March 7, 2016

Never Stop Exploring – Gunung Ledang

Hah, Gunung Ledang or Mount Ophir.  It is one of the places that I have always wanted to go since school days when my brother went on a school trip and came back with story about it.  Somehow, my own trip never materialised at least not for the past 40 years.  The trip there almost happened last year though. We were all ready to go. Accommodation checked; transport checked; guide and climb permit checked; barbecue checked.  And then it got canned 1 week before the trip when an email came that said the Malaysian guides does not want to work during the Hari Raya holidays and so all climbs were off! Sighed… only in Malaysia!

Then about 2 months ago, a friend jioed us for this trip organised by a group on this Meetup app. What meetup ap? I didn’t even know what that was but so eager were we to go that we downloaded the app, joined the group and here we are – 2 months later at Gunung Ledang! But before that, the perils of rushing into something we didn’t know. So we signed up, paid the money and that was it? No. Someone forgot to tell me we got to train. Just 2 weeks before the trip, we got a message reminding us that we should have completed “6 x 40 storeys by now”. Gulped! Of course, I didn’t train a single step for it unless one count the daily 4 flights to my home each day as training!  And then I discovered that there was a cut off of 4 and a half hour to reach the summit and about 3 hours to descend! A friend who had been up there told me the average time to reach the summit is about 6 hours. Oh mine! I was so screwed!

So it was with much trepidation that I went off. To make the matter worse, the ladies with me, ie the sidekick turned hero and Brokie had to choose to go to the toilet right before everybody went off. So we started right at the back with the last group. I think our friendly organiser, David was a bit worried about us. He knows nothing about us and if we too slow, we will hold back the whole group! I think he was taking a big risk by accepting us unknown into the group. hahaha. Anyway, he gave us a friendly reminder to catch up with the front and not to be too slow.

There was 7 checkpoints in all before the summit. We started at about 10 minutes after 8 and David wanted everybody up at the summit by 12.30 which means we had slightly less than 4 and a half hours to do so.

The first part was easy peasy enough. Just some 700 plus steps much like the stairs at Mt Kinabalu. Only less steep. And much easier to navigate.  We reached Checkpoint 1 in approximately 15 minutes. That wasn’t so bad. Checkpoint 2 reached in another 15 minutes. And we were on schedule despite having to climb over many fallen trees and big boulders! 006-DSCN6613And after walking and climbing, we finally reached Checkpoint 5 at 10 am and caught up with Group 1 who was waiting for the rest of the party. There is a nice little stream here where apparently the water is clean enough to drink. 014-DSCN6632

2 hours to complete 5 checkpoints covering approximately 4 km and altitude gain of about 680 metres with another 2 and a half hours to go to reach the Summit. By now things were looking up. I can do it! But then there was this sign:015-DSCN6636

That means Kentucky Fried Chicken up ahead? Unfortunately no. KFC here stands for Killer Fitness Center. A short but super steep stretch of climb that seems to go up and up forever but fortunately there was the famous Gunung Ledang Ladder and ropes to save the day. I call it the snakes and ladder.

Going up KFC on hands and knees018-DSCN6639

With ropes034-DSCN6668

And ladders020-DSCN6643 031-DSCN6659

And after the KFC, there is the rock face! A solid big piece of rock that lies at an angle of about 40 – 60 degrees and one which require us to asbeil up using ropes.040-DSCN6676

Ok it looks tougher than it actually is. One just need to hold on to the ropes and walk up. No problem. Just make sure the rope is between the legs and it doesn’t slice into little brother beneath the legs!045-DSCN6682

So after conquering KFC and rock wall, we get to admire some nice bonsai047-DSCN6685046-DSCN6684

By now we were ahead of the entire group. Somehow we had moved forward too quickly and we reached the last checkpoint 7 at 11.50 am. With another 40 minutes to spare to reach the summit.054-DSCN6695

 But we got a bit confused about the way from here on. There was only 1 trail and it was going down! And beside there was a warning sign there to stay off the difficult trail. So we decided to wait for the rest of the party to catch up which they did after about 15 minutes.

And so the final push.  A short climb down and then it was a long long climb up another row of ladders before we reached the false summit.057-DSCN6698

🙁 another lot of ladder to climb to get to the summit proper069-DSCN6711083-DSCN6729

And I did it! 12.40 pm. 10 minutes behind the cut off of 12.30 pm but not too bad for someone who didn’t really train specially for this!

The view from the top. What view? It was too misty most of the times and nothing much could be seen unfortunately.080-DSCN6725

After a super long rest for lunch and photo takings and waiting for the rest of the party to arrive, we finally start the descend at 1.30 pm.

So the easy part is over. Now for the torturefest. I sucks big time going downhill. And to prove that, just immediate upon the descend, I slipped between 2 big rocks and busted my left ankle. #*&^$@)% Luckily I was wearing a pair of high cut hiking shoes and not my usual trail running shoes and it held my foot well enough to minimize the damage otherwise I think somebody will have to carry me down!107-DSCN6767

The initial part of the descend was pretty steep but thank goodness for the ropes and ladders. They are really a godsend although it was slow speed going down. Soon my knees starts to complain and I had to resort to going down backwards to alleviate the strain on the knees. Going down was laborious and slow and to add to my woes, it started to rain. The other started putting on their poncho but I figured what the hell, it will only obstruct movement and went without even though I have 1 rain jacket and 2 ponchos with me.

Eventually though after what seems like countless hours of walking when actually it was only 2 hours 40 minutes, we reached back to CP 3! The end was nigh and we pressed on without stopping trying to make up for lost time and hoping to finish under the 3 hours. But by the time I reached CP 1, it was already 4.35 pm. Another 10 minutes to go. And then the 700 over steps appear. Yeah! rush rush and we came to a fork. Left or right? I think it was left but a couple there told us right can go to the exit so we goondu goondu follow his directions. #$%^&**** That took us on a super long detour passed the waterfall to the chalet, cross the stream up more chalets before the finish. ()(^^%&())( again! And oh did I mentioned waterfall?110-DSCN6773

Ok lah for the sight of the waterfall, it was worth the detour and the extra 10 minutes walk! hahahaha. If only I wasn’t rushing. Otherwise I will definitely soak myself in the water just like what I did during the Orang Asli run back in 2013.

So one more mountain in Malaysia conquered. To be honest, it was not what I was expecting. There was hardly any visible view of the surrounding towns so it was rather boring. In term of difficulty, it wasn’t as tough as I had expected. Maybe the snakes and ladders helped. And maybe it was nice weather and dry when we ascended so it seems that it is much easier than say Gunung Nuang. Will I return again? Likely not. There are more mountains to climb……..

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