The biggest challenge in reaching this mountain’s summit comes right at the beginning, writes Aznim Ruhana Md Yusup

CLIMBING Mount Kinabalu has always been on my bucket list. Apart from being an amazing achievement in itself, I’m intrigued by the plants and animals there. Did you know there is a local tree shrew that uses the Rajah pitcher plant as its “toilet”? The dropping is fertiliser for the plant.

I don’t know how much wildlife you will actually encounter on a climb, but the National Cancer Council (Makna) is holding a fundraising climb up Mount Kinabalu called Klimb Kinabalu 2017 on Aug 31, and I’m excited that I will be able to join them.

But ascending the 4,095m-tall mountain requires stamina and endurance, so the nice people at Makna put together a training programme for participants, which includes a hike up Gunung Angsi in Negri Sembilan.


Steep summit over tree roots at the start of the hike.

UP AND AWAY
At 825m, Angsi isn’t much compared to Kinabalu. But it has aspects that will come in handy when we attempt Kinabalu, including a steep, uphill hike right from the start.

There are two routes to the summit of Angsi; we took the Bukit Putus option, the other is Ulu Bendul, which I’m told is a longer route. All hikers are required to register for a trekking permit at RM5 per person since the area is a Permanent Reserved Forest.

The trail starts with steep stairs, followed by a steep climb over red cliffs and meandering tree roots that seems to last forever (actual duration: 35 minutes). I was told to climb at my own pace — which was rather slow with plenty of breaks — and I was glad to finally reach some flat ground.

It was nothing like going up the stairs at my office and apartment, a tip I got on training for Kinabalu. These help to improve your stamina and strengthen your knee joints, but there's only one way to get used to uneven jungle tracks, which is to go out and hike outdoors.

There’s a hut at this point in the trail, where regulars stop and chit chat over coffee. Water is collected from a spring just up the trail. We were worried about potential leptospirosis contamination since we had no way of boiling the water.


The view from the peak of Gunung Angsi.

UNLIKELY BUS STOP
From then on, the climb became much gentler. The track gets narrower and we passed by a group of students from SMK Subang Bestari on their way down, as well as other groups. I didn’t mind waiting and giving way, mostly because it allowed me to take photos and rest awhile.

While it’s important to take breaks for your wellbeing, stopping also allows you to take stock of where you are, and appreciate the surroundings. People go hiking for many reasons, but I believe it’s important to do it with a sense of ecological awareness and conservation.

As we walked along the track, we came across a much-welcome sign: “18 mins to Summit”. True enough, it took us that long to reach the peak. Along the way there’s the “Waterfall View” lookout point, although we couldn’t spot any waterfalls, only the Seremban suburbs.

The clearing at the peak is large enough for a small hut with a humorous bus stop sign. There’s a lookout point with a wonderful view of nearby hills and peaks. We ate a meal and take photos and after about 30 minutes at the summit, begin climbing down.

Going down is always much easier than going up. That said, my wearing hiking boots made my toes keep hitting the front of the shoes as we were going downhill. (They remained sore for a couple of days, and I’m guessing it would be a better idea to wear hiking sandals during a descent).

We reach the foot of Angsi about 10 minutes after 1pm. It has been a good hike, and a good day overall. I need more practice before Kinabalu, but I think I have done okay for the day.

To contribute to Klimb Kinabalu 2017, visit simplygiving.com/event/KlimbKinabalu2017. Flight sponsorship to Kota Kinabalu is by official partner AirAsia. The climbers and working team are protected by Tune Protect Travel Insurance by AirAsia.


Group photo with Makna staff and volunteers. Photo courtesy of Vemanna Appannah (extreme left).

FAST FACTS
Gunung Angsi via Bukit Putus

LOCATION: Kuala Pilah, Negri Sembilan

HEIGHT: 825m

DURATION: Two to 2 1/2 hours ascent, 1 1/2 hours descent

RECOMMENDED STARTING TIME: Anytime in the morning. It’s a half-day trek, so take care to be out of the jungle before dark. Also, the later you start, the hotter and more humid it will get.

NECESSITIES: RM5 per person for trekking permit with the State Forestry Department. 1.5 litres of water, shoes with good grip and snacks.

DIFFICULTY LEVEL: Challenging for a beginner, easy or average for a regular hiker.

aznim.ruhana@nst.com.my

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