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Home » Mount Tambuyukon Pt 2

Mount Tambuyukon Climbing Part 2

After a restful sleep we were up in the morning to start the second day's climb at 7.30am. The trails follows the narrow top of the ridge. Because of the abundance of vegetation one does not feel the narrowness of the path, with sheer drops on both sides.

Certain sections of the ascent are steep, but most of the climb is quite easy. The first two days are spent in passing through lowland Dipterocarp rain forest, dominated by tall trees with thick undulating buttress roots. The forest is virgin primary jungle with little or no undergrowth, making the passage quite easy.

The group at the summit of TambuyukonA number of rotan trees with thorns, interrupt your climb somewhat painfully, and slow down your progress. The biggest menace to the climbers, however are leeches, which are abundance in this part of the trail. Despite all precautions such as protective socks, trousers and full sleeve shirts and spraying insecticide on your footwear they can wriggle their way in and hook themselves to your skin. Leech bites leaves raw wound that may take days to heal, but they are not poisonous.

Cam II at 5000ft is located on a hillside overlooking steep valleys on both sides. Here we spent the second night. Another mountain stream in the valley served as source of crystal clear water. The second night it rained heavily, the clouds clearing later to reveal a star-studded sky. We broke camp at 8am next day to commence our final day's climb to the summit.

Nephentes villosaCam II marks a transition from the lowland forest to the cloud mossy forest. There is an abrupt change in vegetation beyond this altitude, the tall trees giving way to shorter trees covered with thick layers of moss. This part of the mountain also has an abundance of ultrabasic rocks containing iron and magnesium providing the substrate for special vegetation like pitcher plants (Nephentes).

As many as six or seven varieties of Nephentes can be seen in this summit zone of the mountain, namely, Nephentes burbidgeae, N. tentaculata, N. rajah, N. loweii and N. villosa. While these pitcher plants can be found on Kinabalu and Trusmadi, nowhere else are they seen in such abundance, festooned from tree branches and lining up on either side of the trail.

Orchids of KinabaluEqually abundant are orchids of the Coelogyne and Dendrochilum genera, rhododendrons and variety of other flora such as Vaccinia, mistletoes and lichens. We ascended through this veritable Garden of Eden steadily making our way towards the summit where we arrived at 3pm. It started drizzling steadily. The guides found a convenient flat area on a ridge just below the summit of the mountain, facing southwards and pitched the tents for our last camp.

Mount Kinabalu from TambuyukonTowards 4pm the clouds parted to give us breathtaking ringside view of Mount Kinabalu from the summit of Tambuyukon a view from an entirely different perspective, not to be seen in picture postcards and posters on sale in gift shops and tourist outlets! This is the north side of Kinabalu showing the North and East ridges, Mekado valley and Low's Gully. We looked in wonder as the mountain changed colors with every phase of the setting sun until it was bathed in the golden twilight. I finished two rolls of film in just one hour! Even my normally quiet and phlegmatic friend broke into raptures upon seeing this view.

Mount Kinabalu from Tambuyukon at duskDarkness descended and we settled in a cold night. I opted to sleep close to the entrance, which afforded me the pleasure of gazing at Kinabalu's colossal form silhouetted against the starlit sky. The next morning we woke up to a brilliant day with clear blue skies. After another session of photography, we broke camp to start our long descent to the base. We followed the new trail cut by the parks, descending into valleys and crossing several streams. We finally reached the Park substation at 8pm after gruelling 12-hour marathon descent. A great sense of fullfilment upon us, i seeing nature's bounty in this remote mountain crowned by the compelling view of Sabah's magnificent Kinabalu. The thorn pricks, leech bites and blistered feet were quickly forgotten as we reminisced that night on our four day experience on the slopes of Tambuyukon.

(George Ng, a building contractor, and Liaw Yun Haw and Ravi Mandalam, both medical specialists, are a regular trekkers in the wilds and mountains of Sabah)

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