Most in­ci­dents on the moun­tain are due to hik­ers’ ig­no­rance of dif­fi­culty level

New Straits Times - - Opinion -

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.

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