By Alice Bond
Reprinted from The Leader, Spring 2001, Vol. 16, No. 2
NOLS instructor Brent Raymond and his North American team have just begun a two-month expedition on Mt. Kinabalu (13,455 ft.), the highest point in Southeast Asia. Towering 3,000 feet above neighboring peaks, Mt. Kinabalu dominates the lush tropical landscapes of Borneo, an island of Malaysia. The expedition will explore pre-viously untracked areas off the beaten tourist trail in order to compile information for a comprehensive climbing guide of the mountain. Brent hopes that this guide will foster development of both local and international climbing communities on Mt. Kinabalu.
Joining Brent for the duration of the expedition are Heather Calvert, Aaron Sheldon, and Brandon Loudermilk. Local park guides and Outward Bound Sabah staff will join the team during particular phases of the expedition.
The two-month expedition will proceed in four major phases. In the first phase, the expedition team will spend four days hiking to and from Laban Rata (11,000 ft.) shuttling the food and supplies necessary for the duration of the expedition. Laban Rata is the location of a tourist guesthouse and usually the first night's stop for those attempting to summit Mt. Kinabalu.
In the second phase, the team plans to accomplish the first traverse of the Mesilau Pinnacles to reach the Eastern plateau. To achieve the correct position beneath the Mesilau Pinnacles, the exped-ition team must first ascend the east ridge of Mt. Kinabalu through thick jungle vegetation. The team expects that the traverse of the Mesilau Pinnacles will be a technical ascent incorporating both free and aided climbing. After they reach the Eastern plateau, they will descend to Laban Rata to resupply.
During the third phase of the expedition, the team will spend 12 to 14 days rock climbing a variety of routes. The data gathered on these routes will complete Brent Raymond's climbing guidebook for Mt. Kinabalu. Brent will donate copies of the guidebook to local climbers in the region and to tourism companies. He hopes that the guidebook will help cultivate a local climbing ethic as well as promoting Mt. Kinabalu internationally.
One of Mt. Kinabalu's most prominent features is Low's Gully, a one-mile deep canyon that runs the length of the mountain and separates the summit into two areas. The technical descent of this canyon will mark the final phase of the expedition. The chance of precipitation on the mountain is one particular hazard that the team may encounter during this phase. Any precipitation on the mountain's upper plateaus can flood the route through Low's Gully. Brent plans to reduce bad weather hazards by traveling this part of the expedition in a lightweight fashion in order to expedite their descent. He has also allotted extra time for the descent in order to be able to wait out a spurt of bad weather.
In accordance with the principles of Leave No Trace, Brent and his team will return to Laban Rata to retrieve any gear or supplies. They expect the clean up to take two to three days. After the expedition, Brent will conduct training for local outdoor guides. He will teach wilderness ethics, safe climbing techniques, and the theories behind competent mountaineering.
Brent Raymond has an extensive background rock climbing and mountaineering in such places as Australia, Peru, Canada, Scotland, the United States, and Malaysia. Brent completed his NOLS instructor course in 1998 and has worked two seasons with the school. He has led Wind River mountaineering courses, climbing camps in thePacific Northwest and backpacking in the canyons of the Rockies. Brent is scheduled to lead aWind River mountaineering course this summer.
The Borneo Expedition was partially funded by The National Outdoor Leadership School's Instructor Develop-ment Fund (IDF). The IDF awards are given to "encourage instructors to seek personal experience and gain skills other than those contained within the NOLS curriculum." These instructors, like Brent Raymond, bring back a wealth of new knowledge and experience from their personal expeditions and explorations to share with NOLS students.
For more information, visit the expedition website.