Training to trek Mount Tahan
Wednesday, 10 April, 2013
At the end of 2012 Climb Any Mountain teamed up with a Singapore based social enterprise called Gone Adventurin’. Gone Adventurin’ creates and organizes adventures all around the world, to inspire lives and empower communities through the spirit of adventure.Climb Any Mountain and Gone Adventurin’ collaborated to put together an adventure in aid of Climb Any Mountain, which saw five brave individuals trek up Mount Tahan, the tallest peak in the peninsular Malaysia.
Pia from the Climb Any Mountain Team along with Jasmine, Krystle, Jeff, James and Ashwin all registered to participate in the Trekkin’ Tahan adventure in March 2013. Together they raised over £6000 which will go towards funding the Climb Any Mountain’s TLC project Climb Any Mountain is working on. Read all about how they prepared for the great event.
10 April, 2013
Back in Singapore
After months of planning, training and freaking myself out about all things jungle, I’m back in Singapore, with Mount Tahan and the rainforest well behind me. My four days in the jungle were pretty intense-awesome-exhausting-strenuous-amazing-but-never-want-to-do-it-again all at the same time!!
The physicality of the trek was much tougher than any of us expected. A distance of 64km and a climb of 2200m, doesn’t sound like so extreme – I knew the trek would be a challenge but I also thought it would be easily do-able. How deceiving numbers can be. For one thing, the terrain was not what I’d imagined. We were not walking up a regular, mountainous incline; instead the path was mostly a vertical wall of jungle – roots and branches and trees that we had to clamber up using all four limbs. I think I pulled myself up using my arms as much as I stepped up from one step to the next. At times I’d end up in front of a step that was at chest level, and I somehow had to ascend it!
One of the reasons Mount Tahan is known as the Mount of Endurance is that the landscape is not an even slope up, then the same all the way down. For every 100m we scaled we probably ended up walking down 30m, only to climb it again at the next rise. Although the summit is at 2187m, you cover an upward incline much greater than that to reach it. And of course we then had to crawl down the whole thing as well, which was actually a lot more demanding and painful.
Another unexpected element of the adventure was that all participants had to carry a ration of the food we were going to consume during our four days on the mountain. We had a porter (a stick skinny man, who carried a pack double his size and did the entire thing in flip-flops) but he could not carry it all, so with the food and my water supply and the bare essentials to cope with the jungle, my backpack ended up weighing in at 20kg (which is about a third of my body weight)!! That’s about double what I trained with and really slowed me down.
The good news was that although the trek itself was surprisingly difficult and challenging, surviving in the jungle was nowhere near as unpleasant as I expected. We spent all three nights and did most of our trekking at altitudes where it was not quite as humid as the rest of Taman Negara. In addition to that we had the extraordinary luck that it barely rained at all – there were a couple of drops one evening, but apart from that we got dry skies. Amazingly, after my borderline crazy panic about leeches, I didn’t even see a single one! I did see a snake, but it sped away quietly.
The worst moment was when one of the other trekkers and I reached the campsite close to the summit where we were to stay the second night. It was windy and chilly, the sun had set and the night was pitch black. As we had walked a bit faster than the rest of the group, the porter with our tent was nowhere in sight. So we put up some shelter against the wind and hunkered down trying to stay warm until rest of the group arrived. We soon heard a noise from the bushes surrounding the campsite, and when we pointed our flashlights towards the noise, the red shine of rats’ eyes glared back at us. Just as we were trying to get our food supplies off the ground and hanging on a pole, and were contemplating the possibility that the rest of our crew may not make it to where we were (it was past 9pm already) and that we may have to spend the night fending off rats, the aforementioned rain started. That was definitely the low point of the four days. We tried to build some sort of shelter that was at least waterproof, if not rat-proof, and I was trying not to panic, when at 10.30pm, the porter and guide finally showed up! It felt like a close call!!
The highlight of the adventure was without a doubt the sunrise we witnessed very early on the third day of our trek. We started walking at about 5.30am and made it to the summit in about an hour, just in time to see the sky wake up in the most glorious manner. It really was tremendous. Even our guide seemed impressed and we found out that in four years of taking groups up Tahan, this was only the fifth sunrise he’d seen! I am so glad no one told me the slim chances of seeing a sunrise before that moment, because I’m not sure I would have found the willpower to slog my behind up there! And now it’s done. I think it’ll be a while before I go anywhere the jungle or a tent again, but it was an excellent experience. As mentioned, I managed to make it out of the wilderness without any leech bites, but did have a decent number of bruises, including on my collarbones from my pack, and on my thighs from tripping and falling regularly as my ankles buckled under the weight of me plus my bag! I want to send a heartfelt and huge THANK YOU to everyone who has sponsored me on this challenge of mine. Your generosity has truly moved me, and every single dollar makes a difference. If you have not yet sponsored me, but would like to (now that I have completed the task J), it is not too late! Please visit https://www.simplygiving.com/piatrekstahan to make your donation.
Also a MASSIVE thank you and call out to Krystle, Jasmine, James, Jeff and Ashwin for their immense effort and enthusiasm. It was great trekking Mount Tahan with you. Krystle and Jasmine, you persevered and pushed more than I’ve ever seen anyone push – it was truly awe inspiring. You did fantastically well. I also acknowledge you for your contribution to Climb Any Mountain. Your effort is greatly appreciated by me and the entire Climb Any Mountain Team.
17 March, 2013
The past two weeks
By Pia Andreewitch
ONLY 7 days to go!!!! In the past two weeks I’ve stepped my training up a notch again. A while ago I started training twice a week – Saturdays and Sundays – which was a big adjustment, and indicated that I was no longer so crippled and sore from one trek that I still had the strength to go the next day! After trying that out, I started adding weight to my backpack – initially I did my training with about 5kg in tow, which made for a slightly sweatier experience, but the difference was not that intense. Soon it was time to take it a bit further again, so I grabbed more stuff from my kitchen cupboards, loaded my big backpack – the one I’ll actually be taking to Tahan – and ended up with about 14kg on my back. Oh dear god…. The difference a load that size made was incredible. I was semi-dead after 45 minutes, my feet were so painful and exhausted from holding up me upright with the extra weight and I was sweating like a farmyard animal. The next day I was sore in brand new ways but I was so glad that I didn’t have to experience the complexities of hiking with weight for the first time whilst we are actually in Malaysia. I got home and promptly added one more thing to my ‘to do’ list: figure out a way to take as little as possible, and have a bag that weighs 10kg as an absolute maximum.
In an attempt to do something more proactive than just ice my leg after hiking, I’ve started seeing a physiotherapist for my shin splints. I’m so glad I did; the work she has been doing on my legs is making a huge difference, but it must be said whist she is working her ‘magic’, I am in agonizing pain! Sham, my physio, also told me that taping my legs may help, so before I hiked last weekend (17km, with a group of people training for a 100km walk!) I taped my legs up, as Sham had shown me. I walked with the tape for about an hour, but frankly, I’m not sure it did anything! Plus, the feeling of the tape on my skin, in the hot and sweaty was incredibly unpleasant so I pulled it all off again – which was equally as unpleasant.
Last Friday I also finally met the rest of the Tahan crew! James, Jasmine, Krystle and I, as well as Ashwin from Gone Adventurin’, met up for a meal to chat about our trek, share stories about our training, discuss various ways to avoid leeches and get to know each other a bit. It was a really great evening and I think that we’ve got ourselves quite an amazing team! Only one missing was Jeff, but he’ll get to meet everyone when we get going next Sunday!
Today the Tahan team met again, for what was my final training hike. This time James was also missing, but the rest of us did a round of MacRitchie Reservoir together. We did about 14km, I had my heavy pack, and at the end of it, I really could have kept going! What an amazing feeling to be so much fitter than I was only two and a half months ago, and so great to feel like the training has paid off! It is Sunday evening now. This time next week, the six of us will be in Malaysia already, in a village outside Taman Negara, eating our last square meal, enjoying our last cool drinks, and looking forward to our last night in a proper bed before we head strong and ready, into the jungle, and up Mount Tahan.
13 March, 2013
First Hiking Trip – We finally get started…
By Krystle and Jasmine
On February 23, a week after we signed up for the expedition and we seriously started thinking that we should go for some training of our couch potato bodies, considering that the expedition is just a month away (also, we were really stressed by our teammate, Pia – she has already started training 6 weeks earlier!) So for a start, we decided to “conquer” Bukit Timah Hill, dragging 2 other poor friends along to be our supporters, motivators and most importantly, WATERMEN!! This was the route we took:
We started at about 9.30am and whole hike took us about 2.5 hours. The most “daunting” part of the whole hike was the last stretch to the summit which consists of 200m worth of steps (approximately 107 steps). Throughout the hike, we kept asking each other: Krystle: Please remind me why I sign up for this expedition? *panting* Jasmine: Please remind me why I agreed to sign up with you? So we kept asking each other throughout the hike! We seriously wonder how we are going to complete the 2,000m expedition with a 10kg backpack? It’s time to plan for our next training with a longer and tougher route to push us further! Cheers, Jasmine and Krystle[/spoiler]
11 March, 2013
By James Tan
I’m James, and I’ll be joining a few intrepid and like-minded friends to trek up the famous Gunung Tahan, West Malaysia’s tallest peak, at the end of March 2013.
So, why climb Gunung Tahan for Climb Any Mountain?
Climbing Tahan has been a personal aspiration of mine for several years, but I’d never gotten around to joining a team to make this challenging trek. So, when I came across this adventure invitation to scale it as an act of support for Climb Any Mountain’s noble mission, I decided to seize the opportunity.
To me, the symbolism of the climb is pretty clear. For the disadvantaged, such as those with intellectual disabilities and mental illnesses, dealing with simple and every-day issues can pose formidable challenges. As such, our team’s commitment to climb Gunung Tahan (Endure) is an act of encouragement for them to persevere, and also to demonstrate that there are people who would stand with them in their life journey.
I’m very encouraged that team members like Jeff, whom I’ve yet to meet, will be coming over from the UK to join us for this adventure. Now, this is definitely an act of commitment to the cause! Likewise, reading about Jasmine and Krystle’s decision to participate has also motivated me to train harder for this climb.
I hope you will support Climb Any Mountain with your generosity and acts of kindness. Whatever you donate will go completely to Climb Any Mountain. Please visit http://www.simplygiving.com/fundraising/viewfund.aspx?f=James-will-climb-Tahan. [/spoiler]
7 March, 2013
Introduction By Jeff
I have always wanted to do something, whether it was to make a difference and/or to experience what life has to offer. This month I will be doing a lot of things for the first time, not only blogging – yes this is my first time so take it easy on me – but also climbing a mountain. Don’t get me wrong, I have been to the mountains on many different occasions but being a northern/western hemisphere kinda guy, I am usually on a snowboard or riding up a ski lift. Needless to say, I think the rainforest mountain that is TAHAN will be quite a different experience. The good news is that I’m based in London, UK so have the optimal training conditions ….that’s a joke in case you haven’t been to “Old Blighty” as they call it, but never fear: where there is a will there is a way!
I can remember when a certain friend of mine said she was starting a charity after the experience she had in trying to find the right kind of care for her sister with learning disabilities. She explained the difficulties in finding a care provider and furthermore one that would accept her sister. I watched her story of frustration lead to one of determination and vision as she laid out the plans for creating a sustainable organization to fill the void. Overall, what struck me the most were not only the noble intentions of the cause, but the drive and courage she had to see it through and those that helped her along the way. It’s inspiring stuff when people create things to make a positive difference in the world.
With this motivation in mind I not only intend to successfully complete the trek but hopefully do my part in adding to the vision of Climb any Mountain by fundraising. If that means I need to sleep with the leeches and snakes so be it, it’s the least I can do. After all, as Bernard Meltzer once said “The real measure of a person’s wealth is how much he would be worth if he lost all his money.” Your support is very much appreciated. Every little bit helps and every little bit goes directly to the cause!
By Krystle Goh Krystle
Who am I?
As a point of introduction, I am Krystle, a typical Singaporean city girl with a 9-5 office job. I love sleeping and eating and spending time building rapport with my couch and television. The most outdoor-ish activity I have ever done in my entire life is perhaps my Sec 3 school camp and trust me, I barely survived it! Needless to say, I know nuts about surviving in the wild and definitely do not have the physical body to survive in one.
So Why did I sign up for this expedition?
I’ve been wanting to experience living in the wild before I get too old for it. It’s on my bucket list. Thus, when I came across the email, I asked myself, “If not now, then when? If not this, then what?” Most importantly, this is for a GOOD CAUSE! What’s the good cause? For every step that I take in this expedition, it actually goes towards raising funds for developing facilities and services for less privileged individuals in South Africa with learning disabilities and mental illness.
Where are we going?
As most of you might have read from the introduction of the blog, we are going to Mount Tahan (2,187m). I am not surprised if you have not heard about it, because neither have I before this trip. I guess most of us are more familiar with Mount Kinabalu (4,101m) and/or Mount Ophir (1,276m). Though Mount Tahan is not as high as Mount Kinabalu, it is definitely equally as challenging, if not more, taking into consideration that it is not as developed as Mount Kinabalu in terms of facility for trekkers and it is nearly twice the height of Ophir. There is also a reason why it is called Mount Tahan (Malay word for Endure), trekkers require a certain level of physical endurance to conquer it.
The team of 5 members will be embarking on our 4 day – 3 night trekking trip on 25 March 2013. How am I going to train for it? After signing up for the trip, my good friend, Jasmine and I realized we have less than a month to train our couch potato bodies. Like Jasmine, I believe in myself and I definitely believe that with perseverance and positive mindset, I can overcome any challenge… BELIEVE AND I WILL SEE!! We did our first training hike on 23 February 2013. Like all other things, the first time is always the hardest. But we survived!
To-date, Jasmine and I have done 2 training hikes and shall blog our training hikes soon. So stay tuned! Cheers! [/spoiler]
2 March, 2013
Hello there! I am Jasmine from Singapore and I am bent on taking up this expedition to challenge myself (mentally and physically) and also for a good cause! To let you guys in on the truth, despite been on Earth for the past 20 over years, I have neither really tried wild camping nor have I actually trekked up a ‘real’ mountain before. To top it off, I am not a physically fit person for I love to indulge my spare time eating and reading (sounds pretty unhealthy, huh).
As such, the successful completion of this trek up to the summit will be a huge challenge to me. I truly believe that an adventure of a lifetime awaits us, as we prepare to trek our way across rivers and forests up to the summit of Gunung Tahan (Mount Tahan) to raise funds for disadvantaged people with learning disabilities and mental illness in South Africa! Believe in yourself, and you can do it – this is what I always tell myself whenever I face any challenges!
I am currently really looking forward to the challenge and have never been to Mount Tahan before. A few of my friends have had wonderful experiences from trekking and wild camping and I know that they would agree with me if I am to say that we often get more from these experiences than you could have ever imagined! Put a positive spin on the world for a worthy cause by sponsoring me at http://www.simplygiving.com/jasmine_will_tahan. All the funds raised will be used for the disadvantaged people with learning disabilities and mental illness in South Africa!
1 March, 2013
Stepping it up By Pia Andreewitch
Stepping it up At 7.30 in the morning last Saturday, I was rushing around, rummaging through my kitchen cupboards, pulling out bags of sugar and a big, family value bag of rice and piling it all into my backpack. I was doing this not to ensure I had sufficient supplies for my training hike that day, but rather to stimulate the weight of the backpack I’ll be schlepping up Mount Tahan! My bag probably ended up weighing about 6kg, which is a good start!
By 8am I’d reached Bukit Timah, again, to climb up to the 163m peak and all around it, again, but this time I was with James Tan one of the other brave souls who will be joining the Trekkin’ Tahan event! Very exciting! It was great to start getting to know one of the other people who will be on Tahan with us! Also James has spent quite a bit of time in the jungles of Asia, so I picked his brain for must-not-forget-essential items, tips for sleeping in the wilderness and so on. The route that we took around Bukit Timah this week involved some fairly hefty inclines, but they’ve been fortified and now are basically massive stairs… my thighs got quite the work out. We ended up doing about 8.5km, and agreeing to meet the next week and hopefully get some of the other Tahan trekkers with us! James and Pia – at the summit of Bukit Timah
Although the hike on Saturday we pretty hefty, I felt ok afterwards… not really tired, or sore, and most importantly – my shins didn’t hurt! So great. And I’m thinking the mini-fortune I spent on my new hiking boots was a great investment. As I was not sore and it’s time to step things up, I hiked again on Sunday – this time with my friend Will and his father who was visiting from England. They made for very entertaining hiking partners, and before I knew it, we’d done about 12km, my legs still were still fine and despite the load of dry goods on my back, I could have kept going!! Progress indeed!
18 February, 2013
Five weeks to go…
By Pia Andreewitch
The Great Trek is only five weeks away now…. and slowly my panic sets in.
I continue to train on a weekly basis, but am now also trying to prepare myself in other ways. I’ve struggled with shin-splints for a long time, and with all the walking all over Singapore they have flared up again. I’ve had to buy compression sleeves for my calves, been icing my legs, doing special exercises. I need to be sure that my legs don’t give up on me half way up Tahan. Mentally, I’m also starting to brace myself for what lies ahead – spending four continuous days in the rainforest is going to be a huge, huge challenge for me.
Although I enjoy the great outdoors, I’m no enthusiast for all things nature. I’ve had a nightmare or two about the bugs and nighttime noises, snakes and humid stickiness! I’m slightly panicked by the though of three nights in a tent – the humidity will be particularly trying when we’re trying to sleep. Also, I can’t help wondering how I’ll cope with just walking all the time – during the training treks I’ve done I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’m not such a fan of hiking….
All that said, I wanted a challenge, and I believe I have found one that will challenge me all round – not just physically, but mentally, hygienically, emotionally – I’m sure as well – and who knows how else. Good news is, I have now also stared fundraising! The time has come to start collecting funds to make sure this endeavor is well worth it in the end. So, if you’d like to sponsor me, please visit http://www.simplygiving.com/fundraising/viewfund.aspx?f=piatrekstahan and do just that.
29 January, 2013
By Pia Andreewitch
Three days after my first training hike, my legs finally recovered and I could walk normally again. Five days later I travelled to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, to meet Kim from the Climb Any Mountain team, for a relaxing girly weekend… and hike number two. Time is limited and I can’t really afford to take weekends off from training, so I got online to find us a hill or mountain of some sort to walk up close to the metropolis that is KL.
I found a couple of blog entries about a place called Klang Gate Quartz Ridge, a place apparently 30 minutes outside KL and reasonably challenging; the real selling point was the promise of incredible views over all of KL once you got to the top. We thought we’d give it a try. Views over the whole of KL from the top of the Quartz Ridge
On our first evening in KL Kim and I started asking taxi drivers how much they would charge if we were to hire them for the morning to drive us to this place and wait while we hiked and then get us back to our hotel. Our last driver of the night, who took us from dinner back to our hotel, via the Petronas Towers, so we could take the obligatory pictures, was amazing and completely entertaining – we both immediately took to him. His name was Jegan, ‘but you can call me Chicken, it’s ok’, he was a Liverpool fan, had never heard of the Quartz Ridge, but gave us the best price!
Early the next morning we got going, following dubious directions I’d found online: ‘pass the zoo, take a turn, stop at the parked cars and find a short wall: then start walking upwards’. We found the general area and after a few false starts we managed to get onto the correct trail. Initially it was pretty steep – much more so than the hills I can find in Singapore; also the path was rockier, a bit jagged, we had to use our arms to climb up boulders… it was quite fun. Whenever we passed a steeper area, I had to rest because I started seeing black spots, which wasn’t that reassuring, but other than that the hike was great.
We didn’t even have to wait to get to the top of the ridge to see the phenomenal views over KL in one direction and the Klang Gate Dam in the other. The dichotomy of the two views was very impressive. ‘The Klang Gate Dam The higher we got on the ridge and the bigger the rocks we were climbing over, the more challenging each step was. At one point, we were clambering over the ridge, which could not have been more than three or four meters wide! Some very careful stepping was required! We got up the ridge, which consists completely of quartz, in about an hour and a half, and then flew down in thirty minutes or so. By the time we got back to the road, it was about midday and stinking hot. We bought freezing drinks from a guy with a cooler, very conveniently set up at the bottom of the trail, and then went to wake up Chicken who was fast asleep in the taxi! During the hike up the Quartz Ridge I managed to get in a bit of incline training, now I need to find somewhere I can combine that with distance and I’ll be set!
14 January, 2013
And so the Trekking Begins…
By Pia Andreewitch
It’s been a couple of weeks since I registered to join the Gone Adventurin’ Trekkin’ Tahan adventure, and I just realized that the whole event is only 9 weeks away, so I have A LOT of training to do. The objective I guess, is to be able to walk for hours on end without getting too tired or sore, and then keep going for three days in a row. Whilst carrying a backpack around with all my stuff, including my tent, a sleeping mat and bag, a change of clothes and other heavy essentials, like water. In between, I’ll be sleeping on the floor in a tent in the rainforest. Without taking a shower. And probably not eating what you’d call a square meal… Also, I found out that Mount Tahan means ‘the mount of endurance’ in Malay, which is very encouraging indeed… Oh dear.
I live in Singapore, and although this tiny country has an abundance of parks, reservoirs, and nature reserves, they are not very hilly and definitely not mountainous. I’m thinking I will have to build up my stamina for distance rather than incline, and then hope for the best when the upward climb comes… my plan may be flawed, but I guess I’ll find out soon enough. Yesterday was the first of my many training hikes. In the spirit of making training fun, I invited a couple of friends to join me, and all of them invited a couple of friends, so we ended up walking as a group of 12! We met at 8am, which is early for a Sunday, but necessary in Singapore, as you don’t want to be hiking in the midday heat. We started our hike at MacRitchie Reservoir and headed towards the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve.
The first thing to mention is the humidity. I felt damp all over before we even started, so by the time I started warming up, I was very soggy… Apart from that the hike was fine. The group had spread out, so half way we all gathered to catch up with each other. I used the toilet there, grateful that it was clean, had paper and soap, and the thought crossed my mind that there will be no such stops in Taman Negara!
MacRitchie Reservoir has a Tree Top Walk, which is a bridge suspended across the top to the trees, and we got an amazing view from up there. All I could see in all directions was green, which almost never happens in Singapore! There were monkeys everywhere and the walk was over surprisingly quickly – we did about 11km in 3 hours or so. As soon as we got back to the road, the four of us who were at the front of the pack jumped in a cab and raced on home for showers and brunch. We got messages minutes later from the rest of the group telling us that we hadn’t finished the route and the toughest, steepest bit was still ahead! Conveniently missed out that bit!
Once we all gathered back at my house, we cooked up an absolute feast and later in the day I went for a massage… two beautiful little activities, that made the hiking bearable, which will not be part of the experience when we’re all in the jungle! I’m gonna have to step it up a notch next time!!
If you want to see more pictures from my hike, visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.542908115721725.127295.419024758110062&type=1.