Sunday, July 20, 2014

Gunung Angsi (Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia)

Gunung Angsi stands at 825m in Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia. The trail begins at Ulu Bendul Recreational Forest and ends at Bukit Putus (Jalan Kuala Pilah road), with a total distance of about 12 km. I went with 39 other hikers from Hiking Trekking and Traveling Buddies, our group was a nice mix of beginner, moderate and expert hikers.

In preparation for this climb, I've spent my weekends hiking on nature trails locally or climbing stairs with a loaded backpack.

Gear I bought with me included: 

1) Disposable rain coat (much always prepare for rain when you go into a rainforest)
2) Gloves (one that covers the fingers and all, and good for grabbing trees and roots, and ropes)
3) Cap
4) Small first aid box containing tweezer, bandages and disinfectant
5) Off insect repellent (I never use this but they are good on leeches.)
6) Trekking pole.
7) Whistle

Sustenance include: 2 bottles 500ml of water, pocari powder, 4 packets of milo drink (200ml each), sneakers bars, an apple, some mini hotdog buns.

The trail started along side a river. It was a gentle and easy walk on flat trail alongside some piping for the first part (approx 2-3km). I moved at a leisurely comfortable pace because I didn't want to repeat the mistake I made of going too fast and running out of energy at the steeper sections nearing summit. There were a few little streams to cross which should is of no difficulty if you have water resistant shoes and a trekking pole (and a good sense of balance and judgement).

At a rest point hut, we took a little break. We viewed the running river with its small waterfalls around large granite boulders.  We hopped around some rocks to enjoy looking at the zen-like pools and flowing water. I am always wary on rocks; most of them were dry but the shiny dark ones were super-slippery.

We moved on a little bit and came to a river we had to cross. It was about knee-deep. Again, one can efficiently hop across rocks to reach the other side nice and dry if one is agile enough. I was bit overly confident as most of the rocks looked dry. I did end up with wet feet slipping off a slippery piece despite having buddies trying to help me across. I guess I should never have doubted my own clumsiness.  Most of us made it across without incident. Anyway, I took off my shoes, squeezed out as much water as I could, squeezed the water out of my socks, put them back on and went on.

River crossing
I was wary of leeches but there were none. It was probably already the dry season for this region, as the ground seemed mostly dry.

We were also aware that some of our friends were stung by bees and wasps the last time they were here. There were indeed some bees and wasps around, not swarms as I had imagined, but still, a few of us were stung this time.

We went on from this main river crossing, and then the trail began to gently slope and then descend a bit to a small stream which no one had any problems crossing (not even me.) After that, the climb began. 

The climb towards the summit is a trail type reminiscent of Bukit Timah steps as most jungle mountain upslope trails are. One up is equivalent to two or three steps of a typical concrete stairway.  The steps are quite defined, formed on the clay-soil trail by erosion and tree roots growing on the side of the mountain.  It would've been muddy and slippery if it was a rainy day. I made my way at slow and steady pace, I was careful not end up panting and out of breath.

Our group began to spread out with each making progress at his or her own pace. The path up is a straight and very defined one. We saw a sign before a steep climb that stated "60mins" to summit, but it's not a generous estimation.

Underfoot, along some of the exposed tree roots, there were lines -- armies of ants moving with seemingly determined purpose. The hard-looking little black ants moved in lines of 2-3 up to 5-6 lines on thicker roots. I watched where I stepped as I didn't want to put my foot (or hand) down in their path. I don't even want to risk brushing against them. I was quite sure they would swarm quickly and bite most viciously.

Uphills are always challenging for me, but just took it one step at a time, not really thinking of the end just figuring out how to get a few steps ahead, then a few more...etc. It was a sort of puzzle to look and figure out the easiest way up -- making my way by smaller steps up was less tiring then bigger up-steps. At one point, a bee gave me lots of encouragement by buzzing around my head. After a while it left me alone.

We reached some sandy boulders which were a sign we were almost at the summit. (It would take another 30 minutes). There are ropes on this sandy boulder for hikers to haul themselves up. There are two sides -- a left one was to go up on a rock then a rope up to the path to continue, the one on the right was a easy rope up and then a hop across a gap. But both seemed equally challenging to me. I took the one on the left with a lot of help. Hike buddy Noel gave me a leg up and pushed me up while another, Robin waiting above grabbed my hand and helped pull me up.

After this, we traversed shortly along a narrow cliff side, down a sandy boulder bit and right back on the trail. We met another group of hikers who told us that the sandy boulder have gotten more difficult to climb due to erosion. We chatted with them a bit as we went on together for a while.  The other hiker said he was always glad to have company and said he enjoyed having people to talk to on the trail.  It makes it easier to put tiredness out of one's mind.  He said that hiking should never be done alone, with company you would be less afraid and it is easier to overcome challenges. I don't talk much, I kinda enjoy just listening sometimes.

And we went on up and up. Finally, the summit (after approx 3.5 hours)-- a nice flat clearing with some benches and a shelter and nice view of the surrounding green mountains on one side, a view of a town below on another side. Everyone made it. We sat down, rested and took our lunch. I had finished all the milo, two buns and the apple I brought, and finished one bottle of water too. The sun was out, so I took off my shoes and sun my socks and feet. They were only damp by this point.

We ate, took photos and then began the descend, a different way down (thank goodness -- I would dread going back down those sandy boulders). The trail down is quite gentle and easy,  with some sections requiring some care, but the "steps" down were not too steep. Some parts were a sandy and slippery.  I used my trekking pole for aid from here on. The downhills were always when things begin to hurt and I began to think that perhaps I should have brought my knee guards. My feet ached a little too.

It was a pleasant walk down for most part. It was getting quite sunny but one had the shelter of trees and the trail was nice to walk on. (No roots to trip over.) There were a few beautiful butterflies -- I didn't have a camera to capture these so I just looked at them as they fluttered by.  Green-blue ones, orange ones with spots, swallow tails...etc.

End of the trail was a flight of concrete stairs down to a small road where a coach will come pick us up and take us back to Ulu Bendul entrance where there are bathroom facilities for washing up. About 2pm, all of us had made it to the end of the trail (less than two hours from summit). Waiting for the coach, I finished the last of my water and enjoyed the chatter and presence of fellow hikers.


- Ought to have at least used a stick for aid when crossing river.
- I have a genuine fear of losing balance and falling, especially when going downhill.

Other blogs to read about hiking Gunung Angsi:

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