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Earthquake Kills Mountain Guide and Destroys Iconic Kinabalu Peak

A deadly 6.0-magnitude quake occurred in the Malaysian state of Sabah on Borneo island about 55 kilometres from the the summit of Mount Kinabalu 4,095 metres.

The quake happened on Friday at 7:15 a.m. local and caused rockslides that killed 19 people including mountain guides and school children. It also damaged roads and buildings, including schools and a hospital on Sabah’s west coast.

Mount Kinabalu has been a draw to technical climbers for decades, but recently Yuji Hirayama’s trips have put it on the map. This spring, Hirayama and Sachi Amma were climbing on Kinabalu and one of the features they were climbing on, the iconic Donkey Ears, collapsed during the earthquake.

Kinabalu's Donkey Ears before and after.
Kinabalu’s Donkey Ears before and after.

“Bad news confirmed! Part of the iconic ‘Donkey’s Ear’ at Mount Kinabalu is gone due to strong tremor this morning,” tweeted Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun.

Masidi also tweeted that a rescue was being prepared following reports of climbers being trapped and injured on the mountain.

More than 130 climbers were on the mountain at the time of the quake. Authorities haven’t named all those killed, but one of them was Robbi Sappingi, a 30-year-old mountain guide with to Amazing Borneo Tours.

Last week, we reported about Hirayama and Amma’s trip to Kinabalu and posted the photo below of Hirayama climbing Mr. Misty, a 5.12d trad route Hirayama opened in 2011 ground-up. This is the peak that collapsed from the quake.

Also on the feature was Tinipi 5.15a, which Amma made the second ascent of recently. Hirayama had said it was the best sport route he ever bolted. Photographer Gianelloni said, “Hirayama and Amma are very sad and their thoughts are with the guides and everyone in the area.”

Mount Kinabalu, Borneo.  Photo
Mount Kinabalu, Borneo. Photo Eddie Gianelloni / www.eddiegianelloni.com