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A Walk In The Clouds

It's name is not as ubiquitous as Mount Kinabalu but just a mere 40 kilometers away from the highest peak in South East Asia stands a stealthy peak that puts many mountains in Malaysia to shame. At the very first mention of its name, though commonly mistaken for Terus Mati (Straight Die in colloquial terms), the presumptive fact is actually self evident; Trus Madi is a force to be reckoned with.

Figure 1 Trus Madi peak.

The undulating roads right up to the 200 kilometer mark of Sinua village where the trailhead starts is one of the many scenic routes in Sabah. At every turn, the lush and untouched Borneo rainforest shrouded us, giving off a sense of complete isolation from the habitual world.

Figure 2 Paddy fields along Kimanis route.

The Sinua route to the peak is considered the toughest out of the 3 trails given its perpetual distance, a whopping 25 kilometers in totality and its unforgiving terrain.

It was nightfall and after 4 hours on the road coupled with an eerie 2 kilometer stretch through the pitch black paddy fields and rugged gravel laden road, we had finally arrived at Camp 1.

Figure 3 Camp 1 at dawn.

Figure 4 Accommodation at Camp 1; Comfortable beds and fleece blankets were provided.

We were expecting a bigger crowd but little did we know that we were the only 3 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 verandah, for us to settle in before the briefing.

I was awoken by a stream of light that reflected off my face. Dawn began to break and I looked at the clock to see it timed at 6.30am.

Figure 5 The early morning awakening at Sinua village.

We scrambled off bed and began to pack all equipments needed for 2 days. Breakfast was promptly served at 7am and our trusted guide sat with us for one final briefing before the ascent.

Figure 6 All set for the summit

Figure 7 The first leg of the trek. Mount Trus Madi can be seen at the distant background covered by clouds.

The terrain was that of a equatorial evergreen rainforest. It had the same winning formula; 2 suspension bridges crossing over wide and at times torrential streams, charming brooks, canopy like trees as tall as the sky, lush green forest and rare wild life. There was nothing to dislike about this trail except for the leeches. The first part of the journey from camp 1 to 2 is the longest of the entire trek (8km distance) and one would be surprised that this journey, though challenging in its own right, is actually 'friendlier' compared to the brutal summit push.

Figure 8 The second of the 2 suspension bridges.

Figure 8a One of the many stream crossings.

Figure 9 The largest tree along Sinua trail.

The initial 4 kilometer trail was 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.

Figure 10 Up up we go. The loose rocks certainly pose a challenge during ascent.

Figure 11 Bird's nest spotted.

Climate is a rather peculiar thing. At 1600 meters, just 700 meters away from Camp 2, the forest began to change. It was the beginning of an enchanted realm enveloped with mist, moss, larger than life hanging roots and treacherous precipice. From this point onwards, we were clambering on firmly rooted roots and branches to inch our away closer to camp 2.

Figure 12 The beginning of the mossy forest.

Figure 13 The wild yellow orchid at 1500 meters.

Figure 14 A Red Hydrangea in full bloom.

If we talk about the bare minimal basics of camping, camp 2 doesn't quite fit the bill. It has an established wooden kitchen, 2 sleeping barracks, a dining area and 2 toilets. We had a cook who 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.

Figure 15 The full view of Camp 2.

Figure 16 A simple meal prepared by dedicated mountaineers.

Figure 17 The not so comfortable sleeping barracks.

Figure 18 The calm before the storm.

The Summit Push

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 2 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.

A mere 4.9 kilometer seemed like the longest mile but when we looked up, it was one of the most breathtaking interstellars.. Our pace began to quicken against the now more gradual slopes as we could already see earth's shadow over the horizon. Sunrise was nigh and so was our summit push.

Figure 19 Mercury Rising.

Figure 20 The break of dawn at the summit.

Figure 20a A walk in the clouds

Every summit has its own challenges but we only understood her label as the toughest peak upon experience. It was absolutely quiet and the summit in entirety belonged to us for that one moment. The sun began to rise, casting an interchanging spectacle of colors against the carpet clouds.

Figure 21 The carpet clouds.

Figure 22 View from the observation tower.