Last weekend we decided to skitter on down to Kuala Lumpur, as we only had two tentative sites left to see in Malaysia, and both of them are on the KL outskirts — perfect for a little weekend hop!
First up, a cautionary tale of our misadventures climbing
In the early 20th century the quartz ridge was called the Klang Gates Ridge. This informal geographical named remained until the 1980s when the quartz ridge was then better known as the Klang Gates Quartz Ridge or Permatang Kuarza Genting Kelang. On 24 June 2015 the Klang Gates Quartz Ridge was formally named the Gombak Selangor Quartz Ridge or Permatang Kuarza Gombak Selangor (PKGS) by the Selangor State Government.
The nominated site is built entirely of quartz, a natural mineral with chemical composition of silicon dioxide (SiO2), formed when residual magma crystallized and consolidated within vertical slab of dyke as the magma forced themselves through large linear fissures within massive granitic rock known as Kuala Lumpur Granite about 200 million years ago.
The most spectacular part of the quartz ridge is its protruding mid-section, which encompasses Taman Melawati, National Zoo (Zoo Negara) in the Ampang Jaya area and part of Selayang Municipal Area. From a distance, this section is said to resemble the guling ayam (cocks combs) or more dramatically, the spine of a dragon…
The Gombak Selangor Quartz Ridge is unique not only due to its size, but also the outstanding beauty of its landscape, which comprises elongated craggy rocks in the midst of a green tropical forest. Three combined characteristic make the Gombak Selangor Quartz Ridge are truly unique natural treasure: its size, the fact that it fully exposed and its pseudo-karst morphology. It is a gigantic vertical rock slab built entirely of quartz mineral in various forms, extended for up to 14 km long and 200 meters wide and it is believed to be the longest pure quartz dyke in the world.
The information of a giant-size quartz vein that is more than 10 kilometers long as is rare, and for it to transform into magnificent landscape like the Gombak Selangor Quartz Ridge is extraordinary. Its dramatic mid-section is particularly breath-taking – an elongated and vertical craggy rock landscape that rises out of the green tropical forest, deserving indeed of its comparison to the spine of a dragon…
OK, we thought, while that kinda sounds a little … thin … as a World Heritage justification, does sound like an interesting hike, and we really don’t do as much trekking as we’d like since we’re always in a hurry; so this sounds like a nice afternoon diversion, since it’s in the city suburbs and all it must be a pretty nice and safe easy stroll in the woods!
If we’d researched thoroughly before arriving, we would have realized that Bukit Tambor is the TripAdvisor name for this hike. So the Dear Reader has the proper perspective on this little jaunt from the outset, let us examine in advance some of the comments to be found therein:
Even though after a few incidents happened I will strongly encouraged people to try it. Please be safe while climbing and not to take it lightly even you are an experienced climbers…
Beautiful views of KL and the reservoir/forests but not for the faint hearted. make sure you get a guide it is v. dangerous, most countries would make you sign a waver! a guide from the local village is a must, along with decent footwear, a hat for shade, plenty of water and a change of clothes…
the most dangerous part is probably the station before you reach the peak. you need to decend with a rope on a ” cliff like” portion of the mount. one slip & it is a free fall down tens of meters…
These comments are, in fact, all accurate. But that realization dawned on us … gradually.
Nothing showed up in Apple or Google Maps near the alleged coordinates of this hike, which in retrospect should have been our first clue this might not be as popular a touristy spot as we’d assumed; however Maps.Me our current favorite for OpenStreetMap offline navigation showed a trailhead at the right place. So we headed there…
… and found that they were actively discouraging people from taking the trail.
Well, pfft. This is our hiking day, and we’re going to hike, goshdarnit! If there’s a washout or something that’s got this side blocked off, let’s just go the other way along the trail, shall we? As there was a handy map there,
which matched reasonably the track in Maps.me, so we figured yep we can find the finish and go backwards, no doubt there’ll be all sorts of other people doing it that way as well!
(That would be Mistake #1. Didn’t see another person for the next six hours. On the list of Dumb Things To Do Hiking, going by yourself is pretty much the top of the list, even if you are in the suburbs of a multimillion person city.)
So we found the right place, and although it wasn’t much of a trail down by the road, we figured it’d be smoothed out and stuff further up. Well … no. Even down in the easy parts, without flag tape it’d be darn near impossible to follow the trail,
and even with the sporadic tape, we had significant difficulty at several places figuring out where that trail actually was.
(That would be Mistake #2. That bit in the comments above “a guide from the local village is a must”? Well, we didn’t actually find it a must no, our best guess navigation did get us up and down … but it would most certainly have been prudent. If you don’t have a history of bushwhacking your way out of the wildnerness after bad paraglider outlandings, like we do, go ahead and consider it a must.)
Heading up the hill, on the one hand it got easier to follow the trail because of the frequent ropes to get you up it…
… on the other hand, you need frequent ropes to get up it, which was when it started sinking in that climbing this in our sandals was more of a challenge than we’d bargained for, and just perhaps our casual assumption this would be an easy stroll had been in error.
(That would be Mistake #3. Unless you are personally familiar with your route, proper ankle-protecting “decent footwear” as the quote above mentions should be considered a necessity. One twisted ankle can ruin a lot more than just one day!)
Eventually we made it near the top of the ridge and finally got to see some of this famous quartz; by this time there weren’t any helper ropes because at this point it’s not a “hike” as such any more, you’re actively scrambling up the rock face. But it’ll be all good once we get to the peak right?
… well, no. Wandered along for a while admiring the “dragon spine,” until we got to the center of that “dramatic mid-section” …
… and, well, attempting that in sandals and no gear should trip anybody’s risk evaluation from “eh, can probably handle it with a little care and skill” over to “you’re not serious, are you?”
So we sat down, had what looked like the third to last swallow of our water and fervently wished we had a lot more water than that handy…
(That would be Mistake #4. Where that quote said “plenty of water?” Yeah, we’d set out with a not quite full 500 mL bottle. That was not enough. So not enough, in fact, that at this point heat stroke was a serious worry, as we’d nearly stopped sweating by the time we reached the top, despite the day getting hotter if anything. That is a very bad sign.)
… and like three seconds later, seriously it was just as if wishing had been a stage direction, from behind us there’s a massive KAROUMPH of thunder. So we take a look around,
and yep, the eastern horizon is completely blanked out by a massive thunderstorm heading our way. A close massive thunderstorm heading our way.
(That would be Mistake #5. No matter how apparently sunny and pleasant the day appears, always check the weather forecast. And even if it claims the weather will be perfect, assume it’s wrong and prepare for the worst anyways.)
So, we had a little more of a sitdown and took stock of the situation.
(Whilst thinking that next time we make a wish for plenty of water, we’re going to be more specific about wishing for it in an easily potable form, not a form that’s arguably more dangerous than continuing to lack it.)
On the up side, that lack of water and encroaching heatstroke were no longer serious concerns, as there’s a thunderstorm rapidly approaching and all.
On the down side, there’s a thunderstorm rapidly approaching and we’re the highest thing on the highest point for a good fifty miles in every direction, we have no proper gear, we’re wearing sandals, and the bare rock scramble down from here is just short of qualifying as an actual technical climb.
Things like this, they give you cause to seriously question your life choices.
Any-ways, we made it off the bare rock and back into the forested parts before the rain started hitting hard, and from there well it was pretty much just slipping and sliding our way down the steeper bits which had turned into mudslides and the not steeper bits which had turned into streambeds, no particularly amusing incidents to relate although we ended up pretty thoroughly bruised and muddy all over from falling our way down, could quite easily have twisted/broken ankles any number of places.
(Yep, that “a change of clothes” in the quoted comments above … that would have been a sound idea too. We’d call that another mistake, but at this point, who’s counting any more?)
So, Dear Readers, there is your cautionary tale of how you should not assume that what seems at first glance to be a simple semi-urban day hike need not be taken seriously. This is definitely a serious hike!
But as they say, the definition of adventure is other people having a miserable and dangerous time in far away places, so there’s your adventure story for today. You’re welcome.