KOTA KINABALU (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Mount Kinabalu's summit trail is once again open to climbers, six months after the devastating earthquake.
Some 135 climbers were the first to experience the new Ranau trail leading to the mountain's highest point, Low's Peak, at 4,095.2 m.
They were flagged off by State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun at Timpohon Gate on Tuesday (Dec 1).
Among the first batch of climbers were 53 tourists while the rest were Malaysians.
Mr Masidi said the reopening of the trail following the devastating 6.0 magnitude earthquake on June 5 showed Sabahans' ability to rise above a tragedy.
The quake triggered rock and boulder avalanches that claimed 18 lives, including four mountain guides.
He said the cost to reconstruct the trail was less than RM400,000 (S$132,528). He added that the cost was kept low, as local villagers and mountain guides chipped in to help.
"It was their labour of love for the mountain," he said.
He said the reopening of the summit trail would see more benefits for mountain guides.
Dozens of guides played a pivotal role in the rescue of more than a hundred climbers during the disaster.
Mr Masidi said the guide fees had been increased from RM150 to RM230 while Sabah Parks would also provide them insurance coverage for death and injuries. Sabah Parks was also reviewing the climbing and porters' fees.
He added that while 135 people climbed the mountain after the reopening, Sabah Parks had decided to limit the number of climbers to 120 daily.
"We will review this figure based on feedback from climbers," he said, adding that repairs on some accommodation facilities on the mountain had not been completed yet.
He also explained that the area on the mountain now more commonly known as Laban Rata actually referred to the rest house there.
"That area is actually called Panalaban and that is how it should be referred to from now on."
Mr Masidi said Sabah Parks was still working with the Meteorological Services Department for the installation of seismic equipment on the mountain.
"We would like to have this equipment as soon as possible," he said.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said the seismic equipment would alert geologists of possible tremors on the mountain and close it to climbers in the interest of safety.