Text and Photos By: John Kong

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The Mission of the Gurkha Hut Photography Expedition

While on an expedition to capture images for several projects for the Sabah Park’s Mesilau Nature Gallery and for our sponsors TAMRAC Bags, we made a photographic expedition to visit the highest mountain hut in Borneo and Malaysia to the Western Plateau of Mount Kinabalu!

Though Mount Kinabalu is famed for the picturesque Low’s Peak, our mission took us to discover and document what looms on the western pla of Mount Kinabalu. Nestled among the jagged crown of peaks, Oyayubi Peak is located on the western ridge of the mountain. As one among the 20 or so peaks that scatter the crown, Oyayubi stands 4 000m tall. 95m shy of Low’s 4 095m peak. In Japanese, Oyayubi means “thumb”, as the peak does resemble a thumb.

Just beneath the colossal granite that is Oyayubi Peak, Gurkha Hut is no more than a tiny white dot on a greyscale slope. Built in 1984 by the Gurkha’s from Nepal, and accommodating a maximum of 4 people, this tiny monument stands as the highest man made hut found in Mount Kinabalu and on the whole of the Island of Borneo.

Made of oak wood and a metal zinc roof, the hut is equipped with 4 mattresses, cooking utensils and even a small collection of books, making it quite a homely abode at such a high altitude.

The Journey

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TRIBUTE TO VALERIAN JOANNES  (25 Nov 1987 to 5 June 2015)

I met Valerian in January 2014 when I was on assignment for Sabah Tourism Board & Sabah Parks Board of Trustees to develop guidebooks for the Kinabalu Park, Malaysia’s First World Heritage Site. I was also working on a coffee table book on Kinabalu Park which was just recently published this year.

My assignment was to capture the beauty of the gardens of the Laban Rata area and the adventure of Via Ferrata. Scheduled to shoot the via ferrata the next morning,  I was advised to attend a training session that evening.  A jovial Valerian introduced himself as “Ian” and even before the official training he was already goofing around.

Ian was Mountain Torq’s trainer and mountain guide, the company operating the via ferrata at Mt. Kinabalu rock face, the world’s highest and asia’s first via ferrata.  There are 2 routes to choose from, Low’s Peak Circuit and Walk the Torq. Both are equally thrilling and beautifully crafted to get you out onto the bare mountain walls. And the best part is, that you don’t even need to have any mountaineering experience to do it. It’s professionally guided and safe for anyone to try.

Since I was there for a photo shoot, Ian advised us to start the ascend to the Low’s Peak Circuit at 4.30 AM to catch the sunrise on the way up. Ian was a superb trainer and guide and he gave me and my assistant John Lee, a breathtaking experience scaling through the rock face of Mount Kinabalu.

Some of the images of Ian captured from this photo assignment were eventually published in Sabah Tourism Board’s official tourism guidebooks to Kinabalu Park, exhibited at Kuala Lumpur Photographic Festival and published in international travel magazines. Ian also used the picture as his profile pictures in his facebook account.

On the 5th of June, 7:15am local time, an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.0 struck Mt Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia. At that time, Valerian Joannes and Ricky Masirin were guiding a group of passionate and amazing students on the via ferrata, when the rock avalanche which was created by the earthquake came tumbling down the mountain face. Both of them gave their lives in their attempt to protect their charges.

I am deeply saddened by this tragedy and would like to pay a tribute to Valerian through this collection of images which I have captured (most of them he has not even seen or published). Though we have only spend 12 hours together, this collection of images will show you Valerian’s daily job of providing so much happiness and joy to the thousands of guest that he has enlighten by his hospitality, smile and the sheer beauty of the via ferrata experience at the majestic Mount Kinabalu. His smile and cheerfulness shall forever be remembered. A copy of this images will also be given to his family and friends for remembrance.  Valerian leaves behind his parents, brothers and sisters and fiance.



If you enjoyed viewing this collection of images, you can further contribute an act of kindness by donating to the families of Valerian Joannes & Ricky Masirin through this link: https://life.indiegogo.com/fundraisers/valerian-joannes-ricky-masirin-via-ferrata-guide

This donation fund is set up by Mountain Torq and every cent of donations received will be given to their family.



Our company Ebiz Design & Communications, has just completed the flyer for Borneo 360 Adventure Tours & Travel Sdn. Bhd.  Equipped with the largest boat along the Klias River, Borneo 360 has a double deck catamaran boat.  The height of the double deck will give guest exclusive view of wildlife up close and at eye level. Delicious local style buffet dinner are served on board during the sunset.  The tour starts with a river cruise along the Klias river 5.00 pm after a light refreshment. Visitors will have an opportunity of sighting wildlife in their natural habitats such as Proboscis monkey, long tail macaque monkey, silver leaf monkey and a variety species of birds.  You may even see local fishermen fishing for fresh water prawns and fishes. On the journey back to the jetty after dusk, you will be amazed by the sighting of fire flies, the star attraction of the tour! Due to the natural undisturbed eco-system in the Klias river and its nearby vicinity, one the highest concentration of fire flies can be found here.

You can either self drive to jetty or request a transfer from Kota Kinabalu city. The tour only takes up half a day of your time and you will be back to Kota Kinabalu before 10 pm.  Highly recommended for family and photographers. Interested?  Please call Albert at: +6019 8721605 to arrange for a tour.


_D3X0958This is a close up view of the KM 6 to KM 7 section of the summit trail (Laban Rata to the Sayat Sayat) area of Mt. Kinabalu. A quake measuring 5.9 which hit the Ranau District on June 5, 2015 at 7.17 AM where 14 climbers and 4 mountain guides have perished.  The summit trail is marked in red and the Via Ferrata route is marked in blue. The beaten trail with white markings on the rock face is currently closed for repair and Sabah Parks has suspended climbing activities. According to a statement by Sabah Parks, tremors must stop before actual damage can be assessed and a team will be dispatched to identify possible new climbing routes. The sections of  mountain trail that were damaged are between KM 1.5 to KM 1.8, and KM 6.1 to KM 7. Damaged facilities were the rest house at Sayat Sayat, Panar Laban and Laban Rata.

Image is captured using Nikon D3x with 500 mm lens. Click on image to view best at  2000 x 1330 pixels. All rights reserved.




Mount Nongkok often known as “The Son of Mount Kinabalu”, is the little mountain that sits by the heel of Mt Kinabalu on the west side. Can be seen that both the Father and Son are scarred by the recent quake where the epicentre is located very near to the west side of Mt. Kinabalu..

Will be documenting the changed landscape of Mt. Kinabalu over the next few months at my blog