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Asia, Malaysian Borneo, Sabah, Mount Kinabalu, West Plateau, Victoria Peak, Southeast Face

Mount Kinabalu, West Plateau, Victoria Peak, Southeast Face. Mount Kinabulu (4095m) in the Kinabalu National Park is the highest peak of Southeast Asia. Low’s Gully, as the name suggests, is a deep gully that runs from the top of Kinabalu for more than 3000 meters down where the pluvial forest begins. It divides Kinabalu in two parts. The complete descent of the Low’s Gully was accomplished by an Pat Gunson’s joint Malaysian-British team in 1998.

The top of Mount Kinabalu is formed by the West and East plateaus, with spires that offer many climbs. The granite of this mountain is very young, and it is therefore advisable to come equipped with a good number of bolts. The walls of the spires on the big plateau are between 200-300 meters high. The most important peaks on the West Plateau are Victoria Peak (4094m) and Alexandra Peak (4003m); on the East Plateau, they are the Donkey’s Ears (4052m), King Edward Peak (4081m) and Tunku Abdul Rahman Peak (3948m). The highest mountain of Kinabalu is Low’s Peak (4095m).

Many Japanese parties have climbed in this area, as have British and Spanish teams. In 1998, on the east face of Victoria Peak, two Spanish parties opened new routes. Carles Albesa and Jordi Marti established Figures 98 (A3 6c, seven pitches), and Xavier Vilella and Pep Soldevilla put up the nine-pitch route L’Ullal d’en Godzilla (A2 6b+). Meanwhile, on one of the Low’s Gully walls, a Japanese team opened a route with almost 300 bolts.

Fabrizio Defrancesco, Giorgio Nicolodi and I left for Kota Kinabalu, the capital of Sabah, at the beginning of November. Once at Gurkha Hut, we decided on a new route on the southeast face of Victoria Peak. The rock is young and compact and cracks are very few. The rock on the first pitch was very solid, and it felt like climbing on Yosemite’s walls. On the second pitch, the difficulties increased. We climbed the only crack offered to us. Then it abruptly ended in a very technical compact and crackless slab. We belayed on two bolts. We started climbing again on the crackless slab, but the weather changed suddenly, bringing rain, and we left the ropes on the wall and went back to Gurkha Hut.

We waited one more day, then decided to start climbing very early the next morning to precede the onset of the fog that usually comes up in the middle of the day. The rock was beautiful; some parts of the climb proceeded on rock so compact and crackless that we had difficulties progressing. There was one roof to surmount, which we passed with aid. We climbed on, this time along a new crack, until we reached a ledge. Fabrizio led the final slab, using two bolts. After passing the slab we got to the final ridge. From there to the top it was an easy walk. La Perla di Labuan (6c Al, 250m) is dedicated to our friend Valentino Scopoli.

Mario Manica, Italy