Gunung Rajah (Failed)

DISCLAIMER: This post was written in 2012. Information may be out of date!

Not a full write up on Gunung Rajah – that will come when I climb Rajah successfully!

I decided to join the KL Hiking group for their Gunung Rajah climb on the 13th of October. I knew that it would be a tough climb – the longest and highest mountain I have done thus far, after Gunung Nuang. For those who don’t know, Rajah stands at 1683m tall, and the journey is about 26-32km round trip. It begins at Chamang waterfall, follows a logging trail for about 4km, a fairly easy jungle trail for 4.8km, a river crossing, another 1.5km uphill to Kem Lata Naning (then continues on to Kem Hijau, the false peak, rock face, and the summit, all of which I didn’t reach)

Even before the climb, I suspected that I would not be able to make it to the top, for quite a number of reasons:

  1. I was sick for the week prior to the climb. I only got well 2 days before the climb, and not having exercised AT ALL for 2 weeks (the last being my Ledang/Ophir climb), I was lacking my usual energy.
  2. I didn’t sleep at all the night before the climb – a problem I frequently face the night before climbs, but sleep was all the more crucial for this 12hr+ climb! Obviously, I just wanted to sleep the whole day!
  3. I was carrying more weight in my backpack than usual – 1.5L more water than I carried up to Nuang, plus a 600g tarp/flysheet and some extra stuff.
  4. My isotonic solution was more watered than usual. I was experimenting with reduced amounts of salt and glucose, but obviously it didn’t work out as well as I started cramping about 3.5hrs into the climb.

During the climb itself, I also didn’t hydrate as much as I would normally do as I was more reluctant to stop (being in a big group of 40 people, people don’t tend to stop when you stop for a break and you end up being left behind). And the rain didn’t help.

Yes, speaking of rain – the weather was fine when we started out, up until the 3hr mark when we passed Lata Naning, on our way to Kem Hijau. We were already prepared for rain as rain was forecast, so it was no surprise when it started raining (all the raincoats, rain covers, etc. came out). About the time the rain started, I also decided to turn back, between Lata Naning and Kem Hijau. I ended up staying with about 10 people at Lata Naning, before we headed back down to the river crossing.

When we had crossed the river on our way to the summit, it was ankle deep, and enough people were able to cross without taking off their shoes. However, when we got back to the crossing, the tiny stream had become a raging river about 8 feet higher than it was previously, with extremely swift currents. The crossing is where two rivers meet in a “Y” configuration, and this probably caused the depth to be even higher than normal. I was already aware of this possibility, and had seen and read accounts of this happening, but seeing it first hand was quite an awesome experience.

Obviously, there was no way we would cross in these conditions, so we set up my tarp/flysheet (which had also come in useful at Lata Naning) and waited. The river continued to rise a further 2 feet, and we waited for another 2 hours before the level started to subside slowly. After more than 3 hours, the level was finally low enough (waist deep) when 3 members of the team decided to cross and fix a rope to assist others. (Personally, I would still avoid any river more than knee deep, which is the highest ‘recommended’ depth for safe river crossings) However, they managed to get the rope into place safely, so we all crossed over and I got back to the car park just before 6pm.

I waited for the rest of the people in our carpool, the last who reached back around 8-9pm. Most of them managed to reach the summit, which was a great achievement!

What I learned from the climb:

  • Rest is VERY important before a climb! And don’t try a huge climb just after recovering from an illness…
  • Watch your hydration and nutrition on long climbs
  • BE CAREFUL around rivers and waterfalls, especially if there’s a chance of rain (especially upstream, which you may not see). Rivers can swell by many feet in MERE SECONDS, and if you’re not paying attention, you could be swept away and be killed. DON’T PLAY AROUND with swift/deep waters, they CAN and WILL kill you. I saw a river rise by 10 feet, and mind you, the rain was fairly short and not the heaviest.
  • Be prepared to stay longer than your allocated time. I myself was ready for this possibility, but not everyone else was… (especially if it had kept raining – the river could take a long time to subside)

Anyway, I’ll be back at Gunung Rajah at some point in the future!

River Dangers

Here’s a photo of how rivers can change with rain. The river we crossed (which rose by 10 feet) was a few km upstream from this (Chamang) waterfall. Mind you, by the time I got back to this waterfall, the water level at the crossing had already fallen by 4 feet, so I can only imagine how much higher the waterfall level was at its highest.

Difference in levels before and after a medium rainfall

As circled in the photo, you can see that the warning signpost in the left photo (taken 2 weeks prior to the photo on the right) has been ripped out, probably by water which was high enough to reach it. Given that rivers can swell in seconds, it would be pretty scary being at the bottom when the first flash flood arrives. BE CAREFUL AROUND WATERFALLS AND RIVERS!!!

Other Photos

Same photo of Chamang waterfall as above, taken on a lovely day

The logging trail at the start

Open area – turn right off the logging trail

Another lovely open area along the jungle trail

River at Lata Naning

River at Lata Naning, looking the opposite direction

Same photo as used earlier – Chamang waterfall after rainfall

GPS Details

Since I didn’t manage to complete a full circuit, I won’t be posting full GPS details, unless you want it, in which case leave a comment! (There are other full GPS trails available from other hikers) Here’s a photo of how far I got (I stopped recording at Lata Naning after turnig back):

Duration: 4 hours 43 minutes
Length: 13km
Average Speed: 2.8km/h
Vertical Up: 1245m
Vertical Down: 597m
Maximum Altitude: 896m
Minimum Altitude: 164m

4 Comments

  1. Prem says:

    Been following your trail adventures after a friend suggested I review your write-up. Then I came across your Rajah account. What a coincidence! We were on the same hike that rainy day. I happen to be one of the three who was gung-ho and mobilised the rope. I know it was dangerous but I could help but use better judgement after seeing all of your drained looks. As I had some knowledge on swift water rescue techniques, I went about using them. I think they suggest waist deep instead of knee deep as a gauge when crossing. Regardless, you need to assess for undercurrents and have ropes handy for rescue. Keep up the good work! Hope to see you on another Rajah hike soon!

    • Hoong Ern says:

      Hi Prem, nice to hear your side of the story! Yes, judgment calls while out on the trail can be challenging, and in the end, I'm glad that we all made it out fine. I've heard varied opinions on the maximum depth, and for the purposes of a post which could be read by any person passing by, I decided to err on the side of care and suggest knee deep - for a person without experience in rapid flowing murky water, I imagine that one step in waist deep water can easily turn into chest deep and whisk them off their feet. Hope you're still climbing - I'm no longer in M'sia but if I'm back and the time is right, I'd definitely attempt Rajah again. Take care!

  2. Peter Lim says:

    Hi Hoong Ern,

    I am planning a trip to Gunung Rajah Feb/March 2016. If you are around, you are most welcome to join.

    Cheers
    Peter Lim

  3. william tang says:

    another new route from Pertak KKB to G Rajah which may be tougher but without crossing such a scary River

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