Monday, September 8, 2008

Nenek Semukut aka Dragon's Horn~The Beginning

I came to know of Nenek Semukut aka Twin Peaks from a magazine given to me by a friend who worked at Tioman Island Resort. ( now named Berjaya Tioman Island Resort) Amazed, thrilled and inspired by its immense height and beauty, I silently made a pledge to climb it someday. In 1996 climbing these tall peaks would be unthinkable for the Malaysians climbing community. Technical and Rock-Climbing in Malaysia is still in its infancy and everytime you climb at the rock, you will always see the same familiar faces. We had only one climbing area which we called “petronas” located left of the hindu temple at batu caves and behind petronas station.
We had our first hand of technical climbing in 1992 and by 1995, we built our first plywood climbing wall stated at jalan tun razak near the kampong pandan circle and opposite of RHB Bank. The wall is situated at what we called then “rumah Persatuan Mendaki Malaysia”(house of Malaysian Mountaineering Association, MARFIMA)
In 1997, Malaysia reached the top of Everest, but Everest and Big Wall climbing is totally two different games. Both are highly technical and dangerous in their own way. The Malaysian climbing community is evolving and I am honoured to be a part of it!

In October 1998, supported by the Ministry of Youth, I was chosen by the Malaysian Mountaineering Federation to polished and deepen my knowledge and climbing skills from the experts in France. With the new skills learnt from the French Mountaineering Federation, I was certified as the 1st Degree DiplomeTrainer and my secret dream of climbing the peaks were kept alive.
From 1998-2000, I spent much of my weekends, vacations and personal funds, traveling to and from Tioman. Studying, photographing the mountain, planning my route to the summit and keeping my dreams secretly.

I met Roszaman (Man) in 1998 while routesetting and conducting national climbing courses in Malacca. This is my first task/duty immediately after I came back from France. The national competition was held in conjunction with the U.I.A.A ( Union International of Alpinist Associations ) meeting held in Malacca. It was Man’s first introduction to sport/technical climbing and It was not until the year 2001 that he ever knew of my big wall plans.
Man quit his day job as maintenance at a hotel in Malacca and stayed with me at my parents place in Johor Bahru in 2001. My bank account was getting empty from weekends climbing trips to Batu Caves in Kuala Lumpur and Tioman trip and in june 2001, I arrived at Tioman …again but this time accompanied by Man. Due to the lack of funds, my equipments was extremely limited. Man being a relatively new climber did not have any equipment with him. We had barely a full set of nuts and cams, slings made out of discarded rope, but neither portaledge, pitons nor any gear considered standard for big wall or aid climbing. To some we are regarded as brave, but foolhardy.

Based on my earlier surveys, I decided that the prominent west ridgeline, indicated by a reclining stone pillar, exhibited the most obvious climbable route to the summit. However the thick moss and lichen lining the shady lower reaches, makes any climbing futile. We spent the nights at its steep based cuddled among the roots of tress that were exposed by the wind.

Searching for a way through, we traversed the base to the right, beginning our ascent on the south face, dry and extremely exposed to the sun. After reaching 150m of height the wall grew increasingly steeper and the surface smoother. We were force to concede, realizing that without more equipment, we could no longer continue. However, resolute in our goal we rappelled to the ground, retrace the base, made camp and prepared or second attempt, this time somewhere between south face and west ridge.

Finding a narrow entrance, leading above the tree line and onto the wall, we set the first two pitches before nightfall. We fixed our ropes and rappelled down to camp for the night.
Over the next two days we struggled up the wall, hauling heavy gear packed into self-made haulbags, sewn from sugar gunnysacks. We spent the night on an airy ledge, tying ourself to the rock and resting, not in portaledges, but in common nylon hammocks! The first night passed slowly, suffering from cold and exposure.

In the afternoon of the third day I reached a passage, where the crack system which I had followed for two days, gradually narrowed, finally disappearing for a length of 10 meters. Such an irony to have a 500 meters climb halted by a comparable short distance. I named these last pitch “Maghrib” as when I climb, it was near to Maghrib as I can hear the azan(prayer call) echoing from the mosque from Mukut village below.( maghrib-a time for muslim to pray at arrival of dusk ,sometime at around 7pm) Freeclimbing the blank face above this proved to be too great of a challenge for me. I traversed to the right, searching for a detour around this tricky passage.

Resignation eventually sunk in, there was no way around. We were forced one more time to abandon our vertical journey. Defeated, we rapelled back to ground camp, consoled only by the knowledge that it had been lack of pitons and aided gear, not skill that cost us our bid for the top. I resolute to return, the summit will not elude me so easily………………………….
In 2002 , well equipped and with three support buddies, we reached the summit on our national day (31st August 2002).
( Read the articles Evolution-Malaysia'a first Big Wall climb)