Here is a brief description of the 12 highest peaks in Malaysia.
1. Gunung Kinabalu, Sabah 4095m
Located in the Kundasang region of central Sabah, the peak is visited by more than 100,000 climbers a year. Mountain guides are compulsory and so is an overnight stay at Laban Rata, at around 3270m. Booking for the climb may be as long as 6 months ahead.
While climbing can be done at anytime during the year, local weather determines the success of your climb. If it gets windy and/or a storm is predicted, climbers are not permitted to advance from Laban Rata and will have to return to base.
There are two routes to Laban Rata, the more widely travelled starts from Timpohon Gate and the other the Mesilau Trail, which is 2km longer, but more gentle and scenic.
2. Gunung Trusmadi, Sabah 2642m
Many say that Trusmadi is a much tougher climb than Kinabalu. And the reason is easy to see: Mt Kinabalu has been visited (and promoted) so much that it is now very commercialised, with climbers being pampered with heated rooms, 2am buffet breakfast and opportunist souvenir peddlers.
Trusmadi on the other hand, does not attract much attention and is still off the main stream tourist destination. It lies between the districts of Tambunan in the north and Keningau to the south. Nature lovers would love this trek, with the rich fauna and flora and some of the most amazing pitcher plants that dot the trail. In fact, the Nepenthes Trusmadiensis (a natural hybrid of the N. Lowii and N. Edwardsiana) is endemic to this mountain.
You will need to put up a night at Base Camp 2, which can be reached in 4-5 hours from the trailhead. From here, the summit is just about 1 1/2 hours away. There is a hut where you can rough it out for the night, and clear 'mountain water' is supplied via pipes and regular taps.
The view of Mount Kinabalu from the peak of Trusmadi as the sun breaks at dawn is truly a sight to behold.
3. Gunung Tambuyukon, Sabah 2579m
This peak is situated at the northern end of the Croker Range. It is an even less popular mountain than Trusmadi, as the locals say that only about 100 people have ascended the peak since it was opened to the public to climb in 1990.
The trailhead, accessible only by 4-wheeled drives, is called Kampung Manggis where the trek begins. Camp 1 is 4 hours away, and the fitter ones may want to take another 8-hour trek to Camp 2, where they can then camp for the night for the final push to the summit the following day.
From Camp 2, trekkers can now make their way to the summit in 6 hours at a moderate pace.
4. Gunung Murud, Sarawak 2423m
In the vicinity of the Tama Abu Range, surrounding the Kelabit Highlands in northeast Sarawak bordering Kalimantan, stands the sandstone mountain of Murud. The highest peak in Sarawak, it was first summited in 1922 by Swedish explorer and naturalist Dr Eric Mjoberg, who was then the curator of the Sarawak Museum.
G. Murud, according to the local Lun Bawang and Kelabit indigenous peoples, is a holy mountain. Thousands of villagers from the nearby towns of Bario and Bakalalan make their way to the Church Camp located at 1828m for their retreat annually. The pilgrimage was first inspired by the late Agong Bangau, a Lun Bawang who reportedly performed miracles and went to the mountain for meditation and prayers.
There are two main trails up Murud. Trekkers coming from Bario, hike northeast to Pa Lungun village and start from Long Repung Shelter (southeast of Murud). Long Repung is smack on the main trail connecting Bario and Bakalalan. The other route makes the ascend from the northeast side, near Bakalalan, starting from the Lepo Bunga Shelter.
Both Bario and Bakalalan are deep in the interiors of Borneo and reachable by Twin Otter planes. But if you're not up to flying, your only access to Bakalalan is a 4 -5 hour drive on 4WD through logging tracks from Lawas, which is the state's northernmost border town with Sabah, almost 350km north of Miri.
5. Gunung Mulu, Sarawak 2376m
Ascends to G. Mulu is quite rare, at times only managing 12 trips a year. After all, who would spend RM1000 for a guide to go through the mountain. Yet diehards with a mission will get the necessary number to defray the cost a little ... as the guide can handle up to 10 climbers.
MASwings operates flights with either Twin Otters or Fokkers between Miri and Mulu. There are 3 flights in and out from each town a week - on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. It is possible to travel to the area by riverboat, but it requires a chartered long boat for the last part - and the whole trip takes about 12 hours from Miri, while flight time is only 30 minutes.
The trek up G. Mulu needs no tents, as there are forest huts at Camp 3 and Camp 4. The trail is quite well-marked with red and white markers, and goes through a variety of ecosystems, from lowland dipteracarp forest to montane vegetations. Depending on one's condition, the first day trek to Camp 3 could take as long as 9 hours. The huts are equipped with basic cooking utensils, you just need to bring your own food and gas cannisters.
It is possible to summit on Day2, with Camp4 as base. Day3 would be the descend out to Park HQ. But it would be quite a tough deadline to meet if you want to fly out of Mulu on Day3 as well. Most people stay a night and continue to the Mulu Caves and a climb to view the famed Pinnacles the following couple of days.
6. Gunung Tahan, Pahang 2187m
G. Tahan is the highest point in Peninsular Malaysia. It is located within the Taman Negara National Park, in the state of Pahang and is part of the Tahan Range.
The Kuala Tahan classic trail is the oldest and most scenic trail. A return trip on this trail typically takes seven days and covers about 54km, one way. Climbers have to trek across undulating ridges and make several river crossings before finally reaching the base of the mountain to make the final ascend.
The other two trails are Merapoh (Sungai Relau) and via Kelantan. Both are significantly shorter than the classic trail from Kuala Tahan. A return trip on the Merapoh trail takes 4 - 5 days with a trekking distance of around 32km each way, while the cross over from Kuala Tahan to Merapoh (or vice versa) takes around 7 days.
The best season to climb this Grand Mountain is between April and July. While trekking, take time to observe the oldest rainforest in the world, with some estimates at over 130 million years old. It is home to thousands of endemic plants and animals.
It is always a good idea to have some food buffer as there may be instances where the rivers get too swollen to cross and you may end up camping additional days. Trekking with assigned mountain guides is compulsory.
7. Gunung Korbu, Perak 2183m
This mountain is usually ascended to summit together with G. Gayong, the 4th highest peak in West Malaysia. The shortest climb is via Ulu Kinta Dam intake, where you will have to take a 4WD to Sg Teming, an orang asli settlement. On Day1, the trek will take you to either camp at Seroja or Kijang.
Day2 will be a full day trek to the summit where you will set up camp for the night. If you arrive early, you might just be in luck to view the stunning sunset, and weather permitting, you may even see Ipoh from here. Be warned that there is no water at the peak, and you will have to carry your ration at the last water point after Kijang.
G. Gayong is a good two-hour trek from the peak of Korbu and from here it is a back-trek to the start, with camps at Seroja or Kijang before heading out to civilisation!
8. Gunung Yong Belar, Pahang 2181m
This trek starts from scenic Cameron Highland. You will need to arrange for a 4WD to take you to Blue Valley, on a short but bumpy 1/2 hour ride. Upon reaching the intake, the start of the climb is a flight of steps about 250 in numbers. It may not look menacing at first sight, but when coming back - your body battered by 3 days of long hikes and your mind thinking of hot shower and a warm bed - climbing down may be quite treacherous. Go slow and look where you place your feet.
For the most part of the first half of the trek on the first day, you'll need to tread gingerly on rubber water pipes that's been lain to transport water from the nearby rivers to the farms in Blue Valley. They cover the entire width of the path, leaving you without a choice but to walk on the pipes.
A typical ascend to Yong Belar will take you to Kem Tudung Periuk, where you'll make camp on the first day. Day 2 will see a leisurely 3-hour hike with a day-pack to Kem Kasut. The water source is much nearer at this site than at Camp Tudung Periuk (literally 'pot cover').
From here, the trek to the peak takes less than an hour. You should be able to see G. Korbu and G. Gayong from the summit. After another night at base camp, it's a back-trek out to Blue Valley for you onward journey home.
If you so desire, you can make a (one hour return) detour to Gunung Warpu on your trek out. There's not much of a scenery here, so only if you have some energy to spare!
9. Gunung Gayong, Perak 2173m
This peak is normally done in tandem with G. Korbu. You will camp at the summit of Korbu, go for a day trek (about two hours, one-way) to Gayong, and then head back to base camp.
10. Gunung Chamah, Kelantan 2171m
Some insist that G.Chamah is in Perak, but if you want to be picky about it, then the safest statement would be that it is along the Perak/Kelantan border.
The more adventurous climbers can actually opt to do a crossover starting from G. Ulu Sepat and traversing the Titiwangsa Range to complete a double. However, logistics can be quite a nightmare and it would be safer to just attempt one peak at a time.
The usual route would be to begin at Gua Musang, Kelantan. You can arrange for a 4WD at Kg Betis, a small village about 17km from town to take you to the orang asli settlement of Kg Rekom where the trailhead is located. The truck will use an old logging road and the ride can be quite bumpy.
From Kg Rekom the first camp site is just about 1/2 an hour trek, but it would be advisable to venture further into the jungle to the 2nd camp known as Kem Tengah. Water supply is plentiful as it is just beside a beautiful fall. Another hour away is Kem Tongkat Ali, the last water point before the peak. Halfway between these 2 camps is a stream where the water is absolutely clear and you don't even need to boil or use purification tablets - just bring a straw and drink directly from the stream! I kid you not!
The journey to the summit of G. Chamah is a series of ups and downs, so save some energy for the return trek. At one of these false peaks, you will find plenty of pitcher plants of various colours and sizes, then through a bamboo grove and once you reach a 'mossy' forest, you are not far from your destination. The trek from Kem Tongkat Ali should take about 4-5 hours.
The Chamah summit offers views of the surrounding mountains, including Ulu Sepat and Tahan too, if the skies are clear. It can easily take in about 6 2-men tents, if you wish to spend the night. But you have to bring enough water as there are no water source at the peak.
11. Gunung Yong Yap, Perak 2168m
At 2168m, it is the 6th highest point in Peninsula Malaysia. The mountain is part of the Titiwangsa Range in Perak. There are two routes to ascend G. Yong Yap. The tougher one is via Kuala Mu, near Sg Siput, with fallen tree trunks, sharp-edged bamboos, thorny trees and branches. Climbers are advised to wear long pants because of the sharp-edged bamboos. Extremely steep and tough trails en-route to the summit, uneven and slippery trails make the whole journey tough and challenging, especially for those who are not experienced.
The other easier route is via Pos Brooke, about 25km from Kg Raja in Cameron Highlands. Although considered 'easier', the challenge here is the multiple river crossings, close to 30 times some of which reach up to your thighs (higher if raining). Highly advisable to bring along a trekking pole for support while crossing, especially where the currents are strong.
You will most likely make camp at Kem Agas on Day 1 of your trek. A river runs close to the site where you'll get your drinking and cooking supply and to wash up. On Day 2, more river crossings await you until you reach Kem Sg Y. From here, it's uphill to the peak of Yong Yap. The last one kilometer or so is a pretty steep incline of roots and progress here can be slowed down rather considerably.
12. Gunung Ulu Sepat, Kelantan 2160m
Even though Gunung Ulu Sepat is a mountain of great heights, climbing it just takes about three days. The start of the trail is at Kampong Rantau, which is the remote village in the Grik area of Perak, where the climb to Gunung Chamah also begins.
Depending on the speed of your climb, the peak can be reached on the second day after about six hours of trekking uphill. You would have to be extra careful since you would be sharing your treks with elephants which you may encounter!