Mount Tahan Expedition 2011
Clouds View from Mount Tahan
Sg Relau Base camp
Pre-climb Travelling day
On 13 September 2011, our back packs were ready. The northern team which consist six of us were gathering at Prai Pearl View Hotel for departure. There were 2 members from Penang Island which is myself and Mick and two from Prai, one from Alor Setar and one from Nibong Tebal. All five of us met up for lunch at Prai to have a good Yam rice as next few days, we were not going to have any decent meal.
We chartered a van and departed at 13:30 from Prai and picked up another member on the way at Nibong Tebal. All six of us were heading towards Gua Musang, Kelantan to meet up another team from KL. There were 5 members from KL and the whole team for the expedition were 11 members. Our team leader was Ah Law from KL, followed by KL team of Ah Sang, Ah Hong, Ah Ee and Ah Gham and northern team consist of Ah Joo, Ah Hin, Ah Heng, Ah Mick, Ah Hup and myself.
After approximately 5 hours of slow drive via Simpang Pulai-Cameron route, we reached Gua Musang for dinner. As the other team from KL was delayed, the northern team decided to go ahead our dinner and packed for the KL team and we left Gua Musang at about 2000 for Merapoh, Sg Relau Taman Negara base camp.
After half an hour drive, we met the KL team and drove-in to Sungai Relau Base camp. We had a good chat as all of us were University mate 18 years back and some did not meet each other since then. After a good round of chatting, we unloaded all bag packs and equipments and proceed to our pre-arranged dormitory with double-deck bed.
We had a short briefing after bath and had been shown a map for our entire journey with various plans to put up tent on choices of camp site. We were told to wear thigh, compression pants or swimming trunk the next day as the leeches would be everywhere on the first day. After some discussion, we all went to sleep at around 2300.
In the middle of the night, rains was pouring and we were worry if this to continue till tomorrow.The first night sleep did not goes too well, not sure if it is due to excitement or worry.
Sg Relau base camp dormitory
Food Load Distribution
Kem Kor Camp site
14 Sep 2011, 0600, all of us woke up one by one and got ourselves clean up for the last time and were getting ready for the first day hike. We had a simple nasi lemak as breakfast while waiting for registration.
As part of the effort to keep the forest clean by National Park of Malaysia, all of us need to declare all items bringing along during the hike. These items are clothes, socks, pants, plastic bags, batteries, touch-light, bottles, ropes, towels, gloves, hiking equipments and others things which can contaminate the forest. We were to bring back all these declared items including used plastic bag and rubbish, or else, RM50 fine charged per item will be imposed.
After the declaration registration, the headache part is food load, tent and cooking equipment distribution to all team members. Every one of us have reasons of limited bag space and reluctant to carry the allocated load. We spend quite some time to resolve this issue, and through the team spirit we managed to resolve this finally at 1030.
We went into the information center for the final information of Mount Tahan route and been introduced to us our 2 National Park Rangers whom would be with us for the whole journey.
Two pickup trucks sent us to Kuala Juram where we begun our hike. The four wheel truck ride took us for about 13 km in 20 minutes to reach Kuala Juram.
First timer hiker like me always the last one got ready as I changed my hiking shoes to crocs to get ready for the river crossing. Due to short of time, I did not have time to apply the mossi guard that I bought to prevent leeches.
We began by crossing a suspension bridge and after walking for 15 minutes of trails, we reached the first river. The river is not so deep. Is about our waist height, and we crossed it carefully with our hiking pole.
From Kuala Juram (309m), we were heading to Kuala Luis (306m) which was about 5km in distance and we should take around 1 hour to complete this. During this journey, we were to cross the same rivers for four times on different depth level, mostly on waist deep level of water. This part of the journey had the most leeches and of course, I had been hit for many part of my leg especially when I use crocs to cross rivers.
First river crossing is relatively easy but the second river water was a bit rough as the current flow is quite fast and heavy. Although there was one rope for us to hang on, but the rock surface is very slippery. Some of us almost fall down.
The trails was rather easy and had a little bit up and down track but was very muddy due to heavy downpour the previous night.
The third river crossing is quite challenging as it involves large rocks and was very slippery. We practically need to crawl on it to prevent slippery occur.
As the 3rd river and 4th river crossing were quite a big distance away, I had to use back my hiking shoe as my leg had begun to have bruises caused by the crocs shoe. With this, it delayed my river crossing time as I need to change shoe every time I cross the river especially on the 3rd and 4th river crossing.
After more than 1 hour of hiking and crossing, we reached Kuala Luis and had a food bar for lunch. Short rest and wore back my hiking shoe to prepare dry hiking without river crossing anymore.
As a slow hiker, I walked quite a distance behind the main group together with my two tent mates. We were not used to the heavy load especially with a tent on my bag which has additional 2 to 3 kg.
From Kuala Luis (306m) to Lata Luis (558m) should take about 1 hour with 6km of distance. But due to our load, we rested many places along the way which caused our time delayed. I think we double our time to reach at Lata Luis (558m) and rested a while at that place. The track is not difficult though.
Our final destination for the day is Kem Kor (750m) which is 2.5km from Lata Luis (558). This part of the track is mainly hiking up and it should take one hour. I already started to feel the pain on my shoulder due to the load and rested a few places along the way. We finally reach Kem Kor (750m) at 1700 and we took additional two hours than normal time. The team guide was worry with our progress and he urged us to improve our pace from the next day onwards.
While talking with the team guide as we were crossing the rivers with many rocks to approach the camp site, I steps on a slippery rocks and fell down. The fell caused me dislocated my right arm. Luckily I could manage to realign back my right arm. Or else, that is the end of my trip.
The first injuries had made my arm weak and luckily it recovered quite fast the next day. We were very blessed as the other team members who arrived earlier had volunteered to help us to set up the tent.
Three of us quickly took our cold bath in the river and did some washing on our clothes before taking a rest with a cup of hot Milo. The river bath was refreshing and rejuvenating.
We had a good catch up with each other on our career and chit chatted before the dinner ready around 1830.
The team guide Thong had taught us a few techniques on stretching our legs and knees so that we would be better prepared for the long tough hike on the next day.
First night was rather casual as we still can chat after dinner but the temperature was a bit warm until later of the night, rain started pouring. Our tent was not properly fasten on the roof (realized it the next day after the team guide comment), the rainwater was slowly sipping into the tent.
Three of us did not sleep well due to the wetness of the inner tent. But with sleeping on and off, we woke up at around 0600 and start repacking our stuff for the long day hike. The team guide kept on pushing three of us to get ready earlier and walk earlier so that we could not fall so far behind on the second day.
After the breakfast, we started our hike at around 0745. We had a tall target to achieve where we need to ascend the mountain from Kem Kor (750m) to Botak (1943m) within 10 hours.
After crossing the river (below knee level), we started to ascend sharply on the track. The first rest stop is Permatang (874m). From Kem Kor to Permatang (2.5km) was rather steady steep where there were a lots of tree roots to steps on. On that day, I did not carry tent and carried only food ration, so I was able to follow quite close to the team guide. One hour later, those strong and quick former Palapes members like Ah Sang, Ah Hong, Ah Hin and Ah Hup slowly passed me one by one.
I still managed to keep a 15 minutes distance with them from permatang (874m) till Kubang (1406m) which was another 3.5km. The trail here was very steep and I had to use both hand and leg to climb on the root tree to go up step by step. Trail was very muddy too. At certain place, we had to rely on the provided rope to climb a slope with degree of at least 80 degree. Permatang (874m) to Kubang (1406m) took approximately 4 hours.
From Kubang (1406m) to Belumut (1493m) was scheduled to be one hour hike with a distance of 1.5km and we finally reached at around 1230. Had our usual food bar lunch here and refilled our water from a streams which was 10 meter away from the rest area.. The water was in yellow color but it tasted good though.
When we walked close to Belumut (1493m), we already notice many small little grass like Bonsai growing everywhere on the root of the trees. The temperature is nice due to the altitude.
We left Belumut (1493m) and heading for the next stop at Bonsai (1705m) which is about 5.5km with estimated time of 2.5 hours. The trail was getting very muddy. At certain stretch, the mud can be very deep. If you are not careful, you could soak your feet into a mud hole till your knee length.
There was a sharp descend from the Belumut after the muddy stretch of trail where I fell while trying to descend from a sharp deep trail. I almost lost my hiking pole. After that sharp descend, immediately followed by a sharp near 90° ascend of rock and muddy climb.
As I was far behind from the first group, I heard the second group was approaching me. So I rested a while to wait for them to continue together. When the second group arrived, the team guide assistance also arrived asking if we could wait for our last member which was about 30 to 45 minutes away. He was my tent mate and he was carrying the tent on that day.
After some discussion, we seek the assistance guide's help to swap his tent to me and we precede the hike while he waited for my tent mate to carry the tent. Team spirit!
Our hike continued to ascend sharply and very muddy. When we were near Bonsai, trees were getting shorter and we got our first high mountain view when we were close to Bonsai (1705m). We snapped a few photos while resting and we reached Bonsai not long later.
We did not stay too long at Bonsai (1705m) as it was already 1715 and we had to rush to Botak (1943m) early to wash up and set up tent. Drizzling started from Bongsai and we continued the muddy trail. This time the muddy trail is white in color. Trees are small which are about our height.
The route going up was getting windy too. We could not resist the scenery and started to snap photos along the way.
After the white muddy trail, the route now changed to white rocky trail. The surrounding had less and less small trees and is only white and clay color of rock trail along the way. These rocks are not slippery and gradually more and more white crystals kind of stone appear along the path.
The scenery was fantastic and a great view of ranges of mountains under your feet feeling surfaced. Occasionally you see a sea of clouds floating and flying over from one angle to another area. At times, the journey climbing up was covered by fogged and yet little sunset sunlight penetrated through the foggy scenery with awesome scene. The whole day tiredness just gone and subside. I felt like screaming and yelling and we did yell at each other to look at certain views.
The sky was getting darker and the coldness was attacking slowly, we had to quickly walked up to the Botak (1935m) which is just 5 to 10 minutes away.
We reached Botak (1943m) camp site at about 1945 and quickly had a hot Nescafe and did a quick wash up and set up the tent. Our tent mate just arrived after all the tent was set up and dinner was ready. We had to quickly move our stuff into the tent as the dark cloud seems approaching for a heavy rain again.
Once our stuff and our dinner in the mess tin was put inside the tent, rain started pouring down. We had our dinner inside the tent feeling lucky on the right timing.
Again the tent was not properly fastened and water started to sips in and we suddenly realized the place we set up the tent started to accumulate water. The bottom of the tent was full of water and we were like floating on top of water. The tent became a water bed.
One of our tent mate said that we had to fix it. I tried went out to check, but the cold strong wind and rain forced me back to the tent almost immediately. Giggling inside the tent and hope the rain can stop soon.
After about 45 minutes of pouring, the rain stopped. We came out and found out that our tent was floating on a pile of rain water. We had no choice but to clear our stuff out from tent and relocated our tent onto another place. The effort proved to be a wise move or else we will be soak wet for the whole night like another team members’ tent.
After the heavy rain, the sky was clear with lots of stars above. Our team guide had prepared some herbal tea for supper and it was the best supper I had ever had in this high attitude with many stars covering you and a hot warm herbal tea on my hand. Wow! What a feeling.
The second day hike proved to be a very tough journey which we took almost 11 hours to complete. Some fitter members actually took about 7 to 8 hours.
Our team guide felt that some of us might not be able to withstand the toughness for the next 4 days as route to Kuala Tahan is longer with a lot more challenges along the way couple with bad rain weather, it could cause safety issues too. After much discussion with team spirit as our priority, we decided to change plan and descend to Kuala Juram instead of Kuala Tahan.
We slept about 2300 and drizzling started not long after. One of our team members’ tent still encountered water sipping in and they practically were wearing raincoat to sleep. But definitely, it did not help at all. They did not sleep the whole night till 0600 next morning. But luckily, one of the team members went to our tent to rest while we were preparing to have a morning hike to the summit.
View from Mount Tahan Summit
After a hot milo (hot chocolate drink), all of us except two members hiked up the summit for the final challenge and peak view at about 0630. The hike from Botak (1943m) to Tahan summit (2187m) took around one hour. Along the way, we snapped photos non-stop when view getting brighter.
Yes!!!, we reached the summit at about 0730. The view was fantastic. Speechless! Mountains with clouds! I will leave it to pictures to describe it.
We had lots of photographs sessions, solos and groups. Yelling and jumping. We practically spend almost an hour there and suddenly we saw one of our member (who did not wish to climb earlier) reached summit. We hooray for him and had another round of photography session.
Thereafter we descend down to our camp site. Photos snapping was non-stop too when we descend. Halfway descend, we saw our last members climbing up after 3 hours of sleeping. He was the one who could not sleep the whole night due to his tent flooding.
With his ascend to the summit, our team summit challenge had been declared accomplished!
After the summit climb, we had breakfast thereafter bag packing again. We tried to dry some clothes which proved to be useless. As usual, I was quite slow in packing and end up almost the last one to descend.
Worst still was that I and one of my tent mates need to stop several times to re-bundle the bag pack due to packing loosed. That had cause us real suffer later of the day.
We descended from Botak (1943m) at about 1130 and reached Bonsai (1705m) at about 1330. Due to slippery trail and we were quite slow. The journey took was also longer due to body tiredness. We were extra careful while descending which caused us extra time to reach every destination.
After Bonsai (1705m), dark cloud approached and after 15 minutes or 20 minutes, the rain poured. We did not stop and did not put on any rain coat. We just concentrated walking down as fast as we could. There were some thunders too.
The trail soon became a waterfall trail as the water was crushing down from the rain. The feeling was a bit like landslide and flood storm. We just kept walking faster and faster. Initially we felt cold but after a while of concentration walking, the coldness gone and began to feel the coolness’ and felt the gripping on the ground was better with water splash. That made us more confident and continued to walk even faster.
While we were rushing, we had to be extra careful too on certain spot especially where the descent was too sharp. We finally reached Belumut (1493m) at around 1500. But we were still behind time. After a short lunch food bar, we continued the muddy trail and the rain stopped not long later.
The descend from Belumut (1493m) to Kubang (1406m) and Permatang (874m) seems forever. Roots tree were so slippery and at some area, we had to turn around to rely the rope to descend backward.
We reached Permatang (874m) with a tired body which is already 1845. The last one hour from Permatang (874m) to kem kor (750m) was challenging as we had to use our headlamp for 30 minutes halfway the journey.
The vision getting blurred due to the sweat dripping onto my specs and coupled with the mist created on my specs, descend using headlamp light became so difficult.
Finally, we reached Kem Kor (750m) at 1945 with an exhausted body lying straight on the ground. But the whole body was so smelly, so I boosted out the last energy to wash my clothes and took a quick bath followed by a quick dinner. I just dosed off within seconds after laid down in the tent.
Woke up at 0600 and this time, we packed early and kept our tent quick as to learn from yesterday mistake. After the last breakfast, we had another group photograph session for the last time with a Malaysia flag (which we missed it on our summit climb).
We, the three slow climbers and another team member began the journey back to Kuala Juram from Kem Kor first. As usual, within one hour, the fast climber had chased up with us. As the journey for today was only half day with little uphill and downhill and four rivers crossing, the climbs was rather easy as the load is also lighter.
As the same challenge as we faced on the first day, lots of leeches attack us along the way. This round, I gave up the idea of taking off hiking show anymore. I just wore the hiking shoe to cross all four rivers with much confidence as I step toward the river bank instead of walking on top of the rock which was the main cause of all slippery.
One of our member fell into a river which had strong current flow. Luckily he was safe in time, or else he could had gotten injuries falling from the small waterfall and risk losing his bag pack. But he was very calm, as our team leader, the first word from his mouth after his fell while holding on the rope was, "Take the camera! snap me!"
By 1200, we had reached Kuala Juram base camp and started to wash up our clothes and took the one last bath from the Mother Nature. We changed to a set of dry clothes and got ready to be pickup by four wheel truck in 30 minutes.
The journey back to Base camp from Kuala Juram took about 20 minutes and when I step out from the truck, I notice one big leech still sticking on my feet between my two toes. This was the last bite and also the lasting one as the blood kept bleeding for the next one hour until I stick on a plaster.
As usual, we had to unpack all our stuff and let the registration officer to inspect items declared earlier and all of us passed as we are mother nature lover whom will never throw anything in the forest.
We took our hired Van to Gua Musang to have a great lunch and thereafter proceeded to Ipoh via Simpang Pulai-Cameron route. After reaching Ipoh around 1815, we took a bus ride back to Butterworth at 1830 and reached in 2 hours time. By the time we reached home, is already 2200.
That marked the end of the Mount Tahan expedition 2011, which was cut short. Although the trip was shorten but all of us enjoy the trip very much. For the first timer like me who had never been outdoor camping before, never done any mountain hiking before and merely train on hiking for 3 months on Penang Hill had make me proud that I had achieved something not easy. But I am also very grateful and thankful to all my tent mates and team members who had help me so much during the expedition. Without them, I would not have completed this expedition.
I believe I will be more ready for any mountain hike in the near future. My training will be continued and who knows one day I will come back to Mount Tahan and try the Kuala Tahan route.
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