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KUNDASANG, Aug 8, 2015:

Mount Kinabalu’s future lies in the outcome of next Tuesday’s meeting by the technical team set up to oversee the mountain’s restoration progress following the deadly June 5 earthquake.

Closed for nine weeks now, the mountain trails and lodging facilities are undergoing extensive repair works, and state Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun hopes it is ready by Sept 1.

Two months ago, an earthquake, measuring 5.9-magnitude on the Richter scale damaged the mountain and left all climbing trails to the peak impassable. It also claimed the lives of 14 climbers and four mountain guides.

Today, a group of reporters and officials from agencies under the ministry, had the opportunity to climb South East Asia’s tallest mountain since its closure.

Masidi flagged off the team for the day-trip from Timpohon Gate, one of the gateways to the summit, but only to Laban Rata, which used to be the last stop for climbers to rest before continuing the remaining 2.8 kilometres to the peak.

Dubbed as the ”experimental climb”, Masidi said it was part of the soft opening of the Summit Trail, from one of the two treks, leading to the top of Mount Kinabalu.

The other trail, from Mesilau, which was badly damaged by the quake, had yet to be repaired and remained closed.

Masidi said the climb was meant to gather feedback and input on the newly reopened trail.

“We give opportunity, especially to the first-timers to Mount Kinabalu to assess the trail. Hopefully they could give us useful input on how to make the trail better.

“For now, we will be opening the climb up to Laban Rata only as trek further up is still closed pending full assessment by the Technical Committee.”

An official from the technical team disclosed that the trail between Kilometre 6.5 to 6.7 was badly damaged by fallen rocks, and there was perhaps the possibility of re-routing the track to the mountain top.

Masidi, meanwhile, said that the Aug 11 meeting would see them discussing issues related to the safety concerns on allowing tourists to climb beyond Laban Rata.

They would also be deciding on when it would be safe to fully reopen the trail.

He said Sabah Parks had engaged two companies with technical abilities to help in the repairing and upgrading works of the trails and they were now assessing their recommendations.

“At the same time, we are also getting consultation from Japanese and Canadian experts, and hope their advice would help us choose the right technical company to carry out the works.”

Mount Kinabalu attracts thousands of both professional and recreational climbers from across the globe every year and is arguably one of Sabah’s most important tourism assets.

The number of people on the mountain at any one time would be reduced by about half, from 192 to about 90, in the early stages of its reopening to climbers.

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