KUNDASANG, June 6 — A trek up Mount Kinabalu is a once-in-a-lifetime trip for many, but for the local mountain guides, it is their life.
Spending their days either bringing people or cargo up the mountain, the local Dusuns from the foothills of mount Kinabalu recently carried their most precious cargo yet.
Following the powerful 6.0 magnitude earthquake yesterday morning, the guides were instrumental in bringing back the injured, the weak and the deceased through chaotic conditions.
A photo of a guide hunched over with an injured climber strapped over his back has earned admiration, praise and awe from social media users who hailed him as an unsung hero.
Rubbi Sapinggi, a 30-year-old mountain guide from Kampung Kiau, succumbed to head injuries in the aftermath of the earthquake.
Sabahan Mia Meara said that the mountain guides went above and beyond their duties.
“It’s not an easy task and sometimes a thankless job: we salute and appreciate all your efforts as some of you are currently still ascending/descending the mountain,” she said on Facebook.
“These are the real heroes, our mountain guides. They bring down the injured on their backs. Sophisticated helicopters that cost millions are rendered useless in these conditions,” said Facebook user Banie Lasimbang.
“Just want to add my admiration for the local Sabahan guides who, after the quake at Mount Kinabalu today, set off in the dark to reach the affected areas, clear the trails, reach the injured and stranded at the summit and guide them to safety. Anyone who has been up there will know what a difficult job that would be when the trails were intact, never mind when they are wiped away,” said Anth Hartley.
The photo of mountain guide Ridwan, posted on Sabah Park’s Facebook page, has garnered over 9,000 Likes and 890 shares after three hours.
Ridwan was later also photographed as one of six people carrying a stretcher with a Singaporean boy who had sustained a shoulder injury.
Up to 90 local guides were deployed for search-and-rescue operations along the mountain’s route, where over 120 climbers were trapped, missing, lost or stranded along the trail to the summit after the earthquake occurred at 7.15am yesterday.
Sabah Park staff Alip Sampil said that they sent up the guides, some who were porters carrying produce and general loads during regular days, to assist in the operations as they knew the terrain best.
The mountain guides traipsed up the mountain, some more than once, and assisted the stranded and weakened climbers back to safety amidst the damaged trail and in the darkness.
Some 32 guides were also stranded along with 105 tourist climbers at KM7.5 of Mount Kinabalu’s summit trail and played a major role in keeping the climbers calm and safe.
Veteran guide Freddie Akau was responsible for guiding a Korean couple up the mountain yesterday and was only worried about their safety.
“I wasn’t really afraid for myself because I’m used to conditions up there. But our concern was making sure the climbers were safe and did not freak out.
“We were told that rescue helicopters would come to get us but people were getting angry and frustrated the longer we were up there. There are now cracks and fallen rocks along the trail, making most of it too dangerous to use, so we have to find alternative routes back down before darkness fell,” he said.
Freddie returned to the base at about 11pm yesterday with the couple.