How To Train For A Mountain Hiking Expedition With No Prior Experience


Mountain hiking is not for the faint-hearted. But we don’t all have to be Edmund Hillary (the first mountaineer to summit Mount Everest) to be able to hike mountains. 


If conquering mountains is something you have dreamt of doing but you have never done it before, don’t let fear hold you back! There is no age limit (or physical impediment!) that can hold you back. The trick lies in the training, both physical and mental. And this post will tell you how. 


Set a Realistic Goal





Image by Kasuma F. Gruber


How many of us have set goals only to give up before we have even begun? I have. While you can read all the hiking guides and watch all the mountain movies out there, nothing will ever prepare you for the real thing. And it is the little things you experience in real life that count. So set a “big” but realistic goal. 


For instance, Mount Kinabalu in Sabah is a great introduction to mountain hiking. It is epic enough in terms of:


  • Time: It is 1.5 days long, which is just long enough to be a challenge


  • Scale: At an elevation of 4,095m, you will be standing literally above the clouds when you reach Laban Rata - the midpoint of your hike. It is quite the view!; and


  • Bucketlist brownie points: Who doesn’t want to boast about having conquered Mount Kinabalu?


Make Hiking a Part of Your Life


It’s not easy to fit hiking into your daily schedule unless you actually sit down and make it a non-negotiable part of your routine. If possible, fit in at least two hikes a month over the weekend. 


Malaysia is blessed with hundreds of mountains within and near Kuala Lumpur. Some of them are very accessible and popular among the locals. This includes Bukit Gasing (with its many, myriad trails, although parking can be a huge pain) and Mont Kiara. 


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For hikes with a view, I would recommend Bukit Broga, which is very popular for sunrise catching. It is a relatively doable hike, although the final hike up to the peak can be a bit of a challenge. And if the hike up Bukit Broga wasn’t enough for you, there is the adjacent Tok Wan to increase your hiking mileage of the day. Alternatively, fit in hikes to waterfalls (e.g. Chiling Waterfall is a popular choice) so that you can “work” and end the day with some “play” by the waterfall. 


For a bigger challenge, I would look towards places like Bukit Apek and Gunung Datuk. This will require wakeup calls around 5am or earlier, and you will want an early start to:


  • Have more time to complete the hike;


  • Avoid the afternoon sun where possible; and


  • Be surrounded by other hikers. 


Find Your Community of Hikers


Hiking buddies are essential in any mountain hiking training. The reality is that sometimes, we all need a little boost of encouragement. Knowing that there is someone else out there who has always set their alarm clock at 5am and will be picking you up at 5.30am, is a great motivator for getting out of bed. Once you’re out of bed, you are basically halfway there. It’s about making hiking part of your life; once it’s in your blood, it’s hard to get it out!


They are also critical backups in the event that something unfortunate happens. Hiking is not without its dangers and you should never be without someone who can quickly and easily come to your assistance. Please, never go for a hike without telling someone about where you are going and having at least one hiking buddy with you. 


Have enough sleep the night before





Image by Gregory Pappas


Nothing is more important in training than having enough sleep. If you had very little sleep the night before, you should skip the hike. It will be torturous and counterproductive. 


Instead, schedule an early night’s rest. Skip the alcohol. Eat your breakfast, then start your hike. Mountain hikes are challenging but they aren’t meant to be torturous. They can even be enjoyable, and it all starts with a good night’s sleep. 


Mental Training


Mental Training



Image by Michal Parzuchowski


Mountain hiking is a test of endurance. It is more like a mental test than a physical test because we will all hit that point where we feel like giving up. When we feel like we have reached our limit and there is no way we can move forward. But you can. There is always that extra fuel deep within you. It’s all about pushing through. 


Some ways to build your mental strength includes:


  • Bring some creature comforts like your favourite snacks as a reward and encouragement. Sometimes I play a mental game with myself and think, if I take another 500 steps, I can take another bite of this Cadbury bar. It really works. Try it!


  • Plan your routes out in advance: Nothing is more unnecessarily stressful than getting lost. Go online, read the blogs and plot your route, so you can focus on the execution of the hike itself. 


  • Visualise the ending: Again, this is where advance preparation helps. Watch YouTube videos that show the hikes you intend to do, and visualise yourself arriving at the peak. Elite athlete teams do visualisation exercises all the time with good reason. It helps get you into the right frame of mind and readiness to step out and conquer. 


Daily Training Off the Mountain


Daily Training



Image by Boxed Water is Better


Mountain hiking training doesn’t have to take place on the mountain. The important thing to remember is that hiking isn’t a sprint. It’s a marathon. 


If you can, take the stairs. Walk those 20 floors up to your apartment or office floor and make it a daily habit. This helps to build core muscle strength, including your glutes, hamstrings, quads, abs and calves. 


If you don’t have any stairs, then hit the gym and use the step machine. Even the treadmill works; just up the incline. Jogging is also a good way to train and build up your core muscles. 


Scaling Your Hiking Achievements





Image by Yulia Agnis


Don’t ever let yourself get bored. If you find yourself thinking that a mountain is too easy, then you know you’re doing yourself a disservice. Scale up and move on to the next big challenge. 


Some of the most challenging mountains to conquer in Malaysia includes Gunung Nuang or Taman Negara. If those don’t excite you, start looking at all the mountains around the Southeast Asian region and more! Nature spoils us with her choices and they are all a short flight away. 


Hint: Look up Bromo and Ijen in Indonesia, where you can do a short hike into the mouth of an active volcano and encounter an electric blue lake!! 




Are you excited about conquering your first mountain?


We believe that anyone can scale a mountain with the right training. You just have to follow the few steps we have outlined above! And if you want to be adventurous and explore the mountains around Southeast Asia or even beyond, then don’t forget to check out the flight offers on ! 


Happy hiking!






A faith-driven Sarawakian lawyer who believes that it is never too late to start crafting a socially impactful legacy. When not grappling with warranties and liabilities, she loves pursuing adrenaline-fueled adventures, improving her Español and playing the violin. You can find her at @vidadeliya or