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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Never Stop Exploring - Gunung Nuang Hike

This could be called the best way to torture you knees or the slowest 20 km ever or the longest climb or the why nobody tell me it was so tough hike but for simplicity I think I just called it the Gunung Nuang hike.

It all started when I decided that there are no more trails left in Singapore to explore or at least none that I know of and having read about Gunung Nuang on blogs, and since it was near enough to pop over for the weekend, I roped together a few friends and away we went for what I thought was a easy fun time.

We managed to hook up with a few Malaysian's friends who took really good care of us. We arrived real early at the base of Gunung Nuang at about 6.50 am. After the obligatory group photo and a safety pep talk by Tony Quay, our "official guide", we set off with a few Malaysian friends leading the way.

Gunung Nuang is the highest mountain in Selangor. By all account, it is also the most popular hiking spot there so I seriously wasn't expecting the trail to be that difficult to navigate. Maybe a lot of ascent since it is after all 1493m high but not something that the lot of us couldn't handle.

The first part of the trail was what Tony describe as a dragon back going up and down. The interesting thing is that all of us swear that we only noticed the up and not the down. This part of the trail is rather wide and easy to walk with generally good surface not unlike our MacRitchie Reservoir except that there are many big pieces of rocks. 

Both side of the trail are covered with thick vegetation many of which are bamboos. 

According to Tony, this first part of the trail is 6.2km although many sites actually state the distance as 5km. But it was a long walk up and up and up. We never really noticed the down. We took 1 hour 10 minutes to hike this portion. The trail ends at Camp Lolo where we stopped for a group photo. 

Camp Lolo is actually not a camp. It is just a open patch of ground with some stone seats. Nothing much to do if camping here except maybe splash a bit in the nearby Sungei Nuang.

But from Camp Lolo, we leave the open trail to go into the jungle proper, walking on narrow trails filled with the darned rocks. This part is 2.2 km according to Tony although again most sites stated it at 1.2km. But it certainly felt like 2.2km. This portion wasn't that difficult to navigate although the trail was covered with many many roots and rocks.
The highlight of this segment was of course the river crossing and there were 4 of them. Almost all of us took our time to cross the river making sure not to get our shoes wet which was quite a silly thing to do considering what was going to come next.

Next we came to Camp Pacat. Again, this is not a real campsite but a open patch. This segment is 1.2km and is also where our nightmare begin. Here the climb took on a new meaning. It was literally climb climb climb. And we not talking of just walking up. In fact most time, we were using our hands to pull ourself up huge boulders or trying to avoid shoe sucking mud and slippery clay. When I thought back to earlier on when we tried to keep our shoes dry, I really don't know whether to laugh or cry at our silliness. 

By the end of this segment at Camp Pengasih, we were all cursing and swearing. When was it going to end? The wet, damp and misty condition and the rain that keep coming on and off was making me feel very demoralising. The only thing we were thankful for was that there was no leech although this segment was named after the leech, Pacat being the Malay word for leech. But we also knew we had only about 2km more to go as the total distance was about 10km. But whenever we asked climbers and hikers coming down how far more to go, we got vastly different answers. One guy told us Satu Jam which is 1 hour. The next guy said 2 hours and another said depends 2 to 3 hours! My heart went up and down. I had originally targeted to reach the summit by 12 noon but it appeared that this was not possible with another 2 km to go and the slow pace of progress. 
Photo credit : Terence Yeo
There are no photos taken here as my hands were by now covered with mud and I was too tired to take photos. Beside I had to navigate and climb the rocks and had no hand to do anything. Even the trekking pole which I had been using earlier had became a liability as it was hindering me from grabbing the rocks and roots. 

The good new was that the next stage was downhill from what is know as Puncak Pengasih or false peak meaning its not the peak. Unfortunately, the descent didn't prove any easier and I dread falling and sliding all over. But this was only 800 metres and somewhere we found the strength to pull through until we came to the final hurdle - a freaking almost vertical rock wall was in our way to the summit. We had to scale that but in my heart I was wondering - how are we going to go down later? But we had come so far there was no way we were going to turn back now so up we went!

 Finally, the summit! After almost 5 and a half hour, we reached the summit at 12.45 pm.

But it was too cold to stay up there. The wind was howling up there and temperature was a low 14 degrees Celsius.  After a hurried lunch and the obligatory group photo, we started our descent.

If the ascent was tough, the descent was worse. The steep slope some of which are almost vertical, the muddy ground and uneven terrains made every km seems like 10. Our descent was super slow. By now our shoes were totally coated in mud and the threads were so covered that there was totally no grip. All of us were amazed by how fast the Malaysian hikers could go down the slopes. My knees cried out in agony with every jump and I was reduced to crawling down most of the slopes while the Malaysians simply jump down. To us kiasu city folks, we were so terrified that a slip and we will bash our heads on some rocks or break an arm. So we took to crawling, sitting and sliding down but even then I managed to slip twice!

 The trekking pole had become a big handicap and I decided to stop using it. Going down was slow and tortuous and we were hoping that we will reach the river soon. The river that we had avoided so much so as not to get wet was now our goal. To get there and soak inside the water and to clean up a bit. Sort of like a baptism of water. And our guys happily took to the water when after almost 8 hours of walking we made it there.

Refresh and reinvigorated, we set off to complete our hike. But the way back was like never ending. The earlier descent had wrecked havoc on the knees and I was feeling the impact. The ground was in most part uneven on rutted clay or rocky trail. And it was like never ending. Actually that is the nick name given to this portion of the trail by the locals! 5km had never felt so long!

Photo Credit: Terence Yeo
Even when we finally hit the easy trail, it was like when is it going to end? And now we noticed that there are uphills in the directions we were going when earlier on, we had not noticed any downhill. #$%^&*

But of course eventually after more than 10 hours, we reached back to our start point where cold drinks and a cold shower awaits. And of course Tony and our other friends who had completed the trek earlier. 

It was tough. Much tougher than I had expected. And if I had known that I had to crawl on all 4 for most of the latter part, I probably wouldn't have decided to come. But none of the blogs or website that I checked earlier had mentioned this. Everybody conveniently left this part out or maybe to them it is normal and nothing to shout about. The muddy conditions, the non-stop ascent and subsequently descent (we dare not stop for breaks except at Camp Lolo and the Summit) the heavy packs we were carrying - the whole thing was tough. And I certainly wouldn't recommend this hike to any casual weekend hikers. One need to be in good physical shape to do this. This could possibly the longest time I ever took to cover 20km!

On the bright side, now that I am rested, I am glad that I did this. You only live once and with all these mountains just next door, it will be a pity not to attempt them. I am also consoled the subject of my next climb, even though it is much higher,  is not as tough as Gunung Nuang! Or at least that is what Tony said. So who wants to join me for my next adventure?


  1. 1)Experience and helpful guide”

    I met Sanjib during my last year hiking trip to Annapurna Base Camp. He was my guide for 12 days; he was very knowledgeable and organized. Our trip was affected by the bad weather but we managed to enjoy ourselves out of the bad condition. He has now working independent; I will definitely recommend him as he knows the inside out of the trek in Nepal as a guide, a porter or an organize

  2. Thanks for the nice and details sharing of your experience doing Nuang Hike... Was planning to do this hike on 6 Sept... Is it possible to do the hike alone (solo) ? Will people get lost during the hike?

    1. Hi there, The trail up is one way so you won't get lost as long as you follow the trail. But at the peak, there are several trails down leading to different areas so do remember to go down the same way you came up otherwise you may end up in a different state!