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KUNDASANG, Sept 2, 2015:

Mount Kinabalu was not in their list of things-to-do when Robert Martin and Maile Rose Richardson touched-down in Sabah about a week ago.

However, after hearing so much about the sacred mountain and its beautiful flora and fauna, the Californians thought the climb up one of Southeast Asia’s highest peaks would be the highlight of their stop here.

It was indeed a spur of a moment decision, said Martin, 26, when he pitched the idea to his travelling partner, Richardson, 24.

“We were travelling around Southeast Asia and heard about tourism spots in North Borneo (Sabah) and decided to come here.

“When he asked if I would be interested to climb the mountain, I said ‘yes’ because I don’t know when will I ever come here again,” said Richardson.

The duo, both outdoor enthusiasts, said while they were fully aware of what transpired just a couple of months ago, they were unperturbed.

On June 5, a 6.0 magnitude earthquake hit Sabah and claimed the lives of 14 climbers and four mountain guides. To date, aftershocks are still felt, with a 3.3 magnitude tremor recorded just yesterday at at 1.26pm.

“After doing some hiking, I thought we should also try the mountain. Besides, it’s the chance of a lifetime. We are willing to take the risk,” said Martin, who was just excited that they managed to book the day-trip yesterday.

The two clocked-in for their climb at 7.41am today, accompanied by their mountain guide, Jennius Lambayad, 48.

Kinabalu Park manager Yassin Miki said since the climbing activities were re-opened yesterday, they have recorded 65 climbers.

“On the first day (yesterday), we recorded 24 climbers, comprising eight Malaysians and the rest foreigners from United States, United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Australia, Germany and France. Only nine of them chose to spend the night at Laban Rata.

“The numbers doubled today with about 41 bookings.”

Climbing activities on Mount Kinabalu were temporarily stopped to make way for repair works on some trails damaged by fallen rocks following the earthquake.

Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun said about RM100 million was needed for restoration of the National Park, which was declared as Malaysia’s first World Heritage Site by Unesco in the year 2000 for its outstanding biological attributes.

Yassin added that for now, climbing activities were only allowed up to Laban Rata, some 3,273 metres above sea level, the pit stop along the Mount Kinabalu trail. It houses a restaurant and features stunning mountain views.

“Climbers may opt for an overnight trip or day-trip. For day-trippers, there would be a cut off time where they must reach the first checkpoint at Layang-Layang before 11am and the next checkpoint at Laban Rata before 1pm. If they exceed the time at any checkpoints, they must scale down immediately.

“The day-trippers must complete their trail within the given time because we fear that if they don’t, there may not be accommodation for them as rooms are pre-booked.”

Currently, efforts are undertaken to identify alternative routes to the damaged trails between Kilometre 6.5 to 6.7 leading up to the summit.

Masidi said a geo-technical study was being conducted on the trail to the summit while repairs were also being done in less sensitive stretches.

If everything goes well, Mount Kinabalu would be ready to accept climbers right up to the summit by Dec 1.

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