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:
- They can be too small to describe their problems clearly in words, especially the signs and symptoms of Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS).
- 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.
- 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?
- 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)
- Ascent the mountain slowly, and keeping the pace same as the child.
- 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):
- Infants and children below the age of 2 who are on treks should not sleep above 2000 m.
- Children below 5 years old should not trek and sleep higher than 3000m (that is where Laban Rata is).
- 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.
- Children between 7-10 years old is considered fit to climb Mount Kinabalu at the height of 4095.2m.
- 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.