Monday, 13 March 2017

A Very Muddy Birthday Hike to Yong Belar

Standing at 2,181m above sea level, Mount Yong Belar is the third highest mountain in Peninsular Malaysia and is located at the border of Kelantan and Perak. I've never thought of hiking Yong Belar separately on its own as I previously planned to do Trans V2 Titiwangsa (Yong Belar - Korbu - Gayong - Yong Yap) someday, which would cover four G7s. With that done (if I were to succeed) I’ll only need to do a CUS (Chamah - Ulu Sepat) to complete all G7 (since I've done Tahan [read here] last year.). However, when Night Ranger decided to organise a day hike to Yong Belar, it suddenly sparked my interest to celebrate my birthday up there. How cool is that to celebrate my big day on the summit of the third highest mountain in Peninsular Malaysia, right? After all, it was my birthday weekend and I had no plans scheduled yet at that time. I invited MJ to tag along and she agreed to it even though she is not a fan of hiking, just because it was my birthday. Awwwwww! Love you, babe!

There were 49 hikers in total and apart from MJ, I only knew Wills (organiser), Bobby (from Tahan), Sebastian (Johor road trip), Saro (from Tahan) and Chee Jing (from Tahan). Read about my Tahan and Johor road trip [here] and [here].



How to get there, and where to stay

Guan Ti Temple (Photo credit: fellow hiker)

Note: Guan Ti Temple GPS coordinate for your ref - 4.5656, 101.4109

Most hikers doing a day hike to Yong Belar normally opt to stay a night in a Guan Ti Temple to save cost, and there’s exactly where we would be sleeping for a night prior to our hike. All hikers were to arrange their own transportation to the Guan Ti temple and since Sebastian was travelling from Melaka, MJ and I decided to follow his car. MJ would most probably leave work late while I would only be reaching KLIA2 passed 8.30pm. Together with his two other friends from Selangor, Daniel and Natalie, we met up at Kepong and departed to Cameron Highlands around 11pm. We reached the temple at 2am in the morning, when all other hikers were already fallen asleep. 

The spacious hall where we slept in (Photo credit: fellow hiker)

As we were unloading our bags and setting up our “bed” (sleeping bad), it started to rain. Oh no….! This means extra muddy trail for the next day. Worrying that we wouldn’t have enough rest shall we procrastinate any longer, we quickly tucked into our sleeping bag after we brushed our teeth and hoped for the best the next day. “Let’s worry about the weather tomorrow and get some good night sleep now,” I uttered to myself.

Worrying for tomorrow doesn’t solve the problem. It only takes away your smile and fills today with sorrows


Waking up, breakfast and 4wd

At 5.00am, I was woken by the sound of other hikers packing their tents and gears. I looked at my phone and decided to sleep for a little longer, even if it was just an extra five minutes. But 5 minutes turned into another 5 minutes and another 5 minutes. Eventually at 5.15am, I decided to get up and start preparing myself. It was drizzling and hence the weather was kinda chilly, but without any water heater available, we had no choice but to wash our face and brush our teeth with cold pipe water. *shivers*

Photo time (Photo credit: Sebastian and Daniel)

Everyone was ready by about 5.45am and we walked to the nearby Kampung Raja market for breakfast. We had wanton mee for breakfast at one of the stall and packed fried rice for lunch at the peak later. By 7am, we were all done and walked back to the Guan Ti temple to wait for our 4wd. Wills had arranged for three 4wd to pick us up at 7.30am but unfortunately, our rides only came at 8am. We boarded the 4wd, and embarked on an-hour-long ride to the trailhead.

Group photo (Photo credit: fellow hiker)
Can you spot me? (Photo credit: Sebastian)


The ascend

After an hour ride on a quite-but-not-very bumpy road, we finally reached the trailhead at 9am. There’s a gate which is not accessible to the 4wd and we were to alight and cross over to start our hike. There’s a small stream right after the gate but it’s a rather shallow one even on rainy days, so there’s nothing to worry about. You can even cross by stepping into the water if you do not mind getting your feet and footwear wet. Since it wasn’t drizzling anymore when we started our hike from the trailhead, everyone seemed to be fixated on keeping their feet dry, so each and every one of us crossed the stream by stepping cautiously on the stones.

Reached trail head (Photo credit: fellow hikers)

Stream crossing, let's get moving (Photo credit: Sebastian)

However, several minutes after crossing the stream, it started to rain heavily and I had to look for Natalie to borrow her poncho. Natalie was feeling very cold since early morning and Sebastian had lent her his extra windbreaker, therefore her poncho was not in use. She had offered to give it me seeing that I have forgotten to bring my rain coat but I had politely declined earlier, seeing that the rain had stopped. Now that it began to rain (and rather heavily), I asked Mj to go ahead first and I would catch up to her later after looking for Natalie. Please, don’t be like me and always remember to bring along your raincoat to your every hike. You never know when you will need it.

Dig the well before you need the water. Preparation is always the key to success

Right after MJ left me, I spotted Natalie coming towards me, and after borrowing her poncho, I dashed off to catch up to MJ. The way to Kem Cabin was rather flat but since we had not entered the forest yet, we were out in the open and the rain water fell onto us directly, making the entire trek rather unpleasant. Nonetheless, I reached Kem Cabin about 15 minutes later where MJ who dashed off earlier had reached slightly ahead of me. There’s a hut located next to the trail, where all of us took shelter while waiting for everyone to assemble. At 9.30pm, once everyone was present, we were briefed on the dos and don’ts as well as the recommended cut off time. Wills and another fast leg, Wei Lun would be the leader to lead the fast legs towards peak, Sebastian would be in the middle pack to guide those who are neither too fast nor too slow, whereas Bobby was the sweeper of the day. The cut off time to reach Kem Kasut was 12.45pm, and anyone who did not reach before the cut off time would need to make a u-turn (under Bobby’s lead) and return to the trailhead instead of attempting to the peak. This was to ensure the hike would not be dragged until nightfall.

Entering the forest (Photo credit: fellow hiker)

From Kem Cabin, we entered the forest and finally rain water no longer hit onto my face directly. Instead, it fell onto the trees and being filtered by the leaves, branches and tree trunks before flowing onto my head, eyes and body. It was finally easier to see the trail in front of me, but oh my… it was very muddy. The trail leading towards Kem Tudung Periuk (about 3km) is still bearable albeit a little muddier than we expected due to the rain, and we reach Kem Tudung Periuk in one hour. Several hikers ahead of us were already posing for photos by the time we reached, and we wasted no time to jump in for a group photo upon being invited.

At Kem Tudung Periuk (Photo credit: fellow hiker)

After several shots at Kem Tudung Periuk, we continued our journey towards Kem Kasut. It was 10.30am and we only have another 2 hours 15minutes before the cut off time. From Kem Tudung Periuk, we would need to descend before ascending again to Kem Kasut which is about 4km away but the trek is steeper and even muddier than before. As I descended from Kem Tudung Periuk, I stumbled on a tree root, tripped and fell face down. Fortunately, there was a tree right ahead of me and as I fell, I managed to grab a hold onto the trunk. Phew~! Can’t possibly imagine what would happen if my face were to land on the ground first – probably head concussion, lose consciousness, amnesia (I know I’m being over dramatic) or huge scar on my face. Either way is undesirable!

Several other fast legs who were behind me looked at me with concern and so did MJ. Feeling embarrassed, I sat on the ground, laughing it off. I asked the rest to go ahead while I ensured that I was not in any way injured. As they overtook me, I examined my foot and after confirming that it was not sprained nor twisted, I stood up and continue my hike with MJ closely behind me. After the fall, I began to hike with caution, not wanting to risk getting injured. Feeling pressured as we are only two hours away from the cut off time, I tried to quicken my steps. However, the trail was just too muddy and more often than not, it took a lot of effort for inexperienced hikers like us to step on the right place, in order to prevent getting stuck in the mud. At some point, knowing that there’s absolutely no way we could leave without getting mud splashed on our body (or at least legs), I no longer care about avoiding the mud, and walked right into it. MJ herself got her two feet stucked in the mud countless time and it obviously exhausted her as she started slowing down halfway towards Kem Kasut. Later, I found out that she had hurt her previously twisted (and still yet to be completely healed) ankle. We took a short break and seeing that it is already 11.30am at the time (75mins away to cut off time) I was a little worried that we would not make it on time. Therefore, I proposed to MJ to let’s just hike at ease and give up going to the peak shall we miss the cut off time, as I didn’t want her to further injure her ankle. However, being stubborn as she always is, she insisted to go all the way to the peak and ensured me that she can hike just fine. Knowing I wouldn’t be able to persuade her, we continue up to Kem Kasut, while I consistently turned back to check on her.

Finally, at 12.40pm (5 minutes before cut off time), we reached Kem Kasut. We were obviously starving at that point of time but we were not in the mood to have our fried rice in the rain. After getting a 5mins break, we decided to carry on with our journey towards the peak. With our current speed, it’s should be approximately 1 hour away. The trail towards the summit was covered with more and more muds, as well as more and more moss. It was my first time entering a mossy forest (yes, I have yet to visit Irau), and it was breath-taking. At some point, I indeed felt as if I was in a fairy tale. However, it was still raining and we were all not in the mood for any photos, and I didn’t want to risk destroying my phone. So off we went, passing through all the beautiful photo spot, aiming to reach the peak sooner, so that we can take shelter and have our lunch. After 40 minutes of walking on steep, muddy trail, we came across Wei Lun, who was among the first who summited and was now heading down. So fast?! Apparently, he was freezing up there since they were there for quite a long time and decided to head down instead. After confirming that it was only another 15minutes away to the summit, I regained my strength and determination, and quicken my steps. After what feels like another 15minutes, we have yet to reach the peak and the rest started (some hikers were trailing closely behind MJ and I) to feel demotivated. Along the way, we encountered several other fast hikers who decided to descend first, including Saro, and all of them told us that the peak is roughly only about 5-10 minutes away. Hmmm… the 5 minutes hiking lie, huh?

MJ, Sebastian, me and Daniel (Photo credit: Sebastian)

The biggest lie in hiking is that the peak is only 5 minutes away from where you are

Not wanting to let other people affect my mood, I decided to just keep going until I reach the peak. After some time, I realised that the sky seemed to turned brighter (sign that I’m nearing the peak! Hurray!) and I was certain I was not far away from the summit. I began to dash off and abandoned MJ and the rest. 5 minutes later, I reached the peak. It was 1.45pm. Already feeling cold (whole day) from the rain shower, the strong, cold wind up on the peak made me shivered. I was freezing. Noting that Wills and the other hikers took shelter under the trees, I moved to their side to do the same. Before I could put down my bag and reached for my down jacket, I heard some noises coming from the trail. Someone was summiting. Hoping it was MJ, I turned my head only to realise that it was Sebastian. Wait, what?! 

A must-take photo with the sign (Photo credit: fellow hiker)

I was expecting to see MJ summiting after me, since she was right behind me, before I dashed off during the last 5minutes from the peak. Apparently, Sebastian who was in the middle pack sped up after most of the hikers decided to make a u-turn when they reach Kem Kasut past 12.45pm. Being a fast hiker himself, he eventually overtook MJ as well. Several minutes later, MJ emerged and joined us at the peak. You made it, babe!

With my BFF (Photo credit: fellow hiker)

After taking some commemorative photos with the signboard, we quickly took shelter and downed some hot milo. We put down our bag and took out our jacket since our body started to cool down once we stopped moving. The poncho I borrowed from Natalie was already severely torn at that time but since my down jacket is not water proof (only water repellent), I decided to put on the rain coat (over the down jacket) regardless. After all, it helps to further block off the wind and keep myself warm. We then proceeded to eat our fried rice but it was too cold for us to finished the whole pack. Hiking in non-stop rain is indeed terrible. Not able to finished our lunch, we kept it back into our bags and suddenly, while chatting with Wills and MJ, Sebastian appeared, with butter cake in his hands, singing birthday song. Oh dear… this is so embarrassing! Fortunately, many had descended at that time and there were only a few of us. Otherwise, I would have to hide myself somewhere in between those trees. I wasn’t surprised that they remembered my birthday, as MJ would easily reminded them. It was the cake that took me by surprise. Seriously… who would carry a cake to the mountain, without destroying it? Thankfully it’s a butter cake, so it remained its shape. Too bad none of us was in the mood to take a photo of that cake, thanks to the rain.


The descend

Lunch at the peak (Photo credit: Sebastian)

After spending close to an hour on the summit of Yong Belar, and ensuring the final person who summited had rested enough, it’s finally time to descend. Some hikers had descended when we reached the peak and by the time we were to descend there were only 7 of us – me, MJ, Wills, Sebastian, Mei Yee, William and Pei Pei. This time around Wills and Sebastian were the sweeper. Wills, William and Pei Pei were at the front line, MJ and I followed closely behind while Mei Yee and Sebastian were behind us. We descended at similar speed all the way until we reach Kem Kasut, after which William and Pei Pei started to hike at the faster speed after regaining their stamina.

The last batch to descend (Photo credit: Sebastian)

At Kem Kasut (Photo credit: Sebastian)
Not wanting to leave MJ behind who is struggling with her sprained ankle, I walked behind her patiently (with Wills guiding the way), while Sebastian was behind me with Mei Yee. Seeing how MJ had struggled to descend with her ankle injury, Sebastian offered to carry her bag and soon after she started to descend faster. After what seemed like never ending ups and downs, we finally reached Kem Tudung Periuk at 6.15pm, and as the sun is setting down, we took out our headlight and continued making our way down to Kem Cabin, where everyone is waiting for us. I started getting anxious then as I have problem seeing in the dark. Knowing that those who didn’t make it to the peak would have reached Kem Cabin by now regardless of how slow they are at descending, I was guilt-stricken. It was my first time hiking for more than 10hours in a day and my body was slowly overtaken by exhaustion. The rain, cold weather, slippery trail and my impaired vision at night doesn’t help either. Seeing that I started to get slower and slower (so is Mei Yee who were about 15-30mins behind us at that time), I had asked MJ and Wills to go with their pace while I went with mine. With that, I was trekking alone for a while until I met another hiker who stopped and rested along the way. It was getting darker and darker and soon it was pitch dark, so we walked together, albeit being kinda slow.

Wet, slippery, muddy trail (Photo credit: Sebastian)


Goodbye Yong Belar

Finally, at 8.15pm, we exited from the forest, where MJ and Wills were waiting for us. We waited for Mei Yee and Sebastian before we descended to Kem Cabin together. There at Kem Cabin, several hikers were waiting for us, whereas the others had left with two 4wd. I was grateful that I needn’t face the other hikers who have left, since I was feeling extremely guilty for letting them waited too long. There was a campfire in Kem Cabin, so we gather around to warm ourselves before we continued descending to trailhead.


Good friends be with you when you stand tall, but great friends stay by your side even as you fall

Knowing, that the trailhead wasn’t too far away from Kem Cabin and I was eager to get out, I dashed out with Sebastian, knowing very well that MJ (and also Mei Yee) was well taken care of by other hikers. We reached the trailhead at 9.15pm and by 9.30pm, everyone gathered at the 4wd and we were driven back to the temple. The journey back to the temple was a torture as we were all shivering in cold since it was still drizzling and we were exposed directly to the cold night wind that hit on our body. *Shivers shivers*

We reached the temple at 11pm, and we quickly rushed to the bathroom to wash up. Fortunately, the other hikers had left the place without washing up, so we needn’t queue for our turn. As MJ and I were washing up, we realised how muddy our body is. I was covered completely in muds, even though I was wearing arm sleeves, down jacket and long pants. Apart from that, I was also sporting numerous bruises and cuts, just like how I always do. Well, I’m not called the “Queen of Bruises” for nothing. After washing up, we had late night supper at a Chinese restaurant next door before driving back to Kepong.

Birthday gift from Yong Belar


Epilogue

It’s just too bad that luck was not on our side that day as it rained non-stop the for the whole 12-13 hours that we were hiking. As a result, the trail was extremely muddy (it's already muddy even in dry season) and slippery, and the weather was freezing. The trail itself is full of ups and downs which could kill your morale (happened to me on my descent) but overall that wasn't what was difficult for me. I actually spent most of my energy pulling out of my stuck-in-the-mud-feet and heating up my drenched-in-the-rain-body. By the end of the day, my legs survived (albeit spotting a few bruises as I always do) but my mind, my spirit was exhausted. Physically fine but mentally drained, could that even be possible?

Well, I guess that’s the reason why people avoid hiking during raining season. Ultimately, it doesn't make much difference to me I guess, as it'll most likely still rain whenever and wherever I hike (my jinx, huh?) Would I do another Yong Belar again? My answer is a definite no, at least not for the next 5 years. Would I go for V2 next? Well, maybe not, simply because I'll have to do Yong Belar again which is also part of the trail.

However, don’t get me wrong. I never regret going for this hike and I enjoyed the time spent with my favourite people. It’s just that it’d have been even more enjoyable if it rained a little lesser and the trail was less muddy. It was fun to do celebrate my birthday in a different way for once, and it’s the companion that matters.

After all, a wise woman once said:
 The best birthday is celebrated with one’s favourite people, doing one’s favourite things



And of course, that wise woman is me. *grin*

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Thank you for reading all the way till the end. Too much info and you just want a summarised itinerary but too lazy to scroll back up? Well, here’s a summary I’ve drafted up for you. Hope it helps you with your planning.

Itinerary:

**Disclaimer: Below are my timing according to my speed. So please take it with a grain of salt, as everyone is different. Have fun climbing the highest mountain in Peninsular Malaysia! *wink*

Day Hike (11/2/2017)
Distance : approx. 20km (1 stream crossing at trailhead)
5.15am – wake and wash up
6.00am – breakfast at Kampung Raja market
8.00am – 4wd pick up
9.00am – start ascend from trailhead
9.30am – reach Kem Cabin
10.30am – reach Kem Tudung Periuk
12.40pm – reach Kem Kasut
1.45pm – reach summit
2.45pm – descend from summit
3.50pm – reach Kem Kasut
6.15pm – reach Kem Tudung Periuk
8.15pm – reach Kem Cabin (meet up point with other team)
8.30pm – descend to trailhead
9.15pm – reach trailhead
9.30pm – 4wd pick up
11.00pm – reach Guan Ti temple, wash up, late dinner
12.00am – depart back to KL

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-Thanks for reading-

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