Lessons from my 1st Gunung Hitam (1210m) trek on May 24, 2008. (by Barbara Foong)
PACE – I could not keep pace with the leader.
Scenery – as a very visual person, I was not able to enjoy the thick jungle undergrowth as I struggled to keep pace so as not to be left behind.
The simple act of tying up my boot laces could make me lose sight of those in front. As there were much low shrubs, branches and thorns, my boot laces became undone quite a number of times.
Gunung means mountain – one needs to pull herself/himself up in various steep pitches. My alpine Millet boots were not meant for jungle trekking. Thus I was not able to have any foothold on the loose jungle soil. There were also no handholds ( no roots or branches to grab onto to pull oneself up.) There was a scary moment of sliding down about 10 feet with nothing to hold on to!) I was saved by the sweeper 'man' who moved ahead and cut down a branch for me to hold, passed me a very thin rope (about 5mm thick I think) and another guy planting his foot for me to step on to climb up. Whew! Was I exhausted and demoralized? When I got up this difficult pitch onto more level ground, I was nauseated and felt giddy (I was in shock over the experience).
Here I was panting to maintain the pace, not liking the visuals of the trek, almost slipped to the bottom of that mountain, slowing the rest of the team down-so I pleaded that I wanted out and wanted to wait there for them to return and pick me up.
No - this is the rainforest jungle. They said it is too dangerous but did not explain. I could guess at the reasons – I could be hunted by the jungle animals or snakes or leeches or most likely I probably could not be located. The leader persuaded me to eat & drink to calm down my nerves.
Escape plans – Now, I realize there were no escape plans. No one had a walkie talkie, I did not carry a GPRS phone. One must maintain the pace some how and get out of the jungle by herself or himself. No buts or ifs! One must survive
Not to slow down the rest any more, I requested another commando to carry my 5kg backpack and moved on. I am thankful for the wonderful help from my fellow Malaysians – the five commandos who helped me throughout the trek. During the return trek we were also lost and made many turns & new routes.
It was a wise decision to turn back at about 2pm even though the leader said that it would take another hour to reach the summit at the fastest. No one brought torches. In the dark, it would be suicidal to move through the jungle as there are lots of thorns (long thorns from rattan, roots & dead branches).
In my haste to keep pace with the commandos, I rushed downhill and crushed my chest against a rotten tree trunk. I suffered the chest pain since then. It's healing now but I cannot do sit-ups properly yet. I am very safety conscious as I intend to exit from the adventure strong and unharmed with no injuries. Also I need to keep a clean slate of safety to continue to get my husband's blessings for such treks.Now, I am grounded and cannot continue such treks. I love Malaysia outdoors but thick jungle & leeches do not motivate me.
I confirm this – I do have an altitude sickness problem. It happened at Gunung Kinabalu, driving for the 1st & only time to Genting Highlands, fast ascent to Fraser's Hill or Cameron Highlands. I wish I could conquer this but this shallow breathing bad habit does not help me either. I must practice deeper breathing & expand my lungs power.
I went through all the available stories about Gunung Hitam in the internet. NeiFeng Story
Above told about pace and the log of timing of ascent & descent. These were experienced trekkers. Our hours of ascent : start ascent of 10am and descent of first group at 4.30pm, second group (me & my five commandos at 5pm) were very good pace for first-timers to Gunung Hitam!
We were lucky to come out of this intact and with no serious accidents.
It was a thin line between getting lost and getting out of this jungle unharmed.
Now I have a new understanding when they say it is a jungle out there!
From a wishful mountaineer-to-be (at least a voracious reader of mountains & mountaineers & trekkers).