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.

Touching The Void: A test of will, strength, and endurance

TOUCHING THE VOID is a stunning and suspenseful documentary of two mountaineering friends who are confronted with the climb of their lives in South America. In 1985, Joe Simpson and Simon Yates set out to climb the west face of Siula Grande, a remote 21,000 peak in the Peruvian Andes.

Joe and Simon are young, ambitious, and ready to take on the world. Each enjoyed the solace of mountain climbing and its thrills and adventures. After conquering various Alpine mountains they turn their attention to a particular mountain in Peru that had never been climbed before.

After three treacherous days they reach the summit, but little did they know that their adventure just began. The pivotal moment occurred when Joe suddenly fell and suffered a serious, painful broken leg. Certain that his fate was sealed Joe expects Simon to leave him behind.

But Simon did everything he could to help Joe, which included the slow and tedious process of going down the mountain inch by inch while on their back or side. But disaster struck again when Joe became suspended in air after falling over an edge.

Simon, in an act that will cause controversy and alarm, cut the rope that sent Joe tumbling into a crevasse without much hope for rescue. Meanwhile, Simon returns to base camp thinking that Joe never survived the fall. He is full of grief and fear. But what he doesn’t know is that Joe indeed did not die and is slowly climbing down the mountain on his own. He suffers extreme pain, dehydration, frostbite, and fatigue.

This film contains narration by Joe and Simon with reenactment footage that creates a powerful and emotional experience for the viewer. Although it is obvious that Joe has survived the ordeal, one can’t help wondering how this can be true.

I was certain that he would die on the mountain alone in his pain and suffering. What makes this a strong film is that much time and effort was dedicated to detailing the psychological drama that Joe suffered since his leg was broken.

As a result the viewer is given a frank look into his thoughts, emotions, and fears. It was certainly a glimpse which is difficult to shake. It is easy for the audience to become “involved” while watching this film.

Many people squirm in their seats and gasp out loud and these two men rehash their story. The stunning cinematography and audio results in the audience being sweep away in the drama. Heck, there were many moments when I thought I was on the mountain too.

One doesn’t need to be an expert at mountain climbing to enjoy this film. Any novice will fast become interesting in the fate of these two men. I must more appreciate the risks involved in this sport, and would highly recommend this film Touching the Void to others.

A DVD review by S. Calhoun “rhymeswithorange” (Chicago, IL United States), courtesy of

How the porters of Kinabalu carry an injured climber

I received an email from our friend, Leong, who climbed Mount Kinabalu and have a story to tell – one of his friend got injured during their trip. He wrote a very nice journal entry in his Multiply blog, complete with hundreds of his climbing photos. You can read his story full story and photos here. I am going to highlights the event that not so many people know – the way the porters carry people.

While started to descend from the Peak of Mount Kinabalu. En Ahmed from my group was felt the pain at both of his knee. It doesn’t felt the pain while ascending.

Some how he was needed to carry on to keep move to keep the body warm. Rain likely will be pouring soon.

Guide Lazarus took out his pain relief medicine CNI brand ( can’t recalled the name) applied to Ahmed. The deep heat of the medicine works to relief some of the pain. Step by steps, Ahmed reached Gunting Lagadan Hut at about 11.00am.

After having our lunch at the Guesthouse, Ahmed decided not to walk all the way down to Timpohon Gate if someone can carry him. The distant from Laban Rata Guesthouse to Timpohon Gate is 6 km.

I was discussing and negitiate with the Guides and porters while they are having their lunch. The deal was given at Rm150.00/km which is cost Rm900.00 bear from Laban Rata to Timpohon Gate. Its will be bear by six porters/guide to take turn. And the duration is about two hours. Ahmed has agreed with the deal since he do not want to risk his knees.

Porters preparing for an injured climber

They took out the stretcher and started to assembly. Ahmed was lying down and strap firm with three straps. Sleeping bag was used as the pillow and only hands are allowed to move.

Hanson and Lazarus were given me a challenge if I could run faster than them in less than 2 hours from Laban Rata to Timpohon Gate. I had agreed with the challenge. And each of them still need to carry one or two backpack.

Porters carrying an injured climber

The stretcher was bared by four bearers at once. One person will give the command like a voice controlled gear shift as seen in the movies. Gear 1 , go….. Gear 2,3,4 and 5, including stop , change shoulder side , down steps and up step.

Porters carrying an injured climber

More photos here

Upon going down from the step ladder, the two at the back will squat and moving down, to keep the stretcher as close to horizontal as possible. Even when that is at the narrow trail, two from aside will try to squat lower to get balance from the other side. They are not walking but running , shouting give way , give way ………I was given the hard time to chase after them. At the flat land and their are moving in the Gear 5, that is no way I can follow closed to them.

Changing shoulder from one side to the other is super fast and without stop down their moving. It just , shoulder 1,2,3 ,Up…..

Each year all the Guide and porter have to undergo for a few training in order to get their licence renewed.. That training were include bear-stretcher for injured or death body., massage (urut) to twisted, cramp, AMS patients, etc.

Drizzling on and off along the way. But it doesn’t stopped their running. It is exactly 2 hours when they reached at Timpohon Gate and my run was 1 hour 50 minutes.

Photos and story by LeongWK

How to get Kinabalu Blog updates easily

There are 3 ways that you can use to get updates from Kinabalu Blog.

  1. The old way – by opening your browser and click on your bookmark where Kinabalu Blog situated. It may be easy if Kinabalu Blog is the only website that you bookmarked, but I doubt that is the case. If you have 10 favorites blog or websites, then you may have to open 10 tabs which can take ages for them to load. A slow way.
  2. The new way – by using RSS. RSS (Really Simple Syndication) is a faster way for you to get updates from Kinabalu Blog. Look for this sign: RSS , on any website or blog that you like. Clicking the icon will leads you to the ‘Subscribe to Feed’ page of the blog or website. By subscribing to the site’s RSS, you don’t have to go to the website or blog to get the updates, but the updates will come to you. You can either direct the updates to:
    1. Your Feed Reader. I found a simple video explanation about subscribing the RSS feed via feed reader here:

      After finished watching the video, don’t forget to click at the RSS icon in the sidebar!
    2. Your email. Just enter your email address in the “Subscribe via RSS” column in the sidebar. Feedburner, the feed manager, will email you with daily updates of Kinabalu Blog.

Hopefully the updates from my blog can really promote Sabah as one of your travel destination, and Mount Kinabalu as one of your once-a-lifetime journey!

5 things you should taste before you leave Kinabalu

I received another email from our good friend, Cikgu Ismail yesterday. This time he shared with me his experiences with some local fruits and jungle resources after reading the red colored durian post few weeks back. In conclusion, there are 5 things that you should taste before you leave Kinabalu (according to Cikgu Ismail):

1. Buah Tarap (tarap fruit), Artocarpus odoratissimus (the Moraceae family)

Tarap fruit

Tarap is a tall tropical tree which is native to Southeastern Asia. It has large lobed leaves, and edible fruits which can weight up to a few pounds. The fruit of tarap(also known as marang) is edible, oblong, about 12 in (20 cm) long, and can weight a few pounds. Its skin is covered with soft spines, and has an appearance which is close to that of the durian or the jackfruit. Its pulp is generally eaten fresh, and has a good aroma. Its seeds can also be eaten when roasted. It is reported that young fruits are sometimes eaten as vegetables.

You can get this fruit almost anywhere in Sabah. It is usually sold at stalls beside the main road, from Kota Kinabalu to Kundasang. If you do not able to get it while on your way to Mount Kinabalu, go to Kundasang town and get one before you leave.

2. Buah Bambangan, (Mangifera panjang)

Bambangan fruit

Bambangan, or some say Membangan (Mangifera panjang) is found extensively in Borneo island as scattered trees in the backyards. The huge majestic columnar tree prefers well drained alluvial soils, but will also thrive on upland soils. The huge trunk supports a dense canopy of dark green leaves. Bambangan is seasonal, producing fruits mainly in the month of August. At flowering in March, the entire crown is covered with brilliant red inflorescence.The tough outer skin of the fruit can be removed easily. After making longitudinal cuts the thick skin can be peeled from the peduncle to the apex. The bright orange delightful mango fragrance is highly esteemed by Sabahan. Pleasantly sweet and juicy, the flesh is fibrous. Some cultivars have less fiber with smooth juicy flesh.

Local Sabahan make bambangan as their local delicacy, and usually eaten with rice. I never touched bambangan dish, although my wife really like to eat it. This fruit is also abundant in Sabah.

3. Tapai Beras (fermented rice), NOT rice wine

Tapai Beras

The rice will be mixed with yeast and wrapped with a giant elephant ear leaves, Alocasia macrorrhiza, (some says it is similar like a yam plant), which then will be kept in cool and dry place for the fermentation to take place. The process will take couple of days, until the rice will be soft and fermented, but not to the stage where it produces alcohol.

Tapai Beras

It has sweet taste and very nice odour (from the fermentation process), and can be eaten anytime. Not like its other derivatives (rice wine or they called it montoku here in Sabah), this fermented rice will not cause you to get drunk. Some stalls / coffee shop add this into their ABC (air batu campur). Cikgu Ismail got this fermented rice on his way back from Mount Kinabalu at the small town, Tamparuli.

4. Jungle Cocktail

Jungle cocktail

Cikgu Ismail said, this drink should not be missed by any climbers who completed their Mount Kinabalu climb. Claimed to be one of his favourite ‘exotic Sabah drink’, you can only get this at Restoran Bayu Kinabalu, a local restaurant which is situated just opposite Kinabalu Park Headquarters at Kota Kinabalu-Ranau main road. You can easily spot the restaurant when you arrive at Kinabalu Park HQ. Open daily, they also serve other meals, mostly local.

I did not manage to ask on what were the ingredient inside the drink, but looking at the photo, I could see some banana there! And that glass cost him RM5…

5. Young coconut juice and ‘meat’

Coconut ‘meat’/jelly

The meat in a young coconut is softer and more like gelatin than a mature coconut (so much so, that it is sometimes known as coconut jelly). For that reason it is sometimes called a tender coconut.

Coconut, (Cocos nucifera) is grown throughout the tropical world, for decoration as well as for its many culinary and non-culinary uses; virtually every part of the coconut palm has some human use. The cavity of coconut filled with water which contains sugar, fibre, proteins, anti-oxidants, vitamins and minerals. Coconut water provides an isotonic electrolyte balance, and is a highly nutritious food source. A very suitable drink for you to take after a strenuous Mount Kinabalu climb.

You can also get this delicious coconut juice and jelly by the roadside anywhere between Kota Kinabalu and Kundasang. Cikgu Ismail suggested you to taste ‘burned young coconut’, which available in Jalan Sulaman – KKIP (Kota Kinabalu Industrial Park), outskirt of north Kota Kinabalu.

Articles by Ismail MYAR
Photos by Ismail MYAR & Ganesh C

How I earned my first Advertlets check

I received my first check from Advertlets yesterday. Josh Lim called me personally last week to confirm the spelling of my name, before he printed it on the check. Since my first review of Advertlets 3 months ago, it seems that Josh has become one of my friend – yes, this sounds like a butt kissing – but sms-ing me at the middle of the night, searching for somebody to write a review for a Digi Fu-Yoh Street Blast concert here in Kota Kinabalu, has made the relationship really close.

I personally do not know Josh, we never met and I do not know how he look like, but I like what he did. Even more when I see my wife smile when she saw a RM300 check in our post box yesterday afternoon. I must admit that is not much as compared to my Adsense check, but it is a good start.

The total figure that I earned were in this distributions:

  1. RM50 – I earned from writing one reviews on Advertlets for their “RM15k for the first 300 bloggers”.
  2. RM200 – I earned from writing one reviews on a Digi Fu-Yoh Street Blast concert here in Padang Merdeka, Kota Kinabalu on the 2nd of June.
  3. RM50 – I earned from CPC and EPM.

Advertlets check

The check came with a letter, a strip of Advertlets stickers and two button badges. I was thinking of pinning the badges on my blazer, but before I do that, I think it is better for both of my children to wear it first. I will show them the photo when they grew up and tell them that Uncle Josh is one of the good guy who send daddy the check – to pay for their diapers and toys!

Dany and Nany - my two little angles with Advertlets badges!

I heard a lot of rumors about Advertlets. Some of them are good, but some of them aren’t. Some says that the ‘other’ blogger-advertiser network is better, but I believe that Advertlets will strive for the best. Unless the ‘other’ blogger-advertiser network can prove otherwise (with my bank account), I will give Advertlets my full support.