Category Archives: Mount Kinabalu

Mount Kinabalu Tragedy (Part 8): Sabah Parks rangers and guides have CM’s support

Friday, August 24, 2001
By Jaswinder Kaur

Chief Minister Datuk Chong Kah Kiat today stood firm behind Sabah Parks rangers and guides who were involved in the search and rescue operation for Briton Ellie James, 17.

Elaborating on claims that Sabah Parks had delayed search and rescue operations soon after Ellie was reported missing last Thursday morning, Chong said the rangers were well trained and were experienced.

He said there was no need for anyone to query why Sabah Parks sought help from the Special Malaysia Rescue Team (SMART) several days after Ellie went missing.

“We will not seek immediate help (from SMART). We have sufficient manpower (from Sabah Parks) who are experienced and trained. We know when to ask for further help,” he told newsmen after visiting the Likas Sports Complex area, today.

Ellie was found dead by rangers at a 65 degree slope close to St John’s Peak yesterday, a week after she went missing.

The Chief Minister also said those who climbed Mount Kinabalu did so on a voluntary basis.

He said before making the ascent, climbers were already aware of what to expect.

“Climbers have to follow rules set by the Sabah Parks,” he said.

To another question, he said there was no need for others to make comparisons on how safe it was to climb Mount Kinabalu with other destinations.

The BBC had in a report claimed that it was unsafe to climb Mount Kinabalu, which is the highest in South East Asia.

Meanwhile, statistics show that at least 30,000 people climb the mountain every year.

A check at Kinabalu Park also revealed that local and foreign tourists were still keen to climb the mountain, despite Ellie’s death.

Mount Kinabalu Tragedy: A tribute to Ellie James (1985-2001)
Mount Kinabalu Tragedy (Part 2): Setback in search for girl
Mount Kinabalu Tragedy (Part 3): Signs that missing British girl still alive
Mount Kinabalu Tragedy (Part 4): “Spirits” had lured Ellie astray
Mount Kinabalu Tragedy (Part 5): British girl found dead on Mt Kinabalu
Mount Kinabalu Tragedy (Part 6): Ellie’s parents set up memorial fund to help villagers
Mount Kinabalu Tragedy (Part 7): Family of British girl who died on Kinabalu to cremate her

Resource: New Straits Times

Mount Kinabalu Tragedy (Part 7): Family of British girl who died on Kinabalu to cremate her

Friday, August 24, 2001

By Muguntan Vanar and Ruben Sario

KOTA KINABALU: British schoolgirl Ellie James, 17, who died after she went missing on Mount Kinabalu a week ago, will be cremated at a private crematorium here today.

The family’s locally appointed undertakers claimed the body at 2.30pm yesterday after a post-mortem was conducted by pathologist Dr Jessie Hiu at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital here.

Ellie’s body was kept at the Fook Liew Siew funeral parlour at Jalan Tuaran here.

A memorial service will be held at 9am today before her body is taken to the crematorium in Likas.

Her parents Bruce James, 54, and Claire, 49, together with brothers Henry and Thomas are expected to fly home with the ashes.

Ellie James body

SOMBRE MOOD… Ellie’s body being wheeled into the Queen Elizabeth Hospital mortuary by Yayasan Sabah paramedics, Wednesday night, where a post mortem was believed to have been conducted overnight.

The family is originally from Cornwall in the Britain and have been residing in Germany.Ellie, who trekked up the mountain with her family, had gone missing with Henry while descending Low’s Peak on Aug 16. Henry was found near St John’s peak about six hours later.

Dr Hiu said she was preparing the post-mortem report on the cause of death but declined to give details, saying that the report would be submitted to the hospital’s director Datin Dr Rahimah Said.

Ranau district police chief Asst Supt Dzulbaharin Ismail said police have not received the report, adding that investigations were in progress.

Sources say it was likely that Ellie had died of hypothermia caused by prolonged exposure to the very cold conditions near the summit of the 4,095m Mount Kinabalu.

The sources say apart from bruises, Ellie did not suffer any broken bones and appeared to have been dead for at least three to four days before searchers found her body sprawled on a 60« slope about 500m below St John’s Peak on Wednesday.

Mount Kinabalu Tragedy: A tribute to Ellie James (1985-2001)
Mount Kinabalu Tragedy (Part 2): Setback in search for girl
Mount Kinabalu Tragedy (Part 3): Signs that missing British girl still alive
Mount Kinabalu Tragedy (Part 4): “Spirits” had lured Ellie astray
Mount Kinabalu Tragedy (Part 5): British girl found dead on Mt Kinabalu
Mount Kinabalu Tragedy (Part 6): Ellie’s parents set up memorial fund to help villagers

Resource: The Star Archive

Mount Kinabalu Tragedy (Part 6): Ellie’s parents set up memorial fund to help villagers

Friday, August 24, 2001

KOTA KINABALU: The parents of British teenager Ellie James, who died on Mount Kinabalu, has set up a memorial fund aimed at benefiting voluntary organisations and also the people of a village on the foothills of the mountain.

Ellie’s family, in a statement to the Daily Telegraph newspaper in London, said: “Ellie spent her last days with the villagers of Kampung Kiau Nulu and was particularly moved by their commitment towards preserving the rainforest and learning about the medicinal properties of plants.”

Apart from the people of Kampung Kiau Nulu, the donations would be distributed evenly to the Dianne Fossey Gorilla Fund, Care for the Wild, Amnesty International and The Big Issue.

Ellie’s parents Bruce James, 54, Claire, 49, brothers Henry, 15, and Thomas, an instructor with the Outward Bound School, described her as a “remarkable girl.”

“She lived her life to the full and achieved more in her 17-and-a-half years then most people do in 75 (years). She was brave, intelligent and beautiful.

“Her life was a campaign for justice and freedom. If her death inspires other people to stand up and be counted, her life would not be in vain,” they said in a statement, the first since she went missing on Aug 16 on the mountain.

Her body was found by Sabah Parks rangers on Wednesday and brought down to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital here for a post-mortem.

The family, from Cornwall, but residing in Germany, thanked the people of Kiau Nulu for their hospitality, support and commitment in the search for Ellie.

“The mountain guides and national park wardens have risked their own lives in searching for Ellie,” they said in the statement.

On Wednesday night, the family went to the mortuary to identify Ellie’s body.

Mount Kinabalu Tragedy: A tribute to Ellie James (1985-2001)
Mount Kinabalu Tragedy (Part 2): Setback in search for girl
Mount Kinabalu Tragedy (Part 3): Signs that missing British girl still alive
Mount Kinabalu Tragedy (Part 4): “Spirits” had lured Ellie astray
Mount Kinabalu Tragedy (Part 5): British girl found dead on Mt Kinabalu

Resource: The Star Archive

Mount Kinabalu Tragedy (Part 5): British girl found dead on Mt Kinabalu

This is the fifth day of a 10 days news series of Ellie James.

Part 5: Thursday, August 23, 2001
By Muguntan Vanar and Ruben Sario

KOTA KINABALU: British schoolgirl Ellie James, who went missing on Aug 16, was found dead yesterday just below St John’s peak, the second highest point of Mount Kinabalu, about 4,090m above sea level.

Sabah Parks rangers and mountain guides located the body about 500m below the peak on some rocks.

Ellie, 16, was found sprawled face down with visible bruises on her hands on the rocky surface of the summit’s plateau, Ranau district police chief Asst Supt Dzulbaharin Ismail said.

However, searchers only managed to retrieve her body from the slopes after the poor weather conditions on the plateau cleared around 2pm before taking it back to Laban Rata (3,272m) at 5pm.

Park rangers carried down the body and handed it over to Ranau police who took it to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital here by Yayasan Sabah ambulance late last night for a postmortem.

Ellie’s distraught family had been keeping vigil at a resort in Kota Kinabalu since she went missing while descending from the 4,095m Low’s Peak with them.

GRIEVING PARENTS…Ellie’s father Bruce James and her mother (being consoled by a nurse) arriving at the Kota Kinabalu Queen Elizabeth Hospital mortuary last night to identify her body.–STARpic by NORMIMIE DIUN.

Her father Bruce James, 54, mother Claire, 49, brothers Henry, 15, and Thomas, who works as an instructor with the Outward Bound School at Kinarut here, have refused to meet the media.

Chief Minister Datuk Chong Kah Kiat personally conveyed the state government’s condolences to the family at a hotel yesterday.

Describing the incident as “sad and unfortunate” Chong said that James understood the problems faced by the searchers who were bogged down by harsh weather conditions.

“We thank all those involved in the search operation. They had worked very hard,” he added.

No one has been able to immediately ascertain as to how Ellie had died.

Yesterday, ASP Dzulbaharin declined to say whether Ellie had fallen to her death or succumbed to exposure to the cold, sometimes near sub-zero temperatures.

“We have to wait for the postmortem results,” he said.

ASP Dzulbaharin said the body would be handed over to the family after the postmortem, adding that it would be up to them to decide what to do next.

According to rangers, Ellie, from Cornwall in Britain, had apparently strayed about a kilometer from the Low’s Peak trail used by some 30,000 people annually to climb the mountain.

Ellie and her brother Henry lost their way in thick fog and strong winds while descending from Low’s Peak last Thursday morning. Their parents raised the alarm on seeing that they had not returned to the Laban Rata Rest House by 10am that day.

An immediate search was launched by the Sabah Parks rangers who found Henry six hours later near St John’s Peak where his sister had apparently left him to seek for help.

However, bad weather conditions bogged down the search.

ASP Dzulbaharin said Ellie’s body was found about 500m from where Henry was found.

Ellie and her family were among a tour group of 12 people who scaled Low’s Peak.

With weather improving since late Monday, the SMART team, police general operations force, firemen and army special forces joined rangers, local Dusun guides and villagers to scour the two-square kilometer mountain plateau and also the western forested slopes.

Mount Kinabalu Tragedy: A tribute to Ellie James (1985-2001)
Mount Kinabalu Tragedy (Part 2): Setback in search for girl
Mount Kinabalu Tragedy (Part 3): Signs that missing British girl still alive
Mount Kinabalu Tragedy (Part 4): “Spirits” had lured Ellie astray

Resource: The Star Archive

Mount Kinabalu Tragedy (Part 4): “Spirits” had lured Ellie astray

This is the fourth day of a 10 days news series of Ellie James.

Part 4: Thursday, August 23, 2001

MOUNT KINABALU: A team of mountain rescuers today found the body of British teenager Ellie James, who had been missing for a week on Mount Kinabalu.

The 17-year-old disappeared in the mist while descending from the 13,455-foot mountain with her family and a 15-member climbing party last Thursday.

“We offer our condolences to the family as we tried our best this past week to find her, only to find her body,” said Ranau police chief Zul Baharin Ismail.

He said Sabah Park Rangers found the body at 10.21 a.m near St John’s peak where she went missing.

“The park rangers have searched the same area in the past few days but could not spot the body in the bad weather,” Zul Baharin said.

Graphis presentation where Ellie’s body was found

Click to enlarge

Her body was lying on a steep rock slope at around 4,000 metres (13,000 feet), but only 500 metres from where her brother Henry was rescued within hours of them both going missing.

It was not immediately clear if she had died from a fall or from exposure.

“We are in the process of retrieving the body which is located at a 55 degree incline slope,” the police chief told a news conference. “It’s quite difficult to retrieve the body due to bad weather conditions.”

The search for Ellie had been hampered by the worst weather to hit the area in a decade, although visibility today was better than at any time in the past week.

Temperatures high on the mountain drop below freezing at night, while high winds and sheet rain make conditions even more treacherous.

Ellie’s parents, who were also on the hike, had been told of their daughter’s death as they waited in Kota Kinabalu. Father Bruce, 54, and mother Claire, 49, had asked for privacy during the past week’s ordeal.

Hopes of finding Ellie had risen yesterday when the weather began clearing and searchers discovered footprints, a makeshift shelter and a piece of plastic tied to a tree.

The tracks appeared to be fresh and left as late as Monday night, but it now seems certain it was a false trail, being much lower down the mountain than where her body was found. Local guides had already doubted her chances and feared “spirits” had lured Ellie astray.

Bad weather can also turn a relatively easy trek into a perilous battle for survival.

Eighteen British soldiers were lost for a month on Kinabalu in 1994. The harrowing story of their survival was subsequently made into a film.

Two climbers from Sarawak went missing in 1991 and were never found again.

Resource: Borneo Post Archive

Mount Kinabalu Tragedy: A tribute to Ellie James (1985-2001)
Mount Kinabalu Tragedy (Part 2): Setback in search for girl
Mount Kinabalu Tragedy (Part 3): Signs that missing British girl still alive

Mount Kinabalu Tragedy (Part 3): Signs that missing British girl still alive

This is the third day of a 10 days news series of Ellie James.

Part 3: Wednesday, August 22, 2001

KOTA KINABALU: Teams scaling through slippery footpaths in the jungle terrain of Mount Kinabalu are keeping their hopes alive of finding missing 16-year-old British schoolgirl Ellie James.
Some of the local team members believe that they have spotted Ellie’s footprints yesterday. She went missing on Aug 16.

As the search entered its sixth day, with the SMART team and General Operations Force personnel joining in to widen the search area, rescuers believe they might have stumbled on branches that were used as a “floor mat” by Ellie in a forested area at the 3,000m level.

SAR team looking for Ellie

SEARCH CONTINUES … General Operations Force personnel moving into the Paka Caves area of Mount Kinabalu Tuesday to search for Ellie.

“We believe the branches were left by the missing girl. We believe she is still alive. We don’t know what her condition is,” said Ranau district police chief Asst Supt Dzulbaharin Ismail yesterday.

He believed that Ellie could have wandered from the 4,095m summit plateau area where she went missing and headed towards the thick forested area on the western face near Kampung Kiau.

Mount Kinabalu Tragedy: A tribute to Ellie James (1985-2001)
Mount Kinabalu Tragedy (Part 2): Setback in search for girl

Resource: The Star Archive

Mount Kinabalu Tragedy (Part 2): Setback in search for girl

This is the second day of a 10 days news series of Ellie James.

Part 2: Tuesday, August 21, 2001

KOTA KINABALU: Strong winds, thick fog and heavy rain continue to hamper the search for Ellie James near the summit of Mount Kinabalu.

Some 50 rescuers, comprising Sabah Park rangers, soldiers, policemen, firemen, villagers and other volunteers, were unable to do much on Sunday and most of yesterday due to the bad weather.

Officials said they were hoping that the weather would clear by yesterday evening for them to conduct an overnight search for the 16-year-old schoolgirl from Cornwall, Britain.

“The girl has not been found yet. The search and rescue effort is still on,” Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Norian Mai said yesterday.

Medical officials are worried about Ellie’s physical condition.

She went missing last Thursday near St John’s Peak of the 4,095m-high mountain.

A doctor here said that although Ellie was wearing warm clothes, prolonged exposure to near sub-zero temperatures at night and the absence of food would weaken her.

A group of 30 soldiers are carrying out the search near Kampung Kiau at the foot of the mountain.

Part 1: A tribute to Ellie James (1985-2001)

Resource: The Star Archive

Mount Kinabalu Tragedy: A tribute to Ellie James (1985-2001)

Ellie JamesNot many people know about tragedies that happened on Mount Kinabalu. Death happens on Borneo’s majestic mountain, the latest was in August 2001. As this month would be exactly 6 years since the event, I would like to dedicate a serial news excerpt from our local newspaper, The Star which reported the incident. Ellie James, a 16 years old girl from Cornwall, England, was found dead by the search and rescue team, when she was lost during the climbing.

This will the the first of 10 news from The Star archive, which will be written in chronological order. I will post one news each day, and this week will be a tribute from Kinabalu Blog to Ellie James.

Part 1: Monday, August 20, 2001
Rescuers racing against time to locate British schoolgirl (Sabah)

KOTA KINABALU: Rescuers are racing against time to locate 16-year-old Ellie James, who went missing near the summit of Mount Kinabalu since Thursday, as they remain bogged down by bad weather.

They are counting on the ingenuity of the British schoolgirl for her survival while heavy rain and winds of more than 100kph, caused by the tail of Typhoon Pabuk in the Philippines, continue to lash the 4,095m-high mountain.

Rescue teams covering nearly two square kilometres of the summit’s plateau have yet to find any new leads to the whereabouts of Ellie, who is from Cornwall, England.

“It’s been very frustrating. The weather is not with us … our teams are having difficulty with the poor visibility and strong winds,” said state Assistant Tourism, Environment, Science and Technology Minister Datuk Karim Bujang.

He said that in the last 36 hours, rescue teams comprising park rangers, guides and villagers had made little progress in their search for Ellie while seven rescuers from the fire department had also joined them near the summit yesterday.

Helicopters from the RMAF and Sabah Air are also on standby to carry out aerial searches but so far, they have not been able to make any trips due to the weather conditions, Karim said.

Resource: The Star Archive

Marai Parai Route: climbing Kinabalu from the north-west flank

As a continuation of the articles about Western plateau of Kinabalu, I now give you an idea on what you are going to face while climbing Kinabalu from Marai Parai route. You will need a special permission from Sabah Park Authorities to get the permit and guide for this climb. Resource:

The first recorded ascent of this route was done in 1987. The route description as described by the first ascent party appears below. Be aware that, particularly on the initial approach, paths may have changed over the years since this description was documented. The first ascent team took two days and did not use any ropes. Ropes, however, may be necessary in wet weather. Few parties ever use this route.

Day 1
From park HQ, drive to Kampung Kian Satu by Land Cruiser (~1 hr.). From the road, take the prominent footpath which traverses the mountain northwards. The path traverses for about 30 minutes and then dips down to the Haya Haya River. Cross this river. The path then crosses three ridges and three more rivers called Sungai Makai Tukan, Dohatang and Kinotoki respectively. These rivers are easily crossed after a prolonged dry period, although it is understood that they are almost impassable with heavy rains. 2.5 hrs.

From Sungai Kinotoki, the path rises steeply and continuously to meet a ridge after about 20 minutes Here there is a T-junction. Turn right to climb up the ridge towards the mountain. A small clearing is reached in about 30 minutes (may be remnants of a camp here). This is the Marai Parai camp which is used by Sabah Park Staff and water is available within 50 m.

Continue following the ridge upwards from the Marai Parai camp for about 20 minutes until it opens out into grassy terrain. This is Marai Parai. The vegetation changes here due to a small zone of ultrabasic soil underlying the area. Nepenthes Raja, the park’s largest Nepenthes sp. (an genera of insect eating pitcher plants) is found here. The path continues upwards relentlessly but is fairly clear. Eventually, another open grassy clearing (known as Komburongoh Sodikas) is reached. This is where the cut trail ends. 2.5 hrs.

West Gurkha HutFrom the end of the cut trail, the route consists of finding ones way through the vegetation. The first ascent party followed various pig and deer trails which continued up the ridge to their first bivvy amongst the mossy forest at 9500 ft. Be prepared for thick vegetation and vicious rattan plants. No water is available here. The first ascent team reported making tea with water collected from Nepenthes, however, excessive use of this as a source of water has been known to cause diarrhea. 2.5 hrs.

Day 2
Continue up the ridge staying on the left side. The ground begins to fall steeply to the left and the vegetation becomes increasingly entangled. After about 30 minutes, you will reach a small hillock. From here, drop down to the north and across to the next ridge. The easiest line takes the bottom of a gully, however, the first ascentionists decided to head north after walking about 20 minutes as the gully was taking them to far to the West. Fight the tiresome vegetation heading North to a stream bed with water. 1.5 hrs.

Follow the stream bed upstream for about 100 m until the scrambling becomes more difficult. Head left over vegetated rock and back into mossy forest. Continue working upwards and left and cross another stream. After some more vegetation, the terrain becomes more rocky with scattered Leptospernum trees. 1.5 hrs.

Continue upwards and left to meet mossy forest. Eventually, you will reach the upper limit of vegetation against the steep rock face below Alexandra Peak. Follow the edge of the vegetation which rises up and left until it drops steeply away below a buttress at the North end of the Dewali Pinnacles. 1.5 hrs.

A gully drops down from the North from here. Easy scrambling gains access to the slabs below the buttresses of Dewali Pinnacles and on to the bottom of the gully between No Name Peak and Dewali. In dry conditions, the steep slabs are easily climbed directly to the West Gurkha Hut. 2 hrs.

April 16-17th, 1987 Steve Pinfield, Ansow Gunsalam, Robert New

Western Plateau peaks of Kinabalu

I have heard about West Gurkha Hut for so many times, but I have no idea where it is on the mountain, until I found a photo of it from NorthBorneo MSN groups while searching for more information about Mount Kinabalu. I also found some other nice photos of other peaks on Western Plateau – Oyayubi, No Name Peak, Dewali, Victoria and Tsukushi peaks.

One of the photo also showed Dr Liew Hung Bang, one of my consultant physician while I was working in Queen Eizabeth Hospital, Kota Kinabalu. He is the one who responsible for my first climb of Kinabalu in January 2002. Since then, I fell in love with Kinabalu. I did another trip with him up to the peak as a medical personnel.

These are 8 rare photos of Western Plateau peaks of Kinabalu. The photos were taken by Rabani, one of the Lonetree group members. They made the climb in January 2004. You can also get the original photos from the group here.

Lonetree Group at Western Plateau
Lonetree group, and their playground, Kinabalu National Park. Standing from left: Ginik (Mountain Guide), Goh Ai Ling. Sitting from left: Dr. Liew Houng Bang and Adlin George Houng. Standing really far back: Alexandria Peak.

Alexandria Peak
Aleaxndria Peak, seen from Western Gap.

Oyayubi Iwu Peak
Oyayubi, Japanese for Thumb. Gurkha Hut, is below it.

Oyayubi and Alexandria
Oyayubi Iwu on your left, Alexandria on your right.

Tsukushi Peak
Tsukushi Peak.

Victoria Peak
Victoria Peak. Note the potruding Horn. Some people believe that Victoria Peak is higher than Low’s Peak because of the Horn. To climb the Horn, technical mountain climbing skill and gear is required. However, official data from the authority still says that Low’s Peak is the highest.

Victoria Horn
Up close and personal with the Horn. Shot taken at full 300mm (Tamron XR 24-300mm) on Canon EOS 300D (Digital Rebel).

Oyayubi, Alexandria and Dewali Pinnacles
View of Alexandria Peak, Oyayubi Peak in front of it and Dewali Pinnacles in the background (right). Shot taken from Low’s Peak.

Climbing using this route will need a special permission from the Sabah Park Authorities.