We assembled at the HQ at 8am and started the climb from Timpohon Gate, a shorter and more direct climb to the summit than the more scenic Mesilau route.
I was excited and relieved that the day had finally arrived. We did a short warm up and reminded each other to take our time to climb. Although I use the word climb, there is no hands involved in our ascent to the summit, just leg power going up steps made unevenly of rocks, granite and occasionally wooden planks. The total journey to Laban Rata would be 6km, with rest stops equipped with flushing toilets at every mile-stone.
I started my Runkeeper Apps on my phone. My group of five included my friend’s seventy-year old father. Each of us had a hiking stick to assist us. As I walk, my Apps updated my progress every five minutes and I was horrified that I took about 55mins per km, twice my usual training time at Bukit Timah Hill. At that rate, I would need approximately 6 hours to reach Laban Rata.
I trudged on, and met two friendly couples from Malacca. May and hubby Bak Kut Teh were a jovial couple and I felt an instant connection with them. I was to meet them often during my climb. The climb was made harder by the uneven surfaces. My husband Mike urged me to slow down but I find myself losing momentum every time I stopped and waited for the group. In the end, I told them I would go ahead first.
I reached out lunch destination at Layang layang (4km mark). It was crowded with hikers taking their lunch break. My stomach started growling as well and I finished my ration of Wang Wang rice crackers and Snicker. Still, there was no sign of my group. My lunch was with the porter. Although it was sunny, I started feeling chilly in my thin attire and shivered. I finally spotted my friend SH. Still hot from her climb, she loaned me her windbreaker and a sandwich. The rest finally arrived, with my food and extra clothing.
Hiking in an unfamiliar terrain requires mindful walking. One missed step and you may find your face on the ground, as what had happened to me while hiking in KL. Here, you really had to consider which stepping-stones are the least strenuous to your knees. Still, I wanted to take in the scenery and was delighted to spot some huge Pitcher Plants by the side of the trail.
As the altitude increased, tropical plants gave way to alpine shrubs with its needle-shaped leaves. I met some hikers on their way down and asked them about the summit. Most could not reach the summit as there was heavy rain the night before and the guides had stopped the climb for safety reasons. Their news hit me hard. It hadn’t occurred to me that I might not succeed due to weather. To go all the way and fail? My heart sank as I felt rain drops falling. It got heavier and I had to put on my poncho to protect my backpack. I felt like an impatient little kid as I asked everyone I met who were coming down, ‘How long more to go?’ They were all very encouraging, although not very truthful as they replied, ‘You’re almost there.’
As I dragged my increasingly heavy foot up yet another step, the tightness on my upper back also increased. I met May and she was all bright and cheerful, in contrast to my gloomy look. She pointed to a building in front and said, our destination was below that building, hidden from sight, about five minutes walk away.
My heart lifted and so did my feet. I needed to get away from this wetness quickly to rest my feet on a comfortable seat, hopefully with a cup of hot tea at hand.
And I made it to Laban Rata, into the warm, dry canteen and my hot cup of tea.