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Icy moment on Mt Kinabalu
Published on: Tuesday, March 01, 2022
By: Clarence Dol
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Snowflakes falling on Mount Kinabalu on Monday (left) and Ice beginning to form on crevices of rocks on Mount Kinabalu.
Snowflakes falling on Mount Kinabalu on Monday (left) and Ice beginning to form on crevices of rocks on Mount Kinabalu.
Kota Kinabalu: A unique and rare phenomenon happened on Mount Kinabalu Monday morning when snowflakes or sleet fell over part of the tallest peak in South East Asia.

It was an unforgettable moment for 154 climbers, apart from rangers, mountain guides, porters, other workers and rescue personnel, who witnessed the phenomenon said to last for about two minutes, at 6.20am.

A mountain guide for the Via Ferrata route, Hajiri Sulumin, 47, said the snowy experience occurred suddenly when he was waiting for climbers in the Sayat-Sayat area on the mountain. He recorded a video that was widely shared.

“At that time, I was at the Sayat-Sayat checkpoint and snow fell right to the top. It was snowy, like a light drift (of partially melting snowflakes) unlike heavy ice pellets,” he said when contacted.

He added that in his 11 years as a mountain guide on the Via Ferrata route, he had witnessed a similar phenomenon in 2018.

According to Kinabalu Park Assistant Director Justinus Guntabid, the area where it began to snow was around Sayat-Sayat, from Km 7 to the top of the mountain.

“The weather in the mountain area this morning was a little colder than usual. Based on temperature records, it was around 6.9 to 12.9 degrees Celsius from 2pm to 10pm yesterday (Sunday). The humidity was 52pc to 62pc.

“It is a bit unusual because only hail and freezing temperatures are common around the peak. What I saw this morning was snow,” he said.

Justinus said according to the records, similar incidents had occurred only twice recently – in 1975 and 1993.

Sabah Meteorology Department Director Amirzudi Hashim said it was not uncommon for snow or frost to form at high altitude places such as Mt Kinabalu.

However, he said this happens when the temperature drops to zero Celsius or lower and with the right humidity level.

Meanwhile, Malaysian Meteorological Department (MetMalaysia) Director-General Muhammad Helmi Abdullah said in a video statement that the snow phenomenon was not altogether non-existent in high altitudes such as the (equatorial) highlands of Mount Kinabalu.

He said the phenomenon occurred when the air temperature dipped to zero degrees Celsius or below where snow could form, provided there was sufficient humidity.

“So usually what happens is that we can see frost. This frost is a blanket of ice flakes on the surface of the earth, usually on cold rocks. But sometimes, it can also happen when the cold temperature is below freezing point and there is enough moisture. 

“Conditions of sub-zero weather or when the wind hangs, can contribute to the formation of snow, a phenomenon that we rarely see but it can happen,” he said.

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