Category Archives: Mount Kinabalu

The correct version of climbing Bowen’s Route by Myles Bowen

I was so surprised when Myles Bowen himself contacted me yesterday. If you don’t know who Myles Bowen is, you can read this post about climbing the eastern plateau of Kinabalu. As the first person to ascend the eastern plateau of Kinabalu, he would like to correct some misinformation that he have seen recently in the web. Yes, the route is named after his name…

Dear Ruhaizad,
The story told in John Briggs’ book (page19) is fairly accurate, but was written from memory after our meeting in London in 1987. By 1956 I had already climbed to the western side of the mountain at least twice, starting (as we all did in those days) from Paka Cave at about 4 am. On these climbs I scanned the cliffs bordering the eastern plateau for a route up to King Edwards peak and concluded that there was one possible route.

In 1956 I went with Harry Morris, again using Paka Cave, straight across the valley (southern extension of Low’s Gully) and proceeded up the route which I had previously identified. I led the climb, bringing up Harry who was not an experienced climber. By British climb standards of the day I would have classified it as “very difficult” but not “severe”.

We were not well equipped and had lost a lot of time reaching the foot of the climb. Having passed the most difficult part it started to rain and shortly afterwards a storm broke out with fierce winds, lightning and torrential rain. We had had enough and abseiled down, having failed to reach the plateau proper…

Next year I was determined to complete the ascent and so ordered a tent and climbing equipment from London and planned a proper expedition. My companion on this occasion was Ross Urquhart, a Shell engineer, also with limited climbing experience. We started from Bundu Tuhan with about 6 porters and after the chicken ceremony set up camp approximately where the Sayat Sayat hut is today.

To take the kinks out of my new nylon rope we climbed Kinabalu South. On the way up Ross stumbled over the very dead body of a Chinese man, who we found out later had murdered his wife. This was shocking, particularly for Ross who wanted to abandon the expedition.

I then showed him my route up to the eastern plateau and he said that it was far too dangerous and that we had to find another way up. We then spent the next four days searching for one, but with no success. Finally, on our last full day, he agreed reluctantly and we reached the bottom of the climb just after dawn.

Having done it before it was no problem and we were able to reach King Edward’s peak in clear conditions where we built a cairn containing a bottle with a note recording our ascent. We then walked to King George’s peak where we again built a cairn with a bottle. We then returned to camp and got down the difficult bit before the rain started. Next day our porters arrived to take us down to Ranau whence we flew home.

Every time I climb my staircase here I look at a most beautiful painting of Mount Kinabalu, by the leading Chinese painter of the day, whose name escapes me. You are welcome to print this.

All the best
Myles Bowen

By the way, the book that he mentioned in the email is one of the rare books that is really difficult to get nowadays. I saw the book was priced USD168.29 in Amazon…

Mount Kinabalu, Borneo’s Magic Mountain: An Introduction to the Natural History of One of the World’s Great Natural Movements

Can Sabah Parks be more embarrassing?

Hahaha. I sounded that I am always looking for Sutera Sanctuary Lodges and Sabah Parks embarrassing moment since the beginning this year. Well, maybe I am. But I don’t think that I am the one and only person who did it.

Today, I found another good article by a couple of Mount Kinabalu climbers, Matt & Joanne Stamplis, who climbed the Western Plateau of Mount Kinabalu, spend some times in Gurkha Hut, summit the South Peak & standing on the edge of Low’s Gully. A very long and nice write-up, I must say.

However, when I arrived at about 3/4 of their post, I was a bit dissapointed when I saw what they wrote. Not to them, but to our Malaysian government when it comes to the management of the mountain.

Yeah… It is always like that on Kinabalu: Climbers praise the mountain so much, but at the same time, very dissappointed with the management. I am just not sure how long this issue will be the thorn in the flesh of Kinabalu. Click to enlarge.

You may be able to read their post here:
http://joannestamplis.wordpress.com/2008/11/09/borneo-part-2-mt-kinabalu/

Or this screenshot from their part 1:

You can get it here: Borneo Part 1 (Mt Kinabalu)

If you are a hardcore climbers from anywhere around the world, their write-up is one of a very good basis for you to get the most of Kinabalu’s Western Plateau.

Good Luck!

Join “Mount Kinabalu – belongs to NO ONE else” cause in Facebook

A lot of complaints.

A lot of rants.

A lot of rage.

The issue: Sutera Sanctuary Lodges monopolize Mount Kinabalu for their own profits.

They never wants to listen to our grouses on how expensive their climbing packages are, as long as they are the only available solution for Kinabalu climbers.

It started early this year, January 2008, when they packaged their climbing trip. They also pre-sold all the beds to big travel & tourism company increasing the price, to reap all the profits. That moves had also make us difficult to book a bed in Laban Rata.

Try calling them and ask for a bed 6 months in advance. They will say that their booking is not open yet.

Try calling them again next 2 days – 5 months 29 days. And they will said that the beds are full in Laban Rata. Who do you think have the power and money to book all 140 beds in Laban Rata in that very short time?

Try call them at this number: +6088-243629. Considered yourself lucky if you can get through.

Considered yourself double lucky if there is still bed for you in Laban Rata. They won’t tell you whether you get a heated or non-heated one.

Considered yourself triple lucky if you got the Laban Rata Resthouse – where the restaurant and heated rooms are.

Gone are the days when you can D-I-Y your trip up to Low’s Peak, where you could pay merely over RM150 for all the expenses – provided we bring our food ourselves.

The package that they created is compulsory. You cannot omit even a single item in the package – that includes the food. And that move have skyrocketed the prices, even worse during this uncertainty of fuel prices and inflation.

Sigh…

I pity those solo climbers, backpackers and budget travelers. Even more for our own Malaysian citizen & students. The revised pricing structure really did not help us all.

It also hurts Mount Kinabalu’s image. Somebody wrote a bad review on climbing Kinabalu in Lonely Planet Borneo, it’s latest edition. It seems that climbing the mountain is actually the easy part. The hard part is getting the accommodation booking.

Buy the Lonely Planet Borneo if you have money and see it for yourself. I don’t think I would waste another RM79.90 just to get to see the bad reviews on Kinabalu.

It also hurts my last climb up the mountain with Special Olympics athletes. They have to revise their expenses to divert the money to Sutera Sanctuary Lodges. A big chunk of it. A lot of volunteers also complaints, not about the organizer, but about the accommodation provider.

You will be surprised, despite the price increase, that Laban Rata Resthouse is still in a pity mode.

Frequent heated water disruptions.

Leaks – not the roof leak, but plumbing leaks, which leads to flooding of the restaurant by the water from somebody bathing & maybe peeing upstairs.

The food taste really horrible.

The price of their a la carte menu & are ridiculous.

Well, this post really sound seditious. I could get caught and put behind bars because of my writings. But did I tell lies?

No I don’t.

Yesterday I spoke to one of my patient. A senior expatriate who have live here in KK for the past 30 over years. He also aired out his concern on what Sutera did, and how they really hurt the industry. He said he is going to speak directly to Sutera manager and get things straight.

I hope he could at least help us all.

At this moment, what we could do is to get together and voice out our concern. I could not do this by myself through this small blog. Sutera never cares. They know that my writings won’t even dent their cashflow.

Join me in the facebook. (Get one for yourself. It’s free.)

Poke me inside. Add me as your friend.

And the best thing to do is join the cause by KaKiAyAm; Mount Kinabalu – belongs to NO ONE else.
http://apps.facebook.com/causes/125792?recruiter_id=13322243

We need a big number to get the ball rolling.

Writing to the government is a waste of time.

They don’t read your letter. They don’t care about your email, and most probably your email will end up in their spam box.

The Sabah state government knew. Maybe they also have vested interest with Sutera? Who knows? They just don’t care.

If they really care, they should regulate the pricing structure.

If they really care, they would not have agree on the price increase.

Try asking for quotation for 2009 climbing package from Sutera. Get ready to get shock.

Stay tune to this blog.

You may want to climb other mountain first – Tambuyukon or Trusmadi, here in Sabah. They don’t have this much issue, but the climb are harder. Good thing is, Sutera is not involve with these 2 beautiful mountains.

Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri (I know it’s late)… Maaf Zahir & Batin.

Sutera Sanctuary Lodges – the biggest rip-off merchants in Asia

No. I did not write those words. I quoted from a travelogue entry by staffyandlyddy in Travelpod.com.

They also gave a breakdown of what they had to pay those ripp-off merchants to climb the mountain (for non-Malaysian):

Dorm Room at Park Headquarters – 85RM each
Permit to Climb Mt Kinabalu – 100RM each
Insurance (even though we have our own) – 7RM each
Guide – 85RM short trek / 100RM Long Trek – shared
Taxi from Park HQ to Start Point – 85RM – shared
Room on Laban Rata (halfway point) – 208RM each (including really poor meals)
Total cost (if climbing individually on short trek) – 555RM (111 Euro) for the 2 nights.

You can read their entry here.

10 FAQ on Mount Kinabalu mountain guide

I always received almost similar email every other day, asking about the mountain guide of Kinabalu. I will try to answer all the frequently asked questions here.

1. Do I need to book my mountain guide early, i.e. before I go to Kinabalu Park?
No, you don’t have to book the mountain guide early. You just need to book a climbing package with Sutera Sanctuary Lodges or Mountain Torq for the place to stay at Laban Rata. Your mountain guide will be assigned to you the morning you start your climb.

2. Does mountain guide and tour guide the same?
No, they are not the same. Your tour guide is a guide assigned to you by any tour & travel agent that you book for your trip. They may or may not be climbing up with you. Upon entering Kinabalu Park for the intention of climbing the mountain, a mountain guide is compulsory.

3. The trail on Mount Kinabalu is obvious. Can I climb without a mountain guide?
No. The mountain guide is compulsory for every climbers for safety reason.

4. What is the climbers:guide ration for the climb?
Starting from September 2008, the ratio for climbers:guide is 6:1. You can get the pricing structure of the mountain guides from Sabah Parks website.

5. Who does the mountain guide work for?
The mountain guide works for Sabah Parks, but they are not the staff of Sabah Parks. The mountain guides are usually local people from the surrounding village near Kinabalu.

6. Do I have to pay them personally, maybe tips?
They usually have a standard rate fee in which you will pay to Sabah Parks, either via your tour operator or directly to them. Tipping is not a common thing, but giving them some extra money will help them very much.

7. Can I choose the mountain guide I like?
Most probably. It depends on the situation. Some climbers would like to have a guide that can speak in their language. If the guide is available, you can surely get their services. For your information, most of the guide can speak a small amount of English.

8. What do they call mountain guide in Malay?
“Malim Gunung”

9. Can I have a guide for just me and my partner?
Yes, you can. You just have to pay a little bit more compared to climbers who climb with 5 other, as the guide can take maximum 6 climbers.

10. Do I have to book an accommodation for my guide and pay for their meals?
You don’t have to do that, as they have their own places to stay at Laban Rata. But you could always treat them with some nice meal.

Kinabalu climbing slots for 8th & 22nd September 2008

I received a call from one of my good friend who is also an ‘insider’, working freelance in tourism industry here in Sabah. He said he currently have slots (beds) for climbers of Kinabalu from one of the tour operator. Here are the details:

  1. 14 beds available at Laban Rata, climbing starts from Mesilau Nature Resort on 8th September 2008.
  2. 20 beds available at Laban Rata, climbing starts from Mesilau Nature Resort on 22nd September 2008.

Drop me an email for more information and booking. First come, first serve basis.

A message for Mr. Ginik Lunsin, a Kinabalu mountain guide

I don’t know how to get to him except via this blog. I think I should have Anthony’s (Kinabalu mountain guide leader) mobile number, so that this kind of email will get through to the person mentioned…

I received an email from Martin, asking me to forward his thanks and gratitude to his mountain guide who brought them up to the highest peak of Borneo on the 6th August 2008.

Dear Ginik,

Thank you for taking good care of us (especially our 12-year old daughter, Sharon) during our 2 days’ journey to the Mt. Kinabalu Summit. We are deeply impressed about your experience and responsibility; you always give us a hand in time, without your assistance, we wonder whether we can all reach the summit. We are lucky to have you as our mountain guide. Thank you again. We will always remember you.

Martin, Karen and Sharon/Taipei, Aug. 10, 2008

Mt. Kinabalu Travelogue by Brodie, John

I received an email with a very long travelogue and 53 pieces of photos from Mr. John Brodie yesterday. Let us read together his story…

Ruhaizad

Well I am back at work now offshore and I am still on a high… It was an unforgettable experience. I arrived on the 24th June 2008 and jumped in the taxi to the Liwagu Suite, after about two or three miles I noticed a lot of traffic jams outside the petrol stations, then the taxi driver informed me that he didn’t have enough petrol to get me there and him back ?? The petrol stations where supposed to be closing down that night and he feared he would be stranded. So it was back to the airport where I got the services of one of his colleagues, a very friendly Chinese guy who took me there and even arranged to pick me up on my return.. Result..

Arrived at Mount Kinabalu HQ at around 18.30 and got checked in, then took some food. Food at the cafe was basic but just ok, it had been cooked for a while and some of it was dried out a bit..Took some food and headed off to my room at the Liwagu suite. Got a few basic supplies at the shop there and off to bed for an early night ready for a 07.30 pick up the next day…

I got picked up promptly at 07.30 and it was off to HQ to do all the usual things, check out of room, check in my bag for storage, register for the climb etc. Check and double check my equipment. Last and most importantly I had a good breakfast before I left. I got picked up by the driver and the guide and was taken to the HQ at the Mesilau Trail. We traveled through Kundasang village and up and up and up, it was quite amazing to travel so far up and then find one of the most beautiful golf courses I have ever seen just appear.. Quite literally breathtaking, it just appeared out of nowhere and not something I expected to see at such a high level.

Got checked in at Mesilau Trail and then I started the trek, my guide for the climb was Maurice, a very friendly and informative guy, our group started off up the Mesilau Trail and he explained that the slowest person would dictate the pace and he would remain with them. The trail was one path with no hope of getting lost so I was able to forge ahead at my own pace, deliberately holding back and taking it easy as I did not know what was in store for me later that day. Maurice had told us we would reach Laban Rata around 17.30 hrs that day..

About 8 hours after we started the climb… wow that is a long day… everything went well, I reached the Pondok, rest huts and waited for the guide and carried on like this until I reached the intersection from Timpohon gate. It was then that the weather took a turn for the worse and it started raining heavily… I covered my bag with my waterproof jacket in an attempt to keep my clothes dry inside and pressed onwards and upwards. The temperature had dropped noticeably and I was now very wet.

I had about 4 km left to cover and these proved to be the hardest part of the two days for me. I was feeling the effects of the altitude slightly and this was slowing me up.. I was now resting around every 50 metres or so, but I kept going.. The rain had made the path treacherous in some places so I had to be very careful with my footing… It was then I heard somebody running ?? I looked up to see one of the guys from the Park running down the mountain ??? With and empty gas bottle strapped to his back… What ? I just couldn’t believe my eyes…

Here was me struggling every 50 metres with a small back pack and there was a guy with a gas bottle on his back ….. running full tilt down the same track…… I pushed on up and reached the Laban Rata at 17.00 hrs, the rest of my group arrived at 18.20 hrs.. I rewarded my first day with a can of beer and a big plate of food… Then it was a nice hot shower and straight to bed.. I was in bed at around 20.00 hrs and asleep by 20.01 I think… Alarm was set for 02.00 hrs.

Alarm woke me at 02.00 hrs from a very deep sleep, the way I felt I could have quite easily turned the alarm off and went back to sleep… Apparently and according to my guide, quite a few people did just that. But I had got this far and in another 3 hours or so I would be at Low’s Peak… So I forced myself out of bed, packed my essentials, had some hot sweet, Sabah tea and I was ready to go.. Everybody virtually started the climb together in the pitch darkness. It was a wonderful sight to see all the torches and head torches ahead and behind me snaking their way up the mountain…

The quicker people moved through the field the slower people taking more rests… I just followed the group again separated from my guide. Head torch on lighting my way just a few feet in front of me. The start was mainly stairs, these where very wet and very slippery in places so pace was slow and sure. It wasn’t too long before I came to the rock and this was marked out by rope to help you find the way and in some cases to help you up the rock. I got past the check point where I was asked to show my registration card and the number noted then again it was onwards and upwards slowly but surely. I was now feeling the effects of the altitude and was quite literally walking about 50 metres then resting, same as the previous day..

As it started to get lighter as day broke I was beginning to see the mountain and surrounding areas in all their magnificent glory…. On arriving at the edge of Lows Peak there was many people at the summit. I waited until they had all gone so I could have my photo taken at the peak on my own. I spent about half an hour at the peak just basking in the splendour of it all. Then it was the long decent back down to Laban Rata.

Coming down in the daylight gave you a view of what I had climbed in the dark… It was quite hairy…..although it was much quicker getting from the peak to Laban Rata than the other way round.. I made good time down the first stage, took some breakfast, checked out and prepared for the long decent by filling up water bottles..

On the way down seen all the people on their way up, the camaraderie was amazing, encouragement being offered, questions being asked and answered. But one thing that came out every time from me was keep going, yes it is hard work, but it is all worth it for the end result. Seeing the local men and women climbing this mountain with three or four rucksacks, seeing them climb with all the provisions for the Laban Rat was just amazing, the fitness levels of these guys is truly amazing. But what absolutely took my breath away was seeing these guys carrying up massive panels to erect a building, two panels strung together with a pole up the middle being carried by two men or in some cases one man carrying a full panel on his own… I just couldn’t believe it..

Made very good time coming down according to our guide and reached the bottom at around 13.30.. I transferred on to the coach and headed back to the HQ where I picked up my certificate gave my guide his very well earned tip and then went for that hard earned breakfast.

Taxi took me to my hotel in Kota Kinabalu where I had a lovely long soak in a hot bath..

Photos attached (check out his photoset in my flickr)

All in all this was an experience of a life time and something that will remain in my memory for the rest of my life.. what more can I say.. It is not easy but the end product arriving at Lows Peak makes all the effort worthwhile. Putting this into perspective for me, was the comparisons between Mount Kinabalu and the highest mountain in UK, Ben Nevis, Kinabalu is well over three times higher than that..

All in all, two memorable days.

Regards

John

RM7 (~USD2.16) Insurance coverage for climbing Kinabalu

If you have been following me for the past few weeks, there was an issue about climbing insurance for climbers of Kinabalu. BS Tan sent me an email in regards to the issue, which I could not find the solution myself.

Anyway, she received a reply from Sabah Park, explaining about the insurance coverage, after she sent them an official complaint letter. She is kind enough to share with us the reply:

Dear Madam,

COMPLAINT LETTER: INSURANCE COVERAGE FOR CLIMBING GUNUNG KINABALU

I refer to your email dated 10 June 2008 with regards to the above-
mentioned subject.

Insurance coverage for climbers are as follow:

INSURANCE (PER ACCIDENT)

-DEATH PER ACCIDENT ONLY RM50,000.00

-PERMANENT DISABLEMENT AS A RESULT OF AN
ACCIDENT RM50,000.00

-EXPENSES PER ACCIDENT ONLY RM5,000.00

-REPATRIATION OF REMAINS RM2,000.00

<–Omitted text for confidentiality–>

Thank you.

Yours faithfully,

AK.MOHD.RODZAN PG.DAHLAN
SABAH PARKS
KOTA KINABALU, SABAH, MALAYSIA

So now you know how much your compulsory RM7 insurance worth if anything happened to you. Happy climbing!

Sutera Sanctuary Lodges (SSL) website revisited

After they upgraded their office here in Kota Kinabalu, I noticed that they have also redesigned their website. Apparently, they scrapped their SSL office header logo to make way to Sutera Harbour Resort. If you go to Wisma Sabah nowadays, you will not find Sutera Sanctuary Lodges anymore.

They centralized their operating office under Sutera Harbour Resort, which is one of the main player in Sabah’s tourism industry. I am not going to blog about their “new” office, as I have never been there myself. But I used to walked pass by their office, almost everyday on the way to my office. I really hope that their services improves in accordance to their upgrading process.

Back to their website issue. The question that I asked myself before I write this:

  • Is their website new design and set up more user friendly compared to the previous one?
  • Have they change to the better?

Website redesign issue
From the first glance, they still stuck with web1.0. A static website. As more and more website visitors comes to see the emerging of web2.0 (more interactive websites), SSL still left way behind. I am not surprised with that development, however, as it is known that big companies like SSL do not bother to use the power of internet to expand their business.

By the look of the pages, most probably SSL paid some novice webmaster to create a 15-pages website which they think is enough to get the message out to the netizen that they are running an accommodation booking website. But they did not able to specifically state that they provides packages for Mt. Kinabalu climbing.

I just feel that having a static website for SSL is inappropriate, as most of the website visitors nowadays are clever. They need updated information, news, up to date stories, feedback and interaction between them and the site that they are dealing with. They should have created a more interactive platform, like blogs or news feed on the home page, to inform their visitors of what happened in real time. For example, the news about the offices upgrade and renovation was only seen in local newspaper. It should also be announce in the website.

For SSL, don’t just cut cost by having one-off payment to your webmaster. Get a good webmaster who could regularly update the site with more updated information. Create a blog. Create a forum. Get your clients to easily contact you, and be more transparent with the information that you have. It will boost your credibility among netizens.

First time visitor experiences
Most of the netizens who arrived on SSL website will surely be lost. And the worst part, almost all the traffic to the website were directed from here (sorry friends… I don’t have much choice).

As most of us know, a big numbers of netizen who came here have only one thing in their mind: to climb Mount Kinabalu. But their intention met a stumbling block when they arrived on SSL website. They did not see any “Mt. Kinabalu Climbing Package Booking” anywhere. They just do not know which button to click to get their intentions going. They will also be confused on where will they be staying if they decided to go.

If they have enough information from my website and blog that they will be staying in Laban Rata on their way up to the peak, it will be easy for them. Just by clicking “Laban Rata”, much of the problems are resolved, but they will then faces new challenges:

Choosing the accommodation for the climb
Arriving on “Laban Rata” page, you will then be showed 3 options for the accommodations:

  • Laban Rata Room 1, which sleeps 2 – a high class accommodation
  • Laban Rata Room 2, which also sleeps 2, same as Laban Rata Room 1
  • Laban Rata Room 3, which is a dormitory, sleeps 6

For those who never been up there, the information above may or may not confuses you. According to the numbers above, do you notice that the total number of beds at Laban Rata is only 10? The truth is, at any one time, a total number of 140 climbers will be able to get their beds with SSL, plus another 30 beds that is run by Mountaintorq. Did they mention it anywhere on their website?

SSL did not declare that they actually have different kind of accommodations with different numbers of climbers per room. For old timers like me, seeing the accommodations page without Gunting Lagadan Hut, Waras Hut and Panar Laban Hut really disappoints me. Why did SSL hide the information?

Yes, the other huts that I mentioned are not heated and not the same “standard” as Laban Rata Resthouse (I suppose where the Rooms they mentioned are situated). But who cares? Some of the climbers did not even care about comfort and convenience, as long as they are able to climb. And most of them are actually ready to camp at Laban Rata if they are allowed by Sabah Parks. Why not just tell the truth about the accommodations and let climbers decide?

The climbing package

Yes, the prices has gone up 3-4 folds. I used to climb Kinabalu with less than RM250 – complete with transportation from Kota Kinabalu to Kinabalu Park HQ. I just need to fork out my own money to buy foods up there, but most of my foods were self-prepared. It was a couple of years ago.

Now, the price that are stated on their website are RM546 (Room 1 & 2) and RM1688 (Room 3). Bare in mind that the price does not includes your transportation, your park fee, mountain guides and certificate. Care to calculate how much it will cost you yourself by following the rate in their “Climbing Mt Kinabalu” page?

Okay… Okay… I complained too much. But I think it is for the company’s good image. I have nothing to loose here, my friend. I am hoping that SSL can improve their services up to our client’s expectation.

Oh, should I go to their customer relation issues?

In conclusion, I think:

  1. SSL still sucks big time on explaining how to go about (the straightforward way) on booking the Mt. Kinabalu climbing package, despite the new website redesign.
  2. They failed to inform us the whole truth about the accommodations at Laban Rata – Gunting Lagadan, Waras and Panar Laban.
  3. They failed to tell us that at any one time, SSL could accommodate up to 140 climbers at Laban Rata area.
  4. They still left behind with static web1.0 on their website. SSL, you may need to fire your webmaster and get a new one with web2.0 or even web3.0 oriented.

Good Luck.

I am not for hire as a webmaster – unless I am paid RM500k (hint) per year… HAHAHAHA…. (with evil laugh!)