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

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