Gunung Ledang: My Maiden Hike To The Summit

I have always wanted to hike, fancying myself a tiny bit of the adventurous sort. Knowing that hiking could indeed elevate my sense of adventure, I had always wanted to make that move. Somehow opportunity had not quite presented itself. Indeed there is every truth in the familiar saying that, “There is no sooner or later, right time or wrong. Things happen when the time is right.”

A lone hiker overlooking one of  the mountain ranges in Malaysia
Getting set on a hike: ensure you have the basic requirements – good shoes, a backpack, hat and sun protection.
Photo credit to Mona Jamaluddin

When I Took The Plunge To Hike

A little over three years ago I laid my apprehensions to rest. Forget about not wanting to get my feet dirty; or how I had always thought myself a little clumsy. The time was ripe for a change and a challenge.

I began to develop my weekly time-out in the woods, preferring to hike at Taman Rimba Bukit Kerinchi, Kuala Lumpur, as it is closer to home. This forest reserve straddles Kuala Lumpur and Petaling Jaya and has two entry points. Taman Rimba Bukit Kerinchi is the entry point from Kuala Lumpur while Gasing Hill is the entry point from Petaling Jaya. This much desired green lung within the nation’s capital has made it one of the popular focal points for hikes and quick nature getaways.

These almost weekly hikes at Taman Rimba Bukit Kerinchi doesn’t quite make me an expert on the hills. However, I have become familiar with the basic trails, enabling me to estimate the time and distance I would like to take for each hike. In this way I am able to fit it in my weekend schedules. And, adequately prepare myself to train for whatever bigger hikes I have planned to undertake.

A hike up Cardiac Hill in Taman Rimba Bukit Kerinchi.
Cardiac Hill is a steep climb (and popular) climb at Taman Rimba Bukit Kerinhi. Presumably christened for its ability to work up the heart!
Photo credit to Mona Jamaluddin

Solo Hikes Are Great But The Fun Sets In When Shared With A Friend

When you hike alone you are at liberty to move at your own pace. However the very nature of a hike or a trek would mean the likelihood of exploring isolated reaches of the trails. Remember that your safety is paramount; find yourself in the company of others, or at least one other.

I prefer to hike in smaller groups as it makes coordination easier. More often than not I am with my hiking buddy, Mona Jamaluddin. That she is a good friend is indeed a bonus. There is much to be said of those quiet meandering moments in the woods and hills. We have developed a compatible pace, recognising each other’s strengths right down to the pet peeves.

Two friends on their hike up Gunung Ledang
Mona, on the left, and I making our way to the summit of Gunung Ledang.
Photo credit to Mona Jamaluddin

Sharing the natural beauty of the hike or trek makes a difference to the adventure. This is a bonus dimension to our friendship, our mutual interest and value in this recreational activity. We nurtured our friendship through these nature walks; we shared our hopes and aspirations, and the indulgence of dream destinations for future hikes and treks. Idle chatter would include reflect on the memories of our previous adventures.

My First Ever Full Day’s Hike

In April 2018, Mona and I had gotten together with six other friends to join Summit Adventures on the hike to Gunung Ledang (Mount Ophir), the highest peak in the Malaysian state of Johor. It seemed like the right moment to undertake a mountain hike, an opportunity to test my endurance, the novice hiker.

Preparation for the mountain hike included weekly practices in the woods, traversing the hills to build on our stamina; mental conditioning includes a research of the trail. Then there is the packing of the backpack. This time it was more than just a flask of water, face towel and basic first aid (read plaster). The backpack should include a supply of water to last the day, sandwiches for lunch, energy bars and dried fruits; as well as a more comprehensive first-aid kit, rain coat, gloves, torch and headlamp.

The team at the entrance of Taman Hutan Lagenda Gunung Ledang before our hike to the summit.
Our team of 26, comprising of hikers with varying experience, at the entrance of Taman Hutan Lagenda Gunung Ledang. I am standing sixth from the right while Mona is the fourth from the right, standing beside me.
Photo credit to Muhyiddin Yaarop

That Hike Up Gunung Ledang

When we assembled at the Park Office on the grounds of Taman Hutan Lagenda Gunung Ledang, a fleeting thought crossed my mind. Was I really ready and capable of going the distance of 1,276 metres to the peak? Would the expected five- to six-hour hike last longer for me due to inexperience?

I remained slightly apprehensive even as I took the first steps of Tangga Mahligai (Stairway To Heaven). Careful to conserve strength and energy, I made my way at a relatively brisk pace to reach the first checkpoint, Bukit Semput (Breathless Hill). Thankfully I was breathing quite comfortably!

Our band of eight at the first checkpoint on the hike to Gunung Ledang.
At Checkpoint 1 – Behind, from left to right is Arman, Manar, Ilyas and Adam. Front row, left to right is Azlina, Renee, Karina and Mona. The Gunung Ledang Lagenda Trail is landmarked with checkpoints to keep hikers informed of their location on the trail.
Image by Author

When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Get Going!

The level of difficulty intensified as we continued to ascend the mountain. We came up to a sign that read ‘KFC’ at 770 metres, just before Checkpoint 6. Certainly it did not bear the same connotation of that favourite fast-food meal. It has been abbreviated to mean ‘Killer For Climbers’ or ‘Killing Fitness Centre’. This was a challenging call to our agility and mental readiness. We had to climb several aluminium ladders that were tucked between boulders and also use the ropes to progress up the mountain.

At the start of the KFC trail at Gunung Ledang,
Braving ourselves to venture into the unknown. Mona on the right, and I begin the hike to KFC landmark.
Image by Author
Aluminium ladders were placed between the boulders to help climber on their hike up to Gunung Ledang
An aluminium ladder in the middle of the wilderness of the forest is an indication of how challenging the climb is likely to get.
Image by Author

There Were More Challenges Ahead

Once over, it was a short hike until we faced the steepest and most challenging segment of our climb. At 970 metres, the three sheer faces of Batu Hampar (Rock Face) greeted us. We needed to negotiate the rocks with ropes, and quite honestly, I was mortified. How am I to keep my balance with a heavier backpack and haul myself up?

I gave up my backpack to the sweeper, the team member positioned at the rear end of the group. He ensures that no one on the team is left behind. You might have guessed that I was lagging behind!

Negotiating the rope at Batu Hampar on our hike up Gunung Ledang
It is steeper than it seems! The camera was angled down to take this photo. It deceives the eyes on the actual height of Batu Hampar (Rock Face). This was just the beginning… the best has yet to come!
Image by Author

“Still a novice,” I remember muttering, and vowed to work harder at strengthening my core and arms.

Taman Bonsai, a relief in scenery after the challenging rope climb at Gunung Ledang
After the challenge of Batu Hampar, we were treated to Taman Bonsai (Bonsai Garden). This is a scenic outlook of the gnarled and weather-beaten trees. From this point there is a change in the vegetation of the forest.
Image by Autho

Finally, The Summit… But The Celebration Was Short-Lived

We eventually arrived at the peak of Gunung Ledang, but not before having to negotiate many, many more aluminium ladders. I had lost count. We managed to summit well into the afternoon, the hike up had taken longer than anticipated. Five hours instead of the projected three. We were not accorded the privilege of sweeping views across the horizon. It had already turned hazy by then. Our stay at the summit was brief. We were pressed for time as we had hoped to return to the base camp at Taman Hutan Lagenda before nightfall.

A panoramic view from the near-speak of Gunung Ledang.
Not quite at the summit but at this point the weather was in my favour for a view of the horizon.
Image by Author

Unfortunately it became a long and arduous journey as rain had rendered the trail muddy and slippery, slowing us down considerably. A good two hours of our descent was in the dark.

Sunlight dancing on the leaves in the forest of Gunung Ledang.
It is indeed magical when the sunlight dances on the foliage in the forest. The trail is a beautifully lush experience in the wilderness. The enchantment brings to mind the legend of Puteri Gunung Ledang.
Image by Author
A resting butterfly.
A chance encounter at one of our stops – probably the Plain Tiger (Danaus chrysippus) butterfly at rest. The flora and fauna of the forest is a treat to the eyes; as were the distant calls of the wildlife.
Image by Author

What Does It Take To Start To Hike

(1) Physical Fitness When You Hike

You need not be a super-fit individual. Ensure that you are able to take on a steady walk. Listen to your body and make-up the distance for as far as you are able to withstand, at a speed that works for you. Slowly build up your strength and stamina. These walks are your response to a healthy lifestyle; just as much as they are a source of enjoyment as you revel in nature’s bounties.

(2) Get Your Basic Hiking Gear Together

An absolute essential is suitable footwear. These should be comfortable shoes with suitable traction to prevent you slipping. Clothing should be comfortable with ample allowance for movement. Quick-drying and moisture-wicking fabrics are ideal.

As hiking has become hugely popular, hiking gear is readily available. Do not invest on expensive, top-of-the range clothing and equipment until you are absolutely certain of making full use of your investment.

Backpack at the ready for a short hike.
A short hike requires a smaller backpack. These would carry the basic fuel to sustain you for a few hours – water, sandwiches and fruits or energy snacks. Remember to include a basic first-aid kit in your backpack.
Image by Author

To Each Their Own… Why Hiking Works For Me

The desire to maintain a healthy lifestyle has led me to hiking and subsequently trekking. Health benefits abound. From keeping a healthy heart to improving my cardiorespiratory fitness and keeping the calories in check. I also approach my matured years seeking ways to slow down bone density loss as well maintain muscle fitness through running and hiking.

And as the daily demands on life takes a toll on the mind and soul, hiking has increasingly become a therapy. Not once have I looked back with regret for starting to hike. Indeed it is a stress reliever and my happy pill!

Organised Hiking Adventures

If you are having trouble looking for company to hike with, consider checking out the social media for some leads. Shop around on Facebook or Instagram as there is an extensive pool of hiking enthusiasts you could connect with.

The reward of a hike - looking across to Gunung Sumbing, Indonesia.
Muhyiddin Yaarop of Summit Adventures at Gunung Sumbing, Indonesia.
Photo courtesy of Summit Adventures

You might prefer to leave the planning of a hike to an expert. A couple of my local adventures were reliably handled by Summit Adventures. It is headed by Muhyiddin Yaarop, a hiker of over 15 years’ experience. They have organised hiking adventures to hills, mountains and waterfalls in Malaysia since 2012. These adventures also include Gunung Rinjani, Gunung Semeru and Gunung Bromo in Indonesia as well as Mount Fuji in Japan. You can find them on Facebook.

About Azlina ALI

Veteran journalist, wife, mother, with an ever burning passion to write and tell stories. Then throw in a dose of healthy diet and an active lifestyle, Azlina is a force to be reckoned with. She's a lean, mean storytelling machine.

4 Replies to “Gunung Ledang: My Maiden Hike To The Summit”

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    • Thank you so much! Hiking is an activity that is accessible to just about everyone, I hope to expand the series in time. Keep a lookout …

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