Sunday, 29 June 2014

Climbing the Pinnacles

The Pinnacles Climb was one of the most stupid ideas I've had in a long time. It was a three day, two night excursion and the middle day was spent climbing 1200m to view the 40m high limestone pointy spears situated on top of a mountain. 

On day 1 we departed from Gunung Mulu HQ at 9am and caught a very narrow boat upstream for 30 minutes. We stopped to explore, with a guide, some massive limestone caves called Cave of the Winds and Clearwater Cave.

Five of us had signed up for the Pinnacles and together we carried on upstream in the canoe-like boat, which occasionally got stuck on rapids and the boy at the front with the paddle had to get out and push us off. The 9km walk to the camp was a pretty route through rainforest crossing two larger rivers by jittery rope bridges and many smaller gullies, which at a leisurely pace took about 3 hours. We arrived at camp and were shown our allocated sleeping mat and the kitchen. The camp was infested with bees, harmless we were told, and then one immediately stung poor Chris! 

Our guide, Christian, met us and gave a briefing saying that the climb was a 'very physically challenging, high risk, adventure activity'. If we were not fit enough he made it clear that we would have to turn back as the route was too treacherous to undertake in the dark. 

After a self catered dinner and breakfast of noodles we left our base camp at 6:30am with our guide. Already the bees were out in full force. The route up was basically scrambling straight up sharp, hard, fine grained limestone which was interwoven with slippery thick tree routes. The trial was only 2.4km long but it was 1.2km upward. The group got on really well and there was good banter - when we had caught our breath! The last 300m involved clambering up 16 fixed vertical ladders and along a number metal rail planks over shear drops. We pulled ourselves up slabs of more rock and across sharp baby pinnacles to get to the viewpoint. We summited at about eleven and admired the view. Unfortunately it was cloudy at first, but that cleared and the majestic peaks stood before us, weathered into sharp peaks by millions of years of acidic rain. 

After half an hour at the top (during which I ate more almonds than I thought physically possible) we started the descent. The trip down was much harder impact on the knees and thighs. It had rained and the tree roots were now very slippery. Most of the group had a slip or fall. I went down once and got a bruised bottom! Everyone in the group was very kind and adopted my slower speed. Chris was very supportive and kept encouraging me to keep up a good pace.

A grueling six or so hours later we stumbled into our base camp, oblivious to the bees which were going crazy for our sweat and went fully clothed for a dip in the fast flowing river - milky coloured, straight from the limestone mountain. It was 14C and after six weeks scuba diving at 30plus it was a welcome chill to rest our weary legs.

On day 3 we did the return walk back leaving about 8am and caught the boat back downstream at 10.40am. My legs appreciated the stretch but when I tried to get out of the boat at the HQ they had turned very stiff! 

Heading upstream on an adventure

A quick stop off at the clear water caves en route to the pinnacles

A beautiful 3 hour walk through the jungles to base camp 

Day 2 up at dawn and straight up, hot, humid and getting higher!

0.4km to go and most of it upwards!

 The start of the ladders with the dream team

Don't look down!

Lunch with a view - made it!

Formed over millions of years by photosynthesising bacteria producing acidic by-products which dissolve away sections of limestone leaving sharp pinnacles up to 50m high

Fantastic views through the cloud over the jungles and into Brunei

Leaving the bees behind at base camp we trek back to civilisation on Day 3

The beautiful bird-wing butterflies are everywhere you look

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