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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Nuang Chapter 3 - Almost A Bridge Too Far - An Epic Climb

Gunung Nuang - 18 July 2009 - From KG's perspective.

Following the excitement generated from the Ledang3 climb in early Feb 2009, an idea was formed, to make a revisit to G Nuang, the famous climber's mountain.

The initial date of July 20th was subsequently changed to 18th, to accommodate the climbers from KL/Selangor, as they did not have a public holiday (Israk/Mikraj) on 20th.

The preliminary list started to add up and at one time, was just under 30 pax. Unfortunately, several people had to withdraw as the date drew near.

As KG spoke to Eunice to consider joining the climb, her conditions to be met: (1) no rain for the preceding 4 days and (2) need to have sufficient time to train; seemed to be even harder than Hang Tuah's mammoth task of sending 7 trays of mosquito hearts (or something like that?) to woo the Puteri Gunung Ledang....sigh....

In all fairness, Eunice was concerned that her lack of fitness would slow down the rest; so KG offered to carry her bag, help her through the difficult stretches, be the leech exterminator and also cook a hot lunch at the summit, complete with freshly made mountaintop coffee. Talk about incentives...

Two days before the climb, as KG met up with Peter at breakfast to iron out some details, he was shocked to see him all bundled up in a jacket, apparently still not fully recovered from a bout of flu. A sobering thought was that among this group of then 15, only these two have had previous summit experience on Nuang. When this point was raised to FC Boey, a fellow climber from KL, he had no hesitation to bring his family to Nuang after their Broga climb, to assist with the descent.

The finally tally was 10 climbers from Seremban and 7 from KL.

The Seremban group comprised KG, Peter 'Messner' Lim, 2 youngsters, Chih Wee Yew and his classmate Sun Kit Fatt (CWY and his parents were at Ledang2 in Feb 2009), David Yap a regular climber who summitted Mt K in March, Jason Wong (fellow Mt K, Ledang and G Yong Belar climber who had a difficult but successful Nuang climb earlier, was a late inclusion on Friday), Jack Loke and his father, Uncle Loke, the father-son duo from the Mt K climb, Christine Yeoh, the gutsy grandma who subsequently morphed into a spring chicken and of course, Eunice, their loyal and life-long climbing member.

From KL, they had KL Chan and wife SK whom they first met through Ledang3; Radzi and Ismail who heard about this climb through Jimbo's blog, KK Ling also from Ledang3 and Brandon Kua and SK Chan, friends of Eunice.

In hindsight, it was a wise decision for KG to leave out his 10-year old boy Shing Jian (which also meant automatically excluding Peter's 12-year old boy, Samuel). The presence of these two young ones would have complicated matters and added the pressure....

No amount of persuasion could help Dr Jimbo overcome his angst and do a repeat of Nuang, so they were bereft of a team doctor.

Friday night was a rush, as KG tried to get his checklist. By the time he got most things done and went to bed, it was already midnight. Just two hours of sleep later, he woke up, well before the alarm on the mobile phone, set for 3am, could go off. Quite a stark contrast with the first Ledang climb, when he overslept and caused panic when Peter could not contact him in the wee hours of the morning.

The 4 am rendezvous at Kemayan Square was smooth, with most of the people arriving early. They moved off in three cars at 0415.

They met up with the KL group at the car park at the base of the Park. In the early morning, it was a bit difficult to distinguish the climbers' features in the semi-darkness. A short briefing and stretching exercise was carried out and the climbers moved off into the pre-dawn darkness with the aid of headlights and torches.

Very soon, the first light filtered through. The air was cooling and a bit misty. The tantalising smell of durians wafted in. Later, they saw a few early durian pickers on motorbikes and were tempted to have a pre-climb durian feast. A different kind of carbo-loading.

After an uneventful walk, they reached the dam. The water level was rather low, probably due to the dry spell earlier. The crossing was made with ease.

They soon arrived at Kem Lolo. There were quite many campers there. The colourful tents painted a pretty picture. The early risers were busy preparing breakfast.

Eunice kept up a steady pace with one eagle eye steadily glued to the ground for leeches. She tried not to stand still in one place, for fear that one of these friendly ones would creep up and latch itself onto her....shudder.... The first leech they saw drew a curious fascinated look from Christine, who had earlier thought it would be the size of a sea cucumber.

They soon came upon Brandon and gang, who had stopped because SC Chan had cramps. It took awhile to strip his tight long pants off him and then change into a pair of shorts, which Brandon happened to have in his pack, in order to administer first aid. KG made a cheeky suggestion for Eunice to record this moment in video to post in YouTube. It would have brought him fame...

Just before Kem Pacat, Christine seemed to run out of energy. It took a lot of effort on Peter's part to get her to continue to Kem Pacat. At Kem Pacat, there was a protracted deliberation, as Christine wanted to stop and not continue further. It took the argument that Peter would need to sacrifice his summit attempt in order to remain behind with her, to make her change her mind and agree to proceed on to Puncak Pengasih, the next check point. KG had this idea that they would reassess the situation at Pengasih and if necessary, then let her turn around with the other returning climbers. The other sneaky and unspoken idea was to help her from Pengasih with a summit push.

In K's mind, this was the best chance for Christine to summit Selangor's highest mountain.

Christine's decision to proceed beyond Kem Pacat was the crossing of the Rubicon. From there, she seemed to have a new vigour and never looked back.

The break at Kem Pacat was fairly lengthy, as they refreshed themselves with hot coffee and also cached some water to lighten their loads.

Just above Kem Pacat, they met Jack and his father, who decided to turn back, as Jack was having a back ache. Peter said a word of prayer for them.

As they approached Pengasih, Daniel, Boey's second boy, overtook them with ease, though he had started out some 3 hours later. At Pengasih, they met up with Jason, who had summited very much earlier and turned around to assist the stragglers. As KG was discussing that Jason descend to help Christine turn around, they heard Peter's and her voices just a little way behind. Will wonders ever cease? Apparently, Christine caught her second wind after Pacat.

The terrain from Pacat to Pengasih was the steepest; many a time, they had to pull themselves up using the protruding roots. Eunice's moans of despair were quite audible; so KG suggested that she should focus only slightly ahead and gain ground meter by meter.

The air was noticeably cooler and misty at Pengasih, with signs of an impending storm. The last stretch from Pengasih to the summit was fairly easy, downhill and fairly level about half the distance. They came across stone markers delineating the Pahang/Selangor border. Finally, after a circuitous route and a bit of steep climb, the summit was in sight.

Radzi & Ismail had summitted much earlier and were already descending. This Nuang climb was part of their training for Mt Kinabalu.

Yes, they finally made it.

It was a great feeling to be on top of Gunung Nuang, the highest point in Selangor, at 1,493M (4,898 ft). The misty view did not detract from the sense of achievement, as the group exchanged congratulatory handshakes and pats on the back.

KL Chan was happy to be able to achieve a higher limit. His wife SK, who seemed to take to the mountain the way a tigress takes to the hills, was waiting for him and smiling away happily. David Yap took a well deserved rest, with a contented look, at having overcome the previous year's failure to summit.

Jason had already opened a 'kopitiam' with the high-power gas burner roaring away. After a round of piping hot coffee, they heated up some beef kurma to go with the pita bread and rice. The hot lunch helped to replenish the energy for the descent.

As they were busy snapping pictures at the summit, another climber brought word that Jack and father were on their way up and were not very far away. It seemed that Jack's condition had improved at Pacat and they decided to try for the summit. Sheer determination. The two youngsters, CWY & SKF, were also enjoying their moments at the summit. How nice to be able to turn back the clock and have the vigour of youth again...

Some of the climbers decided to start the descent, whereas the others lingered on a bit, to savour the mountaintop feeling, rest up and enjoy the cool air. The turnaround time was extended a little bit, to 1430 hours.

The sky did turn ominously dark at one point, as KG & Peter exchanged worried glances, remembering the terrible storm of that June evening, two years ago.

A short distance below Pengasih, as Peter was trying to negotiate a big root by going backwards, both feet slipped at the same time. It was so sudden that he did not have time to use his hands to break the fall. His rib cage took the full brunt of the impact and he toppled backwards. This heavy fall left him winded. Thank God he was not seriously injured and did not roll down the slope. Later, an X-ray showed a small crack on the rib, which would require one month's rest to heal.

Finally, they reached Kem Pacat where Boey and his family had been waiting since noon. They took a short break and retrieved the water bottles cached there earlier during the ascent.

KG then suggested to Boey that his family could proceed down first but Boey decided otherwise, wanting to stay with them till the finish line. Boey's decision to stick with the rest of the team turned out to be a blessing and a wise judgement call, as their services were very much needed at the final stretch.

The descent from Pacat to Lolo was quite easy, downhill most of the way. Progress was good. At one point, Christine's knee troubled her. The ethyl chloride spray gave her a bit of relief.

Crossing the last river at the dam, David took a sudden, heavy fall and twisted his left ankle. Boey was quick to bind it up. After saying a prayer for David, he seemed to make a miraculous recovery and soon overtook the rest, striding along easily with the help of his walking stick.

The remaining group of 11 split into 3, with Jason and young Brandon moving steadily ahead, followed by the second group comprising KG, Eunice, Shirley and David. The last group was Boey, Calvin, Daniel, Christine and Peter.

The many motorcyclists they met on the dirt road were not willing or able to extend their help to ferry out David or Christine.

When they were within range of mobile signals, KG sent a quick sms to EstherT (Eunice's sister, who also acted as 'base manager') to apprise her of the situation that they were at the start of the long trudge on the "Never Ending Road" and making slow, steady progress. Little did he know of the drama about to unfold behind, when Christine's legs refused to carry her any further, as her group lagged further and further behind.

Finally, the gate was in sight. Immediately, David flopped onto his back for a much needed 30-minute snooze. Jason and Brandon had already cleaned up and looked so fresh. The cold shower was certainly refreshing. What a nice feeling to wash off all the sweat and grime.

Shortly afterwards, Calvin radioed that a motorcyclist had agreed to send Christine out. They certainly believed this was God-sent, as their group was getting anxious with Christine's weakening condition and the motorcyclist appeared just after Boey prayed over her. Such is the power of prayer. They were thankful for Doc Wong's generosity in loaning his two units of newly bought ham radios.

With Christine safely back at the base, they all heaved a big sigh of relief. KG radioed Peter to see if he required any assistance. His tired, barely audible "No" reply sounded as if it came from the far side of the moon...

KG then sent a sms update to Esther, "Aunt Chris safely out, evacuated on a motorbike.: He added "all is well, will update you tomorrow", so as not to alarm her unduly.

Finally, just past 10pm, Peter and Boey stumbled past the gate. Boey's family then made their way home, while Peter and David washed up.

On the way back, both Christine & Peter fell into an exhausted sleep. The usual restaurant in Semenyih was closed due to the late hour, so they finally had a very late "dinner" at midnight in Seremban. They certainly made a strange sight, limping into the hawker centre.

To Christine, to say that she "performed well" would be an understatement, more appropriately, we would say that she 'performed magnificently'.

To Boey & family, a big 'thank you' for the help rendered and the Christian love so evident.

To Eunice, the newly-crowned Puteri Gunung Nuang, we say "Bravo", another great accomplishment. :)

Thank you to all climbers who came and added to the fun and camaraderie.

To Peter, another job well done. Planning and executing a climb with him is always a satisfying endeavour.

Now that they have proven they have the 'right stuff' to be overcomers, it is not impossible to consider an attempt on the rest of the G7 peaks.

Many things came together on this climb. Though there were three injuries, they were not life-threatening. The weather was good. If it had rained, it would have complicates matters totally. Christine's transport appeared miraculously at the hour of need. Both Jack & David made miraculous recovery. Many thanks to all who upheld them in prayers.

God's hand was certainly upon the team. Yes, Nuang Chapter 3 was almost a bridge too far and an epic climb but with the good teamwork and by God's grace, they were able to summit successfully and safely.


Las montaƱas said...

I think next time you should hire motorcycle services all the way till Lolo, then no need to walk so far and waste energy!

Unknown said...

that's cheating...and a kill-joy in mt. climbing. I was so disappointed that i could not do the final sretch...
Many thanks to Peter and KG...w/o their climbing experiences and capabilities, I definitely wouldn't have dug into my inner resources to summit