November 03, 2008

Rescue Drama At Gunung Nuang 01NOV2008


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When we decided to take up the challenge of trekking up to the peak of Gunung Nuang, we were thinking that it will just be another one of our usual climbs. The four of us, ML Lim, SP Leong, CK Lim and I packed our usual gears to conquer this tallest mountain in Selangor (4898 ft). It is the first time we set foot on this mountain. We did some research and knew that this will not be an easy climb. It will take a fit trekker about five hours to reach the peak and another four hours to descend. Some even took up to eleven hours to complete the round trip.

So, our challenge began on the 1st November 2008 at 7.30am in the morning when we reached the base of Gunung Nuang in Pangsun, Hulu Langat. After registering with the local authority, we immediately start our trek beginning with a very long walk on a road nicknamed “road to nowhere” heading towards the mountain before we actually begin to climb the mountain. It took us one hour and fifteen minutes just to walk this road alone.

Then things started to get tough as we ascend the mountain going through a few streams and waterfalls and reaching the first camp, Kem Lolo. We continued to ascend tackling the various steep and rough terrains. After a tough climb, we reached the second camp, Kem Pacat. We rested for a short while before pushing for the peak. There is still along way to go. Along the way we noticed that we were actually the last batch of trekkers going up the peak. The earlier trekkers were already descending when we were about to reach the peak. We met a lone trekker, Malcolm, who was training for his Mt Kinabalu challenge and he decided to trek together with us. The five of us hiked straight up the tough trail and reached the peak of Gunung Nuang at about 1.15pm. All in all, it took us slightly more than five hours. We ate our lunch and did not really stay too long at the peak as we know it will take several hours for us to descend all the way to the base. We have to reach the base before it gets dark.

The drama unfolds ...
After just about half an hour at the peak, we began to descend. Our experience taught us that descending is where the difficulties come into play. Along such rough and steep terrain, one has to be extra careful negotiating downwards. I took the lead descending slowly and carefully. And it was during the descent where the unfortunate happened. About one hour into the descent, Malcolm slipped and hit his left arm against a tree. He was just right behind me when it happened. Immediately he knew that his left arm was dislocated from the shoulder. It was very fortunate that he decided to trek together with us. What if he was alone and was the last to come down? I can only imagine. We can see the pain on his face trying to move his arm even just a little bit. The first thing we did was of course reached for our mobile phones but there was absolutely no signal in the middle of the jungle. Not even a slight signal for us to send an emergency message. And without any kind of first aid on hand and no experience in handling dislocation of joints, we just cannot do anything. Malcolm can still walk but with one arm immobilised and in severe pain, it will have to be a very slow and extra careful journey down. Every few steps, the pain was getting worse. At this point we still have about 4 hours journey ahead of us, that is, if we are descending normally. We know with Malcolm injured, it will slowed us down a lot. Anyway we have to continue to descend as we were the last batch of trekkers going down and we knew that no one is coming up at this hour. We don’t know how long it will take but we have to get to the base as soon as possible and get help.

With CK Lim fully assisting Malcolm, ML Lim and SP Leong as back up, I continue to lead the descent checking out the terrain and warning them on the various dangerous spots. We simply cannot afford another accident to any of us. The descent was very slow and we were not able to cover a lot of ground after about an hour. Then things start to get worse. As if we have not got enough trouble on our hands, we heard thunder, loud and clear and the lightning zapping. We saw nothing but more troubles on the way. It gets very slippery and dangerous even for a normal trekker when it rains. With an injured trekker on hand, you can imagine how tough it is going to be. Moreover, there were a few streams and waterfalls we passed on the way up and now we have to we have to cross them again. And the water at the streams can get very rough when it rains heavily. It was already 5.00pm and we have not even reached half the journey down.

We stopped to quickly reassess our situation and we then agreed that we have to split up. SP Leong and I will have to rush down as quickly as our legs could take us to the base and call for rescue. CK Lim and ML Lim will continue assisting Malcolm to slowly descend. I left my only headlamp with them knowing that they will need it more than I do. I hope to reach the base with SP Leong before it gets dark. And it was at this point the rain came, heavy and hard with no mercy.

SP Leong & I left the three of them and headed downwards quickly. With only one thing in mind (to get to the base), we descend with increased speed but we were aware that we have to also be very careful. Cold, wet and tired we kept moving to keep warm and crossed the streams (which were beginning to flood). I slipped and fell while crossing one of the streams but did not sustain any serious injury (just a couple of sprained fingers and a nasty bump on the head). We reached Kem Lolo at about 7.00pm and it was already quite dark. At Kem Lolo, we met a few campers and told them to expect two of our friends with an injured trekker coming down and to provide any assistance they can. The campers assured us that they will do whatever they can. At Kem Lolo the mobile phone signal was still quite weak, just coming on and off. We tried but still unable to call for help from there. So we will have to continue heading towards the base. The campers said they will try to message us when they meet with our friends and the injured trekker. We also seek help from another group of campers. Two of the campers from another camp immediate set out from Kem Lolo going up with extra torch lights to provide additional support.

We continued to descend and by then it was very dark. Luckily we have passed the steep and rough terrain and were on a fairly flat stretch of the long road (the “road to nowhere”) heading towards the base. This is the very long road that took us more than one hour to come in when we first began the trek. We have to move very slowly as the visibility was almost zero. I can barely see my fingers in front of my face. It was still raining heavily and we were all drenched. We walked slowly for about ten minutes and then we saw some lights in front of us. It was a group of campers coming in. We were so glad and manage to get a torch light from them. With the torch light we started to run again hoping to get to the base as quickly as possible. We were very tired but somehow there was a surge of adrenaline and we did not stop until we reached the base. SP Leong and I made it to the base at about 8.30pm.

I immediately went to the local authority’s office but it was closed. I then tried to get help from the people who were staying in the chalets nearby. It was at one of the chalets that I saw a team of people from the Jabatan Pertahanan Awam. It was such a coincidence that this team were also having their training at the base of Gunung Nuang. I told them what happened and immediately a rescue plan was drawn up. With their walkie-talkie set, arrangements were quickly made. A 4X4 rescue truck and an ambulance were summoned. Local police were informed as a necessity. From there onwards, the Jabatan Pertahanan Awam team took over. It was also during the same time I received a message from the campers at Kem Lolo informing me that my friends and the injured trekker made it safely to Kem Lolo. After a short rest and some hot beverages, they continued to descend towards the base.

Not long after that, the rescue team, police and the ambulance arrived at the base. I informed them that my friends and the injured trekker were now on the way down from Kem Lolo. The rescue team immediately set out on their 4X4 truck racing towards Kem Lolo to bring them out. The ambulance was ready and prepared to receive the injured trekker. I had a chat with the ambulance personnel and learned that they were involved in many rescue missions of the same nature and some were quite serious. They were also the same ambulance team responsible for rescuing the student that fell one hundred meters and survived at Klang Gate Ridge not too long ago.

Finally at about 10.00pm, the ambulance radio received a message that the rescue team have met my two friends and the injured trekker. The injured trekker was immediately given on-the-spot first aid by the rescue team. My two friends were alright, just very tired and exhausted. SP Leong and I were very glad to hear that they are OK. It was only then that both of us really felt relieved. About 20 minutes after that, the rescue truck came out to the base with the injured trekker, CK Lim and ML Lim. Though cold, very hungry and exhausted, they were in high spirits. The injured trekker was immediately transferred to the ambulance and went straight to the hospital. We were glad it was all over. The four of us stayed for a while at the base to freshen up and then headed for home. It was 12.10am when I finally reached home after sending three of my friends back home safely to their families. A ten hours normal trekking trip turned out to be a seventeen hours rescue drama. What a day.

The next morning we received a message of thanks and appreciation from Malcolm Wong (the injured trekker). Well, we were glad we can help. We hope that others will also help us when we are in trouble. To fellow mountain trekkers, do not to trek alone. Be very careful especially when descending. Most accidents happen while descending.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Jabatan Pertahanan Awam rescue team, the emergency ambulance staffs and all the campers involved for their assistance in this rescue operation. Salute to all.



The trekker, agnes said...

commendable act of bravery and helpfulness in rescueing a fellow climbers though you do not know each other earlier.
God bless you & your team of friends