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Saturday, October 4, 2008

Climbing Gunung Ledang / Mt Ophir

Mount Ophir or Gunung Ledang at 1276 meters tall, it's the highest mountain in the Johor State, 64th highest and the 6th most difficult to climb mountain in Malaysia.


The alarm sounded at 3.30AM. I was already up at 2.50AM.. couldn't sleep, thinking of the long day ahead of me. I'm sure many of the climbers had the same problem (but we all know who overslept and only woke up at 4AM!!).

We met at 4.30AM in Kemayan Square. When I reach there, Sirdar was busy slotting 19 of us into 4 vehicles. By 4.45AM we were all in the cars leaving Seremban for Tangkak. It starting raining when we were on the highway approaching Tangkak. I was so worried. Rain means leeches. Leeches means fear. Fear means I think I 'll wait for you guys at the base. :)

We arrived Tangkak in good time... before 6AM and had our breakfast at a coffeeshop. I had 2 soft boiled eggs, a piece of bread and milo o kosong (Milo without sugar and milk). At exactly 6.20AM, Messner said it was time to depart to the Ledang Park Office.

This is a picture of the Park office. A very striking architecture with flags of Malaysia and Johor state hung proudly across the building.

We had to declare our "rubbish" (that included food wrappers, plastic bags, water bottles, clothing, batteries, torchlights, cigarettes and sanitary pad) and pay RM20 deposit to the park officer. If there was anything missing when we return from our climb, it would cost us RM5 for each missing item.

Sirdar briefed us on our groupings and requested that we stick to our group. He warned us not go ahead and leave our partners behind. The organisers didn't appoint sweepers this time because they had engaged 4 guides - one of whom would act as a sweeper.

There were 38 of us in this expedition.

15 from Agape Church
2 from Tmn Ujong Methodist Church
4 IMU students
6 Bukit Kepayang friends
4 from GTPJ
2 Singaporeans
1 from Tangkak
4 others - friends of the group

The hike began at 7.50AM, 35 minutes later than our planned time. The first part of of the journey consists of 500 steps. I didn't actually count the steps and if people were to tell me that there were 1000 steps, I would have believed them. I was somewhere in the middle of the group and so many people overtook me till I was almost the last. My legs were aching even at this point. Blame it on lack of training after Mt Kinabalu in July. :)

There were trees everywhere... well what do you expect then? :)
The first 20 minutes took a toll on me. I didn't even bother to take pictures at CP1 (Check Point 1). I was exhausted and constantly asked how long more to the summit.

We reached CP2 at 8.26AM. I managed to catch my breath and snap a few pictures. Edwin was my temporary "model", since Jimbo, my official model zoomed past me (and never to be seen again until 1.30pm) while I was huffing and puffing along the 500 steps.

Some of the trees were rotten and and we had to cross over the fallen trees.

We reached CP3 at 9.01AM. There were other groups that came after us and I find this strange.... why on earth do they want to hike Mt Ophir when 1) they could go sight seeing elsewhere 2) they could be sleeping on a hot lazy Saturday afternoon 3) I'm sure the mountains in their country are much nicer and weather's cooler there too.

There weren't any signboards on this route saying that this was CP4. Just 2 signs indicating if you want to go left to Sg Tiga Segi (direct translation " Triangle river) or right to Kolam Gajah (Elephant's Pond/Pool). We reached here at 9.44AM.

Here we found out that we were almost the last group. Danny and Johnny came 6 minutes later behind us and confirmed that they were the last 2. Sirdar had 2 or 3 bunches of bananas and began distributing them to Danny and Johnny.

10.20AM - CP5 at last! Well, not that I was looking forward to it. This was the beginning of the thrill. According to the guide, the terrain between CP5 - CP7 was very steep and it would be a very tough climb. After 5 minutes, some of us wanted to move ahead but the guide wanted us to leave in a group. Some came a little later and needed more rest. We were here for more than 10 minutes.

After CP5, we were faced with a stretch of uphill terrain called "KFC". Some says it's an abbreviation for Killer Fitness Centre,and others, Killer Field for Climber or Killer for Climber. Let me tell you ... it is tough. Let me stress it again... IT IS TOUGH!! Take a look at the picture above. It may look flat but it is NOT FLAT. The tree roots were actually small steps for us to climb.

More KFC's for us. And No.. we weren't thinking of Kentucky Fried Chicken. We were climbing and climbing and climbing and climbing and climbing and.....there's no end to it.

KFC moment. Look like one of M.C. Escher's art piece. I was at the top taking this picture, but from the position of the rope, it looked as if I was taking it from bottom up.

Approaching CP6. Had to climb up all those roots.

Reached CP6 at 11.32AM. Spotted a huge centipede, about 7 or 8 inches long. We stopped here for a while to catch our breath. Brendan 13, the youngest in our group was with us almost right from the start. His parents left him in Johnny's care but most of the time he was with us and we were slightly faster than Johnny. We never met him (or the parents) before this trip and yet he could get along well with all of us. He kept asking Ban Meng to carry him. Initially Ban Meng charged RM5 per kg. Brendan must have found it too expensive for I never see Ban Meng carrying him. As we ascended higher, the fees rose too. He even ask the guide numerous times to carry him. The guide was willing to carry him at RM250... not sure if it was per kilo or just a one off thing.

Shortly after CP6, we came to this cave-like boulders called gua kambing (Goat cave). When I first searched for information on this mountain in the internet, I came across this part where there's a "gua". I thought this was the difficult part with steep boulders to cross and ropes to pull oneself up. At that time I was thinking, maybe I would turn back at this point. But as you can see, they made it so easy, with aluminum ladders, there's no reason to turn back. (Sorry, poor aching legs).

This looks difficult, but it's not.. really. I just thought these pictures look so.. interesting.

We came out from the hole in this huge boulder.


A 2nd gua. Also not a difficult climb in the gua. We took about 10 minutes (or less) to climb both caves.

More ladders to make our climb easier.

The steepness of this mountain is killing me. We kept asking the guide... how long more to the top? And he always answer...maybe another 2 hours or maybe another 1 1/2 hours... I don't know lah.. but it sounded like a long long way more to go.

Okay, this is the part where I had to assess how steep the rockface was and whether I could do it or not. It's called Anak Batu Hampar. (Impossible Child Rock). Edwin went first, using the right rope. Then I went up next following Edwin's footstep.. keeping very close to the edge where there were pieces of fallen trees for my shoes to grip onto.

Next we came to this Mother of all rock faces. It's called Batu Hampar and it was about 4 storeys high and 70-90 degrees steep. Let's put it this way... I SUFFERED climbing this rope section!!!!! It looked so easy but it was not!! It took so much effort to go from one knot to the next. Edwin was on my left and Sirdar on my right, but they couldn't help me. I had to do it all alone, pulling myself up. They did encourage me and stopped when I stopped.. which was like 6 times??!! I lost count. Thank God it didn't rain.

After me came Johnny, Danny and Brendan... RACING upwards!!! I found very little strength left to take pictures and video shooting them.

The bonsai trees just above the rock face. So naturally beautiful.

After the Batu Hampar section, I hardly had strength at all to walk. I felt like Samson right after they cut his hair. :).

Brendan was so exhausted that we didn't hear his voice for quite sometime. Otherwise we could hear him asking people to carry him. Such a funny guy.

At 12.50pm, we reached CP7. Messner, who reached the summit at 12.01pm was worried that we may not make it in time. For safety reasons, we had to reach the summit by 2pm, otherwise we would have to turn back from where ever we were.

We could see the mountain from here. Doesn't look interesting from this angle.

Somewhere along the way, I smsed Jimbo asking if he had already built the cable car and to send it down my way. He replied "Hope you have reached the rope part. That's mega fun". Mega fun? Are we talking about the same rope section? The one where I almost gave up? Hruumphhh... I didn't know what to reply and even if I did, I don't have much energy to sms him on how I suffered so much.

More steep slopes to climb and more aluminum ladders for lazy people like me. This was where we met Jimbo. He summited at 12.20pm and left the summit at 1.20pm.

By this time, Brendan was willing to pay RM500 a kilo for anyone who was willing to carry him. He told us that his dad would pay the fees when we reach the summit, Ban Meng disagreed saying he wanted to see the cash first. No cash, no deal. Brendan was forced to rely on his own two feet.

Look how steep it was. I didn't really pay attention at that time. I was just concentrating on putting one foot after the other.

1.41PM - At long last.... I saw Messner... yay.... I'd made it and he congratulated me... I look around me and said.. "um..this is the peak?". Messner said no, and pointed out more ladders and rocky slopes for me to reach the summit.

So, this is the summit. It took me almost 6 hours to reach the peak. Shows how unfit I am. We spent almost 1/2 hour at the top relaxing, having our meal, drinking coffee, milo or mocha. We were the last group to reach the summit. The view was nice but misty. We didn't have the summit all to ourselves; we shared it with a group of Mat Salleh (White People).

At 2.05PM, Messner started shooing us down. It was time to leave the summit. Climbing almost 6 hours to admire the view at the top for 25 minutes. Definitely not worth it. Next time must start earlier. (What next time??!!)

A group picture just before we left the false summit (where I met Messner when I arrived to what I thought was the peak).

Down, down, down we went. My feet were hurting so much.

We took another route which saved us an hour of walking. And YAY!!.. no need to go down via ropes and we missed the caves too. What a relief. This trail will join the main trail just before the Sg Tiga Segi and Kolam Gajah signboards.

We saw some pitcher plants growing rampantly on the ground.

Trees on this route looked so different.

The ground was soft and wet, almost like Gunung Angsi's soil.

Johnny was way in front of us and once he went the wrong way. He went on till he sensed that he might have been on the wrong track. He was alone and it was a good thing that we weren't far behind. He called out and our group heard his voice and waited for him.

Lesson learnt here - 1) Always stick with your partners
2) Always look out for the marker on the trees

We reach the Kolam Gajah / Sg Tiga Segi signboard at 4.56PM and CP3 at5.36PM. My legs were so so so tired, but I had to go on.

Someone mentioned wanting a nice cold coke or ribena with 7-up, and this motivated Johnny to move a little faster.

We reached CP2 at 6.08PM and CP1 at 6.26PM. By this time, my toes were screaming for mercy. I had to limp sometimes because I was so, so tired out.

Steps at last. The group was so happy to see the steps. We reached the base at 6.50PM. Imagine.. 11 hours ago we were just starting to walk up those steps.

Johnny, thanking Sirdar for co-planning this expedition with Messner.

The park officer checked if we still had our rubbish and refunded our RM20.

Thank God I was the only female in the last group. There was only 1 shower room in the ladies' toilet and I took like 5 minutes just to peel the clothes off me. I was so tired and ached everywhere. What a nice cold shower.

After everyone had showered, we met Siew Mui, one of the climbers from Tangkak who had descended much earlier. She took us to an aircond restaurant.

It's been such a long time since I had a coke, and this was really refreshing. We couldn't wait for the waitress to get us the cokes, so Edwin helped himself and took for Johnny and me a can each too.

This was a different set of food that I usually eat. We had pumpkin rice, japanese tofu, chicken with red dragon fruit wine, wild boar knuckles (I think), long beans and fish. There were 14 of us who were very hungry and we wallop all the food.

It was a long day for us. I reached home at 11.15PM. Tired but determined to check out the photos too. I took almost 400 pictures for this trip.

All in all, it was a good and well organised trip. Thank you Messner and Sirdar for including me. :)


Read about my 2nd Ledang climb here.

23 comments:

kg said...

It certainly was a great climb.
Great write-up with superb pictures.
We enjoyed having you with us; a real achievement that 36 out of 38 of us summited safely.

You showed Messner that you have the 'right stuff'.
Another major peak soon??

euniceta said...

Thanks.I had a lot of help during the climb.

Another peak? Are you crazy???!!

Esther said...

errrr.....you did not mention anything about leeches after the first few lines....so I guess the fear is just psychological, ler... the next one is Tahan, right? Go, go GO! :)

euniceta said...

No sign of leeches in Ledang.

Tahan got a lot of leeches leh. Messner would have to get rid of them before inviting me to join. :)

YY Ong LTR! said...

not bad the photoes. I wish I have one camera which is mine... sigh... so that my blog roll wont be so dull

euniceta said...

YY, Your blog is interesting even without pictures. Definitely not dull...

kg said...

if the leeches know that eunice is coming, they will literally run for their lives....hah..

Chee Koon said...

The catepillar is really HUGE! Horrifying I should say.
My toes were aching during the descend as well. Realized that I had bleeding under the nails after I took off my shoes... :-(

kg said...

CK, caterpillar? where was it? Or were you refering to the centipede??

euniceta said...

KG, the leeches were "on leave" that day. If they knew I was coming they would have somersaulted towards me :(

Anonymous said...

nice describe~
i will go on next saturday,
thx ,it will help me duing the climb
i just come back from gunung tahan..it really is a fun trip..haha
and the scar of leech havent eliminate yet..so ulgy~

euniceta said...

Hi Anonymous, Have fun climbing Ledang next week. Hope it won't rain otherwise it would be too slippery climbing up the rockface.
Do you have a blog? Care to share your stories on Gunung Tahan?

Shen MinG said...

Hi.. I read about your climb.. and it sounds fun and exciting!!!! =] i would like to climb the mountain too.. Do you know who i should contact and do you have his/her contact? and a guide is a neccisity right? How many number of people a guide can have with them?
hope you will answer my answers soon.. best regards!

Shen Ming =]

euniceta said...

Hi Shen Ming,

Fun and exciting? Yes it was but after a few hours in the jungle and when the soles of my feet started to blister, I wished I was at home reading a book or something. :)

These are the park mobile numbers. 019-777 2057 (Khairul) and 017-325 5082.

Yes, you need to hire a guide. The last time I went in May09, it was RM140 per guide for a maximum of 10 climbers. Check with the park managers for the availability of the guides. I think you need to book like 1-2 weeks ahead.

Fion said...

Hi Eniceta, thanks for the interesting blog with plenty of pictures for the climb, my friends and I are planning to climb Mt Ophir this End November, may I know which is more difficult to climb? The Mt Ophir or Mt Kinabalu? I heard there is a few road to choose from, which route did you take? The route u took to go up, isit the leisure route or the challenging one? Hope to hear from you soon. THank You! ^_^

Cheers,
FioN ^_~

euniceta said...

Hi Fion,

Thanks for dropping by.

Mt Ophir vs Mt Kinabalu.. Hmmm. Both are equally exciting and challenging. I prefer Mt Kinabalu because of the cool weather. :)

The Timpohon route is easier and shorter. You can read about my trip to Kinabalu using this route in my Sep07 post.

The Mersilau trail is much more scenic.. but it takes about 2 hours extra to reach Laban Rata. You can read about my experience in my Jul08 post.

Have fun in your coming Ophir climb. :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Euniceta, thanks for the reply! ^_^ Sorry I didn't ask the question properly..hehe.., I would like to know which route did u take for the Mount Ophir climb that was shown on your pictures? Was it the Scenic route or the more difficult route as I heard there are 3 routes; 1) easy but few things to see route; 2)longer but scenic route; (3) the challenging route? Thanks once again! ^_^

Cheers,
FioN ^_!

kg said...

We took the Legenda Trail from Sagil, which has better scenery. Facilities at Sagil are very good.
Alternatives are from Asahan (limited toilet facilities) and Jementah. We have heard that via Asahan it could be more challenging but we have not verified.

llemrin said...

Hi,..
Thank you for sharing your wonderful experience. Its one of the most detailed and best description ive read about Ledang hiking compared to any other infos on the net..

euniceta said...

Hi llemrin

Thanks. :). Have you been to Ledang before or are you going to climb the mountain sometime soon?

Khor2002 said...

Hi Eunice, i am interested to climb mt ophir but is it possible i go in the park as I have no group to join in.

euniceta said...

Hi Khor,
You can go alone but you need to have a guide with you.
Just call up the Park and make arrangements.

These are the park mobile numbers. 019-777 2057 (Khairul) and 017-325 5082.

Kong Wee Liew said...

Great post... I'm from Johor and many memories at the waterfall but have never gone up the peak. Will definitely give it a try soon.