water supply is limited, the water in the tanks can be stagnant, and it will be a good place for the microorganism to grow. The water will be slightly “concentrated” with microorganism during this period of time.

For most climbers who have a resistant stomach, this is not a problem. They could drink the water without any problems. However, some non-Asian climbers found out that they suffers from diarrhea from drinking the water directly from the tanks. If you happens to be like one of them, the best way to prevent this is by disinfecting the water with iodine salts. Iodine salts can kill the germs inside your water supply, and it is safe for you and your stomach. Bare in mind that the salts can produce an unpleasant odour with the water and some climbers may find it annoying.

First Aid Kit suggestion

Adventure Medical Kits have a good First Aid Kit that you can have for your trip up the Summit of Kinabalu. Small enough to take with you everywhere, the Fast and Light Personal Kit from Adventure Medical Kits contains enough first aid supplies for you and a friend Features:

  • Includes a First-Aid pamphlet Medications
  • 1 Splinter Picker Forceps
  • 3 Safety Pins
  • 4 Ibuprofen (200mg)
  • 2 Aspirin (325mg)
  • 2 Anitihistamine (Diphenhydramine)
  • Bleeding care items include 2 Nitrile Examination Gloves and 1 Infectious Control Bag Wound care
  • Sprain and blister items include 2 Butterfly Closure Strips
  • 2 Antibiotic Ointment
  • 6 After Cuts and Scrapes
  • 6 3×3 or 2×2’s Sterile Dressings
  • 1 Non-adherent Sterile Dressing, 1 Conforming Gauze Bandage (2 or 3)
  • 1 Adhesive Tape 10 yards (1-2)
  • 5 Strip and Knuckle Bandages
  • 2 Cotton Tipped Applicators
  • 1 Moleskin 4 x 3

Features

  • Reflective trim makes it easier to find kit in low-light conditions
  • Medications for inflammation, pain, allergic reactions, bites and stings, and heart attack symptoms
  • Nitrile gloves and infectious control bag
  • Wound care supplies
  • Moleskin dressing for preventing and treating blisters
  • Fine pointed, precision forceps allow you to pull out the smallest splinters or ticks

As a medical personnel myself, having a good first aid kit is a must when going into this kind of activities. In my opinion, the package by Adventure Medical Kits for climbers with the above kit is the minimum requirement that you must have. I would recommend you to have the kit – if you don’t want the hassle of buying the items inside the package separately.

“Hope for the best, prepare for the worst”. Happy mountaineering!

5 thoughts on “First Aid Kit for your Mount Kinabalu climbing trip

  1. Hello,

    I’ve climbed the Kinabalu Mountain last year, and I reached the top without any injuries. My friends had invited me to climb the mountain again tomorrow, but I have not prepared anything, especially the training and exercises. This is because one of my friends cancelled his trip to climb the mountain, and they wanted me to replace him. Should I accept?

  2. Well, it depends on how fit you are currently. If you don’t mind agonizing yourself for your friend, then it should not be a problem. Do it if you think you want it…

  3. Assalamualaikum Dr

    Need your advice on sleeping bag. I’ll be climbing Mount Kinabalu on 28 Feb 2009. It will be my fourth ascent. The first 2 were in the 80’s. I stayed at Gunting Lagadan Hut but I cant remember whether I had my sleeping bag then. The last one was in 2005 and I stayed at Laban Rata heated room. This time around I will be staying at Gunting Lagadan Hut. I would like to know whether it is necessary to bring sleeping bag. Also, I would like to know whether there is transport service, besides the one provided by SSL, from Kinabalu Park to KK. Thanks for your help.

  4. @salim: Sleeping bag is not necessary for the climb. There are public transport services from the park to Kota Kinabalu. You just have to ask the Sabah Park staff there for the info on the departure time.

  5. Great post! Thanks for all those helpful tips. I’m so much glad I encountered this kind of blog. Your topic is really amazing and interesting. Keep up the good work! =)

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