Monday, December 7, 2009

Mount Kinabalu



Mount Kinabalu (Malay: Gunung Kinabalu) is a prominent mountain in Southeast Asia. It is located in Kinabalu National Park (a World Heritage Site) in the east Malaysian state of Sabah, which is on the island of Borneo in the tropics. It is the 4th tallest mountain in the Malay Archipelago after Indonesian Papua's Puncak Jaya, Puncak Trikora and Puncak Mandala.
In 1997, a re-survey using satellite technology established its summit (known as Low’s Peak) height at 4,095 metres (13,435 ft) above sea level, which is some 6 metres (20 ft) less than the previously thought and hitherto published figure of 4,101 metres (13,455 ft).


The mountain and its surroundings are among the most important biological sites in the world, with over 600 species of ferns, 326 species of birds, and 100 mammalian species identified. Among them are the gigantic Rafflesia plants and the orangutan. Mount Kinabalu has been accorded UNESCO World Heritage status.

The main peak of the mountain (Low's Peak) can be climbed easily by a person with a good physical condition, and requires no mountaineering equipment. Other peaks along the massif, however, require rock climbing skills.

Biology
Significantly, Mount Kinabalu is well-known worldwide for its tremendous botanical and biological species biodiversity, with high levels of endemism (i.e. species which are found only within Kinabalu Park and are not found anywhere else in the world). As examples, it has one of the world’s richest orchid flora with over 800 species, over 600 species of ferns (more than the whole of Africa’s 500 species) of which 50 are found no where else, and is the richest place in the world for the Nepenthes insectivorous pitcher plants (five of the thirteen are found nowhere else on earth) which reach spectacular proportions (the largest in the world being the endemic Nepenthes rajah).[2][5]

The parasitic Rafflesia plant, which has the largest single flower in the world, is also found in Kinabalu (particularly the Rafflesia keithii whose flower grows to 94 centimetres or 37 inches in diameter),[2] though it should be noted that blooms of the flower are rare and difficult to find. A recent botanical survey of the mountain estimated a staggering 5,000 to 6,000 plant species (excluding mosses and liverworts but including ferns),[2][6][7][8][9][10] which is more than all of Europe and North America (excluding tropical regions of Mexico) combined. It is therefore one of the world's most important biological sites.

Its incredible biodiversity in plant life is due to a combination of several unique factors: its setting in one of the richest plant regions of the world (the tropical biogeographical region known as western Malesia which comprises the island of Sumatra, the Malay Peninsula, and the island of Borneo), the fact that the mountain covers a wide climatic range from near sea level to freezing ground conditions near the summit, the jagged terrain and diversity of rocks and soils, the high levels of rainfall (averaging about 2700 mm a year at park HQ), and the climatic instability caused by periods of glaciation and catastrophic droughts which result in evolution and speciation. This diversity is greatest in the lowland regions (consisting of lowland dipterocarp forests, so called because the tree family Dipterocarpaceae are dominant). However, most of Kinabalu’s endemic species are found in the mountain forests, particularly on ultramafic soils (i.e soils which are low in phosphates and high in iron and metals poisonous to many plants; this high toxic content gave rise to the development of distinctive plant species found nowhere else).[2]

Endemic annelids number less than a dozen known species but include the Kinabalu giant red leech that preys on various earthworms, including the Kinabalu giant earthworm.[11]

There are some 326 species of birds in Kinabalu Park (including the spectacular Rhinoceros Hornbill); and some 100 mammalian species, including one of the four great apes, the orangutan (though sightings of these are uncommon; estimates of its numbers in the park range from 25 to 120).[2]

Geology
Mount Kinabalu is essentially a massive granodiorite which is intrusive into sedimentary and ultrabasic rocks, and forms the central part, or core, of the Kinabalu massif. The granodiorite is intrusive into strongly folded strata, probably of Eocene to Miocene age, and associated ultrabasic and basic igneous rocks. It was pushed up from the earth’s crust as molten rock millions of years ago. In geological terms, it is a very young mountain as the granodiorite cooled and hardened only about 10 million years ago. The present landform is considered to be a mid-Pliocene peneplain, arched and deeply dissected, through which the Kinabalu granodiorite body has risen in isostatic adjustment. It is still pushing up at the rate of 5 mm per annum. During the Pleistocene Period of about 100,000 years ago, the massive mountain was covered by huge sheets of ice and glaciers which flowed down its slopes, scouring its surface in the process and creating the 1800 m deep Low's Gully ( named after Hugh Low) on its North side. Its granite composition and the glacial formative processes are readily apparent when viewing its craggy rocky peaks.[2]

Climbing route
Climbers must be accompanied by accredited guides at all times. There are two main starting points for the climb: the Timpohon Gate (near the national park headquarters, at about Template:Unit), and the Mesilau Nature Resort. The latter starting point is slightly higher in elevation, but crosses a ridge, adding about two kilometres to the ascent and making the total elevation gain slightly higher. The two trails meet about two kilometres below Laban Rata.

Accommodation is available inside the park or outside near the headquarters. From there, climbers proceed to the Timpohon gate at 1866 m (6,122 ft), either by minibus or by walking, and then walk to the Laban Rata Resthouse at 3,270 m (10,728 ft). Most people accomplish this part of the climb in 3 to 6 hours. Since there are no roads, the supplies for the Laban Rata Resthouse are carried by porters, who bring up to 30 kilograms of supplies on their backs. Hot food and beverages, hot showers and heated rooms are available at Laban Rata. The last 2 km (2600 ft), from the Laban Rata Resthouse at 3,270 m to Low's Peak (summit) at 4,095.2 m, takes between 2 and 4 hours. The last part of the climb is on naked granite rock.



Given the high altitude, some people may suffer from altitude sickness and should return immediately to the bottom of the mountain, as breathing and any further movement becomes increasingly difficult.[12]