Gunung Rajah hike

For my next trip I went to Gunung Rajah in nearby Bentong town. I’ve heard Rajah is quite a tough mountain to hike and at 1,665 meters only the toughest hikers could finish the climb within a day. Most however would camp somewhere in the middle and attempt the summit the next day.

For this trip I’ve joined the Sovereign Outdoor Heritage outdoor team (SovoKL). This is now my first time joining their trip though, our first outing together was to Gunung Telapak Buruk last year. After getting our permits and registration in order the week before, we met up near Gombak LRT station which is a regular meet up point for hikers all around the Klang Valley. Kudos to the organiser for arranging transportation and car-pooling for most of us. There were altogether 30 of us and after a quick dinner we left for Bentong at around midnight.

By the time we got to Chamang waterfall, it rained heavily and our hike were delayed for nearly an hour. Fortunately the rain did subside and by 4:00 0' clock we were ready to start our journey up Good Morning hill. Normally, people would hire a 4x4 vehicle to ferry hikers to the edge of the jungle where the real trail head begins. Somehow the organiser overlooked this part so we had to walk almost 2 hours from the waterfall to the trail head. Lucky for as about 20 minutes down the logging road, another group of hikers offered to carry our bags with their 4 wheel drive so at least we didn’t have to drag our bags all the way. Not that I’m complaining or anything cause I’ve carried a heavier load for much further than this. It’s just that we could have saved an hour an a half had we had a transport in.

Anyway 2 hours later we got to the trail head just before sunrise. As you can imagine we didn’t have much sleep the night before but we had little time to rest let alone sleep. We continued our journey early that morning and arrived in Lata Naning campsite around 10:00 AM. The first part of the hike was relatively easy with not much climbing to do and the elevation was still low. We set up camp and cooked lunch next to the beautiful Lata Naning waterfall. Lata Naning however is not such a big area and by the time we arrived there, there were already another 2 or 3 group of hikers camped there. However we did manage to set up or fly and ground on whatever little space left that we have there.

Our original plan was to begin hiking after midnight in time to catch sunrise at the peak the morning. However after some discussion with the guides, they decided to start the hike right after lunch at around 2:00 PM. The trek to the summit would normally take 5 hours which means we should catch sunset at the top when we arrive. The hike from Lata Naning to the peak was the more difficult one. We climbed steadily up until Bonsai Park where the hike became more gruelling and testing. We had to climb some steep and slippery rocks too before reaching the summit which felt like forever. Honestly I feel climbing Rajah is like twice as hard as Nuang.

This rock-climbing bit is the more difficult part

The second part of the hike took 5 exhausting hours but we made it to the top just before sunset. As we expected to catch the sunset, we were somewhat disappointed because the peak was foggy if not hazy all around and we couldn’t see a thing in front of us. I guess it was unfortunate that we hiked during the haze season so we didn’t get to see the breathtaking scenery at the top. That said, beautiful view or not, we’re just glad we made it to the top safe and sound. The wind were blowing strongly at the top and I was literally shaking in the cold. I didn’t bother to bring a jacket though because I know the journey down would be hot and sweaty anyway.

After the customary picture-taking and a bit of rest we were ready to go back to camp. By that time everybody was hungry and tired but only few came prepared with any food and drink. Me of all people should have known better but yet I forgot to bring along my stove, 3–1 coffee or instant noodle pack. So we shared whatever little food we have and it was quite nice huddling together in the cold and dark mountaintop sipping milo and nestum.

The journey down took the same amount of time as the way up, partly because it was dark and also because we were slowed down by a few members who couldn’t keep up or got slightly injured along the way. By this time everybody was both hungry, tired and sleeping after hiking almost the entire day and without much rest or sleep. Hiking in the dark guided only by your tiny headlamp is no easy feat. Fortunately for me all my experience hiking in the jungle helped me find my way around without getting lost. I should have reloaded my water supply at the last water point though cause I barely got enough water left when I got back to camp. We reached camp around 2 o’ clock in the morning and that’s when we finally had our dinner. Thankfully the 3 members who didn’t join us to the top helped to cook dinner for us while we’re away so we didn’t have to wait for long to eat. After a quick bath in the freezing cold stream water I was ready to go to sleep under the fly sheet. I purposely chose a spot near the entrance for easy access and also so that it wouldn’t be so hot during the day.

My luck didn’t last for long though cause for the first time during camping that it rained while I was about to sleep. The fly sheet was strong and thick enough to keep us from getting wet however since I lay down near the entrance, I get dirt splashing to my face because of the rain. In the end I got my rain poncho out, cover my face and slept soundly until morning. I suppose the rain didn’t last that long because our canvas, bags and stuff were not soaking wet or anything. We cooked breakfast and then packed up our stuff ready to leave by midday. The journey back to just over 3 hours but not before walking for some time in the afternoon rain.

In the end we were all tired but happy I guess having making it up the challenging Gunung Rajah. This mountain is definitely not for beginners and all but a few of our hiking members that day had climbed several tough mountains before. I couldn’t help but feel slightly superior when joining any hiking trip after Tahan but I have learned by now that there’s always someone more faster, tougher, more experienced than you. Gunung Rajah is a tricky mountain to attempt. If you’re not strong enough for a day pack, you’ve got to camp overnight. But when is the right time to climb to the summit? If you do like what we did and go to the top on the first day you’ll end up hiking down in the dark. If you do it early the next day, you might avoid hiking in the dark but you’ll get back to camp near sunset so after having dinner and packing up camp you’ll only get out of the jungle at night anyway. So unless you plan a 3 day camping trip (which I don’t have time for), there’s no escaping hiking in the dark for Rajah.

Overall the organiser had planned the trip well. Yes we could have saved some time had we booked a 4 wheel drive to ferry everybody but that’s a small matter. I wished they have planned the camp better though because not everybody got to eat under the canvas that night, at least at first. Finally, I wished everybody was more prepared with a proper backpack for a 2 days camping trip. You definitely don’t use a sleazy school-size backpack for an overnight stay in the jungle. You’ve got rations and tents and canvas to carry and when you carry such a puny backpack other people will have to carry your share of the burden. This is not your typical half-day hike up Tabur or Broga okay? That said, I’d like to give them the benefit of the doubt. Maybe it is indeed their first camping trip or something. With a sizable number of participants (30 people), there’s bound to be a few slow ones or newbies that would slow down everyone. Everybody got their own pace and just getting everyone to assemble and start hiking took somewhere from 10 to 30 minutes. I’m sure with a smaller crew we could have reached the summit and back much faster than this.

As always I made a lot of new friends during this camping trip. Some are quite seasoned, some are intermediate and still working to finish their G7 like me and also the customary newbies. Everybody got along quite well and despite the minor hiccups about the tent and the timing the entire trip went quite smoothly. I especially love the energy, warmth and friendliness of the team members. It’s like we’ve known each other for a long time. Will I attempt Rajah again in the future? Most probably yes, along with my family next time. One thing for sure it will be with a smaller crew so we’ll move faster and also I’ll make sure everybody got enough sleep and rest so the hike wouldn’t be so exhausting like this one. Oh remind me to get a little dry pack so I can carry my stuff in there while attempting to climb to the summit from camp. Last time I had to carry my (mostly empty) 90 liters backpack to the top because I didn’t have any smaller bags.