As I am huffing and puffing away, wondering whether an extra month of training would make my climb breezier; my mountain guide, Deo (spelling un-confirmed), turns around and say in consolation, “don’t worry, kita pelan-pelan saja (let’s just go slowly).”
Meet Mount Trus Madi, the second highest mountain in Sabah and Malaysia (2, 642 meters high) after Mount Kinabalu and probably the best mental and physical endurance test in Sabah. Mount Trus Madi, which is classified as a Class 1 Forest Reserve, is thickly covered in moss and is so heavily foliaged. The atmosphere is dewy and the ground squelches with every step I take. I faintly remember my first time climbing the Mount Trusmadi, which was almost seven years ago. But that was via the Wayaan Kaingaran (Tambunan) route — two more wayaan (trails), namely Wayaan Mannan (from Kampung Sinua, Sook) and Wayaan Mastan (from Apin Apin, Keningau).
Overall, all the trails leading to the Mount Trusmadi peak are more challenging than the Mount Kinabalu trail. However, comparing all three trails, Wayaan Mannan — the trail we’re trekking on — is said to be the most challenging and Wayaan Kaingaran being the easiest. Our journey from Camp 1, Kampung Sinua starts at 8.30am after having breakfast and a pep-talk session by our head mountain guide, Mr. Dennis Ikon. The distance from the starting point to the Trusmadi summit is 11.3 kilometres.
A true haven for naturalists, there are numerous species of plants to be spotted Mount Trus Madi such as exotic orchids, the castanopsis nuts (oak), rhododendrons (which contains anti-inflammatory and liver-protective properties), and lichen (used as fever and toothache medication). Mount Trus Madi is also well-known for its population of pitcher plants, hence being nicknamed ‘nepenthes garden’. The most notable species of pitcher plant is the Nepenthes x trusmadiensis—a natural hybrid between Nepenthes lowii and Nepenthes macrophylla—which is endemic to Mount Trus Madi only.
At 2.30pm, after approximately six hours of climbing, we finally reach the Camp 2 where we would be resting before commencing with the summit climb the next morning. I must mention that Camp 2 is the very definition of Spartan. Being nothing but a simple zinc-roofed hut with 30 canvas hammocks, the next challenge for me (and other climbers) is to make myself comfortable. With the temperature dipping to less than 8 degrees Celsius at night, I owe much of my comfort to a zero-degree sleeping bag.
Armed with gloves, a LED headlamp, ample water and energy bar supply, and tons of grit; we continue the second leg of our climb to the summit at 1.30am. This part of the climb is significantly harder than the first since the terrain to the summit is a lot steeper. Apart from having to be clever about footwork, a climber must also be wary of grabbing thorny wild rattan trees along the way.
Nearly five hours of mud-splattered climb later, Deo points at a familiar looking peak, concealed by wafts of mist and thin white clouds—it’s Mount Kinabalu. I sit on a rock and wait for the sun to appear. They say the view of Mount Kinabalu at sunrise from the summit of Mount Trus Madi is the best ever; and at the first glimpse of sunrise peeking from behind Mount Kinabalu, I know exactly what they mean. The view makes the climb so rewarding!