Mount Tok Nenek (Single)
We woke up in the pre-dawn darkness and prepared to set off for the summit with the hopes of reaching the peak in time for sunrise. The hike began at 04:50, where we made our way, groggy and bleary-eyed, from 'Kem Tawau' to 'Kem Hari' just next door. The path up to the summit lay to the right of the campsite, so we took great care when stepping under makeshift clotheslines and when stepping over shoes and cooking utensils in an effort to not wake anyone else up. Hiking in the dark always reminds me of night diving, where the ubiquitous darkness ensures that your immediate reality only lies in the bright cone of light that is right in front of you. Shining the light forward, all you could see were the silhouettes of all the hikers in a line stretching ever upwards; shining the light down would just show you your feet and the ground beneath them, as well as the shortening of the shadows of obstacles as you approached them.
The fog rolled in as we continued to climb up, and the only inkling we had of its presence was the occasional wisp that passed within the cone of our torchlight. As the sky slowly lightened, the eerie feeling that the fog had initially left was amplified. The climb remained fairly sustained until we reached a plateau (we were to find out later on the way down that the plateau was a ridge-line) that descended for a while before ascending back up to the clearing of another campsite, taking approximately an hour or so. We continued on, ever upwards, occasionally traversing around large boulders, but mostly just weaving in and then back out, and dipping up and down, and then once again around the rocky terrain.
The sun was already rising by the time we scrambled up to the peak of Tok Nenek, and the magnificent views that greeted us simply took our breath away. Blankets of clouds stubbornly embraced the shoulders of the mountain, but as we watched, they slowly dissipated in the warm rays of the rising sun. The surrounding peaks slowly and teasingly revealed their tantalising shapes, each one towering over the last.
We were locked in place by then, our gaze facing south-west. As we scanned the horizon, we were able to see the peak of Mount Yong Belar (elevation: 2181m) peaking out from the cloud cover far off in the distance to the south; sweeping our gaze northward along the Titiwangsa v2 trail revealed nothing but cloud cover, with the peak of Mount Korbu (elevation: 2183m) revealing itself for just a few seconds; Mount Yong Yap (elevation: 2168m) lay just behind Mount Bubu (elevation: 1974m) off to the north-west, much closer than all the others.
As we gazed out to the horizon, a huge humanoid-shaped shadow began to materialise in the cloud cover in front of us, and before we knew it, a rainbow-coloured halo appeared and seemed to emanate from the head of the silhouette! The sun had risen behind me in that time and the rays had cast my shadow upon the surface of the clouds that were directly opposite the sun. The 'halo' around my shadow was due to the water droplets in the air that dispersed and refracted the sunlight. This phenomenon is known as a 'Brocken spectre' (the triangular shape below the shadow is due to perspective), and has appeared in writings throughout history, one of my favourites being:
... I had a dream which both frightened and encouraged me. It was night in some unknown place, and I was making slow and painful headway against a mighty wind. Dense fog was flying along everywhere. I had my hands cupped around a tiny light which threatened to go out at any moment... Suddenly I had the feeling that something was coming up behind me. I looked back, and saw a gigantic black figure following me... When I awoke I realized at once that the figure was a "specter of the Brocken," my own shadow on the swirling mists, brought into being by the little light I was carrying.
The sudden appearance of the brocken spectre had wrenched our gaze from the far off horizon and had fixed it on to the shifting cloud cover beneath us. As we stood in awe, I began to notice splashes of red and patches of white that smeared the landscape. The patches of white turned out to be trusses of Rhododendron wrayi, one of the rhododendron species that is endemic to Peninsular Malaysia. The petals of R. wrayi are white with a pink flush, and the flower occurs in the Malaysian highlands, generally 1300m and above. After examining the rhododendrons and finding several pitcher plants (Nepenthes sp.) in the process, I decided to quickly throw together a well-deserved meal of muesli for breakfast with a cup of coffee to accompany it, before heading back down.