Mountain Kinabalu climbing tips for children

I frequently received emails asking me whether they could climb Mount Kinabalu with their children, mainly aged between 5-10 years of age. I have to tell you that there are problems pertaining high altitude climbing involving children, which are:

  1. They can be too small to describe their problems clearly in words, especially the signs and symptoms of Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS).
  2. It is harder to recognized the symptoms in children, as the symptoms of acute mountain sickness can be attributed to the changes in routine or diet associated with remote travel.
  3. With low body surface area, children are more prone to fall sick from exposure to the mountain extreme environmental hazard such as hypoxia (lack of oxygen) and hypothermia (cold).

So what you can do?

  1. Take notice on the character of acute mountain sickness, which is characterized by: headache, nausea, vomiting, anorexia, fatigue, dizziness, sleep disturbances, which are particularly common above 2,500 meters. (For your information, Mount Kinabalu is 4092.5m meters and Laban Rata is about 3,000 meters above sea level)
  2. Ascent the mountain slowly, and keeping the pace same as the child.
  3. Dehydration is unhealthy to children and predispose them to AMS. So, plenty of fluid is important during the ascent.

In conclusion, I would advice that you follow the suggestions below, which I refer to British Medical Journal (bmj):

  1. Infants and children below the age of 2 who are on treks should not sleep above 2000 m.
  2. Children below 5 years old should not trek and sleep higher than 3000m (that is where Laban Rata is).
  3. Children between 5-7 years old whom can describe their condition/illness properly during the climb and can follow safety instruction, can be allowed to climb, provided they are escorted by an adult that is well verse with signs and symptoms of AMS.
  4. Children between 7-10 years old is considered fit to climb Mount Kinabalu at the height of 4095.2m.
  5. The guardian who escorted the child must make sure that the children drink plenty of fluids while climbing.

My two cents: It’s your call. You as the father/mother/guardian of your child held full responsibility of your child’s safety and health during the climb up to Kinabalu.

10 thoughts on “Mountain Kinabalu climbing tips for children

  1. Dear Drizad,

    My husband ( a paeditrician)and I (Anaesthesiologist)took our children, Catherine (11yo) and Jeremy (13yo) up Mt Kinabalu in May this year. Our group also had other children ( 8, 12, 14 and 18 yo). There were 6 parents(including us). We were fully prepared for AMS and as the children are athletes(swimmers) we were fairly confident that they can tell us their symptoms. All except the 8 and the 12 years old reached the peak. The two did not make it because of fatique (?AMS) and food poisoning (diarhoea and vomiting the night before). They managed to get to Sayat-sayat. Lots of planning, training and care needed to bring children but the satisfaction and sense of achievement is immeasurable. The guides were also great. Couldn’t have made it without them Extremely good and patient with the kids. Chow Yen.

  2. Hi Chow Yen,

    Thank you for your feedback! I really appreciate your comment and hopefully next time you can reach the summit with all your children.

  3. My husband and I climbed Mount Kinabalu Aug 2009 with our children Archie 8 and Millie 12. I had visited this website before our trip and from this took advice regardng equipment/ clothing etc to bring. We all managed to reach the peak. It wasn’t an easy climb but we took our time and had the most amazing guide (Petrus) who took charge of our son Archie (8) and guided him to the peak 15 min ahead of us! It felt like the most amazing achievement as a family together and although it was tough I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone – as would our children who are so proud of what they achieved. We found your website so helpful in providing us with information/advice before our climb – thank you x

  4. We plan on hiking Kinabalu next week with our 6 and 8 year old. We’ve been training by climbing the stairs in our condo and going on weekend hikes. I hope we make it! I’ll report back later.

  5. Well, we’re back safe and sound from our trip. It was harder than I anticipated!
    Unfortunately we didn’t make it to the peak but I’m very happy with how our children did. The 8-year-old made it to the top of the ridge (about 700 from the peak) and my 6-year-old daughter made it a few hundred meters past the top checkpoint before turning back.
    A combination of mental exhaustion and lack of preparation for the cold wind and rain prevented us from reaching the summit but it was still a great experience and the kids enjoyed the trip in spite of the challenge and occasional crying spells.

  6. Hello Kim,
    I am glad that you enjoy the trip up Mount Kinabalu with the kids. As I told you before, IT WAS a BIT HARD for kids to climb the mountain, especially at the age of your kids – 6 & 8. Anyway, I hope they did not sustained any obvious injuries, and please come back when they are ready and a bit older!

    Cheers!

  7. No physical injuries at all. It was much more of a mental challenge than physical. This became obvious the next day when their legs were too tired to climb the stairs to see the orangutans but an hour later they ran up the stairs many times to go down a water slide!
    We joked with them that we just need a water-slide at Kinabalu to get them to the top!
    They both want to try the climb again next year 🙂

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