DANGERS OF CLIMBING ENCHANTING MT SANTUBONG
Most incidents on the mountain are due to hikers’ ignorance of difficulty level
LEGENDARY, mythical, majestic and picturesque. These were some of the complimentary adjectives used to describe Mount Santubong, standing tall north of Kuching, Sarawak.
The 810m-high peak, about 40 minutes’ drive from the city, is a favourite spot among local and foreign mountain climbers.
For hardcore mountain hikers and nature enthusiasts, a sense of achievement will set in once they complete the challenging trails and are rewarded with sweeping views from the mountain top.
The climb is an interesting one. Hikers will witness an expansive view of flora and fauna. At one of the 15 checkpoints, hikers will stumble upon a refreshing crush of a cascading waterfall as they make their way to the peak of Mount Santubong.
Apart from the wealth in biodiversity, there were also people going up Mount Santubong to get connected with legends associated with the mountain, which is in the Santubong National Park.
Legend has it that one King of Heaven had sent his two princesses, Santubong and Sejinjang, to restore peace when war broke out between Kampung Pasir Puteh and Kampung Pasir Kuning.
The princesses fulfilled their divine task and brought peace to the villages, until both of them fell in love with a prince.
Their quest for the prince’s attention turned into sibling rivalry and their behaviour angered the King of Heaven. Santubong was cursed and turned into Mount Santubong, while Sejinjang into Mount Sejinjang.
Locals say Mount Santubong resembles a woman lying on her back, and a crack at the peak was a scar on Princess Santubong’s cheek, which she obtained during the fight with Princess Sejinjang.
There were also other tales, rather unflattering, about the pristine beauty of Mount Santubong.
At least eight cases involving some 30 people stranded during their journey to climb or descend Mount Santubong were recorded last year. The frequency of the cases is a concern to the Sarawak Fire and Rescue Department.
Last week, the mountain “cast its spell” again when a secondary student and three teachers were reported missing while descending from the peak. They were later found unharmed.
However, most of these cases are caused by the ignorance of a few who underestimated the difficulty in ascending the mountain, especially after the 11th checkpoint.
“The mountain is most difficult to climb for a day trip, since there are many challenging vertical sections along the way,” said Sarawak Fire and Rescue Department director Nor Hisham Mohamad.
Climbing Mount Santubong or any other mountain, should not be taken lightly, a reminder that has been repeatedly stressed by Petra Jaya Fire and Rescue station chief Muhammed Mirza Dzalmira Miraj.
Mirza has been involved in all operations to rescue stranded climbers, since Mount Santubong falls under the Petra Jaya station’s jurisdiction.
“Ample preparations should be made when venturing into a challenging task, such as climbing Mount Santubong,” he said.
Mirza urges hikers to seek medical advice before proceeding with the task.
Other aspects that should be considered by hikers include training and familiarising themselves with climbing hilly areas at least two weeks prior to the trip; bringing along necessities, including torch lights, food and water; seeking assistance from mountain guides for first-timers; maintaining a healthy diet; and getting a good amount of rest or sleep for at least two days before hiking.
“Do not leave or abandon your friends if you are hiking in a group,” Mirza said.
Nor Hisham and Mirza said most of the time, hikers tended to overlook and not inform the police about their expedition.
“Regardless if you are going there alone or in group, it is important for climbers to inform the police.
“This will help the authorities to execute a rescue plan should any untoward incident occur,” said Nor Hisham, adding that such advice should apply to all activities involving mountain climbing or jungle exploration.
State Assistant Housing, Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah echoed the same advice.
“Mountain climbing and jungle trekking are activities that promote a healthy lifestyle. Having said that, such activities will be meaningless if the security and safety aspects were compromised.”
Over the years, mountain climbing has been gaining popularity among nature enthusiasts and others. The joy of participating in these activities, however, should not be at the expense of our safety.
The writer, born in Kuala Lumpur, raised in Perak, is NST Sarawak bureau chief. A nature lover, he never tires of discovering new sights in the Land of the Hornbills
Mount Santubong is most difficult to climb for a day trip, since there are many challenging vertical sections along the way.