…….The World Without Boundaries

Mount Tambuyukon Part 2 : The Summit Attack

Written By: jipp - Mar• 10•18

We woke up at about 1pm for a simple breakfast (we boiled rice the night before) and pushed for the peak at about 2.30am. That was when the hell began. I’ve been to so many mountains and going to the peak was always the most challenging. But this one was extra challenging. The trail was so heavy with undergrowth and the trees were interlocking with each other by the roots and branches!

Coffee-ing before pushing for the summit

In fact there were times when our feet no longer had to touch the soil but stepping from one tree root to the next. It was very slippery and I can’t even remember how many times had I slipped and almost injured myself. I simply lost count. Holding to the tree trunks and branches for support was futile as they were covered with some sort of cold and sticky moist. It was like touching a hair-gel and it didn’t feel good at all. I wish I had a pair of gloves with me but I didn’t.

Things were worsened by the existence of overhead tree branches or even fallen trees on the trail. Bumping my head on any one or two of them was unavoidable especially when I had to watch my step and my head at the same time.

Things became easier when the sun came up and we reached the bonsai area. The bonsai area really was so beautiful. I gotta highlight this one. I remember thinking about those beautiful bonsai parks in Japan or probably China. The existence of beautiful rock formations among the beautiful spread of bonsai trees made it look even more spectacular. The jagged rocks that jotted out reminded me of the beautiful pinnacles at Mulu National Park.

We actually took 7 hours to reach the peak from Musang Camp. I did not expect to see the sunrise because we were there when Sabah was experiencing one of its worse monsoons in many years. Floods were reported here and there and I had almost postponed the climb, probably for the umpteenth time because I wanted to be there when the views were good. But then based on my experiences in the past, weathers at high altitudes are always different and very much unpredictable. And that was proved to be right again this time.

Apart from the brief rain that we had experienced the day before, it was all clear. Over at the peak, we were served with a spectacular full view of Mount Kinabalu – something that I rarely saw at photos taken by other climbers from Mount Tambuyukon. I gotta say I’ve had enough of pictures of Mount Kinabalu – they are like all over – but it was good to see it from a different angle and elevation. It was certainly different. We could even see Kota Marudu (which I assumed it was) in the far distance and beyond was of course the dark-blue South China Sea.

After having lunch at the peak (rice and canned food), we started down with renewed energy. I always dread descending but this one was extra worse. I was at the back of the pack so I let them all go down well ahead of me while I took all the time in the world to enjoy the spectacular views that came my way. I’d take time to stand still on one of the boulders and watch the clouds parading their way across over the mountain side.

I could not believe that they actually moved so fast. It almost felt like watching a time-lapse video, only this one was real. I was back to dreading when I returned to the trail with undergrowth and interlocking tree roots. It was like there was no end to it. It really was quite a struggle for me and there were times when I felt like shouting my frustration out because just when I thought I was almost there (Musang Camp), I’d be slapped with the bitter fact that I still had a long way to go. Urghhh!

After what appeared to be unending way down, it was such a great relief when I finally made it safely back to Musang Camp. Unfortunately that was not quite the case for my fellow climber Din. He stepped on some loose boulder, put his whole weight onto it but landed at the wrong angle of his right ankle when the stone gave way. He ended up spraining his ankle real badly. He had to literally drag his injured leg down the mountain and it was quite a struggle to see him struggling.

After a little bit of rest, we packed our things and descended further to Kapuakan campsite where we camped for the night. Again, I let the others go way ahead of me so that I could enjoy the wilderness by myself. The forest was so silent and all I could hear was the rustling sound of the lush leaves as the mountain winds blew steadily against them.

Then there were those weird sounds made by wild animals. Some of them felt so close to me while most were distant, although it has always been known that sounds by animals in a jungle can be deceiving. Of course they could smell my existence from miles away so they’d disappear even before I had the chance to spot any of them. But I knew for sure that they were there somewhere.

One thing I gotta highlight about Mount Tambuyukon is its pristine and unspoiled forest. I’ve been to quite a number of forests in Malaysia (and beyond) and most of them are a leftover of heavy logging activities in the past. The forest in Tambuyukon is certainly NOT one of them. It is so virgin that I could not trace even the slightest sign of logging activities in the past. It’s amazing how they were spared since most of the forests in Sabah are secondary forests (logged down and replanted). The towering Tropical trees are so marvelous to look up at. Their unspoiled bodies stood tall, their souls intact. They certainly have stood the test of time for hundreds of years.

Kapuakan Camp is located very near to a thunderous river. To tell the truth, I don’t fancy the idea of camping near to a river – especially a thunderous one. The growling sound can be quite intimidating. I’d wake up in the middle of the night thinking that a pair of giant feet was thumping around my tent, waiting for the right time to stomp on me.

Luckily I was too tired to allow myself to wake up to some imaginary intimidation. Unlike in previous nights when we went to sleep quite early, we took quite a bit of time chatting ourselves away over coffee while enjoying our last night at Mount Tambuyukon. It was amazing how we did not encounter anybody else but ourselves all throughout our climb and back. We literally had the whole mountain all to ourselves.

at Kapuakan camp site

Our guide Richard told us how only a couple of weeks before somebody got lost while descending from the peak of Mount Tambuyukon and it was actually all over the news. Just so happened the lost guy was actually under his care. He told us how the climber was quite a difficult one, insisting to continue hiking on his own even when he was told to wait for the others in his group (I wish the guy was there to confirm or deny this. I mean, I know whoever was guiding him would try to discredit and find excuses. I’ve had row with guides in the past because they’d rather stick to their fellow guide and let his climbers go on their own despite the hefty guiding fees smh).

Somehow he took a wrong trail – which was probably a trail left by wild animals or illegal hunters (sadly) who are known to roam the area – and lost his way. A full swing of rescue mission was dispatched, and he was only found 2 nights later, weak and hungry. He had probably picked up some survival lessons from somewhere that when he lost his way, he traversed along a river that he came upon in the hope that the river would lead him out to some village or something. Richard told us that he would have made it to a village even if he was not rescued anyway. In fact he almost made it when he was found.

Trekking across the forest of Mount Tambuyukon, which was so dense and thick, I could imagine how easy it was to get lost. There were trails – or at least looked like one – that could lead you off the right trail which was not easy to return to once you are lost. In fact I almost strayed off course once. Luckily my fellow climber called out to me, because he too almost took the same wrong trail and was worried that I’d fall into it too so he decided to wait up on me. Apparently, his worries had saved me from getting lost. Phew!

Trekking back to Moggis Sub-station from Kapuakan Camp was quite light and easy. We did not intend to rush so we enjoyed whatever there was to enjoy especially the beauty of the forest which never failed to amaze me. The trees were so heavily foliaged and the limited sunlight had probably limited the growth of plants underneath. Combining that with the existence of creeks with ever-streaming crystal clear water, they would certainly make a perfect campsite. I did not mind to stay another night or two really.

It was almost four when we made it back to Moggis Sub-station. There was a jubilant feeling about making it back alive especially when we had just returned from conquering what was certainly one of the toughest mountains for me so far. I mean, it was not only about the mountain but also about the fact that we brought everything on our own. It was quite an experience. We returned to our hometown Keningau feeling accomplished, satisfied and proud. We had conquered all the three highest mountains in Malaysia. Those feelings would probably keep us going at least until the call for another climb come knocking at our doors. LOL.

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One Comment

  1. thomas lee says:

    Wow! That looks like a huge tree

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