Gunung Yong Belar hike

I love getting dirty. But not everyone does. So if keeping your shoes clean and dry is important … Stop. Right. Here.

A little like the hike up Gunung Irau, the trail up Gunung Yong Belar is brisk, muddy and long, much longer. Most hikers complete it in 2 days and 1 night. The KL Hiking crew and I were going to attempt it in a day.

I say attempt because I wasn’t confident I would make it. My last big hike up the twin peaks of Gunung Liang was torture, and it’s only the 35th and 36th highest in Malaysia. In comparison, Yong Belar is Peninsula Malaysia’s third highest peak after Tahan and Korbu.

Add to that strict cut off and turn around times – 11.15am for Kem Kasut and noon for the peak – and not summiting became a real possibility. But I’d give it a shot.

The beautiful Guandi Miao Temple that was out meet up point.
Our trusty metal and machine steed.
Parked up, signed in and looking optimistic. Inside I was feeling quite different.

So at the ungodly hour of 4.45am we parked up at Guandi Miao temple, which sounds as if it is devoted to the worship of cats – sadly it isn’t. 3 jeeps would transport us to the trail head. Two were standing room only, the other had seats.

As the idea of standing for one hour with what could be a 6 hour ascent and 5 hour descent ahead of us sounded unreasonable, I opted for the latter. It was not the most comfortable – I was wedged between the cab and spare tire, and had to shift repeatedly to stop my feet from falling asleep. Still it was a damn sight better than the alternative, and I watched with a mixture of wonder and horror as the jeep ahead of us tipped precariously from side to side its human cargo clinging on inside. Our vehicles may have looked beaten and battered but the Land Rovers chewed up and spat out whatever the dirt road we had turned on to at Masjid Kampung Raja threw at it.

Disconcertingly, after a 45 minutes drive through the wilderness, we had arrived at a farm growing among other things, chilies and aubergines, both plants that are easily cultivated in one’s own garden plot. I had to wonder whether buying Cameron Highland produce from the supermarket was the right thing to do. It seemed as though the term locavore needed to be reassessed. At any rate we were at the starting point of our trek.

There are two ways to get up Yong Belar: up a set of stairs and along a tangle of thick black water pipes; or the route we took, via the Kebun or farm. Both converge at the forest entrance (Pintu Rimba) overlooking tidy rows of cabbages, which we arrived at after a brisk 20 minutes walk.

From here the undulating trail winds its way up towards the first campsite, Kem Tudung Periuk, past several scenic view points and false peaks along the way. I could easily imagine an elf or a fairy living here. You’d have to be to squeeze between the tree trunks and beneath overhanging branches.

It was too dark to capture our walk along a wide dirt track from the gates past the rows of vegetables up towards the forest entrance, which we reached 20 minutes later. By the time the sun was up we were well past Pintu Rimba and into the brush….
The treacherously boggy trail.
Pretty views every time we came to a clearing.
Back down the rabbit hole….
The view from one of the false peaks on the other side of the trail.
The trail, narrow and undulating, and lit with the sound of bird song.

Duck! Yet more low hanging overgrowth.
Kem Tudung Periuk. Not to be confused with Kem Kasut which is still another 2 hours away.
Not particularly inviting….

Less than 2 hours later we had arrived. Camp Tudung Periuk, was a not so inviting clearing, damp and littered with detritus. A couple of birds, accustomed to human presence, hopped across the ground beckoning me along the ridge to what turned out to be a dead end. Bad birds.

I soon relocated the trail markers, set at a 9 o’clock orientation from where I entered the camp, and after gulping down a can of 100 Plus picked my way down the trail in the direction of burbling water where some rope helped to steady my descent towards a small, clear stream.

Immediately following Kem Tudung Periuk, the trail descends down a steep gully towards a stream. Fortunately some rope helps you navigate your way down.
The clear stream looks like a great place to replenish your water supply (filtered of course) and wash up.

Apart for the short but steep five minute trek out of this gully, for the next 2 hours the terrain was gentler – undulating with few steep sections. It was however, muddler and, if up until now I had kept my “first day out” trail shoes clean, I soon forgot about that as I carefully picked my way across large unavoidable pools of peat on roots and fallen branches and still slid or sunk in up to my ankles. Bleh.

At least I had bought the right size of shoe, which didn’t slip all the way off as it got sucked in to the muck but easily slipped back on as I slowly pulled my feet out. Win. Sort of.

The trail – deceivingly gentle and incredibly muddy.
Even boggier than before, there was no avoiding these mud holes.

Like Tudung Periuk, Camp Kasut is open and sadly littered not but I stop anyway to have a scone and strawberry jam.

At 10.05am I checked in to Kem Kasut, named in honour of the many shoes that had perished in the line of duty, and a reminder to all hikers to purchase proper trail shoes or hiking boots or risk defeat/da feet (haha). It’s a smaller camp site than Tudung Periuk, and as I had time to spare I stopped to scoff a scone and strawberry jam, as any respectable visitor to the Highlands ought to do.

The last leg – steep with a lot of roots to navigate.

With 1 hour and 45 minutes remaining, the pressure was off and I took my time on the final, scenic leg through the mountain’s mossy forest. There were fewer mud pits now but it was also steeper. Nevertheless, within an hour I had arrived at the peak, 2181 meters above sea level.

The tall wizened trees that surround the peak, heavily cut back when I was there in May 2017.

A flat open space surrounded  by tall wizened trees pruned back to provide a view, one side plummets 100 meters into a sea of green, with Gunung Korbu and Yong Yap seated in the distance.

Unfortunately, Malaysia’s 7th and 11th highest peaks remained hidden from us as clouds kept them obscured. This was unlike the top of Yong Belar, which was exposed, scorchingly hot and buzzing with bees and butterflies.

As one hiker after another summited the rest of us cheered before turning our attentions back to our cup noodle lunches, or in my case my last remaining scone.

The barren peak of Yong Belar – often cold and windy but today blazing hot. I really have no idea why anyone would cut down that many trees and eliminate all shade and shelter from the elements.
Be mindful where you step or stop to take pictures. There’s a sheer drop on one side of the peak, and although it is clearly marked and roped off, accidents can happen.

Exiting at 11.45am, I made good time on the return considering the technical terrain required special care. The mud pits between the two camps took more of a mental toll than a physical one. All I could do to keep going was focus on getting to the brooke just below Kem Tudung Periuk to cool down and wash off.

It was after this that fatigue set in; I hadn’t recalled so many inclines on the way in!  By the time I found myself at the first false peak and the end of the most noticeable climbs, I had caught up with Adam Han, a KL Hiking regular (on this trip most were) and we made the remainder of the journey at a leisurely pace engrossed in conversation. There was no immediate rush.

Out of the forest into the farm….
As the forest melted away behind us we brushed past the scrub before coming to the hill overlooking the farm.
The narrow red earth trail above the farm.

Our rides had been arranged for 5pm, and even with a detour after getting lost following trail markers blown off course by the breeze and not recognising farm roads that we were seeing for the first time in daylight, we made it down, across the stream and up to the gates where our day had started bang on deadline.

A wrong turning took us into the farm area where the workers were busy ripping off the outer layers of leaves on freshly plucked Chinese cabbages.

Back on the correct path we temporarily leave the farm behind and encounter wilderness again. I wonder how long before someone will come along and clear this to plant more produce.
A small river and a sign that we are pretty much at the end of our journey.
Just one more hill before the farm gates and the location of our drop off and pick up point.
Victor takes a nap …Yusuf Taiyoob. Yooso Tai Yurd. You So Tired.
(Left to right: Adam, Shawn, Lai Kit (front), Lew and Kat. Now the wait begins…..

6.15pm Start off from farm gates
6.35am Enter forest at PIntu Rimba overlooking the farm
7.55am Make Kem Tudung Periuk
8.00am Cross stream
10.05am Reach Kem Kasut
10.15am  Leave Kem Kasut
11.15am Summit
11.45am Leave peak
12.35pm Arrive at Kem Kasut
2.30pm Wash up at stream
2.35pm Back at Kem Tudung Periuk
4.20pm Exit the jungle overlooking the farm
5.00pm Back at pick up point

Altitude Peninsula Malaysia’s 3rd highest peak, and Malaysia’s 8th highest, Gunung Yong Belar stands at 2181 meters asl.

Time and distance 5 to 6 hours up; 4 to 5 hours down. Total distance traversed is 21km or 10.5km one way.

Rating KL Hiking rates Gunung Yong Belar as Very Hard and it is thanks to  a combination of distance and terrain that includes undulating topography, boggy conditions and tricky tree roots.

Tip Don’t wear white socks or underwear. No amount of washing will ever return them to their original colour after that.

Getting there Tanah Rata and Brinchang have a wider choice of accommodation and food offerings, but Kampung Raja is closer.  Get a half hour of extra sleep by setting up base there. I stayed at Westwood Highland about 10 minutes away from Guandi Miao temple. From there it’s about an hour jeep ride first to to the Kampung Raja mosque turnoff and then along a dirt track to the gate of a private farm and the beginning of the hike up Yong Belar.

Read more One of my favourite hiking blogs, Afif shares his own experience climbing Yong Belar using the water pipe route and camping overnight at Kem Kasut.

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