Gunung Nuang via Pangsun camping

In the early days of my climbing career, Gunung Nuang is amongst the first hard core mountains that I have attempted to climb. In June last year I followed a fellow climber up to Gunung Nuang via Pangsun but only up till Kem Pacat that is halfway up the mountain. Back then I was ill-prepared and under-trained. I have only climbed a few hills and kiddy mountains so my stamina was far from good. 4 months later I finally made it up the mountain but via the Janda Baik route instead which half as hard and much faster to finish. Naturally my life wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t try climbing Nuang via Pangsun at least once.

Turn right here

My chance came as I was training for my Gunung Tahan trip next week. I’ve hiked a few mountains such as Gunung Telapak Buruk, Bukit, Gunung Irau and camped at Bukit Kutu but a real challenge would be something like Gunung Nuang via Pangsun of course. So I called up a few guys (and girl) and set out to hike and climb on top of Gunung Nuang last weekend. Normally people would camp at Kem Lolo at the foot of the mountain and go for a day hike to the summit from there. But since I’m a badass-motherf*cker, I dragged my friends for a grueling climb straight to the peak and camp there instead.

A regular day hike up Gunung Nuang would take an average 11 to 12 hours for the return trip. Half the time if you’re one of those cray-cray type ultra marathon runners. But let us not dwell on what crazy people does (says the guy who climbs a stationery rock for no reason). Anyway since we’re planning to camp overnight, there’s really no hurry to start the hike. Many people would start early — go in at 6:00–7:00 AM and come out before nightfall. My merry band of hikers started at 12:30 PM. There we’re originally 8 of us but as always 3 people bailed so it’s only 5 of us in the end, 4 guys and a girl. The sole girl almost bailed out as well had we not volunteered to switch and carry her heavy bag.

After registering ourselves and paying the nominal 1 ringgit entrance fee, we set out for the long hike up Gunung Nuang. Like last time, we had to traverse the 5 kilometers logging road. This time around however, some parts of it is being paved with cement mostly the first 500 meters. Honestly I prefer the old dirt road compared to this hard cement. It’s easier on the knees and cement just looked wrong in the wilderness. Perhaps they want to make it easier for visitors to drive straight in to Kem Lolo or something in the future. On a regular day, I would have finished my 5 kilometers jog at home in 40 minutes. But this dirt road or the endless road as it is affectionately called feels like forever to finish. Okay, more like 1 and a half hours or so from the entrance to the first river crossing near Kem Lolo. Most of the people we met are on their way down from the peak. When they found out we’re camping on the peak most will reply with ‘wah’ or good luck. As I said, most would prefer to camp at Kem Lolo or at least Kem Pacat than carry those heavy camping equipment and load to the peak.

We stopped at Kem Lolo where the stream/waterfall is for lunch. On the second river crossing, I kinda lost balance (with my heavy backpack and all) and stepped into the river and wet my shoes. Nobody likes to hike with a wet boots but shit do happen and you shouldn’t worry too much about it. Just take off your socks and carry on like nothing happens. Sure your feet will be a little more sore but by the time you reach the peak, your shoes would be almost dry. After Kem Lolo, that’s where the real climb starts. Previously, you’re just warming up through the 6 kilometers hike. From there on the ascend to the peak would be ruthless. 4 kilometers of 60 to 80° climb at some parts would really test your strength, stamina and resolve.

We reached Kem Pacat, halfway up the mountain at around 5:00 PM. By then, our water supply was half gone. There’s supposed to be a water point near Kem Pacat but it’s hidden somewhere out of sight. Therefore we had to be really prudent with our drinking. Despite the name, Kem Pacat is mostly devoid of leeches unlike it’s namesake. Honestly, I would be more worried of the pesky mosquitoes than the leeches. And there’s a lot of mosquitoes during the hike especially between the entrance and Kem Lolo. 2 hours later we reached Puncak Pengasih also known as the false peak just before the summit. On my first hike up Nuang, I didn’t go further than Kem Pacat so successfully reaching Puncak Pengasih is a milestone in itself. I aimed to reach the peak before dark but since I’m the de facto sweeper, I had to wait for everybody to catch up. Everybody as in the sole girl member of the hike who was not as fit or fast as the others. Actually I was just about as slow as her, mostly because of the heavy load I’m carrying in my backpack (15 kilos). It’s a blessing in disguise really not to have to catch up with the others (who had half the load). In the end we only reached the summit around 8:30 PM, well into the night. It’s not easy hiking in the dark I tell you, especially on unfamiliar terrains and bugs flying to your face and into your mouth, attracted by your headlamp. Thankfully we only hiked about an hour or so in the dark.

We finally reached the peak at 8:30 PM, it was pitch dark and nobody else was there except for our motley crew of 5. We set up camp on a clearing under some trees and cook dinner and stuff. Since there’s very limited water, showering or cleaning yourself is out of the question. But it’s quite cold up there so we didn’t stink that much (that’s what we thought anyway). Azlina and I set up our own tents while the three boys slept under the fly sheet in their sleeping bags. After a little chatter we retired early that night since everybody is exhausted anyway. From the distance we can hear thunder and wind blowing but just like last time it didn’t rain at all while we’re camped at the peak. My theory is, the clouds are beneath us so while it may rain the foot of the hill and elsewhere it didn’t affect us at the peak. That said, I still woke up a few times at night because it was fricking cold in my tent especially my feet. Remember I splashed into the river earlier and got my shoes and socks wet? Yeah, having a spare socks is most important on mountain top camping trips. My skimpy blanket was simply not enough to warm every part of my body. I’ve thought of taking a sleeping bag along but my 50 liters bag is too small and there’s no space for anything else after packing my tent, stove, water, food and stuff. That’s why you need a big backpack for such camping trips, 50 liters or less just wouldn’t cut it. You need at least 70 liters or more for guys and 60 liters for girls.

The next morning I woke up early meaning to catch some sunrise on the peak. Unfortunately it was very foggy all around and I couldn’t see nothing let alone sunrise. Nevertheless, the morning scenery from the top is still gorgeous even without any spectacular sunrise. We took some pictures of ourselves and then made breakfast before going down. I get to try some Brahim’s fried rice. It’s amazing how they can make this food last so long. I bet there’s a liberal amount of preservatives added for that purpose. Although a bit expensive (at 10 ringgit a pack), they’re actually quite good and satisfying. Fried rice with some chicken bits thrown in. It’s a common ration for campers who don’t want (unskilled) to cook. Just boil in water for 5 minutes and they’re ready.

We left the peak at around 10:00 AM. Up until then, there’s still noone else at the peak whether from Pangsun or Janda Baik. We did met a few early birds on the way down. If they’re already near the peak by 10:30 AM I’m guessing they started very early, 5:00 to 6:00 AM the latest. The descend down the mountain was supposed to be less difficult and faster than the hike up but still with all those load on our back, it proves to be quite a challenge. We reached Kem Pacat in record time of 1 and a half hours. This time around we managed to ask a fellow hiker the location of the elusive water point which was only 5 minutes hike away. There’s two distinct clearing at Kem Pacat and you need to go to the higher one further up. From there, turn left and follow the hillside track to the water point. I’ve uploaded a short video showing the path to the water point for your reference. We were mighty glad that we found the water point cause our supplies are nearly finished by then. The water from the hill was cool and refreshing and you can literally drink straight from it. We stocked up on our water supplies before resuming our journey.

We reached Kem Lolo around 2:00 PM but not before it rained for 30 minutes or so on the way there. Even brief, the rain managed to make the trail all muddy and slippery and I managed to slip once onto the ground. Rain although would cool down the temperature a little bit, is the last thing any hikers want. It makes the track and dirt road slippery, may increase the water levels at streams suddenly and dramatically and it also may come with lightning risk especially when you’re at high elevations. That’s why if it’s been raining heavily a few hours before or if it looks like it might rain most people would likely cancel their hike or climb since the risk and/or difficulty is not worth it. At Kem Lolo we cooked dinner (of instant noodle, what else) and had a dip in the icy cool stream water. Nothing like dipping your tired legs in the cold water to refresh them.

From Kem Lolo to the park’s entrance took us another hour and a half or so. We didn’t stop much at any of the 6 huts along the way because the mosquitoes were merciless. Even while walking they’ll try their best to suck on your blood. After like 12 hours of walking and climbing since yesterday, we finally made it to the entrance safe and sound. Perhaps after going up so many mountains, this time I didn’t feel as exhausted as the first time around. Gunung Nuang via Pangsun is one of the harder mountains to climb so it’s not for everyone. Certainly not for people who just hiked Broga or Datuk before and probably not for less than fit people. Trust me, it will test your mental resolve, strength and also your stamina. Some people will make it up until Pacat, some halfway past Pacat. Not everybody will make it to the peak. But if you’ve been hiking and climbing regularly, Gunung Nuang via Pangsun could prove to be a fun challenge for you. There’s an extra satisfaction when you finally made it to the top, the same feeling you have when climbing similar tough mountains. Nuang via Pangsun is a good training ground to start your G7 excursion or simply before trying other higher and tougher summits.

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