Climbing to great heights – despite fear


  • Nation
  • Thursday, 18 Apr 2019

KOTA KINABALU: The man, who was part of the team to climb the world’s tallest tropical tree, had a bigger challenge to overcome than the over-100m meranti tree – his fear of heights.

Jamiluddin Jami, who scaled an equivalent of 25 to 28 storeys to measure the 100.8m yellow meranti tree (Shorea faguetiana), was once an acrophobic.

Now, the 34-year-old stands tall for the feat that has put Sabah on the map after researchers found the tree in Danum Valley, also referred to as the “Lost World”.

Media platforms across the globe have carried news of the discovery by a group led by the Universities of Nottingham and Oxford, with the cooperation of the South-East Asia Rainforest Research Partnership and the Danum Valley team

Jamiluddin climbing the world’s tallest known tropical tree (pic, below) and smiling at the top.
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Jamiluddin said he had trained hard to overcome his fear of heights in 2003, a year after joining the partnership and seeing the career potential in a professional tree climber.

In his latest task, the Tawau native said he was haunted by his old phobia the minute he laid eyes on the plant.

“When I first saw the tree during our recce, I immediately said no. I thought there was no way I could climb it because I couldn’t even see the top from where I stood,” he said when contacted.

He then asked his supervisor to find a substitute but his boss decided that he was the perfect fit for the job.

They did, however, postpone the endeavour because of the rainy season and to calm his nerves.

In January, they again went to the site and this time, Jamiluddin had to just do it as there was no one else who could take over from him.

Today, the father-of-three has no problem looking back on the breathtaking exploit in the forest.

“For us trained climbers, we do not jump at the task barehanded but will use equipment such as ropes and anchor tools.

“We have a system where prior to a climb, we’ll shoot a piece of string over an identified strong canopy as high as possible and from there, swap it with a rope so that the climber has something to grasp,” he said.

Overcoming tree-mendous fear: Jamiluddin climbing the world’s tallest known tropical tree and smiling at the top (inset).

Along the way, they put anchor points for safety purposes and aiding the climber with his ascent.

“I was nervy and it took me a lot of effort and time to soothe myself as I slowly made my way up to the top of the tree and did the measurement,” he said.

And at 85m, Jamiluddin said he had to stop briefly to get someone to accompany him and calm him.

“At first no one dared to clamber up but later, my friend Fredino John did and he stayed at the 85m point while I continued until the 100m point of the tree,” he said.

After half a day of climbing, they finally measured the tree that was estimated to weigh 81,500kg.

“I feared heights almost all my life and never would have thought that I would be able to conquer this fear to achieve this and help put Sabah on the map,” he said with pride.

The 179cm-tall Jamiluddin is among fewer than 10 certified climbers tasked with measuring super-tall trees in Sabah.

The dearth of such professionals in the state has prompted a programme to be held at the Likas Sports Complex climbing centre here on May 4 and 5 to create awareness of their work.

The programme, which starts at 9am, will allow visitors to learn more about professional tree climbing and its potential in various industries, including agriculture and farming.

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