Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Retracing Rhododendron Hill Peak & Trail No. 14

Viewpoint just above Puncak Arabella in Tanah Rata. Mount Berembun is on the right and whereas Mount Batu Brinchang is right ahead (11 o'clock direction) obscured by clouds.

Rhododendron Hill and Myrtle Hill were in my exploration plans since a few years back but never had the time to set foot on them. Until recently.

These two hills bear the old, colonial names during the days of late Sir William Cameron. Existingly, they are known as Bukit Mentigi and Bukit Kemunting respectively.  

The name "Rhododendron Hill" was noted in a local paper dated 12th May 1925. J.B. Scrivenor (Director of Geological Survey, FMS) stated "Rhododendron Hill", "Myrtle Hill", "Parit Falls" and "Robinson Falls" had survived, further quoting the latter was name in honour of H.C. Robinson whereas the rest were descriptive and apt. Apparently the name Myrtle Hill did not survive; and the name Bukit Kemunting is seldom used. 

On the larger map (10 in. = 1 mile), Scrivenor recognised that Myrtle Hill and Rhododendron Hill appeared as Bukit Kemunting and Bukit Mentigi respectively; he did not understood how "mentigi" appeared as a Malay name for Rhododendron; it was R.J. Wilkinson gave that Malay plant-name to represent rhododendron and whereas Kemunting was a literal translation. Mentigi in Bahasa Malaysia refers to a small plant.
Myrtle Hill (Bukit Kemunting) is located at coordinates N4.49129 E101.38444. The hill is located on the left side of the main road Jalan Pahang after the golf course but before reaching Brinchang town. It is the hill behind Parkland Apartment on its South-East with Strawberry Park Resort on its North-West. Jalan Kemunting is one of the roads branching off Jalan Pahang into Myrtle Hill. Since the hill is "well-developed" with private residences and resorts, I have not attempted to check out the hill. Moreover, there is no "tourist" forest trail to walk.

On the other hand, Rhododendron Hill, more widely known as Bukit Mentigi, has a peak with a viewpoint nearby and a couple of forest trails, namely Trail No. 13 and Trail No. 14.

Retracing the trails
Some quick facts:
  •  Trail 13 (moderate difficulty): "Start behind Cameronian Holiday Inn for a 1.5 hour walk with a stream that merges with Trail 14" (http://www.cameronhighlandsinfo.com/jungle_trekking)
  •  Trail 14: "A moderate trail leading up to Mount Mentigi (1,535 meters). Said to have great views. Start at from the Vetinarian Department in Tanah Rata, proceeding south to Mount Mentigi, eventually emerging on the at the 8km Tanah Rata road." (http://www.cameron-highland-destination.com/cameron-highlands-jungle-trail2.html).
  • "The infamous development of Royal Lily destroyed trail no 13..."  (http://www.malaysiakini.com/letters/205615)

I decided to retrace T14 which is one of the trails least written about. T14 spans across Bukit Mentigi (Hutan Simpan Kekal Mentigi) North to South. Unlike most forest trails, the trailhead of T14 is mysterious as it is not visible from any road, and it resides inside the forest. To reach its trailhead on the North side, one needs to first traverse T13 whose entrance can be from either the back of Cameronian Holiday Inn or from the Veterinary Services Dept. T13 no longer exists as it is destroyed by the development (see 3rd bullet point above). It will definitely take a bit of challenge to locate T14 direct from the road. Given the knowledge about the destruction impacting T13, I did not attempt to spend time locating the trailhead basing on the signboards. I reached T14 and Rhododendron Hill peak via unorthodox hike (not disclosed herein -- "paiseh!")

Remnants of the meteorological observatory. The mast was believed to have been mounted with the anemometer.
In the Malayan Saturday Post of 11th April 1925, one of the news photos showed Sir George Maxwell posed with the structure on Rhododendron Hill.

A number of this metal signboard are seen during my hike. In English: Permanent Reserved Forest.

Monkey Cups (Nepenthes) can be easily seen on the slopes of Rhododendron Hill

Upon reaching the peak, only the pillar and metal structure (not a trigonometrical station) remain. 

T14 has not been hiked for at least a couple of years, as evidenced by the massive spider webs blocking the trail.

Trail is generally clear and nice to trek.

Compared with signboards on most other trails, if not all of the rest, this one is painted white not yellow.

Unnamed stream that flows from Dayang Endah (peak) and into Sg. Jasar which then flows into Sg. Bertam.
Sungai Bertam tributaries include Sungai Burung, Sungai Ruil, Sungai Batu Pipih, Sungai Ulung, Sungai Jasar ,Sungai Boh, Sungai Habu, Sungai Ringlet and Sungai Manson." (http://www.cheammaychoo.com/environmental-problems/the-river-system-life-blood-of-cameron-highlands-part-1). Robinson Falls is located on Sg. Bertam (Trail No. 9), which takes about 30 minutes of hiking time to reach there. Speaking of Robinson Falls, this question was posed: "Who found 'the country above Robinson Falls'?" Per Scrivenor, it was not William Cameron, Leonard Wray or George Caulfeild; the Sakais called it Berembun ("dewey" mountain), and the first Europians to reach there were H.C. Robinson and C. Boden Kloss.

Markings perhaps demarcate the boundary for commercial development. Shortly after this is indeed the area cleared for development.

Rhododendron Hill as seen from across, at the road leading up to Masjid Abu Bakar. Looks low but inside the forest is pristine!
See the forest clearing that is taking place on right side? That is where tracing Trail 13 would be a difficult task.

Trail 13 was left out in this map. It is the short trail that traverses horizontally that joins with Trail 14 (source: http://www.cameronhighlandsinfo.com/jungle_trekking/).

To comment, head over to original posting in FB: https://www.facebook.com/notes/jimmy-oddstuff/retracing-rhododendron-hill-peak-trail-no-14/10153085535476434

Monday, 18 August 2014

Trail Formats

In trekking, there are generally 3 known route formats: (1) paper trail, (2) loop, and (3) trans.

In paper trail (originated from the idea of leaving bits of papers behind for others to follow), the start point is the same as end point e.g. G. Nuang via Pangsun -- you trek to and fro between the base in Pangsun and Nuang summit on the same trail (twice).

In loop (or circular), you do not trek on the same trail but still end at the starting point e.g. Puchong Hill enter Gate A, then exit Gate B and rejoins the common trail. Tabur West has the loop characteristic but not many are aware of it. Hiking G. Cantik and then heading back to MNS-BOH chalets via BOH Tea Centre back lane will encompass the use of both paper trail and loop formats.

The third format is perhaps the least understood route formats, and very often is incorrectly labeled in many outdoor events and postings. In trans (short for transverse), you traverse by enter at one point and exit at another point. Like loop format, you do not trek on the trail twice e.g. Trans Treacher's Hill (photo album at http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10152486038623529.1073741930.645243528&type=3&l=e719785cd9). Trans has a major consideration -- transport logistics. You need to arrange driving so that you can get everyone back from end point back to starting point; alternatively have the belongings brought over to the ending point. A few famous trans treks include Tahan (Merapoh-Kuala Tahan), Irau-Yellow-Pass, V1 and even Apek-Saga trail in Cheras. Even Mount Kinabalu's Mesilau-Timpohon is technically a trans. 

Trans Treacher's Hill

Trans Klang Gates Quartz Ridge (East Ridge)

To comment, head over to original posting in FB: http://www.facebook.com/notes/jimmy-oddstuff/trail-formats/10152246088636434

Simple DIY idea: Used toilet roll to keep ropes, strings and cords in place during outdoor camping trips (string packs)

Many of us who do overnight camping trips will sure bring along ropes, strings and cords to set up ridgeline for flysheet and hammocks, pitching tents and tie guylines to the ground. 

Usually, on the last day of the camping event, nylon strings and smaller-diameter nylon ropes that are still attached to tent or flysheet grommets are left untidied, in a rush to vacate the campsite. They may be left as they are (i.e. messy/tangled) or tidied back home using the standard rope care for coiling unattached rope (see pic 1 below).

Pic 1: Coiled rope

For spare small ropes/strings that are not already attached to anything, or ropes for standby/emergency, here is one simple tool (see pic 2 below) you can DIY to hold them neat and tight. 

Pic 2: A familiar sight - the common toilet roll!

You can use the entire roll for lengthy ropes but I found half roll already can hold up to 6 metres of rope, so we can make 2 smaller rope holders. We don't have to bring the whole rope (see pic 3 below). This tool is ideal for strings and small ropes as when they are tangled, they are messier to undo than the larger rope counterparts.

Pic 3: Rope in bulk.

The process to prepare the holder is really simple. As you would have guessed it: Cut roll into 2 pieces > flatten the roll > cut 2 slits per side > remove slit portion > flatten it with stapler (see pic 4 below).

Pic 4: Setting up the roll

The rest of the process of storing the rope is straightforward (see pic 5 below); finish off by melting both ends to prevent defray.

Pic 5: Step-by-step on how to store rope

There you go. Don't forget to bring along a few of these handy emergency rope/string packs. Happy Camping! 

String Packs

To comment, head over to original posting in FB: http://www.facebook.com/notes/jimmy-oddstuff/simple-diy-idea-used-toilet-roll-to-keep-ropes-strings-and-cords-in-place-during/10152244120896434

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Long-deserted Bukit Permatang Kumbang

Trigonometrical Station
Trig station at the peak of Bukit Permatang Kumbang

It was a success solo search for this little-known small hill of about 180 metres in altitude. Initially with an on-and-off trail then complete absence of trail. An official map which I do not have but seen it states 577 feet.

An old photo from an online document

The nearby flat peak connects to a trail used by the HHH. Strangely, the trig station was not touched for years. Either the HHH folks know about this inconspicuous location and couldn't be bothered with it or they might not know it at all. I couldn't locate pics of this place on Google. 

On 19th February 1989, a Flying Tiger B747 cargo aircraft crashed on the slopes of this peak. The bodies were successfully retrieved from the crash site. Today, according to the news (dated 2012), the remnants are no longer there as they were all picked up, especially by the nearby residents.

The structure had lost its small shelter at the top, now left only with the supporting tripod poles; still sturdy to date. The JUPEM disc still remain mounted on top of the good-condition marker stone.

JUPEM disk still mounted on top of the marker stone

I still have a couple of areas to recce; have not decided on entry point, and need to consult my previous track logs vs the virtual boundaries.

All photos from compact P&S.

Yours Truly with the trig station

To comment, head over to original posting in FB: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10152438150578529.1073741923.645243528&type=1&l=80eead55fa

Photo gallery at: http://www.jimmychew.com/Outdoor/Non-Camping/BukitPermatangKumbang

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Completed: Project Clean-Up at Bukit Tabur 'Far East' (T-FE)

14 of us attended the clean-up job ala garbage collection. The (secret) event on 20th April was created (exactly) one month before, following a number of hikers who have volunteered to assist with the rubbish management exercise. All those who had expressly indicated their willingness to volunteer were the first batch brought into the invite.

The T-FE peak was littered with rubbish of all sorts – scattered everywhere, at the peak and slopes from the peak; needless to say, it was pure eyesore. My not-up-to-par videography of the rubbish (https://www.facebook.com/groups/MOTHSgroup/permalink/10151954524131681/) at the site during my recce with Ho Chiu Wah on 9th March reveals the mentality of those hikers and trekkers with lack of regards for nature’s beauty. The T-FE/T-X (Tabur ‘Extreme’) junction on the ridge also suffered the same.

The clean-up was not only just the collection. We developed ‘notices’ to be placed at the strategic locations where hikers can see them, and abide by them, we hope. The intention was rather one of education, not activity alone. It is to spread the message of “leave no trace”, where we hope the same message spreads all over.

As usual, I began my briefing that includes a general description of the Klang Gates Quartz Ridge, the kind of terrains we were expected to encounter, the safety aspects and on how and where we will perform the tasks. 

Before we enter into the forest, we had one group shot, where everyone looked fresh and ready-to-go!

While rubbish collection was in progress, some helped out in tying the notice to the trees. Thick raffia string was used, and it is expected it will erode over time and snap; so whoever see the notice on the ground in their trip there, please help to put it back up. TQ!

Our efforts were extended to collecting rubbish at treacherous slopes. Dee Lu brought the necessary climbing equipment for this purpose.

As a bonus, with the weather that looked perfect at the beginning, I decided that we could do a ‘secret’ trip after the collection, right after a revisit to a special somewhere. Some parts of our trip are highly risky spots and there was no room for error. Teamwork was great to ensure everyone traversed across safely. In this shot, crossing the gap with this slim boulder was really challenging.

This was the last stop before turning back – Tabur East cliff.

We could not proceed to secret location; halfway, heavy rain and we were still touching the sky! Lucky for us, there was no lightning. Heading back the where we started, we grabbed our rubbish bags along. Mists quickly formed after the short bout of rain. We were soaked!

We took shelter at this incomplete hut until the rain got lighter. After that, we were back at Deen’s to have a drink.

I and Chiu Wah would like to personally thank the folks for the job well done! Thanks to Dee Lu for her climbing equipment and to Chun Yeet for his off-the-scene help in preparing the notice slides.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

A specific use of PVC bag for hikers and campers

Photo credit: Herbert Wong (photo source here)

The PVC bag like the one shown above has various uses. The intended purpose for the bags in this pic is for garbage collection by hikers. A strong point in using the PVC bag is its holding strength. Very few comes close to beating it. They can take on a heavy loads e.g. 25 kg, and higher. This is especially useful for the hiking community when garbage are collected; accidental dragging can happen when hiking over long distances and this is where it shows it power -- no tearing! This is totally unlike standard garbage bags from grocery stores; one has to wrap a second layer over it.

The additional weight compared to standard, or thicker garbage bag is really negligible. However, as for the price, it is more costly. Given the capacity, it would be a waste if the bag is not filled.

Another use for it, which is what I want to mention here, is for specific hiking purpose i.e. as a sitting mat or ground sheet. View the photos below for explanation.

The first thing to do is to take a blade and slice open the side and the bottom and you have a wide sheet.

Use as a lightweight groundsheet to place your backpack or daypack.

During rain, wrap it over your pack.

Rest on it! On most ground types including thick grass.

It is foldable to small size.

Easy strapping to your pack.

It is foldable once more to fit into side pocket.

I usually bring a piece whether I am doing a day trip or overnight camping. It comes in handy during "pit stops" -- avoid mud, leeches, ticks and etc. I still have a small role of cut sheets to replace the worn ones. Ahem, they are not for sale.

To comment, head over to original posting in FB: https://www.facebook.com/notes/jimmy-oddstuff/a-specific-use-of-pvc-bag-for-hikers-and-campers/10151952800291434

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Figure 9 by Nite Ize

I would like to introduce a tool that provides convenience in tightening a rope. I once have a small Figure 9 rope tightener. And I have decided to complete my inventory by getting the large version as well. I find this simple and light device very helpful especially in camping where I need to tie a rope over tree trunks to provide a line for the flysheet. While it is usual to tie the common knots and hitches, this Figure 9 device does it quicker and uses less length of rope. Furthermore, it doesn't add a lot of weight since it is made of aluminium. 

The rope is secured using the Fixed End System (as opposed to Loop System) on the Figure 9 rope tightener. Fixed End System is appropriate for setting up a rope for flysheet.

As can be seen here, the standing end rests freely on the last prong and the inward-pointing notches keep the rope secured. If this part is loosened, the whole rope goes loose; so it is better to make another loop and thereafter tie a simple overhand knot to prevent the rope from unravel.

It is very easy to use... a couple of swings and pulls, the rope is quickly tightened. Less time is spent as compared to tying the conventional knots. 

This small version can bear a load up to 22.5kg, which is about the weight of a moderate heavy backpack so you can imagine it is quite strong. Rope diameters range from 2mm till 5mm.

Important: They are not for use in climbing.

The other end of the rope is secured with the Bowline knot, a proper climbing knot.

The question arises as to whether 'slippery' raffia strings can be used. The answer is YES. Again, for prevention of accidental string unravel, it is advisable to loop over a couple of times before finishing with an overhand knot.

This is the S-Biner (#4), also by Nite Ize. It supports a maximum load of 33kg. Here, I used it to hang my backpack. In camping, I sometimes hang my backpack (with the backpack cover over it) on the tree.Important: This device is not for climbing.

An illustration of their sizes with a Malaysian 50 sen coin for scale and comparison.

Instruction leaflet on both the Loop System and Fixed End System. To see a video presentation on how to use the Figure 9 rope tightener, go to:http://www.gemplers.com/video/figure9. The demonstration is presented by the President of the company that produces the Figure 9, Nite Ize, Inc.