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Monday, January 12, 1998 Published at 09:09 GMT


British climbers prepare to tame Low's Gully
image: [ The British team, practising on waterfalls in the Yorkshire Dales ]
The British team, practising on waterfalls in the Yorkshire Dales

A team of British climbers and cavers is preparing for an attempt to conquer the notorious Low's Gully, on Mount Kinabalu in the Sabah area of northern Borneo.

An expedition mounted by the British Army in 1994 came close to disaster.

The new team has been training at Ingelton, in the Yorkshire Dales, for an assault in March, when they hope to become the first people to reach the bottom of the gully.

Thirty team members are training on English waterfalls 100 metres high. Low's Gully, a glacial scar that runs across the north face of South East Asia's highest peak, is 10 times deeper.

[ image: Gunson:
Gunson: "It's one of the last great adventures"
The team leader, Pat Gunson, who has twice climbed Everest, calls the mission "one of the last great adventures."

"Most things have been done," he said. "Even Everest - poor thing - has been demeaned by tourists trekking up it. It'll be a long, long while before they get tourists up and down Low's Gully."

Four years ago, a British Army expedition to the gully nearly ended in tragedy. Nine men were on the point of starvation when they were rescued by the Malaysian authorities after a three-week search.

[ image: SOS: British soldiers' call for help on a previous attempt]
SOS: British soldiers' call for help on a previous attempt
There were disputes and even legal action following that trip, but one team member, now out of the Army, is returning with the new expedition. He believes they have a much better chance of success this time.

"We know to a certain extent what's down there. We're taking enough rope, we're taking enough bolts. All the team members are as fit as they can be," said Richard Mayfield.

It is expected to take 16 days and cost 100,000 to descend Low's Gully. Climbers will have to cope with extremes of temperatures and the team's clothing will contain high-tech sensors to monitor their reactions.

The Army team had managed to descend only about one third of the gully and the last part has never been seen from the ground.

Members of the new team will leave for Borneo in March. Among them will be doctors and paramedics determined to ensure that the British Army's previous failure to tame the ravine will not be repeated.

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