Titiwangsa: The Backbone of Peninsula Malaysia
Titiwangsa is the main mountain range of Peninsula Malaysia. It begins from Southern Thailand and stretches to Negeri Sembilan in the South. The majestic range rises more than 2000m above sea level. It also divides Peninsula Malaysia into its Eastern and Western halves.
Trans Titiwangsa Version 1 or Trans V1 is arguably one of the toughest treks in Peninsula Malaysia. This trail begins at Ulu Kinta Dam in Perak and ends at Blue Valley in Pahang. It brings trekkers across some of the highest points in Peninsula Malaysia, most notably, Korbu (2183m), Gayong (2173m) and Yong Belar (2181m).
And so eight members of the Trekking Team set out to explore Titiwangsa on foot.
Day 1: 3 hills and 3 rivers
We took an overnight bus from Larkin, Johore to Medan Gopeng, Ipoh. The whole journey took about 7-8 hours. We met up with our guide, Salan, at Medan Gopeng and went on vans to the starting point of the trek at Ulu Kinta Dam.
On the first trekking day, one can expect to transverse 3 small hills and cross 3 main rivers. The width of the trail is small and narrow. There are also a lot of fallen trees (nicknamed Happy Trees) across the trail. Leeches are abundant in this part of the trek. The slope on the first day trek is still comfortable ranging between 60 to 70 degrees. One should be able to manage with some training.
We had our first lunch beside a waterfall. It is a small fall but rather pretty. However, none of us were actually in the mood to splash around in the plunge pool, opting to sit by the side and wash our feet.
Enroute, we passed by Camp Seroja. Seroja is located beside a river and can fit about 4-5 tents. The campsite is leech infested. If camping at Seroja for the night, trekkers must be prepared for a long trek the next day up Korbu – possibly stretching into the night fall. Our team chose to break for the night at Camp Kijang which is about 2 hours from Seroja. We reached Kijang at about 5pm. The campsite can fit about 4-5 tents and is located beside a water source. There are some leeches at the campsite as well.
Day 2: Up onto the ridgeline!
From Kijang, it is about 2 hours to the last water point. As there is no water source on top of Korbu, the team needs to bring water up to the summit. We brought about 3litres per person for personal consumption and had about 8litres for team’s cooking usage.
From the last water source, it is another 2 hours to Botak Hill. From this point onwards, the trek become much steeper and involves some climbing. The team found ourselves scrambling up 80 to 90 degrees slopes. Some parts resemble a rock wall and other parts require us to use the tree roots as steps. Lower body strength is insufficient on this leg of the trek. We often had to use our arms to pull ourselves up the steep parts. The path also gets a bit muddy.
It is another 2 hours to Chuban Peak. The trek on day 2 is rather beautiful as we are walking along the ridgeline. One can catch glimpses of the magnificent mountain ranges. From Chuban, it is just 1 more hour to Korbu summit.
We reached Korbu summit at about 4.30pm and was given the option of staying at Korbu for the night or heading straight to Gayong (about 2.5-3hours) away, which will mean that we may be trekking after nightfall. We chose to stay at Korbu. However, this means that we have more distance to cover on the third day and will possibly hit night trek. Korbu summit can fit maximum 5-6 tents and has no water source. There is no view at the summit itself though.
All in all, day 2 was a happy day for the team. The views along the ridgeline were really awesome and this made the steep climbs much more bearable. The steep rock walls also made the trek less monotonous.
Day 3: All the way back down
We started the day with a 3 hour trek to Gayong summit. It is a really nice walk as the view is really awesome. We find ourselves walking amidst the bonsai, this part of the trek is pretty comfortable.
Gayong summit is much smaller than Korbu and is significantly dirtier. It can probably fit about 3-4 tents. We were thus glad that we stayed at Korbu instead. Besides the horrendous amount of flies at Gayong, Gayong is actually quite a “forgettable” peak. There is neither the celebration upon reaching our second major peak at Korbu nor the euphoria upon reaching Yong Belar – our last major peak. Parked a short distance away from Korbu, it is pretty much overshadowed by its taller cousin. It didn’t help that we only spent 15 mins on Gayong.
From Gayong, we started heading down and leaving gen the magnificent scenery of the ridgeline behind and the forest starts to close up on us. it is 1.5 hours down to Camp Cerek with an inaccessible water point with water which is not so clean. Since all of us have sufficient water, we decided to skip that water point.
It is 2 hours to Junction peak and 3 more hours of descent to H2O valley. We reached H2O valley after nightfall slightly after 7pm. There is a horrendous among of sandflies at H2O valley. The river is just beside the campsite so one can wash up a little.
Day 3 was a long trekking day and it is when people starts feeling a little frustrated. The descent didn’t help also caused our knees to start aching. Being the midpoint of the trek, with 3 long days to go, morale was slightly lower.
Day 4: Up to Yong Belar
Morale was rather low as we started our trek on Day 4. We took about ½hour to Puncak H20 and another 3hour to anak Yong Belar. It is then another 2 hours to Kem Kuali.
Kem Kuali deserves a slightly longer description. First, it is the last water point before reaching Yong Belar summit. The water source is erratic and the flow depends on the season. When we were there, the flow was reduced to a trickle and we were forced to collect water drop by drop off a stone wall. Second, Kuali is really wet and cold. There seems to be some constant condensation mechanism at the campsite making the entire place very wet. There is also a constant cold wind blowing across the place. The campsite is also really small, fitting perhaps 2-3 tents only. It is certainly a place where you don’t want to find yourself staying at.
After filling our bottles at Kem Kuali, we proceeded up to Yong Belar which is about 1-1.5hours away. The trail before Yong Belar is really muddy. We reached Yong Belar early at about 5pm.
Yong Belar is an amazing summit. There is an opening in the bushes which allows you a very nice view of the surroundings. We managed to catch a really beautiful sunset at Yong Belar. The summit, however, is pretty small and can pack about 3 tents tightly. There is also a constant wind at Yong Belar, making the place really cold.
Day 5: A long day
We get to choose between two way out on Yong Belar. One way is a straight descent to Blue Valley Dam. The other (longer and harder) will bring us to more attractions (ie more peaks) – this is the “official” Trans Titiwangsa route.
Being the gung-ho trekkers that we were, we chose the longer way. And, as a result, many more ups and downs. We passed by Batu Peak and Charlie peak before reaching the last water point of the day at Kem Gurkha. The terrain was full of ups and downs with some flat parts. It was also really muddy.
After that, we went on to the three boundaries peak, the peak which stands at the border of Perak, Pahang and Kelantan. And we camped at the two boundaries peak – between Perak and Pahang for the night. The campsite has no water point and is really small. It can fit only about 2-3 tents. There is a small viewpoint where we can see the lights from the faraway town.
A very short description but the day is much much longer than it seems. We reached two boundaries at close to 8pm. It was also very cloudy that day, hence, we did not get to enjoy the scenery much. According to the guide, on a clear day, one can see 360degrees at the three boundaries peak. This monotonous and long day 5 is arguably the toughest day of our trek.
Day 6: Way out
From 2 boundaries peak, the way out was straight forward. We trekked down until we reach a river and from then on, we followed the river. We then see the first signs of civilization in days – water pipes! Finally, we reached a small tarred road which brought us to Blue Valley Dam at about 12pm marking the end of our wonderful adventure.
Titiwangsa may be tough but with training and some determination, it is definitely manageable. With the awesome company, Trans Titiwangsa 2010 is a truly enjoyable! Writing this trek log makes me want to go back to Titi1wangsa again! The next time a tough trek comes along, don’t be afraid! Join us! =)
Scribbles by: Keng Phang
Video editing by: Keng Phang
Pictures by: Chula/Bai Kun/Keng Phang