The Ministry of Education (MOE) clarified on Wednesday (Jun 10) that the Tanjong Katong Primary School (TKPS) team was on a simpler route on Mount Kinabalu when the earthquake struck.
Compared with the regular Via Ferrata route, where the elevation of the starting point is 3,520m, the pupils, teachers and their guides began on a route at an elevation of 3,411m, stated the MOE.
Mountain Torq, which manages the Via Ferrata, added that this was also a shorter route – 281m (indicated in red below) instead of the original route (in green), which is 430m long.
An MOE spokesperson said: “This is a less steep route compared to the full Walk the Torq route.” She confirmed that the TKPS teams have been using the simplified route since 2010.
On Sunday, the MOE, based on its initial interviews with teachers and pupils who survived the trip, said the team were on the well-known Via Ferrata route.
A Via Ferrata is a mountain path comprising a series of rungs, rails and cables on the rock face. Climbers must wear helmets and harnesses to attempt this route and must be at least 10 years old.
The school has been sending teams to Mount Kinabalu for the past seven years, attempting the original route for the first two years, said Mountain Torq marketing director Quek I-Gek.
She said the simplified route was also only for a selected group of trekkers. Referring to the TKPS pupils who had taken the Via Ferrata, Ms Quek added: “They’re the best students we’ve guided. Consistently, they’re better physically and mentally.”