Intro Trek 2017 – Gunung Datuk

Gunung Datuk

Location: Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia
Elevation: 884m (2,900 ft)
Duration: 1D1N
Time taken to ascend: 2h30m
Time taken to descend: 3h

Brief Itinerary
Day 0
2200 Gather at SMU
2330 Depart SMU

Day 1
0400 Arrival at Base of Gunung Datuk
0430 Commence Ascent
0700 Summit
0900 Commence Descent
1200 End of Trek
1230 Wash Up
1330 Depart for Lunch
1400 Lunch at Tampin
1500 Depart for JB/ SG
1730 Arrival at JB – RnR + Dinner
2000 Depart JB
2145 Arrival at SMU

Trek Log

Written by Bryan Ng (OIC/ Marketing IC/ Admin IC/ Logistic IC)

Photo credits to Ko Shu

Run a quick search on the internet and one would yield many positive reviews of Gunung Datuk.  As one of the participants from the 2016 Intro Trek remarked, a trek up Gunung Datuk is one with “minimal effort and maximum reward”. Scrolling through pictures after pictures of Datuk’s summit view, our imagination took flight as we started to envision the splendid sight that would greet us at the end of our ascent. And so, it was decided that despite having organized an identical trek exactly a year earlier in 2016, it was time for us to pay Datuk a return visit.

At 2200hrs, the team gathered at SOB Atrium to collect the logistics and for a short pre-trip briefing. With the team comprising of many new trekkers, Datuk would serve as a great opportunity to expose them to the trekking scene. After completing all the administrative matters, the cue to sing the world’s most popular song – “Happy Birthday” – came! It was Jonas’, our 2IC’s special day, and with the help of everyone, we were able to successfully execute the surprise. After the enjoying the cake and taking a pre-trip group shot, it was time to board the vans and set off.

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Pre-trip Group Shot

The travel to Datuk was smooth and uneventful. At midnight, there was little traffic and we were able to sail through the checkpoint with little delay. Many, if not all of us, made use of the 4-hour long journey to catch up on some rest.

At 0400 hours, we arrived at the base of Gunung Datuk. We were surprised by how full the carpark was, and the sheer number of weekend trekkers that had made it to Datuk. Time was of the essence if we wanted to beat the crowd! After consuming the simple breakfast we brought from home and performing some warm-up exercises, we linked up with the guides that would lead our assault up Datuk. Armed with our headlights, our quest to conquer Datuk began at 0430 hours.

From the start, we were greeted with steep inclines and root-laced paths, which was a far cry from the smooth pavements we were used to. The heavy foliage also reduced the visibility, with the forest canopy blocking out what little moonlight there was. At that point, it became obvious that the decision to equip each participant with a headlight was a good one. It sure was a challenging start to a trek that required “minimal effort”.

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Armed with our trusty headlights
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Our first pit-stop

Despite these challenges, the team was able to make good progress. The taxing conditions did not persist, and the path became gentler and more scalable over time. Our intermittent breaks served as opportunities for team members to know one another better. During the ascent, it was also encouraging to see the more experienced and competent trekkers helping the others throughout the climb. Truly, this is environment that we strive to create.

As we approached the summit, we made an impromptu stop along the way. The guides told us to switch off the headlamps and look around us. Expecting to see fireflies or glowworms, we were busy looking around for these insects. However, these 20 pairs of eyes were unable to spot anything! The guide then proceeded to pick up a piece of wooden bark and looking closely, we were able to see small specks of light. The guide proceeded to explain to us that this was a type of luminous fungi. Some of us were really fascinated by it and wanted to take photos of it. Unfortunately our cameras were nowhere as sensitive to the light as our eyes, and all we could do was to keep a mental picture of it in our memories.

At 0645 hours, slightly over 2.5 hours into our climb, we caught sight of the boulders which signified that the end was near. All 20 of us lined up to climb the set of ladders that would take us to the summit of Datuk. Perhaps we were excited or maybe it was still dim, the height of the ladders did not prove a challenge for us on the way up. However, these very same ladders would prove to be a big hurdle for some of the participants later on.

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Up the ladders

By 0700, all of us had made it to the summit of Gunung Datuk. After a strenuous journey up, the cool breeze and flat boulders made the summit seem like an ideal place to take a nap. While some chose to catch up on some rest, other decided to chase the sunrise. The summit was generally facing the North-West direction and this made it difficult to catch an unrestricted view of the sunrise. While we were unable to see the sunrise in its full glory, we were certainly able to catch glimpses of the sunrays peeking over the mountains.

As we waited patiently for the “egg yolk” to rise over the mountains and for the view in front of us to brighten up, a whiff of clouds engulfed the summit. For a moment, the whole view around us was blocked by the white wall. Having invested so much time and effort, we were certainly not leaving without a good show. Fortunately, after 15 minutes or so, the weather started to clear up and this time, we were able to get a better picture of the sunrise.

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Sunrise!

By this time, everyone was busy posing and snapping away. Gunung Datuk really does offer spectacular panoramic views and it is no wonder that the 2 hours we spent on the summit quickly slipped by. At 0900, we took our mandatory group shot before beginning to work our way down Datuk.

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Panoramic View
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Summit group shot!

The summit of Datuk is served by a set of ladders that can only take 1 trekker each at any time. As we started our ascent, we were met with traffic as trekkers were both trying to get up and come down from the summit. But with the help of our guides, who successfully regulated the traffic up and down the ladder, we were all able to get down safely. After successfully summiting, we thought the worst was behind us. But the descent proved equally, if not even more, challenging as we had built up a level of fatigue during the ascent. Heat was also starting to be an issue with the sun cast over us.

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Down the ladders

On our way down, we were surprised by our ability to overcome the steep and uneven terrain during the ascent at night. Paul, an exchange student from France, lamented that he could not believe we climbed up the steep slopes under the shroud of darkness. In hindsight, perhaps not knowing what laid ahead was a good thing. Many, including myself, would have shuddered at the sight of the path.

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Did we climb this?
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Final stages of our descent

After 3 hours, slowly but surely we safely made it back to the base of Gunung Datuk. We expressed our heartfelt gratitude and bade farewell to our guides before hitting the showers. Although the showers were very basic (cubical with pail & tap) and the cleanliness was less than ideal, the lure of a refreshing shower was hard to resist.

After washing up, it was already 1pm and we were eager to satisfy our hunger pangs. We had initially planned to head to Tampin town for lunch but were unsure what specialties Tampin had to offer. With the recommendation of our drivers, we decided to proceed to Mustafah Restaurant for Nasi Ayam (chicken rice). The chicken resembled Singapore’s roasted chicken with its crispy texture, but it had a unique sauce that made it all the more flavorful. The serving size was decent and the price was really affordable. I ordered 1 serving of chicken rice and 2 drinks, and the bill totaled RM11 (approximately SGD3.50 at the time of writing).

After lunch, some of the participants indicated that they would prefer to head back to Singapore, as they had classes the next morning or assignments to complete. Listening to their wishes, we split ourselves into 2 groups, with 1 van shuttling half of the participants back to Singapore and another heading to JB City Square Mall for a little RnR and dinner. Personally, having not explored JB Sentral for the past 10 years (yes, I am a hermit), I found that JB Sentral had changed a lot from my last visit. The 10 of us arrived at City Square Mall at 1730, and we spent 1.5 hours shopping before linking up and going for dinner at a Japanese Restaurant. We boarded our van at 2000 hours and thanks to the wits of our driver, we were able to make it back to SMU just before 2200.

So is Gunung Datuk truly a trek with “minimal effort, maximum reward”?

While one should not underestimate the difficulty of climbing up Gunung Datuk, Datuk does offer a great view, a great experience and a great opportunity to experience nature. For our time and efforts, Datuk is a great return on investment.

Lastly, I would like to thank all our participants for joining us on this Intro Trek and for being such great company! We hope to see you around for more Trek events.

“We didn’t realize we were making memories, we just knew we were having fun.” – Winnie the Pooh

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Winter Trek 2016 – Mount Pulag

Mount Pulag 

Location:  Benguet, Ifugao, Philippines
Elevation: 2,922m
Duration: 3D2N
Date: 9th – 11th December 2016

Trek Log
Written by Billy Moh (Training and Logistics IC)

Preface

Preparation for the SmuX Winter trek expedition took place early in Semester 1 of the academic year 2016/2017. The organizing committee came up with many viable trekking destinations for the expedition that was expected to commence in early December. Eventually, the team reached a consensus on the main objectives for the trip as well as the target audience we wished to attract which aid us immensely in narrowing our choices to a manageable pool. We wanted this trip to serve as an opportunity for amateur participants to be exposed to the sport of mountaineering and experience overnight camping in higher altitudes. In essence, we were hoping that some of our participants will kindle an interest for trekking after the expedition and continue to explore their love for outdoor adventures in the distant future. We wanted to choose an ascent that would leave budding trekkers with the feeling of fulfillment and challenge them beyond their comfort zone without compromising on their personal safeties. However, there was only a short window of 6 weeks to conduct trainings to prepare the participants physically for the uphill challenge ahead. As such, it was important to choose a route that was reasonably demanding for the limited time we had to train up for it. Finally, we wanted to choose a location that was tucked away from the limelight of consumerism to give participants a tranquil and alternate experience while achieving our goal to keep the cost for our trip price competitive.

We decided that the 3D2N Akiki-Ambangeg trail at Mount Pulag in the Philippines was the most ideal destination in satisfying our key considerations. Standing at 2922m above sea level in the Luzon region of the country, the mountain boasts a picturesque summit view that transports trekkers beyond the sea of clouds. We also factored in an extra night for the Akiki-Ambangeg trail, dubbed as the ‘Killer trail’, that could be typically completed by more experienced trekkers within 2D1N to ensure that our participants get adequate rest and breaks from the overnight van ride from Manila that brings us to the foot of the mountain.

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Pre-trip

Climbing any mountain is no walk in the park and we believe that we are only as good as our team since we will be ascending the mountain together. As such, optimal preparation before the trip was imperative as we did not want the expedition to be one that is filled with a nagging anxiety and dread due to ill preparation. In terms of physical training, we conducted weekly mandatory sessions that typically alternated between Wednesday night runs with the SmuX team and Saturday staircase climbing to simulate the physical demands of trekking a mountain. Trainings concluded with a hike up Bukit Timah Nature Reserve on 2nd December.

The Luzon region of the Philippines is also considered the more temperate climate in the Philippines where temperatures are expected to plummet to 5degree Celsius coupled with chilly winds during the summit push for Mount Pulag. It was thus essential to educate the participants with important layering knowledge to reduce the risk of hypothermia from occurring during the trek. The organizing committee conducted a pre-trip information session that ensured the trekkers knew exactly what was needed to handle the erratic weather during the ascent as well as ensuring that participants do not end up over packing for the expedition.

The ascent

Day 1: Due to an unforeseen vehicle breakdown enroute to Mount Pulag as well as a detour to the DENR to acquire our permit to scale the trail, we were set back by close to 4 hours and only managed to embark on the Akiki trail at around 2.30pm on 9 December 2016. This meant that any chance of reaching Marlboro camp site were ruled out since it would mean an overnight trek up the steepest portion of the trail with a team that was already weary from a lack of a good night’s sleep. We decided that the best possible course of action was to camp overnight at an intermediary campsite instead and continue our trail early next morning to cover the lost distance. We arrived at Eddet camping area right before sunset and was treated to the view of a waterfall near the vicinity. There was also a constant supply of fresh spring water for everyone to wash up. We had dinner by the campfire that was prepared by our local guide, Mr Jasson and the group of porters. Night quickly eclipsed and we were treated to a cloudless sky filled with stars. We turned in early at 8pm to catch up on our lack of sleep to prepare for the early ascent the next day.

Photos of Day 1:

Day 2: Reveille was at 4am on our second day in Mount Pulag. We washed up and had a light breakfast of toast and cheese. With the first break of sunrise, we continued our ascent towards Marlboro camp which would be the campsite of our second night in the wilderness. Along the way, we took a wrong path up Mount Pulag that led us to the older and less renowned path up. The path turned out to be longer in distance but less steep relative to the original path we intended to take. Fortunately, we met a local mountain ranger who gave us precise instructions that brought us back safely to the original path and we arrived at Marlboro campsite by noon. The campsite was filled with wild cows that reside along the mountainous region. We set up our tents and establish our boundaries since we were expecting an influx of foreign trekkers arriving at the campsite by nightfall. We had a filling lunch to replenish our energy from the arduous 6 hours trek we had. It was a great opportunity to bond as a crew after lunch and we basked under the sun all afternoon. Thereafter, we had a light dinner and turned ourselves in by 8pm that night to prepare for the 2am reveille summit push the next day.

Photos of Day 2:

Day 3: We woke up promptly at 2am and were plagued with light showers. It dampened our hopes of witnessing a picturesque summit view that we were looking forward to leading up to the summit push. Notwithstanding, we continued to push and beckon each other to carry on. The route up was steep and the ground was slightly slippery due to the rain. We arrived at the summit at around 6.30am. Even though the weather was less than promising, the showers cleared up significantly when we arrived at the peak. We were greeted by the sight of a rainbow that served as a consolation for our valiant effort of achieving our objective to reach the summit together. We spent about half an hour up in the mountain top before embarking on the gentle Ambangeg trail down that would take us another 4-5 hours. We stuck to a comfortable and leisure pace down the mountain as the conditions were less than ideal due to the muddy and slippery terrain, a product of the inclement weather this morning. We arrived at Ranger’s station for a quick wash up and had lunch at an indigenous hut before setting off to Hotel Pasay (our accommodation back in Manila).

Photos of Day 3:

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Day4: We got the opportunity to explore Manila during our rest and relaxation day after our expedition. We decided to visit the Intramuros in the city center to get a glimpse of what it was like to be living under the rule of their Spanish colonial masters before WWII. We were instantly transported back to a time where East meets West as we witnessed the collision of Spanish architectural within a bustling Southeast Asian region. We had a traditional Spanish meal in one of the more prominent restaurant within the Walled city. We spent the rest of the evening in a shopping mall near Chinatown before heading back to the hotel for a good night’s rest before catching our early morning flight the very next morning.

Photos of Day 4:

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Day5: Finally, we reached the end of the Winter trek expedition and the team of 12 parted ways. Some of the members extended their trip in the Philippines and headed to El Nino for their own vacation. The rest of the crew headed back to Singapore.

Reflections by participants:

“This is my first time climbing a mountain and it was a great experience. The SMUX trek team provides a cosy environment that makes trekking accessible even for first timers. A student-led expedition is also much more enjoyable as it is tailored towards our own needs. It was also amazing that despite being a relatively large group, everyone made it to the summit. A large group has its negative aspects as well. Different people have different expectations which might differ from the vision of the organising committee. Also, different people have different fitness levels and fitness level is an important aspect of trekking. In a large group, problems such as peer pressure and groupthink arise.”

Kendrick Low
Year 1
School of Accounting

“Trekking is a sport that is new to me, and winter trek provided a good experience and served as a great introduction to this foreign sport. As strange as it may sound, the exhilaration did not come to me when we reached the summit, but only after we finished the trek and had time to reflect upon.
For me, the toughest part of the trek was the early morning on the third day. I was panting heavily fifteen minutes into the trek; my pace was slow and I struggled to continue. I remembered how the other trekkers checked to see if I was doing alright every time I slowed down and how they urged me to persevere on.

Someone once told me that trekking is a not an individual sport; it is an team sport, but I never really understood why until winter trek. Despite feeling exhausted both physically and mentally, people still tried to display this team spirit by encouraging each other on.
I am very grateful to everyone who had helped me in one way or another on this trip (words of concern and encouragement, the little nudges when i have trouble going up or down), which showed me what trek is really about. I am also very thankful to the organising committee for planning this trip!”

Tricia Lee
Year 1
School of Economics

“Before going on this trip, I was not expecting so much because I did not know everyone well. Being my first trekking trip overseas, I also did not know what to expect. I was proved wrong – the trek surpassed my expectations. It only took me a couple of hours to feel comfortable with the other participants, as we all came with an open-mind and shared the same interest of being outdoors. Trekking Mount Pulag was an opportunity of a lifetime – not only did I challenge myself on dangerous foreign soil, I had the chance to experience the culture in the Philippines. The locals were so warm and welcoming and tried their best to communicate with us clearly despite the language barrier. The trek itself was breath-taking, it was an entirely different experience because the scenic views at every stop made the process so much lighter and easier. Although the weather was not favourable on the last day, we dismissed any negative thoughts and focused on the trek as a whole. We also encountered setbacks – the miscommunication with our guide, which led us on the wrong path. Fortunately, we got help from one of the guides along the way who helped us rethink our route which saved us much time. I’m more than thankful that I stepped out of my comfort zone for it made me appreciate the little things I have at home. I am also grateful that I forged lasting friendships with the team. I do hope that i would embark on another trekking trip next year!”

Victoria Drysdale
Year 1
School of Business

“I’ve done a trek overseas every year since 2013. I want to continue with this practice as long as my body allows me to, hence the decision to join this winter expedition with the SMUX Trekking Team. It was a rather short expedition; despite being a 3-day 2-night trek, trekking time totaled around 15 hours, two hours in the first day, five in the second and eight in the third day; it became harder and colder. With a 0200hrs reveille for the summit push, we made out of the dense rainforest and onto to grassland just before sunrise, exposed to the elements as we had to mount on extra layers midway. It was a memorable trek, and as always, the journey is as important as the destination. It will be hard to forget bathing nude by the cold waterfall, the scenery at Camp Two, and the uncountable stars at night which defined the horizon.
Keep walking.”

Kenneth Kong
Year 1
School of Accounting

After the trip we wanted to get a sense whether we met the objectives that we set out for SmuX Winter trek 2016. We asked for the participants’ general impressions and thoughts on the trip. We initially had 13 participants in total but only 12 of them made it to the top of the summit as one of our participants ran a high fever prior to the trip. The level of difficulty of Akiki-Ambangeg trail was generally challenging for most of the first time participants but they felt that they were well prepared for the challenge and some really surprised themselves at the feat they managed to accomplish. While there were many unforeseen impediments such as a vehicle malfunction and unfavorable weather condition that threatened to hamper the expedition, the trip turned out to be fruitful for the participants as well as the organizing committee nonetheless. The crew was generally very easygoing and they looked out for each other along the way which was pivotal in the success of the expedition that saw zero fallouts.

Mid Term Trek 2016 (2) – Gunung Angsi

Gunung Angsi 

Location: Seremban, Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia
Elevation: 824m
Duration: 2D1N
Date: 5th – 6th October 2016
Time taken to ascend: 2 and a half hour 
Time taken to descend: 3 hours
Difficulty: Beginner Friendly! 

Trek Log
Written by Tay Yu Xuan (Admin I/C)

With the hectic schedule of school after a gruelling 7 weeks, it was visibly and mentally refreshing to go for a 2D1N trip to climb Gunung Angsi, followed by a food trail in the nearby town of Seremban!

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Group photo at the summit!

This all started off at 4th October where those of us who wanted to stay over in school came over to SMU Labs to sleep over. Have to admit that this is the first time some of us slept over in school, but being a freshman, I know that there will be more opportunities in the future(preferably not haha). It was entertaining to interact with our only exchange student, Marcus(Guess who in the picture), who did entertain those of us around with his stories of travel and his fascination with Asian culture.

We woke up to the still dark sky at around 4am and met with our transport at 5am. But how could we leave without the mandatory group shot?

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Can you see our tired faces?

It was quite a long ride of about 3-4 Hours, and with all of us having to wake up this early, you can guess how fast it took for all of us to take a trip to dreamland before the actual trip. It did not take us long to wake up to the sights of the town near the trekking location, Seremban, where we had breakfast at McDonalds (Cheaper than Singapore, that’s for sure).

After stocking up on water(36 L), we departed to our starting point of the trek. Again, mandatory shot 🙂

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Starting the trek!

Received the briefing and trek details from the tour guides, we then proceeded off with the trek with slightly cloudy weather, meaning that it won’t be too hot when we trek up Mount Angsi. We started our trek at around 10 which was good timing, 5 hours after we left Singapore!

The trek started off with a very steep entrance, where it was about 5-10 mins of climbing on all 4 limbs, but the rest of the trek was relatively manageable, with its fair share of obstacles.

Treks like this are good opportunities for everyone to engage in small talk with each other. Ranting about school life and asking random questions while climbing up a mountain is one interesting thing to do during trekking 🙂

Breaks at certain points of the treks did give rather decent views, but more was waiting at the summit.

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Cloudy view at the rest point!

Reaching the summit took 2 ½ hours, in which after I asked the guide, he said we were rather fast! Lunch at the summit at around 1 was another round of small talk and more photos. I would have to congratulate all of us for making this trek up the mountain, but the photos will speak for itself 🙂

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Lunch + small talk!

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After our stomachs were filled and cameras full of pictures, it was time to head down. The skies were getting too cloudy at this point, so our guide sped up the pace, luckily we managed to descend safely down the mountain (Score 1 for safety I/C, who is also me).

The trek down was a lot more dangerous due to our steep ascension, so we took close to 3 hours down. That being said, no one was complaining much and we completed the trek at around 4pm.

At the starting point, as the guides were ready to send up to our accommodation, some of us just decided that the scenery was too good a place to miss out and spent the time to chill and enjoy nature to its fullest.

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Credits to Gabrielle with her poster worthy shot 🙂

We finally reached the accommodation at 430pm, and amazed is an understatement to describe our accommodation. The organising committee was expecting an abbreviation of a chalet, but damn, a real chalet was in sight for us to enjoy! There was a nearby stream and facilities like a snake farm free for us to visit! Time before dinner was free for all, so some of us went to explore while the rest of us (me included) just chilled at the chalet.

The faces of some of us after the trek ^

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Marcus buying his first ever Ramly burger
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Wading in the cool, clear waters of the stream (it leads all the way back to our chalet!)

There was a playground at the back of our chalet but this playground was no child’s play though. (Foreground of second picture features the monkey bars of death)

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sssssup, this is a real snake shot 🙂

At 630pm, we decided to start our field cooking outdoors! There were that many instant noodles brands that I saw and ate in 1 evening but satisfying nonetheless. Fruits were a good addition which I made a mental note in my head to bring for subsequent treks.  Bringing the pan and pot were a very welcome addition with the stir fried eggs (a must for outdoor cooking)!

Post dinner activity was a game of undercover and more lateral thinking games(all imported from intro trek haha) before we went to rest after the exhausting day.

Waking up at 9am for me to the sounds of water running through a stream was the pleasant end of a sleep duration I did not had since school started 🙂 . Packing up to leave the chalet, we proceeded to the last highlight of the trip: Food Trail!

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Unable to miss the morning view!

Our Finance/Marketing I/C Gabrielle sourced for famous places with good food in Seremban, the nearby town. Seremban boasts several delicacies like their beef noodles, chendol and roasted pork bun(siew bao). We travelled to the food locations in this order, before bringing some siew baos back to Singapore for loved ones and friends to enjoy!

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Digging into his chicken rice with impressive chopstick skills

The trip was a rather enjoyable one, be it the trek itself or the food trail. Really a good breather from the rigid schedule of school. It was encouraging to see more freshies sign up for this as compared to intro trek, but all were welcomed, nonetheless. People trek for all reasons, but interactions during the experience is what draws people back to it. That being said, for those who are reading this, enjoy the rest of the semester and hope to see more people in future treks!

Lastly, thank you to the organising committee for making this trip possible!

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From left to right, Ying Ling (inkling). Yu Xuan, Gabrielle, Kenneth from the organising committee (3 minions!) with our advisor Kai Ling (Gru)!

 

Introductory Trek 2016 – Gunung Arong

Gunung Arong

Location: Johor, Malaysia
Elevation: 275m
Duration: 2D1N
Date: 27 – 28 August 2016
Time taken to ascend: 1 hour 
Time taken to descend: 30 minutes 
Difficulty: Beginner Friendly! 

Trek Log
Written by Ying Ling (Trekking TM!)

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The first trek of the academic year, a really short introductory to trekking for our new members!

On the 27th to 28th of August, 14 of us (a really small and cozy number!) crossed the borders over to Malaysia. We were headed for Mersing, a popular fishing town, in Johor!

Getting past the early morning traffic rush and jam at Woodlands and Tuas checkpoint took awhile – our group had split into an MPV, that entered via the car lane, and a van, through the lorry/van lanes. Some of us took a nap while waiting, while the others in my van were debating over political issues (Yes, at around 8am in the morning! I was sleeping of course).

(Note: Remember to factor in traffic congestion at the borders when you leave on a Saturday morning!)

After the long wait…. the two groups reunited at a food court for breakfast!! Food always unites!! 🙂 Filling ourselves up with teh (or teh halia, my preferred choice), fresh prata, and nasi lemak, we were ready for another 2.5h of van ride and the trek!! Interestingly though, the food court we went to had a ‘buffet-line’ style of ordering, similar to IKEA! I was so very confused while ordering, much to the amusement of the locals.

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Right before we started – all pumped up yeah!

Fast-forward about 3 hours and we reached our base camp – a chalet of sorts by the beach with an open area to pitch tents!

After preparing and doing some last minute packing or shuffling of items, we started the hike! It was not as visible as we would have like things to be due to the (unfortunate) haze, which only came that unlucky weekend…

Walking on paved road to the trailhead marker pass some plantations, we had to avoid stepping on the numerous animal excretion (read: sheep dung) littered along the path. I was amused at how all the recent treks I went on (Mt Siguniang in China, ABC in Nepal) were similar in this sense. Ah, nature and the outdoors. It took us about 15mins to reach the trailhead!

Gearing up for the short hike ahead! Gunung Arong about only 273m in height, while termed a ‘mountain’, should actually be classified as a ‘Hill’.

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At the top of the HILL!

The trek up took slightly over an hour, as we huffed and puffed up the mountain, or rather, hill. Apparently it hadn’t rain for a week or two over at Mersing. Instead of the usual muddy and grassy terrain I was familiar with for Malaysia treks, the ground was sandy. In fact, it was loose sand and we had to focus on not slipping on the sand!

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Are we out of the woods yet?

Now, for the highlight of the short getaway: The Beach @ Gunung Arong

Have you been to a beach that seemed rather endless, unoccupied and unspoilt by human traffic, and clear waters? That was how the beach was – we were the only ones at the beach (for the most part) and it was great to have the beach all to ourselves!

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I’ll let the photos do the rest of the talking of the fun we had at the beach 🙂

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We found a ‘natural’ breakwater to chill at. Also meant that there are photo opportunities!!! Look at that clear reflection! 🙂

So we decided to try to bury Nicholas in the sand. We were highly amused by how ‘short’ he was becoming!
And of course the last part of our itinerary for the day – FIELD COOKING DINNER!
We had a pretty sumptuous spread I would say, of instant noodles of varying flavours, omelets, brownies (!!), pork cubes, stir-fired luncheon meat! I had a pretty fun time just cooking and attempting to finish all the food that we had with everyone huddling around taking turns to be the MasterChef.

More intense lateral thinking games at night again before heading to rest! Look how we squeezed into one small chalet room (equivalent to a group study room size in SMU) to avoid the haze outside!

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It was a great chill 2d1n getaway to Gunung Arong – complete with a good hike, the beach and the sea, good food and good company. Many thanks to the participants who joined us for the trip and hope to see you guys around in school and in more Trekking events 🙂
P/S if you guys ever head to Gunung Arong or Mersing, do give the seafood a try over there! We didn’t manage to feast on the seafood due to time and there is a small tinge of regret 😦

SMUX Alititude Series Summer Trek 2 – Expedition Lost 2016

Annapurna Base Camp

Location: Annapurna Region, Nepal
Elevation: 4,130m
Duration: 16 days (25/07/16 – 11/08/16)

Trek Log
Written by Fabian Seow (OIC)
Photo credits to Fabian and Noel (TravelLizard)!

TravelLizard :: Annapurna Dreaming (Expedition Lost)
Introducing the team!

Day 01
Be prepared for anything and everything. The first day of our trip served as a timely warning for this theme that would prevail throughout our trip. From a member forgetting to bring his passport to having your plane diverted from your destination due to inclement weather. But despite all of these incidents, we safety reached Kathmandu, albeit 5 hours behind schedule. True to Nepal’s monsoon season, we entered the city under a barrage of rain and were immensely grateful to reach he comforts and warm hospitality of our 3 star hotel. We were also glad to have the services of our vendor, Suresh from Sunrise Adventure Trek who had graciously waited at the airport for the full 5 hours in order to pick us up. Fantastic.
Day 02
We have a prep and sightseeing day today, giving us time to do last minute shopping for our expedition while visiting several famous sites in Kathmandu. Of particular interest was being able to partially catch a funeral procession.
Day 03
The third day of our trip was a complete wash as we rotted away at the domestic airport. To reach Lukla, a transit point to Everest, we would need to fly from Kathmandu to Lukla. Unfortunately, the Lukla airport closes when there is cloudy weather. For fortunate teams, a short half an hour window of clear weather facilitates their transfer over to Lukla. We on the other hand had no such luck and thus had to waste a day waiting. On the bright side, we managed to finally try ‘Fire & Ice Pizzeria’ (pizza) as well as ‘Himalayan Java’ (coffee place).
Day 04
Day 4 was heart-breaking. We came agonisingly close to being able to reach Lukla with a window of clear weather seemingly having opened up for us. However, fate would not swing in our favour. Ultimately, we had to make the big decision to activate our alternate plan and switch to the Annapurna Trek. To this end, we closed the book on Expedition Everest and thus commenced Expedition Lost. To kick start Expedition Lost, we would take a 6 hour bus ride to Pokhara.
Day 05
After days of worry and frustration, we finally commenced our trek today. Rainy season is still in full swing as we encounter multiple river crossings and walked up paths that have turned into steams.

Fortunately, we are treated to great views of the surrounding hills and mountains. We spent 6 hours climbing up through various villages, increasing altitude from 700m to 2000m. The trek has revitalised our spirits as we happily chat and joke along the way.

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TravelLizard :: Annapurna Dreaming (Expedition Lost) First rest point at Ulleri

Finally, we reach our rest stop for tonight, Tikuedunga. We settle down to enjoy tea and happily karaoke under the stars.

TravelLizard :: Annapurna Dreaming (Expedition Lost)
TravelLizard :: Annapurna Dreaming (Expedition Lost)

Day 06
We did a short trek today to Ghorepani, which stands at 2800m. Along the way, we were treated to numerous roaring rivers and streams, sights which are much more rare in peak season. The 3 hour trek was refreshing and the extra time would serve us well as would have a night trek portion later. Ghorepani is a beautiful town that overlooks the Himalayas. Unfortunately, the monsoon weather has brought a huge mass of crowds into the valley, blocking the vaunted scenery. For a quick 5 minutes, the clouds did clear and gave us a vantage view of a snow capped mountain. We arrived in the town at noon and were quick to do a little shopping. A few of us purchased books which would enjoy over tea and a fireplace. Certainly, life here is quaint.
Day 07
We woke at 3 plus in the morning to commence our night hike up to Pune Hill. Pune Hill is a famous tourist attraction that is beginner friendly and a part of the Annapurna trek. During the peak season, Pune Hill offers superior views of sunrises and a paranormal view of the Himalayan range. We trekked an hour or so in the dark to reach the top of the hill. Similar to the previous day, clouds surrounded the top of the hill, providing a diminished view. Fortunately, one side of the hill had significantly clearer weather, giving a picturesque landscape view, not unlike the paintings of foggy mountains.

TravelLizard :: Annapurna Dreaming (Expedition Lost)
TravelLizard :: Annapurna Dreaming (Expedition Lost)

After much picture taking and enjoying the scenery, we made our way back down to Ghorepani for breakfast. Today proved to the toughest day yet, as had to trekked 9 hours to Ghurjong. Along the way, we encountered many more waterfalls and steams which roared with great force.

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TravelLizard :: Annapurna Dreaming (Expedition Lost)
TravelLizard :: Annapurna Dreaming (Expedition Lost)

We also started to meet our greatest foe on the trip, the blood-sucking leech. Today’s encounters would give the team minor panic and amusement, and serve as a warning for what was to come. At the last part of the day, we also came across our first valley of sorrow as we had to descend all the way to the bottom of a valley to cross a large river before ascending back to the altitude. Again, this served as a brief preview of what was to come in the trip. All in all, the 12 hour day had drained much of our strength, and we were glad to reach Ghurjong in the evening.

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Day 08
Today, we trekked for 9 hours to Bamboo, which as its name suggests is an establishment found beside a river and surrounded by bamboo. For the first time in days, we had clear blue skies and even sunshine for a brief period in the afternoon.

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We also had to pass through Chongrong, the hub of the Annapurna region and which contained a very tough climb of sorrow. Similar to the previous day, we had to descend from the top of the hill all the way to the bottom to cross yet another roaring river and thus ascend rapidly afterwards. The path to Bamboo was overflowing, with all paths turning into mini streams, providing a tricky slippery ground to trek on. Fortunately, we reached Bamboo with no issues and were glad for time to rest before we begin to gain major altitude the following day.

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Day 09
It was a short but hard 5 hour trek today as we ascended 1000m in altitude from Bamboo to Deurali.

Along which, we encountered heavy rain and tricky waterfall crossings. Many of the bridges that we crossed were made purely from branches and stones, leading to interesting test of faith with each step taken. Deurali provided plenty of photo opportunities and we took a full hour to pose for photos over the vast valley.

TravelLizard :: Annapurna Dreaming (Expedition Lost)
TravelLizard :: Annapurna Dreaming (Expedition Lost)

Some of us even visited a nearby waterfall for an ice cold bath. Truly one with nature. That night, a mass amount of fog descends into the village, reducing visibility to a couple of meters.

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This actually leaves us hopeful for clear weather the next day where we make our attempt at Annapurna Base Camp!!
Day 10
Today we made our ascend to MBC and ABC, an increase in another 1000m in altitude as we reach 4100m. For most of the day, mother nature blessed us with clear skies and brilliant sunshine.

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We were treated to amazing sights as the Himalayas finally burst into life. The walk to MBC was filled with roaring streams, sunshine lit hills and beautiful blue skies. Furthermore, we had a clear view of Annapurna from distance. We took our time to acclimatise to the altitude while taking photos and taking in the sights and sounds of the trek.

TravelLizard :: Annapurna Dreaming (Expedition Lost)
TravelLizard :: Annapurna Dreaming (Expedition Lost)
TravelLizard :: Annapurna Dreaming (Expedition Lost)
TravelLizard :: Annapurna Dreaming (Expedition Lost)

However, just as before, mother nature’s volatile mood showed up. As afternoon approached, the weather would not hold up, menacing clouds and strong winds shifted a massive wall of fog into our path. Visibility dropped several notches leaving us feeling tired, drained and lower in morale. We had to continuously will ourselves forward through the fog, and were overjoyed to catch the shadow of ABC in the fog.

TravelLizard :: Annapurna Dreaming (Expedition Lost)
TravelLizard :: Annapurna Dreaming (Expedition Lost)

Finally at long last, we had reached the climax of our trip. After a hearty lunch at ABC, we took a few hours in the afternoon to climb a few small hills at ABC to catch better sights of the Annapurna range. At night, we caught a spectacular starry night sky.

TravelLizard :: Annapurna Dreaming (Expedition Lost)
TravelLizard :: Annapurna Dreaming (Expedition Lost)
TravelLizard :: Annapurna Dreaming (Expedition Lost)
TravelLizard :: Annapurna Dreaming (Expedition Lost)

Day 11
We woke up at 5am today to catch sunrise at ABC. Fortunately we again had clear skies and were able to catch the Annapurna range being lit up by the rising sun. After breakfast, we say our goodbyes to ABC and were in extremely good spirits as we left.

TravelLizard :: Annapurna Dreaming (Expedition Lost)
TravelLizard :: Annapurna Dreaming (Expedition Lost)
TravelLizard :: Annapurna Dreaming (Expedition Lost)
TravelLizard :: Annapurna Dreaming (Expedition Lost)

The trek today was challenging as we descended 2000m in altitude from ABC to lower Sinuwa, passing by Bamboo along the way. It took us a full entire day to reach lower Sinuwa. Along the way, we had very few breaks and we rushed relentlessly towards our target. As afternoon approached, we were hit by incessant and heavy rain while being stuck in the forest.

This turned an already muddy path into water logged obstacles. Yet, we pushed on and slowly but surely approached Sinuwa. Sore knees and screaming feet, but we were very happy to have completed the day and reached a lovely lodge in lower Sinuwa. We also got our first bath in 3 days!!
Day 12
It is the rest and recovery day of our trek!! We took a 2.5hour trek up to Chongrong before descending rapidly to Jhinnu. Even though it is a short day, we encounter a hill of sorrow and spend a seemingly never ending time climbing up.

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Thankfully, Jhinnu is famous for its natural hot springs we take full advantage of to recover physically and mentally. At night, we have a celebratory dinner with our guides and happily party the night away.
Day 13
It is the toughest day of the trek as we make the extremely long journey from Jhinu to Potana. The trek is filled with many hills, slippery slopes and river crossings. Worse, we encounter multiple leech nests.

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Up to this point, we had encounter several leeches and had gotten used to their presence on the trek. Yet none of this could prepare us for the leech nests that we encountered today. The multiple leech ambushes left us bloody, battered, frustrated and weary. At each rest point, we had to take off our shoes and inspect our legs to find these blood suckers. This day, we truly tested every possible method of eliminating leeches. This ranged from Febreeze to hand sanitiser to salt to even coke. For those who are interested, coke does not work!! Rain the afternoon made things worse and we had to truly rely on each other to push forward.

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Finally when we reach Potanna in the evening, we breathed a great sigh of relief. We then promptly proceeded to do a final round up of the leeches and have a stomping fest.
Day 14

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TravelLizard :: Annapurna Dreaming (Expedition Lost)
TravelLizard :: Annapurna Dreaming (Expedition Lost)

Today marked the end of our trekking expedition as we trekked 3 hours, descending sharply from Potana. As we had our final lunch on the trke, we bidded farewell to our fantastic team of porters who had done their all to support our team. A bus then took us back to Pokhara where we finally got a nice bath and rested for the day.

Day 15&16
We spent the final 2 days of our trip having our R&R activities and travelling back to Kathmandu. Of particular note was the meaningful visits to the International Mountain Museum and the Tibetan Refugee Camp. If you are ever in Pohkara, these are 2 attractions not to miss out on. Finally, we caught our night flight back from Nepal to Singapore via KL. We missed the mountains but were glad to come home. Expedition Lost has been a success in spite of the incessant barrage of obstacles and adversity. I’m tremendously proud of my team for having stuck together and completed the trek. Till future adventures, Nepal, we will be back!!

SMUX Altitude Series Summer Trek 1 – Expedition #4GN 2016

Mount Siguniang National Park

Location: Changping Valley, Haizi Valley, DaFeng Peak @ Aba Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan, China.
Elevation: 3,160m – 5,038m
Duration: 12 days (02/05/16 – 13/05/16)

Brief Itinerary

Day 0 (2nd May)
Touch down in Chengdu

Day 1 (3rd May)
Chengdu - Yingxiu – Wolong – Mount Balang - Rilong Town (日隆镇) – Shen’s Family Guesthouse (四姑娘山沈家客栈)

Day 2 (4th May)
Jiajin Shan Scenic Area (Jiajin Shan [夹金山] - Jiajin Lake) – Lama Temple (达维喇嘛寺)

Day 3 (5th May)
Changping Valley trailhead – Lama Temple (喇嘛寺) – Ku Shu Tan (枯树滩) – Muluozi
(木骡子) campsite

Day 4 (6th May)
Muluozi (木骡子) campsite - Changping Valley (长坪沟) trailhead – Shen’s Family Guesthouse (四姑娘山沈家客栈)

Day 5 9 (7th May)
Rilong Town - Shuangqiao Valley (双桥沟)

Day 6 (8th May)
Haizi Valley (海子沟) trailhead – 老牛园子 (rest stop and lunch break) – Da Hai Zi (大海子) campsite

Day 7 (9th May)
DaHaiZi (大海子) campsite – DaFeng base camp

Day 8 (10th May)
SUMMIT Day!
DaFeng base camp – DaFeng summit – DaFeng base camp -老牛园子 (rest stop and lunch break) - Shen’s Family Guesthouse (四姑娘山沈家客栈)

Day 9 (11th May)
Rilong Town – Chengdu

Day 10 – 14 (12 – 14th May)
R&R

Trek Log
Written by Thng Kai Ling(Marketing/2IC)

“Everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you’re climbing it”
Andy Rooney

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(02/05/16, 0530H, Changi Airport)

To kick start SMUX Altitude Series this summer, a team of 9 departed for Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan, China, for Expedition #4GN!

Memories were made and friendships were forged over the 14 days. The expedition was nothing short of amazing and it will be something we will all remember fondly for a long time to come. This expedition was also a milestone for SMUX Trekking Team as Mount Siguniang was the first snow mountain successfully summited by the team!

Mount Siguniang, also known as Four Sisters Mountain, comprises of four peaks surrounded by three valleys. With the four peaks being the embodiments of the four sisters, the highest peak (Yaomei Feng) which represents the youngest sister stands at 6,250m and is known to be impossible to summit. The third sister (SanFeng) and second sister (Erfeng) stands at 5,664m and 5,445m respectively, with both involving a certain level of technical skills in order to climb. The oldest sister (DaFeng), standing at 5,035m is the most popular peak as it is the only trekking route out of the four.

Before I go on to reminisce about the trip, let me introduce to you Team #4GN!

I shall now rewind the clock back to Day 0 when the team set foot in Chengdu!

Day 0 – 2nd May

After spending close to half a day commuting from Singapore to Chengdu (with a stopover in Bangkok), we settled down at Chengdu Mix Hostel Backpackers before heading out to explore the vicinity and to fill up our empty stomachs. The team decided to rest early for the night as we will have to commute for another 8 hours reach our next destination (with a 2,500m increase in altitude) the following day.

Day 1 – 3rd May

The day started at 8am where we were greeted by our drivers who wore matchy purple shirts! We split up into two different mini vans and this marks the start of our 8 hour long ride to Rilong town (3,200m), a small Tibetan town which sits at the base of Mount Siguniang.

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Lunch was simple yet sumptuous at a local restaurant.

Culture fact #1: I found out that the number of dishes on the table is usually dependent on the number of people present (which explains the spread!).

The long journey to Rilong town continues after our tummies were full and happy. Some of us took the time to get some shut-eye, while some decided to take the time to get to know their buddies!

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Spot Ying Ling smiling for the camera in the background!

Along the way, we stopped by Balang Mountain.

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Balang mountain stands at an altitude of 4,480m and is the gateway to Mount Siguniang and Rilong Town. We were severely underdressed as many of us did not foresee such a quick change in landscape and temperature. At 4,480m, we were still in our slippers/sandals, dri-fit t-shirts and a thin windbreaker! However, that did not stop us from getting out of the vehicle to admire the beauty of the mountains before us!

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For some of us, it was the first time seeing snow and it was indeed an exhilarating moment to be out in the cold and getting a taste of what it’ll be like for the next 7 days at Rilong town!

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Spot the slippers/sandals!
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四姑娘山沈家客栈

Finally, after 8 hours in the vehicle, we were greeted by this colorful Tibetan style guesthouse which will be our accommodation during our stay in Rilong town! Hot tea was served to us by the lady boss, whom we dearly addressed as lao ban niang and we also met our guide, Dong Ge for the very first time! After settling down and ensuring that everyone has sufficient layers piled on, we took a walk nearby, had dinner, and rested for the night.

Day 2 – 4th May

Day 2 was a rest day for the team as we wanted to get our bodies accustomed to the sudden increase in altitude and decrease in temperature before embarking on a 2D1N trek the next day! Not wanting to waste the day away, we made a trip to Jiajin Shan Scenic Area which was about an hour drive away from the guesthouse.

4gn17The first stop was Jiajin Shan (4,114m).

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Kim Siang practicing his summit expression

To prep ourselves for the summit push which will take place a few days later, we went up the “mini slope” and 10 steps felt like 100 steps when you’re 4,000m above sea level.

We stopped by a small river enroute to Jiajin lake and the scene that greeted me reminded me of what I used to see in fairytale storybooks when I was a child.

The lake is located at the foot of the mountain and during winter, the water freezes up into a perfect place to ice-skate! I can only imagine how beautiful (and cold) that will be!

Our last stop for the day was a visit to a Lama Temple.

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The temple is still under reconstruction after being damaged in a fire.

And that concludes our second day in Rilong town!

Day 3 – 5th May

5th May marks the start of the first part of our expedition – 2D1N trek in Changping Valley!

After filling our stomachs with steamed buns and boiled eggs prepared by lao ban niang, we took a public bus to the trailhead of Changping Valley. The journey took about 40 minutes, and is approximately 7km away from where we were staying.

The first stop was a Lama Temple; a 5 minutes’ walk away from the entrance!

It was a toilet break cum add/remove layers break for the team.

A group photo before we set off! Spot the mountains at the back!!

The first part of the trek was manageable, with well-built wooden boardwalks.

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We were also fortunate to be blessed with good weather that day! After about an hour or so, we reached our first rest-stop, where we were awarded with an amazing view of the snow-capped mountains!

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Doesn’t this look like an image straight out from Google?

The next stop where we had our break was Ku Shu Tan (枯树滩), which literally means “withered tree beach” in English. I guess it got its name due to the withered-looking trees growing on the sandy soil.

4gn31It was not long before we finally arrived at our lunch-stop!

Some of us bought cup noodles from the stall while the rest snacked on nuts, cereal bars, beef jerky and bread rolls brought from the home/local mart. After fueling up, we were told that we are approximately an hour away from our campsite!

(Off we go!)

The terrain after our lunch stop was more rugged with the absence of the wooden boardwalks. Along the trek, some of us sang along to the plethora of songs playing from Min Quan’s speaker while some engaged in conversations with one another. Soon after, we finally caught a glimpse of our campsite!

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Excitedly making our way to Muluozi!

True enough to Dong Ge’s estimation, we arrived at Muluozi campsite after about an hour of trekking!

“Put on your rain jackets and rain cover!” was Nic’s (our training IC) order upon reaching the campsite. There was a slight drizzle and we huddled in a circle while waiting for Dong Ge and crew to unload the tents from the horses! The four tents were pitched in no time with 9 pair of hands.

With some spare time before dinner, we kept ourselves entertained by exploring the camping grounds, while some took a nap.

(Kim Siang and Min Quan keeping the team entertained)

Our campsite was also home to the horses and yaks and it was indeed an experience being so up close to these animals in the wild.

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The site was littered with the horse and yak dung and we had to watch where we were stepping most of the time. It was also then that Kim Siang and Nic decided to play the “poop game” which sent all of us into fits of laughter.

At about 7pm, the sky started to turn dark and we all headed into the wooden shed to have a simple yet filling dinner prepared by Dong Ge and crew. Our plans to stargaze were thwarted by the overcast skies that night and some decided to head back to the tents for an early night while the rest had a heart-to-heart sharing session.

Day 4 – 6th May

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What a view to wake up to!

Day 4 was mainly spent travelling back to Rilong Town from the valley. Call time for breakfast was at 9am and we had ample time to roam around after packing up and having our breakfast. The owner of the campsite lost one of his horses therefore Dong Ge gave us the option to help the owner to look for the missing horse while he and his crew load up the equipment. And so, off we go, in search of the missing horse!

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We ventured deeper into the valley and came across yet another amazing sight! With a view like this, we had to do something memorable – a parody of a scene from D.O.T.S.

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Our very own big boss and Doctor Kang

I guess the horse ventured too far off into the wilderness and we had to make our way back to the campsite as it was time to set off!

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A group photo before setting off!

We left the campsite at about 10am and from there on, it was the same route back all the way to the entrance!

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Changping Valley conquered!

It was late noon by the time we were back at the guesthouse. Since we had some spare time before dinner, everyone took the chance to take a shower, do the laundry, and get some rest!

Day 5 – 7th May

The day started off with a simple breakfast of boiled eggs, steamed buns and piping hot porridge. This is our last rest day before we head off to base camp hence the team decided to explore the second valley – Shuangqiao Valley.

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Shuangqiao valley is the most accessible and touristy valley out of the three valleys in Mount Siguniang National Park. We managed to get student-priced tickets thanks to our fellow team mates whom brought their student cards along! The valley is approximately 35km long and spans an area of 215 km2. It is different from the other valleys as there is a public bus that runs through it. We hopped onto one of the buses which took us all the way into the farthest point of the valley.

We reached our stop after about 40 minutes and from there, we decided to explore the valley on foot for as long as we could! It started to rain the moment we disembarked from the bus but the team was well prepared! After donning on our rain jackets, we were ready to go!!

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Cold and rainy day

There were wooden boardwalks built which makes this valley the most accessible one out of the three valleys. Shuangqiao valley is also deemed as the most beautiful valley out of the three valleys as one will be able to get a view of Mount Siguniang as well as other snowcapped mountains. However, the weather was not on our side that day and we could barely spot any of the snowcapped mountains. Nevertheless, we continued to trek on, keeping our spirits high by blasting pop hits, cracking jokes and engaging in endless conversations 🙂

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Thankfully, the sky started to clear up as the day progressed and we managed to catch a glimpse of one of the many snowcapped mountains surrounding the valley! Like any other valleys, the animals roamed and grazed freely. Along the way, the team encountered an aggressive yak bellowing at us from a distance. Everyone was on high alert as we kept our heads low and quietly made our way past.

After a few hours on foot, we finally reached one of the main attractions in the valley – the white stupa. We stopped to rest our legs and refuel. Some of us munched on snacks that we brought along while some bought grilled mushrooms, potato and yak meat from the local vendors. After an hour or so, we continued on as we had to make our way to the bus stop before the last bus ceases its operation!

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1 x act cool shot
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Ku Shu Tan II

It started to drizzle once again and we decided to seek shelter at the bus stop and end our trek for the day. It was close to an hour’s wait before the public bus arrived. During the one-hour wait, some of us took the time to catch some Z’s while the rest roamed around the stalls operated by the locals and engaged in conversations with a young boy who seemed to be helping his parents out for the weekend!

Before heading back to the guesthouse, we stopped by the local mart to stock up on food supplies and other necessary items to prepare for the next and final leg of our expedition.

After dinner that night, the team gathered for bag check to ensure that no one is bringing anything more or less than the essential for our trek to the base camp. We also had a team talk cum sharing session to set expectations for the next three days as well as to find out everyone’s thoughts and feelings on the expedition thus far.

Day 6 – 8th May

Day 6 marks the start of the last leg of our expedition. We will be spending the next 3 days trekking to Haizi Valley, DaFeng base camp, DaFeng summit, and back to Rilong town.

We set off by foot from our guesthouse all the way up a long flight of stairs which leads to the trailhead of Haizi Valley.

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Entrance of Haizi Valley

Upon reaching the entrance, we took a 15 minutes break while Dong Ge went on to purchase our tickets and did the necessary registration. From here onwards, it was an arduous trek all the way up to our second rest point. The team became silent as we slowly but steadily made our way up.

Our hard work paid off as we were rewarded with this stunning view after making our way up.

4gn57We stopped for a break to catch our breaths, fuel up and take photos before moving on.

4gn58From the second rest point, we stopped for a break after every hour or so to ensure that everyone hydrates and layered on enough for the trek. The terrain was mostly flat land with gentle inclines every now and then.

Lunch was a simple affair at老牛园子, a stop where most trekkers will make on the way to Da Hai Zi. We were not blessed with a good weather that day as it started to rain while we were having our lunch. As we progressed on to higher altitude, the rain soon turned to hail and the wind was so strong that Dong Ge ordered us to layer on more clothes to keep ourselves warm.

(Getting closer to the clouds as we went deeper into the valley!)

We finally made it to Da Hai Zi campsite after braving through the rain, hail and wind!

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Da Hai Zi campsite – where we slept for the night

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Our tents were already set up by Dong Ge’s crew as they arrived ahead of us. The rain brought the temperature down significantly and it felt like winter there and then. Dong Ge ushered us into the hut to get some warmth while he and his crew boiled water and whipped up a simple dinner for us.

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Dinner that night tasted exceptionally delicious as we stood around the outdoor table and gobbled down our food in the cold. As it was still a tad too early for bed, we gathered inside the hut once again for warmth while Dong Ge and crew had their dinner.

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Getting some warmth near the fire place

Despite the freezing cold, my heart was warmed by the sight I saw; everyone was huddling together in the hut, engaging in small talks and sharing interesting stories. The owner of the hut offered us IKEA coffee and suggested having a mini singing competition. Kai Tsi surprised us with his singing abilities by singing a short version of “Home” which got all of us singing along together.

The sky turned dark and we decided that it’s time for us to get some rest as we have a long day ahead of us.

Day 7 – 9th May

The rain lasted through the night and we woke up with some us having to deal wet socks as the water seeped through the edges of the tent while we were asleep.

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Over-turned tents to drain out the water

Breakfast was the usual steamed buns and boiled eggs. Thankfully the sky cleared up and we had some spare time that day therefore Dong Ge gave us an hour or so to explore the lake and capture some memories.

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Da Hai Zi

We walked further down to explore the area and was greeted by another view that seems straight out of Google.

The next part of the trek was yet another arduous climb up a hill. We had short breaks in between to hydrate and rest whilst reeling in the fact that we are one step closer to the base camp as the terrain changes from green to white.

We stopped for lunch halfway through and Dong Ge informed us we’re close to the base camp from our rest stop. It was definitely lunch with one of the best views in the world.

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Spot the hut in the distance! That’s DaFeng’s base camp!

In less than an hour’s time from our lunch stop, we finally reached DaFeng base camp!

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We managed to reach early and had the camping grounds all to ourselves as there were no other trekkers that day. Dong Ge and crew went off to prepare dinner while we roamed around; throwing snowballs and playing resistance. We had an early dinner and went to bed at about 7pm as summit push was scheduled to be at 4am the next day.

As it was too cold to be sleeping outdoors, the 9 of us squeezed into a hut and laid our sleeping bags on the wooden planks. One by one, we drifted off into dreamland, accompanied by the cold and the snores.

Day 8 – 10th May

Adrenaline at its highest, we trudged through the snow at 4am in the morning in a single file. All conversations ceased as we focused on watching where we were stepping in the dark and concentrated on our breathings. We had short breaks in between for us to catch our breaths and drink up.

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A photo taken by Dong Ge with the nine of us in the background!

As the sky was still dark in the wee hours in the morning, there were stars shining brightly down on us and it felt like the stars were encouraging us to persevere on and not give up. There were times when my lungs felt like exploding but I got encouraged by the fact that the stars are shining (for us).

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Moments before the sun rises!

FINALLY, at 8am, Team #4GN successfully set foot on the peak of DaFeng at 5,035m.

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Some of us celebrated the moment by snacking on a snicker bar while some took in the sights and grandeur of DaFeng by whipping out our phones and cameras to capture that special moment.

(This is what being 5,035m above sea level looks like)

Dong Ge informed us that we were lucky to have a very good weather that day therefore we were given extra time to stay on the peak to relish in the moment and take photos!

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Team #4GN!

The descend down was by no means any easier than the ascend as we had to trekked down very steep slopes with snow that was thicker than usual. There was a point where the snow was too thick for us to walk down that the Dong Ge gave us the green light to slide down after ensuring that it was safe for us to do so.

(Sights along the way down which we did not managed to see in the dark on the way up)

We successfully made our way back to base camp in about 2 hours and Dong Ge prepared a simple brunch for us before we pack up to head back to Rilong Town.

We took a different route back to Rilong Town and we walked past yet another stupa on the way back!

(White stupa surrounded by the colorful Tibetan prayer flags – a sight that never fails to amaze us)

Along the way back, we met fellow trekkers who were on their way to DaFeng base camp and we greeted each other with a “你好” (Hello) before going on to proudly announce that “我们登山了!” (We summited!). Back at the guesthouse, lao ban niang welcomed us warmly by preparing hot tea for us!

Dinner that night was special as Dong Ge and crew joined us for a celebratory meal with lao ban niang preparing twice the amount of dishes on the dining table that night. Everyone was on cloud nine after having successfully summited DaFeng and it was a night of fun and laughter as we sat round the dining table after dinner to exchange stories and handed Dong Ge and crew our Team #4GN shirt as well as some local mementos to show our appreciation for the past week and to thank them for bringing us up and down the mountain safely.

The sky turned dark as the night falls and it was soon time for Dong Ge and crew to head back home. We said our last goodbyes before sending Dong Ge and crew home. After a heartwarming dinner, the packing madness ensued as we were scheduled to head back to Chengdu the next morning.

Day 9 – 11th May

 Breakfast this morning was a little special and different from usual as we requested for lao ban niang to prepare noodles for us instead of the usual steamed buns and boiled eggs.

As the Chinese saying goes : “天下没有不散之宴席” (All good things have to come to an end). It was finally time for us to bade goodbye to this beautiful town and the kind locals which hosted us for the past week. It was a bittersweet feeling as the van drove further and further away till the guesthouse was no longer in sight.

 Day 10 -13 (12 – 14th May)

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At the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding!

The next few days were spent in Chengdu exploring the city. We visited the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, caught a face-changing opera and some of us even went out of the city to trek Mount Qingcheng (1,260m) which is known to be one of the most famous Taoist mountains in China.

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Mount Qingcheng conquered!

On the last day, the group split up as three of us went off to continue exploring the other parts of China while the rest flew back home! And with that, we officially concluded Expedition #4GN!

Expedition #4GN was a smooth sailing one albeit with little hiccups along the way. Many of us were first-time trekkers going on a big expedition and we were indeed blessed with favorable conditions throughout the trek. Having not knowing each other at all before the expedition, it was indeed surprising that our personalities gel together to form Team #4GN.

Before I end of this post, I would just like to share a little on the quote posted at the very beginning of the post!

“Everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you’re climbing it”
Andy Rooney

This has to be my biggest takeaway from Expedition #4GN.

Trekking may seem like an easy outdoor sport to many, and I feel that people tend to misunderstand the very nature of this sport by labelling it as “just walking”. It takes a huge amount of determination, perseverance and willpower to reach the peak and a whole lot of courage to make the descent.

Sometimes, in the pursuit of reaching the peak (our goals), our vision gets narrowed and we are often blinded by the thought of making it to the top that we often forget the little things we experienced and gained along the way. This quote resonates with me as I realized that the things I remember the most was not the moment when I finally set foot on the summit but those little moments along the way to the summit that made the expedition so memorable.

Times when the going gets tough but we pushed on together as a team and encouraged one another, times when someone cracked a joke or did something silly during one of our breaks and times when we shared our supply of hot water and food (beef jerky, lu dan) during the trek.

It has been great writing this post and reliving the memories of this expedition! I hope you had a great time reading it too!

Love,
Team #4GN

(Photos by Kai Ling (me!), Kuanhe and Nicholas)

Mid Term Trek 2016 (1) – Bukit Kutu & Sungai Ampang

Bukit Kutu & Sungai Ampang 2016

Bukit Kutu
Location: Kuala Kubu Baru, Selangor, Malaysia
Elevation: 1103 m (3620 ft)
Time taken to ascend: 4h
Time taken to descend: 4h
Difficulty: Moderate!

Sungai Ampang
Location: Ulu Klang, Selangor, Malaysia
Time taken to reach lowest tier: 1h
Difficulty: Beginner friendly!

Trek Log
Written by Jasmine Koh (OIC)

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Introducing those trekking with the SMUX Trekking Team for the first time! Left to right, Dong Wei, Zekiel, Samuel, Cheryl and Nicholas!
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On 24th February, we gathered outside SMUX room at 10pm for a short briefing and distribution of logistics before leaving for Malaysia.

The 6-hour long journey went pretty smooth for us. We reached our breakfast place at about 6am and our guides were already there! Since we did not stop along the way to have supper, most of us (or maybe just me) were really hungry by then. Breakfast was at a typical prata place where we had our pratas and tehs and maggi goreng. What caught our attention was this item on their menu called Roti Bro. It was as though it was calling out to us, like ‘Brooooo, have some roti bro’, so we responded to the calling! (which was eggs and onions served with bread)
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After breakfast, we set off on a 15min ride to the base of Bukit Kutu. The scenery along the way to the base was breathtaking! Our driver allowed us to open our windows to enjoy the view and breeze. Quoting Samuel, ‘this must be what dogs feel like when they get to stick out their heads on car rides!!’

After a short safety briefing and warm ups, we started our trek! The entire trek itself took about 8 hours. We were blessed with the best weather anyone could ask for on a Malaysia trek, it did not rain and despite it being sunny, there were strong winds keeping us cool.

There were several river crossings along the way.

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Our first river crossing! A few of us insisted on keeping our shoes dry (because we forgot water shoes sigh) so we took the bridge while the rest just walked across the river.
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It wasn’t too long till we reached our second river crossing. There were rocks strategically placed for us to get across but not enough for my short legs as I eventually gave up and just let my shoes submerged in the cooling water.
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There were a lot of fallen bamboos and logs along our path which we had to crawl under to get across, not much of an issue for me but really tiring for the taller ones to be bending continuously.
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About 2 hours into the trek, we reached some huge (like really HUGE) boulders with a pretty interesting stacking layout and decided to take a break there.
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Another 2 hours from here we reached our next rest point, a chimney! The summit is just 10min away from here but because it was quite crowded at the summit, our guide suggested that we take a break and have our lunch first.

Bukit Kutu was once a colonial hill station called ‘Treacher’s Hill’. The chimney is said to be a leftover from one of the buildings back then. The right path of the chimney leads to the summit boulder and the path behind the chimney leads towards the old ruins.
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View from the summit!!
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Meet Mr Fabz – there were ladders to assist people in getting up the boulders at the summit for a better view too!
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The old ruins.

By the time we came back down, it was close to 5pm. We took a short break and left for our dormitory. We spent our night at Gunung Nuang Dormitory, where we also cooked our own dinner! Thanks to our logs i/c for this trek, Kailing, our logs head, ShiHui, and everyone for each bringing a food item to share, we had a really successful outdoor cooking session! (I measured level of success by how full and satisfied everyone was after dinner!)

We woke up early the next morning, had our breakfast and waited for our driver to take us to Sungai Ampang. The trek to and fro Sungai Ampang took us about 3 hours.
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We spent some time chilling by the mini waterfall, the sound of the water falling was really soothing and just watching the water run felt strangely therapeutic too. Everyone was getting too comfortable with nature but it was time to leave unfortunately.

Our driver dropped us off for lunch at a hawker nearby and then we continued our 6-hour long ride back to Singapore. It was a pity that our driver forgot to stop us for dinner at Taman Sentosa but we ended our trip with a dinner together back at our most frequent place, Waterloo (咸蛋排骨!!).

Overall, the trek has been an enjoyable and timely break from school for us to just temporary disconnect from our worries, take a breather and recharge for the remaining term. 🙂

Gunung Datuk Sunrise Trek 2016

Gunung Datuk 2016

Location: Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia
Elevation: 884m (2,990ft)
Duration: 2N1D
Date: 15th - 16th Jan
Time taken to ascend: 2h
Time taken to descend: 2h
Difficulty: Beginner Friendly :)

Brief Itinerary
2130: Depart from SMU
0000: Supper at JB
0300: Arrive at base of Gunung Datuk
0400: Start climb!
0600: REACHED PEAK!! ~Enjoyed the sunrise~
0800: Start descend
1000: End of trek
1300: Lunch @ Tampin town
1500: R&R @ KSL Mall
1900: Home sweet home:)


Trek Log
Written by: Fabian Seow (Marketing/Logs IC)

 

To kick start the new year, the SMUX trekking team set out to catch the sunrise from atop Gunung Datuk.

The team gathered outside the SMUX room at 2130hrs for the trip briefing and distribution of logistics. We also shot out first group photo to officially mark the start of the trip. Special shout out to Mackenzie, Felix and Jun (exchange students who decided to join our trip).

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At 2130hrs, the 20 of us comfortably hopped into 2 vans which brought us through the checkpoint and onwards to supper. We encountered a slight jam along the way, but fortunately, we had included buffer time in our planning to negate it.

At midnight, we reached our supper place, a Mamak, which served typical supper fare in the form of prata, magi goreng, teh tarik…etc. Of note, we were very eager to let Jun, Felix and Mackenzie try out our favorite foods. The favorite of which was apparently the banana prata! Having satisfied our tummies, we got back into our vans for a 2hr ride to the base of Gunung Datuk.

We arrived at the base at 3.15am where we had a safety briefing and did our warm ups. The base was already filled with other trekkers who we would be sharing the ascent with. Apparently, great minds think alike. Shortly after at 0350hrs, we met up with our 3 guides and commenced our trek.

The first 30 minutes of the trek was slightly challenging as the slope was steep and our team had not caught much rest on our journey. Within a few minutes, we were covered in perspiration as we pushed through the the humid environment. Moreover, the path seemed to go on forever as the only thing we could see were the spots of lights emitting from fellow trekkers’ head lamps who were climbing ahead of us. Nonetheless, our team made good progress and reached the first checkpoint at 0430hrs. There, we took a break to catch our breath, drink up and reenergize. During this break, our guides engaged us in conversation, sharing their own trekking experiences and gave us ideas for future treks. They even gave me tips on making trek logs (hope I do them proud here!).

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The trek became slightly easier thereafter, as we had gotten use to the pace and the terrain. At some point, our guides stopped us and requested us to switch off our headlamps. With no lights, we were supposed to be able to see glow worms. Unfortunately, I did not see any of them. Nonetheless, those few moments in the dark were nice as it gave us the opportunity to soak in the surroundings.

At 0511hrs, we decide to a take a short break. At this point, the air has gotten much cooler. As we sit on logs and stones, Mackenzie proclaims that is is sandwich time, before pulling out a cheese sandwich, which truthfully looked declicious. Unfortunately, as she reached the last third of it, the flies decided to crash the party. As such she had to keep it back in her bag.

The next part of the trek passes by pretty fast as the team had momentum and was in good spirits. I caught several glimpses of tree sap which glowed when my headlamp light reached it, giving me a pretty sight. At 0542hrs, we reach Gunung Datuk’s boulders. This signified that the summit was within reach. We began our climb up the ladders which was a pretty scary task, fortunately the guides were experienced and helped to stabilize the ladders, making our climb much easier.

0600hrs, the team summited Gunung Datuk. We were greeted with the great night time scenery. We happily find a spot on the peak and settle down to have breakfast while waiting for sunrise. As we pass around bread, energy bars and cherry tomatoes (genius decision to buy), our guides pulled out their mess tin to have tea.

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At 0700hrs, the sun began to rise. Unfortunately, it chose to hide behind its cloud pals, leading to a less than spectacular sunrise. Nonetheless, we enjoyed the beautiful view of the surroundings. At this point, we also started our photo craze. Noel in particular had his hands full, helping the team take amazing photos. I myself whipped out my GoPro to film as much of the scene as possible (good times!).

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Annoyingly, the sunrise also told the flies that it was the start of the day. A large number of flies began to irritate the crowd at the summit, slightly souring the experience.

At 0750hrs, we began the descent. The descent was arguably tougher as we had to dragged our tired bodies down steep territory. In fact, I was tempted to write off the night climb as a dream as I failed to recognize much of the path. At very least, the descent gave us an idea of how much we had actually done in the night (a great effort!). Certain parts of the path were challenging and some members of the team resorted to sliding down short portions.14

Of particular note, Gunung Datuk attracts plenty of locals on the weekend. We encounter many more groups on their weekend climb as we descend. Yingling enthusiastically greets each and everyone of them; for her effort, she receives equally warm greetings, thus proving that the culture and spirit of trekking is well and alive.

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Finally at 1000hrs, we reached the end of the trek and made our way back to the vans. We thanked our guides, conducted cool down before proceeding to wash up. Unfortunately, the bathing facilities at Gunung Datuk was extremely limited. Desperate, the guys on the team resort to an open shower (it is technically just a pipe that sticks out of the ground). Well at very least, it was an interesting experience.

Having just completed the trek, the team was starving, and our drivers answered our needs by brining us to have good chicken rice. At very affordable price, the restaurant served a generous serving. After lunch, we proceeded to KSL city for a little R&R. While half of the team went off in search for a massage, the rest of us went in search of food. We also brought Jun, who is from Korea, to try durian! After our R&R, we made our journey back across the checkpoint and back to SMU for a debrief.

Thank you Gunung Datuk for playing host to the opening trek of 2016 for the SMUX trekking team! For now, Home Sweet home!

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Syue Shan & Wuling Shuang Xiu (2015)

Taiwan Expedition 2015

Location: Syue Shan, Chiyou Shan, Pintian Shan @ Taichung, Taiwan
Elevation: 3,886m, 3,301m, 3,524m respectively
Duration: 6 days (8th Dec 2015 - 13th Dec 2015)

Brief Itinerary
Day 0
 Touch down in Taiwan!!!!

Day 1
 Transfer from Taipei to Taichung
 Syue Shan Trailhead to 7 Card Cabin

Day 2
 7 Card Cabin - Syue Shan East Peak - 369 Cabin

Day 3
 Rest Day @ 369 Cabin

Day 4
 369 Cabin - Sunrise at Syue Shan Main Summit - 369 Cabin - Syue Shan Trailhead - Wu Ling Farm (at Shei-Pa National Park)
 *3am summit push*

Day 5
 Wu Ling Farm - Taoshan Waterfall - Wu Ling Trailhead - Chiyou Shan - Xin Da Cabin

Day 6
 Sin Da Cabin - Pintian Shan - Wu Ling Trailhead
 Transfer back to Taipei

Trek Log 
Written by Lee Ying Shan (Admin I/C) and Gerald Tan (OIC)

Last December, 13 of us embarked on a 6-day trek expedition to Taiwan – the org com had set their sights on conquering 3 peaks in this order: Xueshan, Chiyou shan, and lastly Pintian shan! For someone who has mainly only “trekked” at Macritchie all her life, this trip was indeed an eye opener and the takeaways from my first legitimate trekking expedition is something that would remain with me for a lifetime, no less thanks to the amazing people I got to share this experience with! I hereby introduce you to them:

1
Our OIC Gerald Tan
2
Marketing and finance IC April Tan
3
Training and logs IC and part time photographer Chong Shihui
4
Admin and safety IC Lee Ying Shan (that’s me!)
5
Jasmine Koh
6
Kenny Tan
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See Ying Ling (back then incoming Trekking TM) 
“When I’m trekking I like to imagine myself as a mountain goat”
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Chandan Partab Mansukhani (back then outgoing Trekking TM – he has since retired)
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Xu Longxiang (Self proclaimed Trek God)
“This is my last trekking trip” (Xu, 2015)
and then one month later he goes on to sign himself up for Mt Datuk
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Our ever bubbly and youthful grandma Sheriel Chia
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Marc Xu (Emperor Xu)
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Clare Yip
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Noel Soong (also our full time photographer of the trip!)
Thank you Noel!

 

Personally, I’ve always had a keen interest in trekking because of the balance it strikes between being able to appreciate nature firsthand while at the same time challenging and pushing the limits of an individual. This trek had definitely fulfilled my expectations! But before we go on to the mountain climbing part, let us backtrack to Day 0 when the team first arrived at our accommodation at Taipei, Ximending.

 

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Dec 7th – Day 0

The participants booked their own individual tickets to Taiwan and hence arrived at different timings – but once all 13 participants gathered together we went all out pigging out/carbo-loading around the food stalls of Ximending.

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Guess Who!

 

Some of the food that we personally recommend are:

  1. Beef cubes!!
  2. Ji pa a.k.a chicken cutlets (Chandan’s favorite)
  3. Papaya milkshake
  4. Bittergourd juice(actually only April recommended this – try at your own risk)
  5. Yam ice cream with peanut shavings
  6. Taiwan prata(Chandan loved this too)
  7. Oyster Mee sua
  8. Fried milk!!
  9. Mala steamboat

The list is endless but since this is a trek log and not an eating log I shall stop here.

After being sufficiently fed, all of us went back to retire at Gosleep hotel where we had a short pre-trip briefing, followed by bag checks(so that we don’t bring excessively heavy loads up the hike!). And with food in our tummies and anticipation in our hearts for the next few days, we turned in for the night.

 

Dec 8th – Day 1

Our bus to Taichung came at approximately in the afternoon, and that was when we got introduced to our two friendly guides, Xiao Pang (which can be translated to ‘Little Fatty’) and K2!

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Final group picture before setting off! (Missing Marc and Clare who were perusing the lavatory – nature called them too early)

 

The bus ride took about 4 to 5 hours in total before we reached Wuling Villa – some of us got very bus-sick and it was definitely not the most pleasant experience, but all was worth it when we were greeted by a sumptuous dinner at the villa – consisting of fish, other delicacies and prawns skillfully peeled by the Trek God. After being sufficiently fed(again), the team boarded the bus for a short 15 minutes before reaching the Wuling Trailhead. By that time, it was around 8pm, the sky was already dark and the wind was slightly chilly. We proceeded to put on our trusty headlamps and commenced our trek up to Qika Cabin, which took about 45 minutes. The campgrounds felt as if it came straight out of a horror movie setting, but it had its own modest charm! (Think Cabin in the Woods!) The cabin had no lights and heater, and was a very simple yet homely structure. After setting down our belongings in the cabin, our motley crew piled out into the open grounds and laid on each others’ laps(this was more innocent than it sounds) as we took in the beauty of the star-filled skies…

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There was a point in time when all of us ceased all conversation and simply basked in the all-encompassing silence, each having our own deep epiphanies while Marc was in one corner trying to activate his 3G data but to no avail.

Personally, that was my very first time beholding such amazing night sky and it felt very surreal that I finally got to experience something that I’ve only heard about and seen so much in pictures; all I wanted to do was commit that moment to memory. That night only marked the beginning of many humbling experiences to come for all 13 of us, and as we sat on the cold grounds laughing and competing with each other on how many shooting stars we can spot, the night suddenly felt a lot warmer.

 

Dec 9th Day 2

We started the day off with some breakfast made by the porter – our simple fare consisted of porridge, vegetables, mantou as well as milo and coffee!

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How the cabin looks like in the day, basically how we slept was through spreading our sleeping bags across these wooden frames and snuggled against each other for extra warmth and comfort. One can also catch snatches of the occasional snoring by a very exhausted Trek God. If you are a light sleeper like our training I/C Shihui, we recommend bringing ear plugs (legitimate advice haha!) because the cabin is really quite the communal setting – but this only makes the entire experience more cozy, really! 🙂

Anyway, after a night of ample rest(for most of us at least), the team was all ready for an entire day’s worth of hike to our next destination – 369 Cabin!

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Just doing some warm ups! – our guides were very amused when they took this for us.
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Our full team trek photo outside the cabin, flanked by our two handsome guides!

The first two hours of our trek was smooth sailing and consisted mainly of gentle slopes – it wasn’t very cold either due to the lack of strong winds; the temperature staggered around 12 degrees Celsius and it felt just right (warm enough for Yingling to still wander around in shorts). Too bad it will only get colder from here on as we progressed to higher altitude!

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The unbeatable pair!

In between each hour of trekking, we took gaps of water breaks spanning 15 minutes each, no longer no shorter. This was so that our participants stay adequately hydrated while ensuring that we clock the distance and reach our destination within stipulated time!

Eventually we reached our pit stop where we had our lunch, consisting of bread provided by the vendors(they taste a lot better than normal bread, especially when one is hungry!)

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“Are we there yet????”

After our lunch, the team was prepared to conquer the crying slope, which looked like the stairway to hell – the gradient was pretty steep and escalating and our guides warned us of a sudden onslaught of cold winds, hence it was a good call to don our extra layers!

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All wrapped up! (Notice how the fearless TM is still in her shorts)

 

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The start of our embarkation up the Crying Slope! It was a steep and windy hike up and I never knew why it was named that way, but someone came up with the proposition that it was because people tended to cry when they climb up the slope. Perhaps!

It was also during this part of the trek where one of our participants’ phobia for heights started to materialize in all its full brunt. After all, we were able to have quite the panoramic view of all that was below us – it was indeed beautiful and magnificent, yet commands a certain degree of fear in its own way. Either way, the team understood where he was coming from, and our ever patient and Samaritan training I/C Shihui offered to hold his hand throughout the journey – and together, they conquered it.

After all,

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After an hour or so of scaling the slope, our crew finally made it to what was waiting for us at the top: Xueshan’s East Peak!! (Not to be confused for the main peak, which we were supposedly set to climb the next day!)

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A group photo at the East Peak! Still a long ways to go before reaching the next stop!

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The gradient of the slopes gradually became gentler, but it was still quite a challenging stretch of hike. Hour after hour wore on, the sun was beginning to set and the temperature was steadily dropping. Although I was beginning to feel the buildup of exhaustion coming from the load on my back, each time I lifted my head to take in the beauty that was around us, as well as the steady consistency of my friends in front, I felt strangely rejuvenated and ready to take a few more steps. It was also heartwarming to encounter fellow hikers on their descent; every simple gesture like “how are you!” and “all the best on the way up!” can really go so far!

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After all, every journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step,
And each step you take is one step closer to your goal!

Eventually, with great persistence, we made it to our accommodation for the next two days – 369 Cabin!!

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Like Qika Cabin, it was also quite the simple structure without lights and heaters, and the toilet and tiny cookhouse were separate outhouses! It was pretty cute. At this altitude, the temperature can drop to below 0 degree Celsius in the night. This was also when we spammed our heatpacks(which in my opinion is one of the best inventions ever).

The team quickly settled down and made our way to the cookhouse to have some ginger tea specially brewed by the guides there! For extra warmth, we huddled against each other in one corner of the tiny kitchen on the floor as we had our dinner.

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What our meals for the next two days generally looked like ~ quite like a buffet in the mountains! (Although the only thing Chandan liked were the mantous)

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“Are you sure we’re related?”

Come 7pm, the sky was already dark. At this point in time, the guides told us that our plans to summit push the next day may be compounded by wet weather and that our contingency plans may have to be activated. Still, we had hopes in our hearts, and gradually all of us fell asleep to the cacophony of howling winds and snoring orchestra. This time our casualty is our OIC Gerald, who was sandwiched in between two very tired trekkers…

 

Dec 10th Day 3 

Day 3 was supposed to be the day we pushed off for our sunrise summit at 3am, but we woke up to the sound of heavy rain and hence promptly went back to sleep. When we awoke at 7am again for breakfast, it was still drizzling. Plans to go for the summit that day was called off, sunrise or no sunrise, due to the dangers of trekking on slippery grounds – Little Fatty shared with us a recount of someone who still insisted on hiking despite the rain, and he slipped and met with a gruesome demise. We decided to stay indoors.

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This was basically how spent the entire day, huddling in a circle in the cookhouse playing Murderer, Connect and burning bridges. I suppose the rain itself was a hidden blessing, because that was when I got to know my fellow trekkers a bit better. The day passed by very quickly that way.

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Chandan regulating the Murderer sessions

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After almost an entire day, the rain eventually cleared and the fog gave way, and we were rewarded with a splendid view of the mountains and clouds ahead of us. We never really got a proper glimpse of what laid beyond because our view had been obscured by the fog ever since we reached the cabin the day before, so it was nothing short of magical when we got to witness it!

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“Look! That’s our youth passing by!”
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Step (Literally)

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How the cabin looked like at night – for me, throughout the trek I always find myself looking forward to the dusk the most, because that’s when all the stars come out! Somehow, looking at them always makes me feel closer to the people who are far away and whom I miss – because if anything, it reminds me that we are all still under the same blanket of sky; and maybe, just maybe, they are looking up at the same stars as well.

Aaand this would conclude my part of the Trek Log! Gerald will be covering the next few days of the trek! 🙂

Signing off, Ying Shan

Photos with due credits to Noel (#visualizard) and Shihui!

 

Dec 11th Day 4

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We decided to sequence back the summit push the early morning of day 4 and woke up at 2am to prepare for it. Personally, I didn’t get much rest as I had slept quite a bit the day before and could not fall asleep. This was also compounded by the fact that I was hyped up for the summit push. When the time came for us to be up everyone felt groggy and cold but promptly prepared our stuff and went for breakfast. After the briefing by the guides, the eleven of us left the cabin at about 3.15am. Decision was made by two members to remain back the cabin as the condition was deemed unsuitable for them. It was dark dead in the night with practically zero visibility. Everyone had their headlamps on and it was briefed that we have to stay close to one another at all times. Chandan added that the steps that we take especially during a night trek is that all of our steps has got to be deliberate to prevent slipping.

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The summit pushed started with an open terrain with gentle slope. Less the winds, it was manageable. This went on for about 45 minutes to an hour before we hit the forested area. Winds became less strong but it was still rather cold. We had to slow down slightly as there were participants that did not feel as well due to the cold. With encouragement and warm water from our thermos, all was overcame. We rested for about ten minutes at the second rest point. Step by step, we were getting higher and caught the glimpse of the summit while we were at our third rest point. The trees began to fade and we were again entering an open terrain area where we were exposed to the chilling winds. The view of the sky was simply amazing and we managed to catch a few shooting stars while enjoying the night sky during the rest. At this moment, I think everyone were pumped up to reach the summit. We rested for a good 15 minutes before we proceeded with the last trench of the summit push. As we continued pushing, the sun was already rising and darkness was slowly fading off. There was still one more checkpoint before the summit of the second highest peak in Taiwan. When we were at the checkpoint it was already ten minutes to sunrise at 5.56am. We decided to stay at the mini peak to enjoy the view of the majestic sunrise and rest at the same time. The view was simply amazing.

 

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We rested for about 20minutes and the guides signalled for us to finish up with the photo taking, and it was finally the last 40 minutes of the trek before were reached the summit. Along the way, the terrain began to get really slippery as ice were forming. We had to thread carefully by the side of path as about eighty percent of the path were covered in ice at some portions of the trek. It was later that I found out from the guide this was a really crucial part of the trek. Quite a few in the past has fell to their death due to negligence we well as bad weather. And just like that we had reached the summit at 7am.

Our morale were at an all-time high. Everyone slapped high fives with each other and some were shouting for joy. We are finally at the summit of Taiwan’s second highest peak. The feeling was rather surreal. For the majority of us, it was the first time that we had conquered a peak and witnessed a view such as this. We spent quite a fair bit of time taking pictures and enjoying the view and left the peak at about 7.45am. It took us a total of about 3.8hours to complete our summit push.

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A bit xiao cold up there though

Prior to the departure, it was briefed to everyone on the things to note when descending in a trek and the proper use of the trek pole to provide support for the knees. The journey down to the 369 cabin was much faster. And we manage to reach our first check point of the summit push in just 2 hours and 15 minutes. We decided to rest there, all of us lay down on the grass and we spent some time there enjoying the sun and the view that was before us. Next, we headed back to the 369 cabin and to rest and have our noodle breakfast at 11am.

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Just doing a bit of grass rolling

We had the delicious noodles and departed 369 cabin at 12pm. The descending journey down was once again much faster than when we came up. In the process of the descent, Marc was actually able to overcome his fear of heights by at least 75%. This was a great improvement from when we first started trekking. We passed by the major check points such as the East Peak, 7 Card villa and finally the trail head. This was where the chartered bus by the vendors were already waiting to send us back to Wuling Farm Villa. We were there at the Xue Shan’s Trailhead at 4.30pm. It took us a duration of about 4hours to descent from 369 cabin to the trailhead.

The drive from the trailhead to Wuling Farm took about 30 minutes. We first went to the dining hall to have our dinner. It was a sumptuous meal. We had a buffet and proceeded to grab the keys for our accommodation at the Wuling Farm Hotel. Each room was shared by four persons. We get to shower and clean up ourselves after not doing that for 3 days. It was refreshing. We briefed everyone on the meeting instructions the next morning before we went back to rest for the day. With that, day 4 ended.

 

Dec 12th Day 5

I think everyone slept well with the proper bedding and comfy pillows. However, we had to be up by 6.30am and be ready by 7am for breakfast. Today will be trekking for Chi You peak, one of the peaks of the 武陵四秀, before heading to rest a night at the Xin Da Cabin. The chartered bus took us the dining hall where we had our breakfast. Breakfast was once again, buffet style. We left the dining hall at about 8am and reached the Wu Ling Shan Zhuang at about 8.30am. We were issued the sleeping mat as the Xinda Cabin do not have built in mat as part of the cabin facility, so we spent some time repacking our stuff at the parking area. We then proceeded to walk for about 3.5km to the start of Chi You and Pin Tian trailhead. This was about 400m elevation, from 1860m to 2230m. We passed by the Wuling suspension bridge. It took us about an hour for the walk. It was a well formed concrete path.

 

When we reached the trailhead we went ahead to visit the Taoshan waterfall which was further up ahead. It was a 10 minutes’ walk away from the trailhead. We took pictures and proceeded back to the trailhead where we left our trek bags and began our trek for Chi You at 10.30am. The lower part of the trekking trail is mostly in the forest and there wasn’t much to see. Compared to the trail of Xue shan’s, this was much more fun. There were obstacles here and there created by the branches so it was not as straight forward. Also, it was much much steeper too. Hence, it was more physically demanding as compared to Xue Shan’s trail. There were multiple instances where I had to use my hands to elevate up to the next step. However, once you get through the forested area the view gets better and better, with more open areas, less trees and more grass. We had our cup noodles lunch at about 1.30pm when we reached the first check point at 2km into the trail. The guides boiled the water for us. The next check point will be三叉營地 at 3200m. Similarly, the trek up was rather steep and it took us about 1.5 hours. It became gentler after the san cha check point leading towards the trailhead of Chi You Shan. We were at the Chi You’s trailhead at about 3.45pm. The summit push up to Chi You peak was about a 15minutes trek. It was at 4pm that we were at Chi You’s peak. It was a rocky slope up and we had to be more wary, as a fall will be really dangerous. We managed to get a clear view of the area once we hit the summit.

 

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Team photo at Chiyou Peak

 

It lasted for about 10 minutes before a huge patch of clouds covered the Chi You’s peak. We spent about 15 minutes up at the peak before heading down for Xinda Cabin. The last part of the trail isn’t quite as easy to tackle because it involves climbing up and down over rocks, which proved to be mentally taxing. Furthermore, it was already turning dark by then. Finally, Xinda cabin came into sight after a good 1.5 hours more of trekking where we would spend the night before heading for Pin Tian Shan. It was already about 6.30pm when we were at the cabin. The cabin was different from 369 cabin. It was much smaller as it only has one bunk area that was segmented into two levels. We had to leave our shoes at the parapet before the parquet area so that we do not dirty the sleeping areas. While waiting for dinner to be ready, we settled down and prepared our load for the summit push to Pin Tian the next morning. We had our dinner and rested for the night at about 10pm.

 

Dec 13th Day 6

We woke up at about 5am the next morning, preparing all our belongings for the summit push to Pin Tian. Some of us shared water and bags so it would be easier to carry and leave some backs free just in case! Breakfast was served at 5.30am and we quickly stamped out the cold and had some nice hot soup and leftovers from yesterday’s dinner. After a short briefing, we gathered and left at about 610am, looking forward to the near vertical climb when we were nearing the peak.

It was a lovely morning and we started out with joyous spirits, however cold it was. We saw frozen mud and small ponds as we trekked along the route, occasionally crossing small copses. We had a short break at 7am watching the sunrise over Xinda cabin in a field of yellow bushes, it was beautiful. After that we had to remove some layers since it got warmer. After the break, the trek got harder as it got steeper. We crossed a bridge that was just a short metal girder and trying not to trip over the hidden tree roots in the soil.

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On our way up

 

At 7.30am, we reached the most exciting part of Pin Tian! The near vertical descent J it was exhilarating when all you had to lower yourself was a rope tied to a trunk. There was no support and one slip could be all it takes to bring us to the bottom of the mountain. Each move we made was calculated and deliberate. We had to boulder ourselves along the way, and had such a nice view of Syue Shan just to our right. It was a short 30 min climb across. When we reached the bottom, and crossed to the other side, we thought “Hey, now that we are here, the only way we are going to go back is up through that rock wall again!” and some of us were not keen on that!

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Some legit rock climbing

 

After we cleared the rock wall, we continued our trail up Pin Tian, the trail got narrower sometimes and we could see the slippery slopes that ran down near to our right or left. We had to use our hands and legs, avoiding branches and ropes while admiring the beautiful view we had of the entire mountain region. As we neared the peak, there was a sudden burst of energy from the people front shouting that we had reached!

The view was definitely not a disappointment. Since this was our last peak, we decided to take as many photos as we could! Taking jump shots, self-portraits, group shots or just laze around enjoying the wind and sun. From our point of view, we could see both 369 cabin where we stayed just 3 nights before and the peak of Syue Shan that was so clear. We stayed at the peak for about 30mins, and left at 9am. Everyone was in high spirits since this was our last peak and we were finally on our way down!

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Team photo at Pintian peak! Yay!

We retraced our steps and did short work of the trail. We got a little stuck at the rock wall since it was the virgin experience for some on natural rock climbing. But everyone climbed it safely. There was a difference in the ground when we were walking back, the sun had risen and melted the frozen mud which made it difficult to grip. We were slipping and sliding and dancing across the land trying not to fall, although some eventually did but with no injuries, just a short laugh!

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Lunch at Xinda cabin was a typical affair, a bowl of noodles cooked with boiled mountain water and maybe some additional energy bars and candy here and there. We reached the cabin at about 1045am and had an hour to prepare our bags for the descent down to Wuling Farm. The room had a nice balance between the cool air within and the hot sun outside.

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Good bye, Xinda!

We said goodbye to Xinda cabin, taking our last few photos and begun trekking down. It was quite a fast paced trek, we got down to the trailhead at 3pm and cleared our bags of the rubbish that we brought down. Everyone was feeling a sense of accomplishment, finally completing the trails and the peaks that we have planned for. There was only 鸡扒 waiting when we got back! It took a total of 4 hours to descend, 1 whole hour dedicated to walking the zig-zagging 3.5km after the trailhead.

At the Wuling Farm Recreational Centre, we washed up a little and used the washrooms before heading up to take the bus back to Taipei.

Written by: Gerald Tan

 

 

 

TM Interview with Ying Ling

Maybe you can start of with telling us more about yourself!

I’m Ying Ling, currently a Year 2 Econs student. Haha some say that their first impression of me is that they think I’m rather unapproachable. That’s because I look very different when I smile and when I don’t haha!

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When I’m not smiling, I have a default sian/angry look. Especially when I’m thinking about stuff, or concentrating on work. People who first see me when I have this ‘sian’ face will probably think that I’m rather unapproachable and dao. But no, I don’t bite! In fact, I think I’m rather friendly and bubbly when you get to know me better!

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On the other hand, I get laughed at all the time (esp by the 9th exco) for my smile! You can see my gum really clearly when I smile/laugh and it looks unglam (they claim). And I like to laugh/smile alot so my gummy smile can be seen quite often.

So please don’t be mistaken when I have the ‘sian’ face, I actually laugh a lot and I’m not that unapproachable!!

What kind of a person do your friends normally describe you as? 

My friends would say that I’m rather lively and talkative, and I laugh pretty easily. I enjoy being around people (sometimes) and getting to know them. I like to joke around and I get amused rather easily as well haha! I can be pretty strong headed and direct at times as well.

But there’s also a quiet, (relatively) more serious side of me that doesn’t show that often and people don’t know as much. I’m actually an introvert, and it’s really important to me to have a balance between spending time around people, and having alone time to myself to chill and reflect. I guess this side of me comes out once I’m more comfortable with a person.

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And to me, trekking really allows for that balance. There are moments which can get really noisy and boisterous, when we’re all laughing and joking around random things. And there are also times where the noise dies down, and conversations become more serious. Of course, there are also the quiet downtimes you have for yourself – to think and reflect, to admire the beauty of nature around you, to appreciating the moment, despite the company around you.

What was your first experience in trekking and how did you find your passion for this sport? 

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I’ve always wanted to try it out, but never really got round to it until recently. Since young, I’ve appreciated the outdoors, and would go to parks with my family to cycle or skate or just take a walk.

What really sparked my interest was some Korean variety show I used to watch, where the hosts would challenge themselves to climb a mountain, or walk a hiking trail, and camp outdoors. I was captivated by the beauty of nature and the scenery, and wanted to challenge myself as well since the hikes always looked so tough!

Decided to finally push myself out of my comfort zone, and went for a day hike near Seorak San when I was in Korea with my friends. I got hooked and there’s no turning back since!!

 

What do you like about trekking? 

Trekking…it just takes you away. Away from the hustle and bustle of life, away from reality for awhile. I just love the feeling of getting a respite of all worldly problems (haha). When you’re in the outdoors, you realise how small you are in the grand scheme of things; that perhaps the things that stresses you out isn’t so that being an issue after all. I guess after treks, you just feel refreshed and ready to face the world again – and I really love that feeling.

Being free from technology. Personally I don’t particularly like technological stuff (like using laptops/handphones 24/7) and while trekking you just get away from all this technological distractions, and focus on the human interaction that matters to you. I like the feeling of being able to disconnect to connect with the company. Trekking kinda allows me to go into cave man mode with a valid reason of not having much reception anyway.

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I like the challenge trekking provides. When you’re trekking, its a battle against yourself. Either you keep walking forward to reach your goal or stop moving and be stranded. The sense of accomplishment of pushing yourself and actively walking towards a goal is exhilarating. It’s also important that you find a motivation or a joy in every trek, to keep you going.

 

What was your best experience that you’ve had in trekking thus far? 

The recent Taiwan winter trek was really memorable and definitely was the best experience I’ve had thus far. We climbed three peaks, Xueshan, Chiyou shan and Pintian shan over 5 days.

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It was my first long trek so it meant a lot to me – it’s an entirely new experience after all. The nature of the long trek really allowed for time to ‘disconnect (from reality) to connect (with the people around, and my inner self)’.

The exhilaration of a summit push is also still kinda magical to me – waking up in the wee hours of the morning, preparing and packing up to set off, and trekking in the dark, walking and walking till the sky starts to turn bright suddenly.

And also, something really memorable about the trip – the building of our hotel caught fire on the day we returned to Taipei after our trek ended. Lucky we were not in the building and our belongings were unaffected! It was something I would never have expected to happen hahaha (although it didn’t happen during the trek itself).

The timing of the trek is also one main reason. Being in December, the time away in the mountains allowed for self-reflection at the end of a really hectic year. Sometimes you just get too caught up with things that you lose sight of what’s important to you. It was a really good end to 2015 for me to have thought through stuff. (Plus, I really really like Taiwan in general, so trekking there also made me like the country more haha!)

 

Do you have any other hobbies or interests that you would like to share about? 

#1 hobby would be eating HAHA. I really like to eat. A lot. Especially spicy food haha! Some say I’m like a walking food directory.

There’s nothing like the cheap thrills of discovering a new cheap and good places to eat around the school area!! The highlights of my study week so far in SMU were really about going to my favourite food haunts around school area. (HAHA).

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Why Trekking TM? 

I’v really enjoyed being part of the Trekking Team, since joining Intro Trek to Gunung Datuk as a freshie. The people I’ve known are really friendly and welcoming. And of course, being part of the 9th exco has also been a good experience. I wanted to have the chance to do more for the team.

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As Trekking TM, it really is a step out of my comfort zone for me – a leadership role will never be something easy. I honestly feel that it would be a learning experience to challenge myself as a person, while being able to engage in a sport I really like and enjoy.

There is a definitely much to learn from the people around me, and room for growth and improvement, both as a trekker, and as a leader. I’ll try my best to serve the team to the best of my abilities, the support of the SMUX Trekkers would really mean a lot in this journey!

 

Can you tell us about the funniest/weirdest/grossest moment you’ve experienced whilst on a trek! You can choose to answer either 1 or all 3! 

I think the dumbest and funniest thing I’ve done was, after reaching the summit on my first ever summit push experience – waking up, freezing at 2am -, forgetting to turn off the light of my headlamp before spamming photos! All of us were too excited and cold at the top that no one realised (or told me) about the light, till we looked back at the photos we took after.

All the photos I took at the summit of Mt Fansipan featured my really bright headlamp light HAHA. It’s really embarrassing whenever I look back at those photos! Thankfully, during Taiwan, this didn’t happen again haha!

NEVER AGAIN WILL I TAKE A PHOTO WITH MY HEADLAMP LIGHT TURNED ON!!!!!!!!

 

What has been your biggest takeaway from SMUX Trekking thus far?

It really has to be the people and the culture of SMUX Trekking!!

Each semester flies by too fast, but I’m really glad also that there’s Trek Runs to look forward to for a midweek break. It’s always fun to see friends during trek runs and just run and lepak and talk cock with.

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Especially since you really get to know people better during treks.  The conversations, and seeing how people are like when they are tired, and through other small moments or actions. The people I’ve met in Trekking are genuine and really willing to share their perspectives. Sometimes, the memories of the trek may fade away – like the scenery you see when you trek – but ultimately, the conversations, the fun and laughter, and the memories of the people you trekked with stay.

The culture of the Trek Team is something I hold dear to, and hope that it’ll remain for a long time to come. I’m sure that many would agree as well!

 

Do you have anything to say to your fellow SMUX Trekkers? 

I’m really excited for 2016!!

With every trek that we go for, may we all find a joy and motivation. Every experience is unique in its own way, and every sunrise that we watch or every summit that we reach is different from the others, and hopefully the moment remains magical for you as though you’re watching it for the first time.

🙂

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Useful Links

Here’s a list of useful links for treks around Singapore. We hope that these information would help in planning for day hikes around the island, and to explore new places!

CityNomads Classic treks in Singapore!

EveryTrail – Check out routes that other Singaporeans have explored. The routes are clearly plotted on Google Maps, should you be interested in exploring the trails!

GoAway.sg A list of unique, lesser-known and explored trails by GoAway.sg that are different from the typical Bukit Timah Hill or MacRitchie Reservoir trails!

Loan Policy

The SMUX Trekking Team has recently rolled out a new Loan Policy for select equipments, so that you can rent and use them for your own expeditions!

Please refer to Loan Policy (CAO 040416), for the required information. A list of equipment that we provide rental services for is also attached in the document.

Do email our Logistics I/C at shihuichong.2015@sis.smu.edu.sg, should you have any queries and/or loan requests to be made.