A mere 40 kilometres from the highest point in Malaysia stands a stealthy peak. Though not as ubiquitous as Mount Kinabalu, it certainly has a reputation of its own. At the very first mention of its name, one might mistake it for Terus Mati (“Straight Die” in Malay colloquial terms). So what is it about this second highest peak that sends shivers down to climbers’ spines? Indeed, Mount Trus Madi, as I would learn, is a force to be reckoned with.
The Sinua Route
The undulating roads right up to the 200 kilometres mark of Sinua Village where the trail head starts is one of the many scenic routes in Sabah. At every turn, the lush and untouched Borneo rain forest shrouded us, emanating a sense of complete isolation from the habitual world.
The Sinua route to the peak is considered the toughest out of the three trails. Although only half the height of Mount Kinabalu (2,642 metres), its total trekking distance is nearly double that of Mount Kinabalu (24 kilometres). Its whopping distance coupled with an unforgiving terrain make it a challenge for adventurous hikers.
It was nightfall and after four hours on the road, we had finally arrived at Camp 1. Little did we know that we were the only three individuals trekking on that particular weekend. Our guide showed us to our resting place for the night, a basic wooden stilt house and an outdoor toilet connected by a veranda, for us to settle in before the briefing by our local guide, Shed.
“It will be a total of two days, and if you can summit this, then Mount Kinabalu will be easy. Always remember to follow your own pace and be respectful of the mountain. I am sure you can do it,” said Shed. I had heard about its reputation so much so that I had butterflies in my stomach. Shed’s advice rang in my head until I eventually dozed off transiently. It will be the first of the two sleepless nights at Trus Madi.
The Long And Winding Trail
Dawn began to break and we scrambled off our beds to pack all equipment needed for two days. Breakfast was promptly served at 7 am and our trusted guide sat with us for one final briefing before the ascent.
The terrain was that of an equatorial evergreen rain forest. It had the same winning formula; suspension bridges, charming brooks, canopy of trees, lush green forest and rare wildlife.
There was nothing to dislike about this trail except for the leeches. The first part of the journey from Camp 1 to Camp 2 is the longest of the entire trek (eight kilometres in distance) and one would be surprised that this journey, though challenging in its own right, is actually ‘friendlier’ than the brutal summit push. The initial four kilometres trail was actually kind to our feet with just the right combination of uphill, downhill and flat ground, but the remaining half of the journey is a constant 45-degree uphill slope.
Climate is a rather peculiar thing. At 1,600 metres, just 700 metres away to Camp 2, the forest began to change. We had reached the montane zone, enveloped with mist, moss, larger-than-life hanging roots and treacherous precipice. Certainly, we were inching our away closer to Camp 2.
The Camp Life At Mount Trus Madi
If we talk about the bare minimal basics of camping, Camp 2 doesn’t quite fit the bill. It has an established wooden kitchen, two sleeping barracks, a dining area and two toilets. Mel, who was our cook, also accompanied us and whipped up some of the most delicious dishes, all with such simplicity. For an overnight outdoor experience, it certainly exceeded our very basic expectations.
We watched the sunset after our hearty meal and at 6 pm, it was bedtime. It wasn’t the best sleep ever with the rain pelting on the zinc roof, and with it grew our apprehension. After 3 hours of tossing and turning, we eventually dozed off with acceptance that we might not be able to summit if the rain continued.
The blaring alarm woke us up and we heard absolute silence around us. There wasn’t a single cloud above us and the moonlight illuminated much of the sky. Our pre-departure meals were served and about 1 am we headed out into the darkness for the summit push.
Mount Trus Madi Summit Attack
Every step of the way began to spell fatigue as the ascent was brutal; almost vertical root terrain with ropes now and then for support, coupled with muddy and slippery ground due to the heavy downpour last evening. There were two peaks to cross before reaching Trus Madi summit, so imagine going up and down a hill almost three times in complete darkness with a cut-off time.
The final 4.9 kilometres seemed like the longest mile but when we looked up, it was one of the most breathtaking view. Our pace began to quicken against the now more gradual slopes as we could already see the sun’s shadow over the horizon. Sunrise was nigh and so was our summit push.
The sun began to rise, casting an interchanging spectacle of colours against the carpet clouds. Just 300 metres away from the summit is the observation tower where the view of the skyline is unimpeded. The imposing Mount Kinabalu stood majestically 40 kilometres away from the summit, and we were lucky enough to get a clear view of it.
The Nepenthes Walk And Descent
Like all climbs, the journey down is as important as the initial climb up. I had wondered how we managed to make it through such harsh terrain, but walking through the Nepenthes trail dimmed all fatigue. We spotted at least ten different species of pitcher plants, and observed how the overgrown roots held the entire trail together.
The Final Thought
As the adrenaline waned, the descent became harder but at the end of it, I only remembered the camaraderie forged, the tranquillity of solitude, and the rush of blood to the head at the summit. I looked back at her vista and shook my head in disbelief. What a mountain!
Special credits to Freschela Pinus for organising this amazing hike in Sabah. Visit Borneo Trail Hikers Facebook page for bookings. Also, special credits to Sabah Tourism, and Hellosabahmy for their effort in boosting the beautiful travel destinations in Sabah. Visit Sabah Tourism FB or their official website for more information on hiking Mount Kinabalu and other places of interests in Sabah. Also, visit Hellosabahmy FB for more information about cultural events and travel destinations in Sabah.