It has been a long while since I last blogged about mountain climbing. It wasn’t because I have not been climbing since I came back from Melbourne but it was because I was regularly climbing mountains that I have climbed before – Ledang, Angsi and Datuk; and really, there wasn’t much that one can write about repeatedly.
Until last week, that is.
Last weekend, together with a group of 19 people (6 from IMU), we conquered Gunung Berlumut (Berlumut: Moss) located in Kluang, Johor. Rising to a height of 1010 meters above sea level, it is the 195th tallest mountain in Malaysia according to Malaysian Traveller. This mountain is little known – a search on the internet revealed precious little. The recreational park at the foot of the mountain and the mountain are managed by the Forestry Department of the State of Johor. It’s also expensive to climb this mountain. We had to pay RM 150 for a permit and RM 120 for a guide (for every 25 climbers). Toll charges from Seremban to Ayer Hitam and back was RM 50 and the petrol cost RM 82.
We pushed off at an unearthly hour of 4.00 am in the morning last Saturday and drove on the PLUS highway heading south and exited the Ayer Hitam exit 2 hours later. We headed straight to Kluang town which took another 20-25 minutes of driving and stopped at the deserted Kluang Railway station, one of the oldest railway stations in the country.
We then had to wait another 30 minutes for the famous Kluang Rail Coffee to open business. The wait was well worth it as the offerings there (awesome Kluang coffee, half boiled kampung eggs, toast layered with rich kaya and butter that melts in your mouth, simple and delicious nasi lemak and pulut himpit) was cheap and to-die-for!
The drive from the railway station to the base of the mountain was to take another 30 minutes. Consequently, we only started our climb at 9.00 am. The target was to reach the peak within 4 hours with a turn-around time at 1.00 pm.
I’d like to write down my statistics for this climb (for future reference):
Ascend time: 3 hours 25 minutes.
Descend time: 2 hours 35 minutes.
Food eaten: A pack of fried rice, 2 bananas, 1 wafer, a pack of sunflower seeds.
Water consumed: 3000 ml + 500 ml of 100+
Total distance: About 12 km
Total height: 1010 meters
And for the record, contrary to what other blogs seem to imply, I found climbing Berlumut to be quite challenging. While the initial 2 km was like a walk in the park, the next 1 km of the climb was quite taxing as the slope inclined at a constant 45 degrees. Although the trail was well demarcated, it was made up of mostly exposed roots of big trees and because it rained earlier, the trail was also slippery.
At the 3 km point, we had a short reprieve. There are 2 rocks here with jutting edges. The locals called them Batu Bergigi (Rocks with Teeth).
After the 3 km, the trail eased a little but it wasn’t long before we had to ascend a long series of steep inclines, most of them over 80 degrees! This part of the trail was the hardest for me. It felt like an eternity before it finally ended. This part of the trail took up more than an hour and by then I was exhausted. While ascending this part of the trail, I was reminded of another torturous mountain I had climbed a few years ago because of the similarity of both trails, Gunung Nuang, which I swore I would never ever climb again!
The steep trail terminated into a broad area devoid of vegetation. The place reminded me of Bukit Botak (Botak: Bald) on Gunung Ledang (Mount Ophir). This was the false peak (Gunung Nuang also had a heart-breaking false peak). One of my students, probably fearing that I might lose my way, drew a sign on the ground pointing to the start of the final ascend.
Unlike the trail before, the final trail to the peak was not well maintained. There were plenty of undergrowth and some parts were obscure and one could easily get lost if one was not careful. The beautiful thing about this final trail to the peak was that almost the entire trail was covered in a thick and luxurious layer of green moss! It’s really quite a sight to behold.
When the peak was finally reached (30 minutes hike from the false peak), I was sore and sorely disappointed. The area was small and cramped with many people (there was also a team of 20 climbers from Singapore on that day). To actually see anything, one has to climb up a sorry-looking boulder jutting out from the ground. From here, I admit the view was breathtaking! Unfortunately, since the boulder could only hold around 6 people at a time, one has to be patient to wait his/her turn for 5-10 minutes of breathtaking splendour!
I’m happy to say that all 19 of us reached the peak safely within the 4 hour period.
After a quick lunch and some photo-taking, we made a hasty descend, starting at 2 pm. Any delay might mean hiking down the steep slopes in failing light or darkness! After 2 hours and 35 minutes, my team reached the base. The others made it down safely not too long after (one team member tripped and fell several meters but thankfully only sustained superficial injuries).
Personally, I think the trail was really nice and very challenging. The flora and fauna along the way was fantastic.
Unfortunately the experience was marred by some things typically encountered in Malaysia:
1. The toilet facilities were awful and woefully inadequate. There were male and female sections. I can’t speak for the females but in the male toilet, there were only 3 stalls, one of which was blocked (read: overflowing with excrement!). The three urinals were smelly and dirty. There was no running water. The only source of water was from a large water tank which has sediments and cigarette butts inside! I had no choice but to shower using water from this tank. Some of my team members chose to bathe in the river instead.
2. The male Muslim prayer room was unkempt and again, had no running water for the ablution rites. The prayer room for females was locked.
3. There were flies everywhere! The two stalls which sold food and drinks were making a roaring business selling beverages and foods at exorbitant prices. The foods were exposed to the elements and there were plenty of flies on them! Monkeys were seen everywhere scavenging for food.
4. The entire area was ill-kept. The dustbins were overflowing with rubbish. Even the trail was littered with empty water bottles and food wrappers.
With the kind of money they charge for the climb, I would expect them to provide at least the clean basic necessities. I wonder where all the money collected went to!
So, was it a good climb? Yes! Definitely!
Would I go back again? Probably not. There are better mountains to climb with better facilities and at a cheaper rate.