We got up at six and had a breakfast of toasts, beans, eggs and tea, packed a sandwich and an apple for lunch, some water, a raincoat ready to climb to the Pinnacles by 6:30; a distance of 2.4 km of steep trek and a height of 1200 meters.
It was cloudy and it began to drizzle. Our guide Wan did not think we could go as the trek becomes slippery and treacherous when it rains. However the four Dutch men were raring to go. We headed into the rain forest; it was still dark inside because of the canopy. Soon we had to scale a huge rock using rope already tethered to it. It was at least a thirty foot climb pulling one’s body up the rock. I was able to do it by finding niches in the rock for my feet. The trek for the first stage was filled with tree roots and sharp jagged limestone rocks. We raced against time trying to reach the first stage with the view of the mini pinnacles within the hour, climbing 900 meters reaching a height of 400 meters; with a steepness of between 45 to 60 degrees, while Wan was hounding us from behind judging our ability and physical fitness. He had the prerogative to instruct anyone of us to turn back.
We had a short rest at stage one and proceeded onto stage two of a distance of 1200 meters to a height of 600 meters that is half way up within forty-five minutes. The terrain remained steep, rocky and full of snarled roots. Throughout our entire climb there was perhaps only thirty feet of flat area, every step was uphill. Wan said that we had to pick up our pace, three of the Dutch men had all but disappeared so it was just me and the fourth Dutch. He further said that we had to make certain decision by stage two.
At stage two, Wan did not stop us from going so we pushed onto stage three climbing 2000 meters to an altitude of 1000 meters in two hours to reach the first ladder of the last stage before reaching the Pinnacles. This was the steepest part of 400 meters distance to a height of 1200 meters using sixteen ladders and many ropes and pegs to the viewing area of the Pinnacles. This was supposed to take between one to two hours depending on one’s ability. The whole climb to the Pinnacles takes an average of three to six hours. It took me a little less than four hours. A young lady climbed the Pinnacles in her hijab, it must be uncomfortably hot but she told me it was not.
At the viewpoint the silver-grey forest of limestone pinnacles about 45 meters high clinging onto the slope of Gunong Api, poking through the surrounding jungle were absolutely awe-inspiring. Wan said that Gunong Api or Fire Mountain was so named because when the rays of the sun setting hit the slopes, it glows as though the entire area is on fire. We would never witness that as we had to head down long before sunset.
After some lingering moments up at the viewpoint admiring the magical pinnacles and looking at some pitcher plants, I headed down on my own taking care not to tumble or trip on the steep slopes filled with obstacles. The way down was even harder especially with my injured knee. For the last third of the mile it began to rain, I put on my poncho and braved the slippery rocks and roots. This time it took me a little over four hours to trek down. Adrenalin must have kicked in for me to be able to scale the Pinnacles. At the end I took a dip in the cool water of the Sungai Melinau as the rain let up a bit.
We had curry for our dinner and had long conversation through the evening. The rain had stopped. The sky did not clear enough for me to view the stars the two nights we spent at Camp 5.