Trus Madi was not even in my radar this year. In fact, when it was first brought up, i had to google it to find out where it was. Not much is written about it either. There is more focus on its elder brother, Mt. Kinabalu, which is visible from the summit of Trus Madi on a clear day.
I was invited to join a reconnaissance trek to Trus Madi by Joanne Soo from Ace Adventure. The plan was to map and detail the trek so that Joanne could evaluate it and determine if it was good enough to consider it part of her company’s offering.
The plan was to do the trek over a period of 4 days, from 7-May to 10-May 2015. We expected that it should be sufficient. We had to evaluate the local organizer, the place of stay, the amenities, the climb as well as the guide.
Along with me were to other accomplished trekkers and Joanne. A total of 4 people. 2 guys and 2 ladies.
We boarded the SilkAir to Kota Kinabalu and arrived there in the afternoon after a 2 and a half hour flight. The local agent arrived to pick us up from teh airport and drive us to our first stop was the Tandarason Resort Country Club (TRCC) at Tammbunan, an 80km one and a half hour ride from Kota Kinabalu. Inbetween, we stopped for lunch at one of the local restaurants.
TRCC is a secluded and quite resort with decent facilities. It has a central reception plus cafeteria and a small souvenier shop that sells food, tit bits and souvenier items. Staying can be at one of the lodge like facilities or individual houses that are spread across the entire area. We were assigned two rooms in the lodge that was perched on top of a small hillock of sorts. The rooms were very simple yet sufficiently decent to stay. There was warm water available. Internet was available but was rather slow and reception was patchy. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise as we spent the whole evening having wonderful conversations about various topics. For once, we had overcome the urge to go online and really enjoyed the pleasant sunset and the company of wonderful people.
We later went down to the reception for dinner and then chatted for some more time, even after the reception and kitchen was closed.The food was very well done up and we polished it off in no time.
Finally we decided to retire to bed. The next day, we were to travel to the lodge at Trus Madi. We will be starting at 11ish as the travel is not that far. So, we took it easy and slept late.
We got up without any hurry and sorted out our gear. We would only be taking the essentials up with us on the mountain and leave the rest in the resort as we will be planning on coming here again after the climb.
there was still time for us to depart, so we lazed around the resort and took some photos in a small garden of sorts. Spotted some unique flowers that were being grown there.
So, with all the items sorted, we congregated at the reception before departure. In the meantime, the local agent arrived with his 4WD and packed our luggage in the back.
The drive to the Trus Madi Forest Reserve Registration Centre will be about an hour where we shall be registering with the camp ranger. After that another 30-45 minute drive to the starting point from where the trek would begin. In between, the agent made a brief stop to get the guide and some porters to jump in at the back. The guide and porters looked relatively young in their teens. They also loaded up the 4WD with some goods like food items and essentials that the porters will use to ferry up to the lodge. They use such regular vehicle trips to supplement the items at the lodge.
The trip to the Registration Centre comprised of a smooth drive on well laid out road for about 30 minutes followed by a bumpy and off road track for the rest of the drive. At some points the vehicle needed to navigate nearly 45 degree slopes.
While registering, we stepped out to take some photos. The entrance to the Forest Reserve is very well maintained and adding to that was the weather which was cool and misty.
After the registration, the vehicle continued for another 30 minutes to the starting point.
We soon packed up and started out trek up. It was quiet a surprise to see the path to the lodge, which was originally through a thick jungle was replaced by well constructed wooden pathway. There is practically no climbing or scurrying up the mountain. We had to literally walk along the steps to get to the lodge.
The trek up to the lodge was about 45 minutes covering about 2km. the lodge is located at around 2,100m and is very well maintained. The rooms are nicely furnished with double beds. We were quiet surprised to see it so well kept. However, we were there during the non-peak period, so it was practically empty with only us as the visitors. There is a nice corner where hot water is kept with some snacks where you can make your own milo, tea or coffee. These are of course sachet.
Since we were there quite early, we gathered around the pantry table and chatted till dinner. It was again a refreshing conversation and time just flew by. By night time, the whole place was infested with a wide variety of inspects, attracted by the only source of light in the area. The sheer variety of insects of all sizes, shapes and colors is simply amazing. Apart from the amazement, they did contribute to a major mess by us accidentally stepping on them or they falling and dying in the toilets.
The plan was to wake up early the next day and depart to the summit at around 3am. The vertical gain is only 500m over a distance of 2.9km. Should not be that difficult. Or so we thought.
After dinner, we retired to bed and i was soon sleeping, which was quite unlike me. But hey, we weren’t that high and the trek to the lodge was literally a walk in the park.
9-May 2015 – Summit Day
We woke up at around 2am and got dressed. Clothing was just a base layer with a outer shell as i was not that cold. We collected at the kitchen pantry and had a quick breakfast comprising of a soup, some rice and the usual coffee. At started the trek at 3am. The initial 100-200m consisted of the usual wooden steps. This soon ended and we were on the rough trail. The climb was through a dense forest with low overhanging branches and buzzing mosquitoes. At several areas, you had to scramble up to the top or hold onto trees and branches to climb some steep sections. Being early in the morning, there was a slight drizzle and this added to the dampness and sogginess of the climb. Luckily, there are 100m markers with reflectors that you can notice on your climb. This becomes a so called count down to the destination. At one point, you had to climb down about 50-100m before you climb back up again. This is a sheer vertical drop and climb only made easy by steel ladders securely tied to the face of the rocks.
The last 200m near the summit is a near flat terrain and can be easily navigated. We were at the summit by about 5am and rested. As the sun came up, we started taking photos. Initially, the whole area was shrouded by a sea of clouds. But once the sun came up and the clouds dispersed, we could see the majestic Mount Kinabalu in all her glory.
It was an awesome sight as we stood there in the morning sun light. I recollected my trip to Kinabalu two years back.
After spending about an hour on the summit, we decided to come down to the lodge. On the way down, we managed to take some snaps of the trek that we had ventured into.
Soon we were back in the lodge in about an hours plus and we rested for sometime. While lunch was being prepared, Joanne had called up the agent to come and pick us up at the starting point at about 1pm. However, the vehicle was late and we started much later.
The trek back down was much faster, thanks to the wooden steps. But the rain had made it slippery and we tread carefully so as to not slip and fall and spoil the party later on.
Soon enough we had reached the starting point and the 4WD was still not in sight. So, we spent another hour before the vehicle arrived. By the time we reached TRCC, it was about 4pm. After a brief stay there and a quick change of clothes, we departed from TRCC and headed back to Kota Kinabalu where we stayed at the Carlton Hotel.
The Carlton Hotel is a rip off of the original Carlton. It was not a super 5-star hotel. Rather a very good 3-star hotel and a good one at that. The rooms were pretty decent and was a welcome respite from the lodges and the TRCC.
I met up with a good friend of mine who was now living permanently in Kota Kinabalu. So, we went out for dinner while the others went out on a seafood binge. Something that i cannot appreciate being a vegetarian.
By 10pm, we got back together and talked for awhile before going off to sleep. The next day, we were to fly back to Singapore.
This was a very quick and dirty trip. A welcome change from a long pause in my climbing schedule. However, it was a wonderful experience to have gone through such beautiful landscape, forest and more importantly, the company of people who have come together for a common purpose.
Trus Madi, although low in height and short in climbing distance, made all the more easier by well maintained steps and lodge, is not a push over. There is a lot of use of the hands to pull yourself up and requires good stamina. Some sections can be really steep and some areas are exposed to the elements with high winds.
All said and done, the good thing is that there is no acclimatization problems and you are well within the zone where the air is sufficiently rich in oxygen. Having said that, do be careful as acclimatization is a very personal thing and can vary from one person to another. Do take care and always have medication or backup plans if you do encounter any form of sickness.
Some important things to take is mosquito repellents as this is quiet a danger.
There is a wonderful article created by Joanne on the same trip and you can read it on her official company blog here. There are some photos there that show you the steepness of some sections as well as the ladders and ropes.
You can read it here.