Friday, June 3, 2011

Gunung Gading summit hike – Part 1 (June 2011)

During the Gawai (Dayak Harvest festival) holiday, I decided to hike up to the top of Gunung Gading. At about 900 meters above sea level, it is the tallest peak in Gunung Gading National Park. The summit trail is about 3.8km long from park HQ. I did this trek because, one, I’ve been to GGNP several times now but never made the climb to the summit, and two, I wanted to train and prepare for an upcoming week-long trip where I’ll be climbing Sarawak’s second tallest mountain, Gunung Mulu (2376 m asl).

Here are some photos taken during my hike up Gunung Gading. Photos taken during the hike down will be posted in part 2. I also visited the waterfalls at Waterfall 7 and spotted a horned frog on the walk back to HQ!
A crested lizard. Spotted it running across the jungle trail on both its hind legs, forelegs lifted up like a little dinosaur.

To get to the summit, first follow the waterfall trail marked red-white. At the junction to Waterfall 7, turn right and follow the summit trail marked red-yellow.

Batu Apek or “Old Man’s Rock” – so called after an old man who once took shelter here having lost his way after entering the jungle to look for jungle produce. After  days of praying, he finally found his way out.

It takes about an hour to get to Waterfall 7 from the park HQ area.

There are several steep stretches. Wear good shoes. There are plenty of tree roots crisscrossing the trail so don’t try making the climb in open-toe sandals, you might break some toes!

Gunung Gading National Park boasts several huge dipterocarp trees. One does not have to walk far into the jungle to spot these tall giants. Several species of hardwood trees such as Kapur, Meranti and even Belian (Borneo Iron Wood) can be spotted along the trail to the summit.

A mountain creek flowing across the trail. The water is crystal clear and very cool!

Forest greenery…

Makeshift ladders like this which are hammered into big trees are built to aid tree climbing. They’re often built on tall fruit trees as well as giant Koompassia excelsa (Tapang) trees to help honey collectors get to the tall branches under which honey bee hives are built. But this is a national park, so I’m not really sure whom built it or what it’s used for exactly.

A strangler fig. The unfortunate host tree is long gone.

One can tell this is a very old fig tree from the size and appearance. The lattice-like strangling roots have now almost completely merged together, giving the impression that this is just another normal tree.

A shot taken from inside the hollow, empty void left behind after the host tree died and rotted away. The process takes a very long time beginning with a strangler fig seed germinating on a tree branch (possibly dropped there by a bird) and then sending down roots to the ground. These roots eventually encircle the host tree, restricting its growth and strangling it. The fig tree’s leaves also quickly overwhelm the host tree, shutting out light and eventually killing the host.

Aeschynanthus species. Common name, Lipstick Plant. These are listed as protected plants in Sarawak.

Lipstick plants almost totally covering the trunk of  this giant tree which had fallen across the summit trail.

A fallen vine (liana) with two species of dendrobium orchids on it. One looks like Dendrobium lamellatum while the other could be Dendrobium secundum. But it’s hard to tell without flowers.

On the way up, saw empty tin cans, bottles and pieces of plastic trash left behind by irresponsible hikers. People just like to leave their shit everywhere! Very frustrating!

To whomever tucked this piece of plastic food wrapper here, this is a liana, it is NOT a trashcan! Would it kill you to be more responsible??

Be prepared for a very steep climb up to the summit after the 2.4km or 2.6km mark! Your leg muscles are going to burn!

Tough climb!

You’ll need to use all limbs to push and pull yourself up certain parts.

The steep trail narrows into a path along a mountain ridge about 2 or 3 hundred meters before reaching the summit.

Summit vegetation. Ferns, rattan palms, herbs, small trees and saplings. Very thick undergrowth since there’s more light here.

Don’t expect beautiful panoramic views from anywhere along the summit trail. The best one can expect to see is something like this…

One will see a few old rusty barrels at the summit. Remnants of an old British camp built during the communist insurgency in the 60s. Besides barrels, one will also come across rusty zinc sheets, barb wire fencing, an old water tank and the frame of an old wooden shack. Watch out for the zinc sheets and barb wire! Don’t want to cut yourself on those!

Barb wire.

Barb wire fencing.

Old water tank. Supposedly, there’s also an old helicopter landing pad somewhere in the area. But everything’s so overgrown now…

Frame of an old wooden shack.

Vegetation at the summit area.

And this is it folks… the tallest point in Gunung Gading National Park. ~900 meters above sea level. Just a small clearing and no view whatsoever. Only small trees all around. From here, hikers may choose to continue trekking to Batu Berkubu (Fortress Rock) two hours away by following a trail marked red and blue. I rested here for about 15 minutes before making my way down. The hike up took me 2 hours 10 minutes from the junction of Waterfall 7.

My GPS gave an elevation reading that fluctuated between 899 meters and 901 meters at the summit.
Stamina-wise, I had no trouble doing this hike but boy, did my leg muscles burn by the end of it! It didn’t help that I had over-exerted myself and suffered my first leg cramp ever during a recent grueling trek to Bako’s Teluk Kruin.

Would I do this climb again? Probably not. But if you’ve never been to the top of Gunung Gading and you have reasonably good stamina and fitness, try it once! No breathtaking view at the top but along the way you do get to see huge tropical giants, strangler figs, mushrooms, curious looking insects, lizards and frogs.

Part 2:


Martin Shim said...

Wonderful captures of the trail up to GG, Henry.Thanks for sharing. :)

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Lovely to see all these...Now I am tempted to get my own GPS unit.thanks.

do you have detailed info about Pau (the soap tree)?

sarawaklens said...

Martin, happy to share. I should update my blog more often!

Sarawakiana, yes do get one, esp if you like to do jungle walks. but get one that's made for the outdoors, not a car gps! :)

soap tree? sounds familiar...

Anonymous said...

Real nice pics!
So, did you help to pick the trash?

sarawaklens said...

Anon, believe me I did not want to, because I firmly believe everyone should be responsible for their own shit and doing so makes all the litterbugs more irresponsible and litter all over again expecting others to pick their shit up. We had our own trash to carry but when I came upon yet another empty bottle I just couldn't ignore it anymore. Seriously, I think all national parks in Malaysia should adopt the same policy as Mulu NP when one does the summit trail: pay a deposit at the counter and have your things checked. If you do not return with the same things (empty bottles, wrappers etc), you lose your deposit. this has worked very well in ensuring mt. mulu summit trail is kept clean and free of litter.

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