Death gully revisited

A former soldier is returning to the scene of an expedition which came close to a disaster in which five of his colleagues nearly died. Rich Mayfield will set off in a 15-strong team next March on a new expedition to Low's Gully in the jungles of Borneo.

Their target is to complete the first ever descent of the gully - also known as the Place of the Dead - a 10-mile stretch of granite cliffs, massive waterfalls and thick vegetation.

In 1994, a 10-man expedition led by Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Neill should have taken 10 days on an army exercise in the area, but two officers and three soldiers were not plucked from the gully until almost a month after they set off. They were on the brink of starvation. Their five colleagues had escaped in two separate groups days earlier.

An army board of inquiry later accused Lt Col Neill of being "over ambitious" and criticised decisions made by his deputy, Major Ron Foster. No disciplinary was taken against them.

Mr Mayfield, 29, said he was optimistic the 1998 team would be more successful than the previous expedition. Asked why he wanted to return to Low's Gully, he said: "I don't like failing. When I fail I go away, become more capable and try again."

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