Monday, March 10, 2008

1st Tahan Expedition, part 12....Our 1st Sighting of G Tahan

DAY 4 of ACTUAL CLIMB - Friday, April 18th 1969.

Wray's Camp to Padang
Photo Top: This was me next to our tent with G Tahan in the background.
Everyone had removed his haversack, after overcoming 2 very tough, steep peaks....Gunung Pankin [1463m ] and Gunung Tangga Lima Belas [1539m] and this one we were having a major rest on, Gunung Reskit. These 3 peaks are on a ridge-crest known as Skeat's Ridge...named after William Skeat ,who in 1899 reached this point but failed to progress further in an early Tahan attempt.
The tree[next to Tng] with twisted deep-furrowed
trunks and tiny elliptical the easily recognisable gelam bukit or Leptospermum flavescens.
Photo : Left to right:
Ahmad ( our guide), Francis, Twang lying down, Me( Dick Yip), TngKG (standing), Balbir, Han Chew, Yeow Huat(hidden),Louis and Yam Tee. Picture -taker ....Jesudasen.
The climb from Wray's camp to our eventual objective Padang required much of our expertise, energy and teamwork. There is no water again up the ridge. We will not have any resupply of water until we reach our base camp at Padang. The challenge we faced was really tough. Climbing this ridge, going up and down, was very difficult made more so by certain sections having sheer verticals rock -face. Today, 4 decades later, ropes and in some sections, ladders are in place to aid climbers. We, as trail blazers, used our own ropes to traverse these difficult sections.
On this 4th Day of our expedition, after surviving our 1st cold night on a plateau, we were ready and looking forward to whatever was before us. Again Ahmad had reminded us to fill our water bottles to the brim. We lightened our load a little by burying another cache of food for the return leg. Then with Ahmad in the lead we started off early...heading for the next steep incline, northwards.
We were on top of Gunung Pankin after about an hour's hard climbing. The view from the top was most rewarding. After a short rest, we headed for our next peak ....Gunung Tangga Lima Belas. It took about an hour and a half to overcome this section which included a steep 30 ft high vertical drop, using only the roots of trees, shrubs and rock edges as foot and hand holds. It was precarious. One tiny slip and it may be Sayonara forever! On reaching the top of this peak we had another major rest, consumed water and looked at the vegetation around us. Everything seemed shorter...the trees,plants and shrubs.
Our spirits remained high as we trudged on towards Gunung Reskit, going down first before making the steep up slope climb towards the peak on the ridge. It took us more than an hour before we finally made it to the flat top of G Reskit [ See photo above]. It had taken us more than 4 hours since we started off from our campsite to arrive at this point. It was worth it though we were all very exhausted with aching bodies and constant thirst. The early morning cold had evaporated replaced by scorching heat on the exposed ridge. There was no more jungle canopy over our heads. The cool air provided some relief. In the photo, you can see that Tng had removed his shirt and was standing bare body. So too had I. Our shirts were all drenched in sweat. I removed mine as I wanted to feel the natural goodness of cool mountain air on my body.
" Berapa jauh lagi boleh-lah kita nampak G tahan?" [ how far more to go before we can sight Tahan?], we asked Ahmad. " Sudah dekat-lah! Lepas Gunung Gedong boleh nampak."[ Very near lah! After we reach G Gedong you can see Tahan]. We were obviously cheered and rejuvenated by his reply. We had no reasons not to believe him, his inimitable ways notwithstanding.
So we pushed on in perfect weather conditions, rather dry and hot, due more to our exertions, towards the next objective .....G Gedong at 1830 metres in altitude. But we had to again descend first to a steep gully and from there make an uphill climb towards a small summit called Gunung Tangga Dua Belas. The gully we traversed was sheltered and moist, with taller trees growing. On the ridge, it was more exposed and trees were shorter and stunted.
After about 2 solid hours of tough climbing we were on top of Gunung Gedong. And the view from there was simply spectacular and breathtaking! We took some snapshots but these, as well as many others from the expedition, did not survive the conditions[ the films were damaged on the return leg of the river crossing]. The vegetation here was quite similar to G Reskit, except perhaps, more rocky. We looked around at all the surrounding peaks and excitedly asked Ahmad which one is G Tahan. Much to our chagrin and temporary disappointment we couldn't see G Tahan even from that high point. We would need to descend first and come around to another angle or side of the mountain slope before G Tahan appears.
We wasted no time in moving off. It only took about half an hour to descend Gedong and while descending, Ahmad stopped all of us midway and pointed to a peak in the distance, " Itu-lah Gunung TAHAN !"[ That is G TAHAN! ]. We stared long and hard at it. It was actually along a ridge...the peak to the right. That 1st sighting of G TAHAN has remained indelible in my memory. Ahmad also pointed out our final destination....the Padang campsite, about 300 m below. There was actually no campsite back then in all the places we camped at. We were trailblazers, remember? We picked a spot to make our camp is a more apt description. For us, it was all virgin territory.
Down in the valley we went, feeling heady,relieved and exhilarated. Padang [ field] as the name implies, is situated in an undulating, open plateau that is quite huge in size. Ahmad led us to a spot where we set up camp. I looked around and saw rolling hills and valleys and other surrounding mountain peaks....reminding me of the story of Shangrila. We had made a most unexpected and remarkable progress in our mountain expedition. Originally, we had scheduled for a 6 day ascent and 4 day descent. Yet here we were, on the 4th Day, at the base of G Tahan.
Incredible! Unbelievable! And it was still early in the afternoon as we took our time to relax, set up camp and enjoy the sheer magic of that place. We had much time to joke and laugh after all that we had endured. We had arrived in one piece too...a Blessing.
Top Photo:
This was yours truly 40 years ago. The peak of G Tahan is at the top right of
the photo. I was standing beside our makeshift tent shelter at our final base
camp at Padang. This snapshot was taken in the early the cold winds started to blow and mists were gathering around our campsite. The altitude here is about 17oo metres. Evening temperatures can drop to about 10 degrees C while night time the temp can go as low as 4 degrees C. A good jacket is essential in these parts and I was wearing one.
[ story will continue in next post ]

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