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KB trail offers a combination of 'old' and 'new'

Kota Kinabalu: The Kota Belud trail, which was officially launched on Dec 9, offers climbers the experience of climbing on a route which combines both the "old" and "new" route to the summit of Mount Kinabalu. "Old" route in the sense that a huge part of the trail utilises the original route used by Sir Hugh Low whose climb to the mountain was first documented in 1851. The "new" part about the trail is that certain sections of the ancient trail had to be slightly diverted due to safety reasons and to avoid rockfall areas following the June 5 earthquake last year. Senior Park Ranger, Martin Moguring, said the original trail goes straight up to the alpine scrub area from Laban Rata.

"We made slight diversions to parts of the original trail which was affected by falling debris caused by last year's earthquake," he said. Martin said back in the old days, the ascent to the summit did not start from Laban Rata, but from Kiau all the way to Panar Laban (Laban Rata), Sayat-Sayat and finally to the summit of the mountain. "Fifteen people comprising park staff and mountain guides took less than two months to complete restoration work on the Kota Belud trail," he said. Both trails start from Laban Rata and meet at the Sayat-Sayat Checkpoint where climbers will make the ascent to the summit of the 4,095m Mount Kinabalu. Climbers must have upper and lower body strength if they wish to go via Kota Belud trail as certain parts of the trail has slopes which are more than 60 degrees, making it slightly tougher compared to the Ranau trail. Both trails, however, offer climbers different level of challenges unique to its own but with an equally beautiful panoramic view.

Martin said the original trail to the summit was used until the early 1970s, but climbers stopped using it when another trail to the summit was opened in the 1980s. The trail was closed last year when a magnitude 5.9 earthquake which triggered rock and boulder avalanches killed 18 and left over 150 people stranded in the summit plateau. The move to set up the Kota Belud trail (2.8km from Laban Rata to the summit) as an alternative to Ranau trail (2.97km from Laban Rata to the summit) was initially aimed at providing an emergency escape route for climbers in the event of any emergency due to natural disaster. Great care has been taken to restore the Kota Belud trail, with safety a main priority and that safety comes in the form of ropes all the way to the Sayat-Sayat checkpoint. The ropes also lead climbers pass several rock overhangs which shelter climbers from falling rocks in case of an earthquake. Wooden steps can also be found along certain parts of the trail, especially during the first few metres of the trail. What is considered the most challenging part of the Kota Belud trail is the 150 metres from the rock face to Sayat-Sayat checkpoint.

Similar to the Ranau trail, those who wish to take Kota Belud trail will start from Timpohon gate before trekking six kilometres to Panar Laban (3,272.7 metres above sea level). From Panar Laban, climbers can either opt for the Ranau trail or Kota Belud trail. However, special permission is needed for those who wish to take the Kota Belud trail. "There are still certain matters which need to be finalised. However, those who wish to go via the Kota Belud trail may contact the park management for arrangements to be made," said Martin.

(Source : Borneo Post, edited by : Sabah Parks)