Monumental Climb – The Pinnacles at Mulu National Park

 Travel does what good novelists also do to the life of everyday, placing it like a picture in a frame or a gem in its setting, so that the intrinsic qualities are made more clear. Travel does this with the very stuff that everyday life is made of, giving to it the sharp contour and meaning of art.” – Freya Stark

Hello all,

A 5:30am wakeup and I was thankful that the sun was just rising. It looked to be an overcast day that would aid us in our climb. The instructions were simple and clear, take plenty of insect repellent, a minimum of 3 litres of water and wear good running/hiking shoes. I took (2) two litre bottles and we were to leave one at the halfway point that we’d grab on the way back down. For the Malaysian girls it was advised to wear thin long pants as the trails were rough, lots of jagged rocks and required manoeuvering of one’s body.

Off we went, hiking through the jungle on our way to tackle the infamous Pinnacles. In retrospect I’m glad that I didn’t know exactly what I was getting into, and the descent was going to be much harder than the ascent. I took the lead and was encouraged to climb at my own pace so I took off and after five minutes I could no longer see my group and never saw them again for the rest of the climb. The jungle was dense and silent as underwater when I’m diving. Occasionally the silence was interrupted by birds or monkeys announcing my arrival and bugs swarmed around me like they were racecars on a Formula 1 racetrack, at times even faster than Lewis Hamilton. Attracted to the sweat I was forced to reapply repellent every half an hour and even more than usual as I had ditched my shirt ten minutes into the climb, leaving on a sports bra and hiking my shorts up as high as they could go. It was so hot that I was soaked the entire way through. 

To give you some perspective, the height of the pinnacles is 3937’, the CN Tower is 1815’ and the Empire State building is 1250’. The trek was arduous and complex with twisting roots, jagged rocks and it is essentially rock climbing. Perhaps a new sport I may take up. I loved it. There were so many tarantula holes that I had to try to not think about it for fear they would jump out on my feet regardless of them being nocturnal. A tip for parents, do not show your child photos of insects at 50x magnification when they are 8 years old (Dad!). There must have been at least a thousand tarantula holes meaning I had 8000 eyes on me, ugh I can’t even write this anymore. All to say, this vision inspired me to climb.

The second part of the climb was about a third of the entire distance and it got really interesting and I loved it. It involved many vertical climbs both with ropes and ladders, balancing, walking across very narrow beams between rocks and you needed to pay attention to what you were doing. 

When I arrived at the top I felt such a feeling of serenity and pride. I had made it up in 2.25 hours and had 1.5 hours by myself until the rest of my group arrived, to take photos, eat my lunch (at 8:30am – we had left at 6:15am) and read. I watched as four mountain shrews played around me, vying for my bread crusts and “talking” to one another, keeping me company.

Towards the end of the climb I played music from my Blackberry in my backpack, without headphones and the irony is that upon arrival the song The Weekend, house remix by Michael Gray was playing. “I can’t wait, for the weekend to begin.” And that it had, it was a superb Saturday morning. I later found out that I had set the female record for the fastest time to The Pinnacles. Not bad at all for someone who is really good at sitting on the couch and doesn’t work out. I’m thinking I might start and then see what I really can accomplish. I thank the spiders, maybe I should be thanking my dad as well, lol.

The view from the top was breathtaking. “The pinnacle formations tower above the surrounding landscape, some reaching heights of 40 to 50 metres.  Centuries of water have eroded and dissolved the rock into razor-sharp spikes that knife skywards through the surrounding rainforest.”

The way down was much more difficult. I was tired, my legs were beginning to tremble a bit and the view looks different so you really don’t have an idea of where you are, how much longer it is to the bottom. Again I thought of tarantulas on my heels and I stumbled a few times, almost falling. You really need to take your time and definitely use the ropes where available. The ladder/rope section was completely done with me facing backwards. I thought it was taking me 4 hours and the last 500 metres were incredibly challenging as I spoke to the jungle telling it how much I wanted to be back at camp, I wanted to eat, swim, sleep etc.. Finally, ten minutes later I was “home.” It was incredibly hard. I made it in 2.5 hours, which is tied for the fastest time for a man/woman to come down. How I did it I have no idea as I stopped a lot, often in a daze, and then willed myself to continue. Again, I was alone coming down and it’s much harder that way without the support of others and people to talk to. I arrived back at camp at 1pm and my group, leaving 5 minutes after me, arrived at 5pm. I can’t imagine being on the climb for that long, I would have died. I hated coming down.

You don’t have to be in super duper good shape to do this climb and the Malaysian girls I was with were able to do it and I don’t believe they do much of anything at home in Singapore. But you cannot be out of shape and being agile really helps as does having long legs; it definitely gives you an advantage. This climb is best suited to people in their 20’s and 30’s and for those who are fit in other decades as well.

I would rate this climb a 6.5/10 in difficulty in going up and an 8.5 coming down. Your muscles will scream at you on the second day after your climb and I was prone to some serious knee buckling as I walked down the street, the locals must have thought something was wrong with me. I got an hour’s massage in Kota Kinabalu yesterday and it has greatly improved the state of my legs, I can’t imagine what I would be like now if I hadn’t. And as well, drinking lots of water on the climb is important for the lactic acid build up in your muscles. Keep moving!

I would definitely recommend The Pinnacles Climb. I don’t know if I’ll ever do it again, I’m not planning on it. But boy am I proud of myself.

Climbing Mt. Kinabalu, Southeast Asia’s tallest mountain from Friday – Sunday. Yep, glutton for punishment, go big or go home!

What Was Spent In This Post: RM 405 for boat transportation to and from The Pinnacles, catered meals, 2b/l/d, accommodations for 2 nights, the climb and guide. RM 35 for additional food/pop.

Total: RM 440 / CAD $147

 Question: What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done? 

4 Responses to Monumental Climb – The Pinnacles at Mulu National Park

  1. this is simply amazing !

    Layla October 18, 2011 at 12:07 PM Reply
  2. Julie –

    Good work! The thousands of tarantula eyes would have moved me along.

    Joanne

    Joanne October 18, 2011 at 12:11 PM Reply
    • Ha, reading your comment just gave me shivers. They sure did boot my ass up that climb. 🙂

      juliemunsch October 18, 2011 at 8:10 PM Reply
  3. Pingback: The Incredible Iguaçu Falls « The Travelling Munschkin

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