Gunung Yong Belar

  • Gunung Yong Belar
  • 2181 m
  • Primary factor 1992 m
  • Malaysia
  • Location: North 04.65064, East 101.36191 (GPS at the summit)
  • Difficulty: YDS class 2
  • Climbed June 27. 2018.


How to get there:
A good point of reference is the city Ipoh, 2-3 hours north of Kuala Lumpur along Hwy. E-1. From Ipoh, drive south (towards Kula Lumpur), but then take the first exit after about 7 kilometer, signed for Cameron Highlands, Hwy. 181. Follow this road (good highway) until it has a road forking south (Cameron Highlands) about one hour drive. Just before this junction you have a big gas station, BHP, on your right hand side.
Continue straight at this junction, drive 3 kilometer. A very prominent mosque is located on your left hand side, turn left and drive up in front of the mosque, then around on its right hand side. There is a parking area here. This is a good place to park. Onwards driving requires a sturdy 4WD vehicle. The farm located at the trailhead will offer transport if requested to do so.
Just below this parking area, you will see a dirt road that enters the hillside. Access by vehicles will be to drive a few meter (downhill) passing the mosque, then immediately turn left onto this road (location N4.5969, E101.4337). This road gets increasingly worse as one proceeds, the road consists of 3 sections. The first section is likely ok for a high clearance vehicle. This section ends where there is a clear V-shaped road fork in a gentle, straight downhill part of the road (location: N4.6097, E101.4177). One should fork left (uphill) here, the road now gets appreciably rougher. Continue until a farm (fields growing chilli-pepper) appears on your right. From here, until the next and final farm, the road gets really bad. Only a proper 4WD will do. The trailhead is located at N04.62347, E101.40136, elevation about 1580 meter.
Note that this road has several gates (open when I was there) and clearly serves the private farms. You need to book transportation with the farm or secure an advance permit to drive there. One may likely hike the road on foot, possibly drive as far as near the road fork.
Route description:
Walk in the short road stub from the trailhead coordinates, take a small trail that forks left and cross a small ditch on a wooden bridge. The route heads slightly uphill following a farm track, then forks right, uphill and into the vegetation, climbing along the top of a steepish grade on your left. Cross uphill on some surface rock, then into the jungle. Once here, it is hard to get lost as there is essentially only one trail. The trail actually has some orange markers (here and there), a few possible (smaller) side-trails are blocked off by branches.
The trail more or less follows a ridge-line with a significant number of local tops and cols. A few local tops offer a bit of a view, however, along most of the route the trail winds its way in the jungle with very limited views. A few locations along the way are described next. After about a third of the way there is a campsite. Shortly after this, the trail descends steeply to a small creek, the only source of water along the route. Next follows a signed trail-fork, the trail to Yong Belar forks right here. Finally, less than one hour from the summit, is another, slightly smaller campsite. The final, uphill section is the most cumbersome part of the route, lots of roots with mud in between quite steep steps. The summit is a small flat plateau with various markers as well as flags.
This trip was not without some initial complications. I had (via friends of friends) been connected with Sham Castello, a local guide that had agreed to come along and also organize the logistics (mainly access via 4WD vehicles) for the next 3 days, first a single day climb, then a 2-day climb. All seemed fine and I was very grateful to the chain of people that had both quickly responded to me and then contributed to this.
Sham suggested that we meet at the BHP gas station, near the trailhead at 2230 the evening before. He would organize accommodation as well as an early start the next morning. I confirmed and said I would be there by 2200. Since I had never been in this area before, I decided to leave my hotel in Ipoh early in the evening to be certain that I would find the agreed meeting place well ahead of time. The travel time using my Honda rental car should be around 2 hours.
I was there already around 2100, drove a bit further to identify the mosque that should be where the farm road would start. After locating the mosque, I went back to the gas station and filled up 30 liter of gasoline. The price for gasoline was about 1/4 of the price in Norway (1 MYR = 2 NOK), ie. about 2 MYR per liter.
I sent Sham a message confirming my arrival. He responded: "So early, where are you going to sleep tonight?" This was slightly puzzling, but soon thereafter came his message explaining that he had sent me email at 2030, asking to meet at 0600. Of course, I had left way before in order to drive to our meeting place. Knowing the way, I suggested returning to Ipoh, but he told me: "wait there, I will be coming for you". OK, I thought he would be somewhere in the neighborhood, and that I could spend the night in the same location. However, he did not show up for quite a while. Eventually, I asked about his whereabouts and understood that he actually came from a place even more distant than Ipoh. He finally showed up around midnight and told me that we would sleep in the car, parking by the mosque. OK, I quickly drove there, but no Sham? A text message then asked: "Petter, where are you?" I replied that I was parked by the mosque whereupon he informs me that there are two mosques. He had travelled to the other one. To me, it seemed obvious even if I had known about the other mosque, that it would be the one next to the farm access road.
The above incident shows how easy one may misunderstand messages when two people, somewhat different in culture, try to communicate.
By 0100, I tried to at least get some rest in my car. No alarm needed when sleeping next to a mosque. Loud muslim song got me back to reality around 0530. I had two power bars and a slurp of water, then made my backpack ready. I decided to carry 3 liter of water, knowing that this almost certainly would be too much.
The 4WD truck was promised at 0630, but did not show until 0700. Finally, we were on the way. The truck had some problems in the hills of the second section of the road and the driver decided he needed a better vehicle for the final section. He set out on foot near the first farm to get another truck. This took about 30 minutes.
Thus, it was already 0800 before we started to walk. Typical jungle trail, narrow in places, muddy in places, roots and trees creating obstacles in places. We still made good progress and reached the first campsite after a bit more than one hour. I had arrived ahead of Sham and waited about 10 minutes before he showed up. I was surprised when Sham said that the remaining time to the summit would still be closer to 5 hours.
Getting ahead of my guide also along the next section, I decided to wait and this time it took 20 minutes before he caught up. I was obviuously moving faster than him. I next continued to the summit, arriving there at 1200 - noon, precisely 4 hours after departure, but with only 3.5 hours of actual walking time.
Since Sham clearly was a bit tired, I waited at the summit for 15 minutes, then decided to start descending. I figured that he might want to just turn around when we would meet, since he had been here many times before. However, when we met, he asked me to wait while he summited. I told him to leave his backback, I would then sit and wait until he returned. This worked well and when he came back down, we resumed our return hike. I was back at the trailhead at 1615, so 4 hours also on the return, including several stops to wait for Sham.
Sham said he had called for the truck to come and fetch us around 1600, however no truck showed up until 1645. We then had a reasonable ride back down to our cars, arriving there by 1715.
I paid Sham the agreed amount for Belar and asked him about how to meet the next day for our planned 2-day climb of Gunung Benom. He then suddenly told me that his brother was getting married and that he would have to attend the wedding. This story is of course odd as we only two days earlier had agreed on this two day trip as well as on his payment. I think he was just too tired to consider a new, longer hike already the next day. In any event, this caused more unexpected problems for my schedule. I returned to Heidi in Ipoh and thought that perhaps my best option would be to try Gunung Bintang in a few days.