'The mountain didn't want us there': TV host Henry Golding

Henry Golding scaling Mount Kinabalu for the upcoming documentary Sabah Earthquake Decoded.
PHOTO: Discovery Channel

TV host Henry Golding remembers the day he climbed Mount Kinabalu, two months after a 6.0-magnitude earthquake struck Sabah, Malaysia, on June 5 and claimed the lives of 10 people from Singapore.

They were seven pupils and two teachers from Tanjong Katong Primary School and the adventure guide who accompanied them on their trip.

In Golding's own words, it was "as if the mountain didn't want us there".

With a TV crew, porters and several mountain guides who had rescued survivors that fateful day, the 28-year-old retraced the steps of the climbers to reveal their harrowing experience for upcoming Discovery Channel special Sabah Earthquake Decoded.

Golding, whose father is from England and his mother from the Iban tribe in Sarawak, Malaysia, shuttles between Singapore and Malaysia for work.

He told The New Paper in a telephone interview: "We were definitely tested going up the mountain. When we were about 4km from the Laban Rata (a rest point), there was a torrential downpour that went on for a good four hours. One of the guides said they rarely experience bad weather like this. The trail (resembled) a waterfall."

The weather cleared up the next day.

Sabah Earthquake Decoded, which also explores the science behind earthquakes in the region and features actual footage of the earthquake and accounts of survivors, will premiere on Discovery Channel (StarHub Ch 422/Singtel Ch 202) on Thursday at 9pm.

Recalling an emotional moment during filming, Golding said: "Two of the mountain guides with us, who had accompanied the students back in June, showed me pictures of them just before they started their climb.

"You can see how happy they were just moments before the earthquake happened.

"You see the colour of their jackets. It's very morbid and scary."

He saw for himself the destruction left by the earthquake and how badly hit Sabah was by the disaster.

CAUTION

The team stopped short of climbing to the top after calculating the risks involved in trekking around the large boulders in their path.

Golding admitted that his loved ones had their own reservations when he decided to take on this gig.

"It was so soon after the tragedy and tremors were still being recorded in Sabah." he said.

"When we were there, we felt tremors at the foot of the mountain. It felt like a small explosion about 100m under the ground.

"We looked at each other and thought, 'What are we going to do?'," said Golding, who had climbed Mount Kinabalu two years ago.

He and his Italian-Taiwanese model girlfriend Liv Lo, 29, had also talked about scaling the summit but never got around to doing so.

As a half-Sarawakian, Golding said the incident hit too close to home.

"You never think that something like that will affect you. I had so many questions about it, having been there myself," he said.

During filming, Golding also spoke to seismic experts and travelled to Kuala Lumpur, where he learnt about the region's susceptibility to earthquakes.

"When I first learnt of the Sabah earthquake, (I felt) there are hidden dangers all around. We cannot take safety for granted," he said.

"We are largely sheltered and if something like that happens again, do we have the necessary knowledge to do what we need to do in an emergency?"

So, have such thoughts scared the travel junkie off travelling and experiencing nature?

"Absolutely not," he said.

"You can't live in fear because that's like not living at all."

ashikinr@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on November 2, 2015.
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