Gunung (Malay for mountain)

I decided to create this page as a repository for my trip reports and photos. Below are brief descriptions of the places I've been, and here are my notes on problems specific to the kind of terrain and climate found in Malaysia.

Trips

Gunung Ledang (Mt. Ophir) March 2002, March 2003, March 2004, May 2008

This is the typical beginners' mountain for West Malaysia. It's an easy day hike for anyone of reasonable fitness (say if you run 2-3 times a week). There are two ways up - via Asahan or Sagil. I've only ever done Sagil. The old way up from Sagil passed by spectacular waterfalls and a sweet campsite by a huge pool and rapids. However, that route is now closed and the new trail bypasses all the waterfalls and pools. All the same, it is still an interesting hike because of its series of easy but scary-looking rock obstacles (at least that part of the trail was retained). A good introduction to what to expect on a Malaysian mountain.

Gunung Belumut, April 2002

This is another beginners'/training mountain but is much less interesting than Ophir because it has no obstacles whatsoever (and no waterfalls either). It's just a matter of walking continuously uphill for 4-6 hours. Another day hike doable by anyone of reasonable fitness.

Gunung Tahan June 2002, June 2009 (Kuala Tahan - Kuala Tahan)

6.5 days in 2002. Camped at Kem Tengah, Teku, Gedong, Padang, Teku, Kem Tengah. One of the most difficult treks of this length in West Malaysia. For this reason, the forest on the Kuala Tahan side of the reserve is relatively unspoilt, and both times I went, we encountered only one other group. The primary rainforest between Teku and Pankin is beautiful. Around Gedong and near the summit, you get landscapes that you can't find anywhere else in West Malaysia - extended sections of the trail are exposed (either rock or low scrub), so you have unobstructed views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.

6 days in 2002. Last day lasted 7am to 8.30pm. Camped at Kem Tengah, Teku, Gedong, Gedong, Teku. This was probably the most enjoyable expedition I've been on in my life. The weather was excellent by Malaysian standards --- other than the first night after we were already in our tents, it did not rain. The rivers were perhaps on the high side on the second day due to the rain on the previous night, but when we returned to cross them on the last day, they were much lower than I'd seen in my previous two visits to this mountain, and crossing them was a breeze. This allowed us to go from Teku to Kuala Tahan in a day, while it usually takes two days on the journey in. This is also the only expedition in Malaysia I've been on where my clothes actually dried overnight. We put them outside on Gedong and it was a particularly windy night with no rain. The next night, also on Gedong, there was no wind and our clothes were still wet in the morning.

Kilimanjaro (Marangu route), December 2005

Grand Canyon, March 2006

We had no time to apply for camping permits so we just did day hikes from the South Rim. The weather was pretty nice in March - freezing on the rim and getting warmer as you descend. We were caught in a blizzard on one day, though.

Pennine Way (not the whole thing), July 2006

We started from Housteads (along Hadrian's Wall) and ended at Kirk Yetholm - the northern endpoint of the Pennine Way.

Swiss mountaineering course, July 2006

The course was the Student Alpine Ascents from the International School of Mountaineering. We spent a day doing rock climbing in Leysin and then moved to the Orny hut in the Mont Blanc massif. Learned the technical stuff and climbed a peak called Tete Blanche.

Ecuador, December 2006

The main objectives were the snow peaks Cayambe, Cotopaxi and Chimborazo, although we did acclimatization hikes on the Pichinchas. I summited Cayambe, felt too ill to get out of the hut for Cotopaxi, and the weather was so bad for Chimborazo that we were advised to not even try for it.

Gunung Rajah, December 2007

2 days. This is the 1683m peak near Bentong, not the 500+m hill on the way to Gunung Tahan. Still relatively unknown to Singaporeans.

Gunung Stong + Gunung Ayam, March 2008

We took 2.5 days for this. Did some caving on the morning of arrival. Hiked up to Baha base camp in the afternoon. Hiked up to the summit of Ayam the second day and camped there. Third day, went down a little and up to summit of Stong, then down all the way. It rained almost all the time (this was in March).

Gunung Tahan (Kuala Tahan - Merapoh), June 2008

4.5 days. Camped at Kem Tengah, Teku, Gedong, and Kubang. The Merapoh side of the national park is much more eroded, polluted and heavily used than the Kuala Tahan side. At Kem Kor there were pieces of bread and instant noodles among the rocks in the stream. Our first choice campsite was full when we reached it and we had to settle for a muddy alternative.

Gunung Rinjani, August 2008

This is easy because there are porters, and the scree slope is really nothing compared to Kilimanjaro's. But I can see how it could be a huge mental challenge if you're a first-timer. Most difficult part for me was getting blinded by sand along the exposed ridge that leads to the summit.

Banjaran Titiwangsa traverse, April 2009

There are two popularly known traverses of this mountain range, which really stretches from Southern Thailand to Negeri Sembilan. The one I did is known as "version 1", typically takes 5 days, and covers three major peaks - Gunung Yong Belar, Gunung Gayong and Gunung Korbu. "Version 2" covers an additional major peak, Gunung Yong Yap, and takes about 9 days.

Gunung Chamah + Ulu Sepat, July 2009

4 days. First day getting to base camp of Chamah. Second day day-pack from base camp to Chamah summit and back (can be a long day; keep your breaks short). Third day traverse across to camp a third of the way up Ulu Sepat. Fourth day summit Ulu Sepat and trek all the way out to Orang Asli village. Gunung Chamah is probably the most difficult mountain to access in Peninsular Malaysia that is higher than 2000m. Getting to both mountains involves passing through remote Orang Asli settlements (one of which can be reached only on foot). Both mountains are relatively less popular choices among trekkers, so the trails are more overgrown and less obvious. There is no view at all from the top of Ulu Sepat.

Mount Washington, February 2010

This was the graduation trip for the mountaineering course run annually by the Explorers Club of Pittsburgh. We used the Lion Head winter trail. Started at around 5am from Pinkham Notch and returned to Harvard Cabin at around 3pm. Weather that day was 50-70mph winds and -20 to -30F windchill. Due to a combined goggle and glasses malfunction, I got frostbite/frostnip/windburn (I don't know which of those it is) on my cheeks. In whiteout conditions, we also missed the turnoff to the Lion Head trail on the way down from the summit and ended up going further down toward Tuckerman Ravine. Physically it was not difficult.

Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail, June 2012

70 miles in 4 days! I totally underestimated the difficulty of this hike, especially if you try to do it over 4 days. A couple of the days were brutal 19-milers on terrain that was almost never flat.

Iceland, August 2012

We did three hikes in Iceland: First, the Jokulsargljufur National Park from Asbyrgi to Dettifoss, then the Kjalvegur riding trail from Hvitarnes to Hveravellir, then the most famous trail in Iceland, the Laugavegur, from Landmannalaugar to Thorsmork. By far the most comprehensive guidebook for these hikes is the German guidebook Island: Trekking-Klassiker. It covers these three hikes, plus one more, in painstaking detail. If you can read German this is THE book to have. Having it with us turned out to be crucial for finding a certain water source on the Kjalvegur trail. I could not find any guidebooks written in English that came close to this level of detail.