Low’s Gully – Kinabalu’s “Death Valley”

Low’s Gully is without doubt the single most dramatic feature of the mountain from the climbing point of view, and was for a long time considered to be inaccessible. Reaching more than a kilometer (3,000 feet) down and more then 16 kilometers (10 miles) in length, the gully is shrouded with an air of mystery made only stronger by its inaccessibility. Several parties, including British army expeditions, have tried to penetrate the gully from either the top or the bottom – but all failed.

Low’s Gully
Look out below: a Canadian team attempts Low’s Gully, March 2002. (Brent Raymond)

More recently in 1998, however, a joint Malaysia-British mountaineering group made another successful attempt. Their success was, in large part, due to the fact that the descent was made during the El Nino induced drought of 1998, and the climbers themselves said afterwards that in wet weather the descent would have been impossible.

Indeed some members of the expedition felt that it was not so much a conquering of the gully, as an acceptance by the mountain to let them through, perhaps due to the spiritual rituals that took place both before and after the climb. The group also succeeded in descending, for the first time, the vertical cliffs at the head of the gully that come down from Commando Cauldron.

Commando Cauldron

Other proposals have been made to descend the gully since, but Sabah Parks, wisely recognizing the great dangers involved have not, so far, given permission for any further attempts.

Though he never climbed Low’s Peak, Sir Hugh Low was the first to look down into the dramatic gully that bears his name, saying “…looking down over the ridge, I gazed into a circular amphitheater about 80 yards broad, the bottom of which from its great depth and my position overhanging it was indiscernible, though I imagine I could see down two thousand feet.”

Resources:

  1. Globetrotter Visitor’s Guide Kinabalu Park (Globetrotter Visitor’s Guides), by Anthea Phillipps
  2. Big Gulp, No Exit, from Outside Online, by Paul Kvinta
  3. Rabani HMA, from TrekEarth

17 thoughts on “Low’s Gully – Kinabalu’s “Death Valley”

  1. The entry point to The Low’s Gully should, most of the time, be at Easy Valley, start descent from Lone Tree, a point where the last camp site outside Low’s Gully and where the supplies stock and lower down to the team enter the gully.

    Commando Cauldron, otherwiae Cauldron Gap, is where the rock climbers used for exit the gully.

  2. The entry point for Easy Valley is at the right corner of Tunku Abdul Rahman’s Peak, may need about one hour steep scrambling up from Sayat-sayat Hut, then 2 hours descent to the Easy valley to reach Lone Tree.

  3. Thank you, Basil for your additional info. I really appreciate it. I did read about Easy Valley and Lone Tree but I did not be able to visualize the area, until you mentioned it here.

  4. Hi Drizad..~waves~

    Iknow about the gully, I read a great book the other week.

    A group of soldiers on a British Army expedition attempt to navigate an unexplored Malaysian gully. So inaccessible is the area, that they must ascend the highest mountain in Southeast Asia just to reach the entrance.

    More here:
    http://julienne.wordpress.com/2007/09/10/sos/

    Five got seperated, they all went through trauma before they were rescued they were extremely lucky they did’nt all lose their lives in the gully.

    The LT Col Neill was severly reprimaned for his judgment and leadership during parts of the expedition. anyway they all wanted to thank the search and rescue team, especilly the Royal Malaysian Airforce, but there were many rescue people involved to numerious to mention here I can only ask you to read the book details at my link:
    K

  5. No problem Drizad,

    I had at one time loads of images, and texts on Malaysia in particular Borneo which is my fav place in all Malaysia. Not that I have been but if you write about a subject long enough you learn the ways and grow to love what you see.

    What is sad is whats happening in the jungles with the wildlife becoming extinct, trees chopped down etc. What on earth will our next generation have to look and learn about after we are gone? Its not just happening in Malaysia so don’t get me wrong Drizad, each and everyone of us has a part to play and we should play it to the best of our ability.
    Kate on her favorite rant…lmaooooooooooooo

  6. Thanks again for your comments. I do agree with you on preserving our nature for our future generation. That is why I sometimes highlight some points on environmental issues on Kinabalu in this blog.

    Hopefully we will realize how important for us climbers take good care of our majestic mountain.

    Cheers!

  7. So Drizad,

    Is this blog Kinabalu specific?

    Its very nice and I like it but I guess there are so many wonderful places in Malaysia we must choose just one – mine is mainly Borneo and its Flora and Fauna.

    Its a shame there is’nt Borneo news everyday of the latest new wildlife finds but we do ok with 360 new species having been found. That’s 3 discoveries a month!

    http://assets.panda.org/downloads/hob_animation_v1_swf.swf I love what they did with this swf movie!
    Till next time Drizad byeee
    Kate

  8. Yes Kate, this blog is about my niche theme, Kinabalu. While I tried to get to the theme most of the time, I am also open to other theme that is similar to it.

    Cheers!

  9. i was part of the search and rescue team, albeit with a different role…. i saw the first 2 british soldiers (both of Chinese descendants – from Hong Kong) being airlifted via malaysian airforce helicopter Nuri, right from Mt Kinabalu to the old SMC – sabah medical centre in likas in the year 1994…

    and after the news was broadcast… the then British PM – John Major straightly talked to our then PM (Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad)via phone, thanking him and the malaysian govt on behalf of the British govt…

    what’s more interesting, at that particular time, malaysia and UK bilateral relationshop was not at good level becuase of Tun Mahathir trademark criticism of the British govt – i forgot already the cause….. but this is true. real true and will always be true……

  10. i have also been rather fascinated with low’s gully but just wondering, has any team ever made it to the bottom of the gully so far? from some of the stuffs on the internet and very, very confusing, apparently, no one has successfully descended all the way down to the gully floor.

    has anyone ever tracked into the gully from ground level rather than descending down from the peak? it would make really interesting reading.

    if i let my imagination run wild, there are probably extinct dinosaur like creatures and ancient flora there! hahaha …

  11. The Gully floor has been reached via Lone Tree, (so named by Richie from the Army exped,1994), and via Commando Cauldron, although after the Cauldron trip the four guys stayed at Lone tree “base camp” for a night.
    The gully has been explored from ground level tracing the River Penataran upstream.
    No dinosaurs, just beautiful.

  12. Hi Mick

    do I know you ;0)

    Rachel, we got to the bottom in 1994 when it all went wrong and then again in 1998 we did the couldron to the end

    I am coming back for a 4th time with my wife! I must be mad!

    Rich Mayfield

  13. Hi Rich

    I’ve just finished reading ‘Descent into Chaos’ and last night I watched ‘The Abyss’ (purchased directly from Chips Rafferty). Currently trying to source your book and the one published by Neill/Foster (ahem). I feel like I know you quite well now!!

    I was 18 when you guys got stuck in the gully (in 1994) and I remember the newspaper reports at the time describing Low’s Gully as some kind of lost world. Its quite difficult to get hold of good photos of the place – especially ones which show how scary it is – do you know where I can find any? (I will certainly NOT be going down there in person!!).

    There are loads of questions I’d like to ask you (especially about the section of the gully between New’s Pools and the Cauldron) but for now I’d just like to know: Did Mann really see a yeti?!

    Cheers
    Pete

  14. In 2001, a spanish team successfully descended the entire Gully to the bottom, and Climbing back up, over 1 month duration.
    They uses technical climbing technique – Big-Wall climbing, from the bottom up to the summit of Donkey Ears. About 850m.

    Their successful attempt is documented in a Spanish Climbing magazine. You can find nice photos of bottom of the Low’s Gully in that magazine.

    cheers
    Jason

  15. hi,

    In 2005 we made a complete (pull through) descent of the entire gully in just 3,5 days from Lone tree. You can see picture at http://www.gobikite.nl under team and click low’s gully.

    Cheers,
    Hans Wijnand
    Expedition leader Dutch Low’s Gully Expedition 2005
    Netherlands

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