Gunung Yong Yap

Having done gunung Tahan the highest mountain in the peninsular it is only natural that I will have the dream to attempt all 7 of the highest mountains on the land. G7 or the seven mountains above 7,000 feet are Tahan (7,186 feet), Korbu (7,162 feet), Yong Belar (7,156 feet), Gayong (7,129 feet), Chamah (7,210 feet), Yong Yap (7,110 feet) and Ulu Sepat (7,089 feet). There are a lot of trips to one of these top mountains every month so you can just pick any one of the events that are organized by one of those outdoor companies that you fancy. But to me, as much as I’d like to go to all of those trips, my time and resources are limited so I had to choose the one that suit my schedule and budget. Since I have a family, I can’t simply hop onto a four-wheel drive vehicle and climb one of those mountains cause these trips usually take 3 days or more. There’s leaves to be taken and family matters to consider.

Gunung Yong Yap is situated near the Perak-Kelantan border. But you need to drive through some part of Cameron Highlands and then start off in Lojing, Kelantan. In fact you need to apply the permit to climb the mountain and enter the surrounding jungle from the Kelantan forestry department. I stumbled upon this trip while browsing for hiking events on Facebook. Yes you can actually find quite a number of hiking events every month to many mountains inside and outside the country there. Previously I would only join trips that are organized by familiar hiking groups like HACAM or SovoKL but they don’t make that many trips nowadays or the ones that I actually want to to join so I can’t really depend on them. That’s why from now on I’ll just join some random and completely unknown group whenever I want to hike a mountain or another. The one that I joined for Yong Yap was organized by Ohana (meaning family in Hawaiian) group. The lead or gogo (go to person) Nik Hanif does such trip as a part time gig aside from his full time job at an O&G company. Nik is known to organize very affordable trips to many mountains around Malaysia and he’s a really good cook too.

We settled on the transport arrangement a week earlier. I was lucky to get to hitch on Alan’s car a member of the trip from Bangi. He picked me up near UPM where my wife and kids dropped me off. As usual we met up near Gombak LRT station at the same restaurant that serves tasteless drinks every time. And as always we left KL really late, nearly midnight towards the north-south highway. We stopped at Tapah R and R for supper and to buy breakfast for the trip the next morning. At around 4:00 am we finally arrived in Lojing which is situated next to Cameron Highlands. Since they’re at the same high altitude you can imagine the freezing cold temperature that I had to endure. Must be below 18°C at that time at the Lojing mosque. I got like an hour an a half of sleep before Subuh prayer was called and a few minutes more of shut eye after that. At around 7 we were already handing out rations to members of the hike, all 22 of us while the lead cooked lunch. The 4WD vehicles arrived an hour later and we boarded them to get to the trailhead which is about 40 minutes from the mosque to the trailhead near an orang asli settlement. We found several orang asli kids playing near us and watching us curiously. Although I’m sure they’ve got used to all the hikers walking through their village en route the mountain.

After a little briefing we started our journey through the village. First we need to pay some entrance or registration fee to the village head at 30 ringgit per group. The first part of the journal was pretty straightforward with gradual climb to the first camp. We crossed a lot of streams that day, at least 7 or 8 if I’m not mistaken. As always I took off my shoes and socks before crossing all of them. However after the millionth stream crossing, our guide started to grumble how we’re never going to reach the summit on time if I keep doing that. While I’d like to be pissed off at him, it occurred to me that he might be right. There’s going to be a dozen more stream to cross tomorrow and it’s not really practical for me to be taking off my shoes every time. Plus I’ll probably slow down everybody and myself if I insist. So I swallowed my pride and wade through the water like everybody else. Funny I could keep my feet dry climbing Tahan but not the sixth highest mountain on the land.

Remember how I always become tired and grumpy whenever I don’t get enough sleep or food before a hike? Well this one was not any different. Obviously since I didn’t pack any rice the night before, I only had a couple of cream breads and sausage bun for breakfast (when will I ever learn). Apart from that did I mention I barely had enough sleep on the way to Lojing? Yes I could probably doze off in the car but sitting next to the driver, I had trouble sleeping. I was torn between getting a rest and keeping the driver company. In the end I didn’t get to sleep much until we reached the Lojing mosque. Naturally I was extra tired after a few hours hiking but not as tired as the last time when I climbed Rajah. Like I said, the incline was gentle and there were not much climbing to do before the base camp. That said, I did became the last person in the pack to arrive, walking slowly at the back with the guide snapping on my heels. Usually I would be in the middle of the pack if not at front but my ego took a beating that day when I didn’t have the drive to walk as fast I normally could. Still the first day’s hike was quite challenging because there was a lot of crouching to do with all the bamboo plants criss-crossing our paths. There were several parts of the trail where we had to crawl on all four commando-like with mud all over your clothes, hand and face in between the bamboo trees. Not that I’m complaining or anything but that’s what made me extra fatigued on the first day.

And then disaster struck when I was about 30 minutes away from base camp when I ripped my pants near my crouch while trying to climb over a log. The best thing was, I didn’t bring any extra pants save for a pair of shorts that I meant to wear while bathing in the river. So I continued my journey with my ripped pants and all and since nobody brought any needle or thread I climbed the rest of the mountain in my shorts.

Our base camp was named Kem Agas or sand flies camp. They were not kidding about the sand flies though, it didn’t take me long to get my first taste of the itchy sand flies bite. And they were merciless. I got bitten during the day and especially at night, non-stop all the time. To make matter worse, we were sleeping under a fly sheet so the sand flies were virtually having a feast on us throughout our stay. I can clearly see the tiny terror hanging under our fly sheet ready to pounce on us. How I’d wish I’d brought my own tent or something. But I didn’t so even after lighting up some mosquito coils I get bitten all over my body from my leg to my neck. In retrospect, I consider the sand flies as part of the challenge of climbing Yong Yap although I swear I’d carry my own tent whenever I read about sand flies at our hike.

Sand flies and shorts apart, everything else was fine and dandy with my hike. As I said, Nik Hanif was a pretty good cook and we had several good meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner. We packed ample food everyday before our journey so everybody had enough to eat throughout the hike. On the first night I slept early due to my fatigue, sand flies or not. We started off rather late at half past 9:00 and didn’t reach the summit until well after 2:00. Unlike the previous day, I was fresh and ready for the day hike to the summit. This time around I had my newly purchased 10 liter dry bag ready with enough water supply to last the return hike, packed lunch and my camera, that’s all. Hiking light does has it advantages because I can walk and climb faster and I didn’t get exhausted too quickly without those excess load (as I did for Rajah). So it was little surprise that I was amongst the first in the bunch to reach the peak instead of making up the rear like the day before. Climbing to the summit of Yong Yap felt a lot like Tahan minus the rocky parts. One thing that’s special about Yong Yap is the mossy forest that’s more numerous and beautiful than Irau found just before the peak. If you’d like to see the mossy forest like Irau but can’t since it’s closed for now, why not try Yong Yap ha ha!

The top of the mountain is similar to Nuang where you are surrounded by tree shrubs and there’s no 360 view to enjoy. Although like Nuang there’s a patch of clearing where you can take a peak of the surrounding. I had my packed lunch and then proceed with the customary photography session with the guys (and girls). To be honest I was feeling a bit awkward taking pictures with my shorts on. It’s no surprise that most of my post Yong Yap pictures don’t have me in it except for one which I edited to cover my knees. The ascent took about 5 hours and the descent another 4 hours or so including walking in the pouring rain after sunset. If you think walking in the jungle at night is hard, wait until you do it in the pouring rain while crossing a dozen streams. There’s strong current and also finding your footing in the pitch darkness is no easy feet. There’s always the danger of being swept away by the water. I managed to get myself safely to camp but not before bumping my head into a few tree branches along the way. I thought the rain would stop after a while but it went on until well past midnight. Since it’s too cumbersome to cook in the rain, we didn’t have much dinner that night save for the one that we cooked individually. Me I just had a couple of spare bread that I bought earlier and a cup of coffee. It was freezing cold that night and I didn’t had much sleep first because of the sand flies and second, the rain was so heavy and so long it flooded our campsite. Well not exactly flooded in 5 feet water flooded but my carry mat did got wet as well as half of my sleeping bag. Imagine sleeping in a half-wet sleeping bag. It’s no fun I tell you.

The rain finally stopped when I woke up the next morning. We had breakfast and by 10 o’clock cleared our camp for the return hike. Since it rained the night before, our path was muddy and slippery much of the way. Still I managed to walk and keep up with the leading pack. We stopped for lunch somewhere at Kem Sungai Y and then reached the trailhead about an hour before sunset. The pickup truck arrived a little while later and I was freezing my balls off for the final 40 minutes of the trip to the Lojing mosque because I had nothing but my t-shirt and shorts on. After cleaning up and praying at the mosque, we decided to have dinner together somewhere in Ipoh. I don’t know what’s so special about the restaurant or who picked it but the food tasted rather ordinary. We said our goodbyes at the restaurant and make our way home shortly after that. This time it was my turn to drive from Ipoh to KL. It was late at night and needless to say I was exhausted and sleepy. Had to sing myself awake in the car for much of the journey.

This Yong Yap trip is memorable to me in a number of ways. First since it’s G7, the elite category of mountains in peninsular Malaysia. There’s the ripped pant case and then hiking with just my shorts on. I had to hike with a wet feet and sand/pebbles in my shoes until I had blisters all over. Then there’s the horrible sand flies leaving itchy rashes all over my body. It took me a week to recover from that. Even took an MC the day after the hike. Last but not least, I finally took a dump in the bushes for the very first time. Gross I know, but it’s an important milestone for me. Lucky for me it happened near a river so I had no problem cleaning up afterwards. Since I started hiking I have always wondered when that day will come. It finally happened during this Yong Yap trip.

I learned some very valuable lessons from my Yong Yap trip. Although I’ve read about sand flies at Yong Yap, I didn’t know they’re going to cause so much pain to me. Next time I will come prepared with a tent or at least ample amount of mosquito coils. Next, bring some spare clothes! I know I survived Tahan with only one pair of pants but I can’t always be lucky like that. Shit does happen and having an extra pair of pants with you could really come handy. I know I always wanted to pack light but from now on, I’ll make sure I have at least another pair of pants in my backpack just in case. And as always I made tons of new friends. Complete strangers who quickly become good friends. Gunung Yong Yap could be amongst the toughest mountains that I’ve attempted so far. Not so much for difficulty in height or steepness but the other challenges that come with it. If you're planning to climb this mountain next, I would recommend that you bring your own tent or at least lots of mosquito coils. Pack extra clothes in case shit happens. And remember the return 4WD journey at night is very cold so get your sweater ready. My trip lasted 3 days and 2 night for the single mountain. Some people also prefer to do 3 mountains at once - Yong Yap, Bubu & Tok Nenek which are situated next to each other. That trip is much more challenging and you'll need to have a really good stamina and endurance to climb all 3 mountains in the short span of 3 days. Not to mention the horrid sand flies. Maybe someday I'll do the trans YYBTN trip but probably after I finished the rest of the G7 mountains. 2 down, 5 more to go.