Back in 2014, like a n00b who didn’t know any better, I signed up for the Nuang Jungle Marathon. My hike up and down this formidable 1493 meter peak took just over 8 hours but it was all a blur – all I could recall were its eternal jeep track and menacing clay gullies. Naturally I wanted to do it again….
Wikipedia notes three routes to the top. I knew of only two: via Janda Baik in Pahang and via Pangsoon in Selangor. The former is the shorter and less challenging of the two but I was keen to know if I still had it in me to take on Nuang from the Selangor side. So on Merdeka Day, liberated from the city and work, off I went.
KL Hiking had arranged the hike in two waves. Estimating that it would take me a 10 hours round trip, I opted for the first wave at 6am – or would have if I wasn’t late. It was closer to the second 7am wave when we finally set out.
With our torches on Khairul, I and another hiker immediately threw ourselves into it, huffing and puffing in the dark up an undulating concrete road for what felt like a long time – in truth it was only 500 meters. A seemingly endless jeep track followed, but by then the sun was up, and at +1hr we arrived at the juncture where the the forest trail begins.
The trail has 5 stream crossings, all of which come fairly quickly, the first and second in rapid succession, by a large water pipe.
Before long we heard the rush of water and spot a waterfall on our right just as we ducked under the pipe and up a narrow concrete stairway. It leads to a water sluice.
My instinct was to walk through it but the wood is rotted, so we step onto the pebbly banks of the upper river instead and cross a little further upstream with the help of a rope for stability. It’s incredibly pretty here – vines hang from the trees like curtains hiding inviting pools of water.
Between the 4th and 5th stream crossing is Lower Camp Lolo. Upper Camp Lolo is located after the 5th crossing. Gunung Nuang is rarely attempted in one day and both grounds are used as camping sites to break up the journey to the peak. But not for us….
After the 5th and final crossing, the climb up towards the apex begins. Almost instantly I’m assailed with a familiar smell, sweet yet pungent. Durian. Small segments litter the ground. High above is very tall wild durian tree. Were the season not at its end I’d caution hikers to wear a hard hats, as any durian falling from that height would surely reach terminal velocity by the time it strikes. Death by durian … now there’s one way to go!
The presence of wild fruit trees augurs well for local wildlife. I had heard of lone hikers coming across large mammals like tapir, and while I hadn’t seen anything like that, I did hear a pair of hornbills above the treetops . It’s just too bad that were no longer elephants here as there is an abundance of bamboo shoots here – one of their favourite foods.
The hike up involves navigating a steep, up to 50 degree orange clay track, sometimes dropping off into a deep farrow on the right. I remember this stretch being treacherously slippery but with fewer hikers on the trail it was not as bad as I expected. Rain could change all that, and despite threatening to bucket down on us all day, it was only when we were half way down this part of the journey that the downpour came.
One and a half hours after making the final river crossing we reach Kem Pacat or Leech Camp (1095 meters) and stop for a break. For some this is the turning point. There are no leeches here and on our return leg, a large group of locals have set up camp for the afternoon and are passing round tea and mooncakes.
By now most hikers are tired, but the worst is to come as it’s only after the sign for “Virgin Forest” that the mountain really challenges your resolve. Its incredibly steep here – 70 to 80 degrees – and making up the 1.2km is slow going as it involves taking large steps, scrambling up slippery runs and hoisting yourself up and in between large rocks. There’s rope to assist you but I’d recommend relying on your upper and lower body strength instead. Save the ropes for the way down. The damp conditions at this altitude turn the clay soft and sticky, and it clings to the soles of your shoes negating any traction they may be designed for, so you’ll need the ropes most then.
It’s an hour and 15 minutes before we finally arrive at Puncak Pengasih (1475 meters). It is wet, muddy and because the wind had picked up, it was cold. Beyond searching for the tri-border marker, the point at which the states of Selangor, Negeri Sembilan and Pahang meet, which I failed to locate, there was no sense lingering around. Besides Khairul suddenly had a second burst.
In comparison, the route from Puncak Pengasih to the peak is a cake walk. Flat for about 150 meters it is followed by a series of gentle downhills over rocky terrain. We whizzed through this comfortably. Any elevation lost is made up for 200 meters from the peak, which is steep, rocky and muddy black – not unlike Pahang’s Gunung Irau. There’s a narrow verge with a sheer drop to its left just underneath the peak then a scramble up a rock face. You can go left or right but left is better as there’s less rubbish. It was 12.05pm, five minutes after cut off time and over 5 hours after our start.
Despite coming across many returnees on our way up, the peak was rammed with people but only one squirrel (a doreamon and probably a few pokemon). He made up for the absence of his furry compadres with his own size, and ignored my offer of banana for someone else’s preservative-packed, over-processed Gardenia bun. Tsk.
Now running behind schedule, Alex was keen to get everyone off the mountain, so we hastily snapped proof of our victory, ate what little we brought – I was woefully prepared this time and none of the stalls were open yet when we drove by – and within 10 minutes (record time!) turned back the way we came.
The return journey is typically faster but as fatigue took hold, our pace slowed and it was 5pm when we exited. Total time taken was 10 hours just as predicted. That might seem long – it was – but it was just the impetus I needed to sign up for the Nuang Jungle Marathon. Sub-8 hours run here I come!
6.45am Start of hike from Hutan Lipur Nuang park entrance
7.45am End of cement and jeep track and beginning of jungle trail
8.10am Arrive at waterfall and 3rd stream crossing
8.20am Cross river (4th crossing) into Lower Lolo followed by 5th and final crossing towards Upper Lolo
9.50am Arrive at Kem Pacat (20 minutes rest)
10.10am Leave Kem Pacat
11.25am Reach Puncak Pengasih
12.05pm Arrive at peak of Gunung Nuang (10 minutes rest)
12.15pm Leave Gunung Nuang peak
1pm Back at Puncak Pengasih
1.50pm Arrive at Kem Pacat (20 minutes rest)
2.10pm Leave Kem Pacat
3.20 Make 1st of 5 return river crossings
3.30pm Pass sluice gate and waterfall
3.45pm Exit jungle trail and enter onto jeep track
5pm Exit Hutan Lipur Nuang
Altitude At 1488 metres, Gunung Nuang on the border of Selangor and Pahang is Selangor’s highest peak. En route is Puncak Pengasih, Nuang’s false peak, which at 1410 metres is an achievement in itself.
Time and distance It takes between 4 to 6 hours to reach the peak, Distance is about 9km one way.
Rating KL Hiking rates Gunung Nuang via Pangsoon “Very Hard”. The combination of distance and steep sections makes this true. Most hikers take several attempts before they finally conquer the peak so don’t be discouraged if you choose to turn around at Puncak Pengasih or Camp Pacat. The more pragmatic set aside two days with a night’s camping at Lolo or Pacat to break up the journey.
Permits + facilities RM1 covers your entrance, parking and use of the toilets and showers. I can only speak for the ladies bathrooms, which are clean but upkeep could be better as there is only one functional shower head. On weekends vendors sell ice cream and soft drinks.
Tip Because this is a long trek, set a turnaround time. Ours was at noon giving us 5 to 6 hours to make the peak and an equivalent amount of time to the starting point. I’d also suggest bringing a hiking pole to take the weight off your knees during the long downhill, and a headlamp as you’ll either set out or return in the dark.
If you don’t fancy the slog up to the peak, head for the falls or the river crossings around Camp Lolo. At between 1 to 11/2 hours trek from the entrance, they make excellent picnic and bathing spots.
Getting there Jump on the LEKAS Highway (E26) and continue until you’re on the SILK Highway (E18). Take a left off exit 1807. at around the 4.8km mark exit left onto the E7. At the 4.3km mark take exit 703 on the left then keep right. At the traffic light turn right. After the SM Hulu Langat school (on your left) at the traffic light junction (there’s a police station on your left) take a hard right onto (B52). Its straight for the next 21km. You’ll eventually come to a fork with a bus stop in the middle and dilapidated wooden buildings on either streets. Keep left. The road is poorly maintained and unlit but if you continue straight you’ll come to a parking lot and guarded gate. Turn left into the park entrance. There’s more parking there.
GPS coordinates 3.217334,101.883110
One of my favourite local travel bloggers, Malaysia Traveller provides an excellent account of his own experience climbing this behemoth and managed the journey to the peak and back in 11 hours. Kudos!
All images taken on my iPhone 5s.