Mount Tahan

malaysia

Mount Tahan is the Malay word for ‘endurance’. You’ll need it.

Its located in the Taman Negara National Park in Peninsular Malaysia! Summiting Tahan is best done with a solid 100 km trek through 130 million year old oldest rainforests.

Country
malaysia
Height
2,187m (7175 ft)
Climbing Height
1,902m (starting from Sungai Relau)
Rank
  • #6 in Malaysia
  • Outside of top #50 in SE Asia

Climbing Mount Tahan Malaysia - Natural Form and History

Climbing Mount Tahan Malaysia - History

Climbing Mount Tahan Malaysia - Geological history

Mount Tahan (the Malay word for ‘endurance’) is part of the Tahan range in the Tenasserim Hills - the southernmost reaches of the Himalayas - and is located within the Taman Negara National Park in Peninsular Malaysia. A comparative study of rocks found in Gunung Tahan with others found in Peninsular Malaysia places the age of the mountain at around 100 million years - late Early Cretaceous period. The rainforests of Taman Negara are considered the oldest in the world, having survived continuously for about 130 million years.

Climbing Mount Tahan Malaysia - Modern climbing history

Ascending to the summit of Mount Tahan seems to have been an adventure that has preoccupied many since ancient times. The locals believe that an ancient Sultan of Pahang had ordered his men to recover ‘magic stones’ from the summit, but they were lost in the gorges and precipices of the imposing mountain. Many early explorers in the 1800s were also met with defeat, and sometimes even death. The first successful climb was recorded in 1899 by a member of the Cambridge Scientific Expedition who had embarked on the mission from the Kelantan side and was thought missing for several days before he reappeared severely ill with fever and dysentery. The timing of the first recorded successful climb from the Pahang side is disputed, but some believe it to have occurred in 1905 by a team of four led by Herbert C Robinson.

Climbing Mount Tahan Malaysia - Current popularity as a climbing destination

The oldest Gunung Tahan trail is a solid 100 km through lush rain forests and at 5 to 7 days, is meant only for serious trekking and camping enthusiasts. The shorter one is still long - around 60 km, and can take 3 to 4 days to navigate. Despite the though challenge, the mountain is gaining a foothold in to-do lists of visitors to Malaysia with its lure of ancient trees and glimpses of orchids, exotic wildlife, bountiful rivers, and if you're lucky, the famous rafflesia (the world's largest flower).

Climbing Mount Tahan Malaysia - Overview of the Trail

Climbing Mount Tahan Malaysia - Overall Assessment

Climbing Mount Tahan Malaysia - Summary of trail accessibility

Mount Tahan is not a beginner’s climb. But it is also not a technical climb either. It just needs some preparation beforehand and basic physical fitness. It offers a mix of flat and steep sections along the trail, with plenty of ridges, river crossings, slush and ravines to keep things interesting.

Climbing Mount Tahan Malaysia - Trail options

Number of options
3
Summary

There are three listed routes to choose from depending on how much time you have and how much physical endurance you are willing to put to the test. The first is the longer, classic trail that takes over a week to complete. The second is shorter and will have you back at the starting point in 4 to 5 days. The third option is a combination of the two - you go up one trail and come down the other.

Kuala Tahan, starting at 60 m above the sea level. The longest and oldest trail, considered the classic trail for this trek, is also the most scenic. It gives you a complete experience of jungle as well as mountain trekking with plenty of opportunity to ford rivers, camp on mountain ridges, and really test your physical fitness.

This trail will have you traverse the entire mountain either starting at Kuala Tahan and climbing down to Merapoh, or the reverse. This can be a 5 to 7 day commitment depending on energy and fitness levels.

Sungai Relau, starting at 285 m above the sea level. Also known as the Merapoh route (for it starts and ends at Merapoh), this offers the shortest version of the jungle from among the 3 options, but comes with its fair share of endurance tests and experience of the primitive rainforests.

Climbing Mount Tahan Malaysia - Most popular trail

Sungai Relau Trail, or Merapoh trail

Climbing Mount Tahan Malaysia - Standard itinerary

Number of days
4
Summary

This quick itinerary is based on the assumption of peak fitness levels and some experience in jungle and mountain trekking.

Climbing Mount Tahan Malaysia - Day 1

10:00:  Registration at Sungai Relau Park Office and bag check by the officials. At this point, everything in your bags will be catalogued for checking again when you finish the trek to discourage travelers from leaving trash behind; you may be fined if there are missing items when you return.

11:00:  Briefing by park officials and drive to Kuala Jurum, 13 kms away from the Park Office which is the starting point of the trek.

12:30:  Lunch and final briefing by guide.

13:00:  Start of hike.

14:30:  Arrival at Kuala Luis. The route from this point onwards becomes a little steeper.

15:30:  Arrival at Lata Luis.

17:00:  Arrival At Kem Kor where camp is set up for the night and dinner is cooked and served.

Climbing Mount Tahan Malaysia - Day 2

07:00:  Wakeup call; breakfast is cooked and served on site and lunch is cooked and packed.

08:30:  Start of hike.

09:00:  Arrive at Kem Permatang.

11: 30:  Arrive at Kem Kubang: lunch and water refilling stop.

12:30:  Resume hike. After a morning of climbing up steep slopes, this part of the trail becomes a little easier to navigate.

13: 30:  Arrive at Kem Belumut.

15: 30:  Arrive at False Peak, from where you descend to Bukit Botak.

16: 30:  Arrive at Kem Bonsai. This is tree has become a ‘must have’ location for pictures, where many hikers climb to take pictures in their creative postures. From this point onwards, the tree cover disappears and you face the harsh sun on your skin.

18:00:  Arrive at Bukit Botak where camp is set for the night, and get a well deserved rest after the the longest day of the trek. There is also a nearby water point where you can take a quick bath. You will have covered approximately 16 kms in about 12 hours of trekking.

Climbing Mount Tahan Malaysia - Day 3

05:30:  Wakeup call; climb to the summit to catch the sunrise. This part is flatter, but also windier and chillier than the rest of the trail.

06:30:  Arrive at the summit of Gunung Tahan.

07:30:  Descend to Camp Botak.

08:30:  Begin the descend from Camp Botak.

18: 00:  Arrive at Kem Kubang and set up camp for the night.

Climbing Mount Tahan Malaysia - Day 4

07:00 :  Wake up call.

08:00:  Start descend.

11:00:  Arrive at Kuala Juram and drive back to Park office.

12:00:  Arrival at office where bags are checked again by Park officials.

13:00:  Return to lodgings.

Climbing Mount Tahan Malaysia - Climbing Difficulty

Climbing Mount Tahan Malaysia - Terrain

Number of distinct sections
3
Summary

With 5 river crossings each way, a good share of thick jungle along the way and almost 900 slopes, this is an adventurous trail that offers plenty of drama along with some exotic flora and fauna. There are 3 distinct sections of the climb, one for each of the first 3 days of your trek.

Climbing Mount Tahan Malaysia - Kuala Juram to Kem Kor
On this stretch that is covered on the first day of the trek, you have a walk of about 14 kms bringing you to an elevation of 750m. This roughly 5 to 7 hour trek is mostly across flat ground with the beginnings of the steeper slopes towards the end of the day. You will cross 4 rivers alone the way - the first 3 are relatively easy, but the 4th may need you walk in waist deep water. The river crossings require some nifty footwork across slippery moss covered rocks but are not dangerous to cross. At points there are ropes to help you across.
Climbing Mount Tahan Malaysia - Kem Kor to Bukit Botak
The second day involves some very steep slopes and one river crossing. At each of the rest stops, you will need to catch your breath and replenish your water stocks as this is the most difficult part of the climb. In addition to being steep and slippery, the path is also criss-crossed by tree roots and in some stretches you have ropes and side railings for support.
Climbing Mount Tahan Malaysia - Camp Botak to summit
The final stretch takes only about half an hour to cover and is probably less steep than some of the stretches you would have covered on the second day. The summit offers some flat ground from where to get stunning visuals of the mountains all around covered in clouds.

Climbing Mount Tahan Malaysia - Weather

Climbing Mount Tahan Malaysia - Overview of climate

The weather in Malaysia is equatorial – hot and humid throughout the year with day time temperatures averaging 24 degrees Celsius and night time temperatures averaging 15 degrees Celsius. What you really need to watch out for are the plentiful tropical rains as in most regions trekking in the mountains is not advisable during the wet season that ranges between September and February.

Climbing Mount Tahan Malaysia - Best time to climb

The dry season between March and September are the best months to plan this trip. Trekking Mount Tahan is closed in the wettest months of September and October.  Between June and August in particular, the temperatures stay in the pleasant region of 7 to 27 degrees Celsius.

Climbing Mount Tahan Malaysia - Common weather challenges

Rains:  Rains are the single biggest challenge on this trek as the rainforest will have some level of precipitation even in the dry season. It is important to have water proof covering for your bags and equipment and rubber shoes are also recommended to survive the wetness and slush.

Heat:  Temperatures are generally pleasant, but exertion and humidity means you need to stay well-hydrated.

Climbing Mount Tahan Malaysia - Safety tips

Climbing Mount Tahan Malaysia - Climbing safety

Getting lost:  Though the trail is pretty clear and there are sign boards in important locations, this is still a long trail and there are gorges and ridges that could take you by surprise. It is important to stay close to your guide and group as getting lost is probably the greatest threat.

Snakes and insects:  These are real dangers so stay close to your guides, and watch out for on your own as well as for your guide’s advice along the way.

Climbing Mount Tahan Malaysia - Personal safety

The trail is popular among travellers and it is unlikely you will come up against any significant dangers. Even so, given the long distances, it is best to be part of a group and stay close to your fellow travellers.

Emergency numbers:

  • Police & Ambulance: 999 (112 from a mobile)
  • Fire & Rescue (Bomba): 994 (112 from a mobile)
  • Tourist Police Hotline: 03 2149 6590
  • Pahan Police Station: 09-5151999 / 09-5052202
  • Department of Wildlife & National Parks (PERHILITAN) Careline: 1-300-88-5151
Climbing Mount Tahan Malaysia - Safety for women travelers

Women trekkers should travel in groups and be especially cautious in walking through villages and towns. To avoid unwanted attention or cultural faux pas, take your dress cues from locals who wear tops covering the shoulders and trousers to below the knees, even when swimming.

 

Climbing Mount Tahan Malaysia - Recommended equipment

Climbing Mount Tahan Malaysia - Footwear
  • Waterproof hiking shoes. Be sure to use a well-worn pair that you are comfortable with rather than a new pair that may cause unexpected blisters or pain.
  • Flip flops or sandals can be refreshing for the camp sites at the end of a day’s hike, but watch out for mosquitos.
Climbing Mount Tahan Malaysia - Clothing
  • Long sleeved loose shirts or t-shirts
  • Loose cotton pants
  • Some nightwear for overnight camps
  • Swimwear in case you want to dip into the rivers or waterfalls along the way, noting that women should be mindful of local customs and pack modest swimwear
  • Plenty socks and underwear to last the whole trek, and packing them so they stay dry
Climbing Mount Tahan Malaysia - Bags

Waterproof backpack. Preferably one which permits some circulation of air on one’s back, as the hike can get sweaty.

Climbing Mount Tahan Malaysia - Weather protection
  • Rain coat / poncho
  • Waterproof cover for backpack
  • Waterproof cover for camera
  • Sunscreen lotion
  • Sun glasses
Climbing Mount Tahan Malaysia - Climbing support

Hiking poles (optional)

Climbing Mount Tahan Malaysia - Navigation tools
  • Headlamps
  • Flashlight (optional)
  • Whistle (optional; in cae you are left behind or go off track)
Climbing Mount Tahan Malaysia - Medical equipment
  • Basic first-aid kid, for cuts and bruises
  • Insect repellent
  • Knee/ankle supports in case of twists or sprains
  • Muscle-ache relief creams / sprays
Climbing Mount Tahan Malaysia - Food
  • Make sure to pack enough food to last the entire trek
  • Drinking water. You may also consider water purification options
  • High-calorie dry food items such as chocolate, energy bars, or nut bars
Climbing Mount Tahan Malaysia - Hygene sanitation
  • Hand sanitiser
  • Tissues or toilet paper (in a waterproof bag)
  • Personal toiletries
  • Disposable plastic bags for waste collection
Climbing Mount Tahan Malaysia - Connectivity
  • Mobile phone (optional)
  • Portable battery charger (optional)
Climbing Mount Tahan Malaysia - Documents
  • Passport (and other IDs) for registration and emergencies
  • Some cash in the local currency (Ringgit)

Climbing Mount Tahan Malaysia - Support facilities

Climbing Mount Tahan Malaysia - Resting stops and facilities

Climbing Mount Tahan Malaysia - Rest stops

There are 8 rest stops between the starting point and the summit on Gunung Tahan. They are: Kuala Luis (306m); Lata Luis (558 m); Kem Kor (750 m); Permatang (874m); Kubang (1406m); Belumut (1493m); Bonsai (1750m) and Bukit Botak (1943m). The rest stops are very basic with no built up shelters. They are largely just clearings with a few chopped logs to rest for a bit or have a snack. There are water filling points at several of the shelters. Kem Kor and Bukit Botak are designated camp sites and are large clearings where many groups can set up camps at the same time.

Climbing Mount Tahan Malaysia - Base camp

The summit base camp for Mount Tahan is at Bukit Botak at 1,943m. It is a clearing with room for you to pitch your tent, and wash from a nearby water point.

Climbing Mount Tahan Malaysia - Guides and porters

Climbing Mount Tahan Malaysia - Do you need a guide?

Yes. Guides are mandatory on this trek, whichever trail you choose.

Climbing Mount Tahan Malaysia - How to find a guide?

Guides can be hired from the Park office while getting your permits, or arranged in advance via tour operators. It is ideal to have at least one guide per 10 people.

Climbing Mount Tahan Malaysia - Tips while working with guides
  • If arranging a guide in advance, you should read available reviews from previous climbers. Make it known to the guide if appropriate how you heard about them and offer to write a review if you like the experience. This might give them the extra incentive to be attentive to your needs.
  • If hiring a guide from the Park office, talk to them in advance to make sure they understand your language and communication is clear.
  • For women travellers, consider asking the ranger at the Park Office to suggest a guide best suited to women trekkers, or even if a female guide is available. Serious problems can be reported to the Tourist Police or the PERHILITAN Careline. If you had trouble with a guide, email us with the guide’s name and details ([email protected]) and we will do our best to let others know.

Climbing Mount Tahan Malaysia - Porters

Climbing Mount Tahan Malaysia - Do you need a porter?

This is a long hike, so your gear may consider a porter if you’re not experienced with carrying a heavy pack loads, or if you suffer from a back injury. Also, if your pack is not waterproof, it risks becoming significantly heavier when it rains.

Although your guide may carry some of your food and utensils, you shouldn’t rely on him for carrying you pack if the going gets tough.

Climbing Mount Tahan Malaysia - How to find a porter?

It would be best to arrange for porters in advance through your tour operator or through the guide you have engaged.

Climbing Mount Tahan Malaysia - Tips while working with porters

If you’re engaging a porter, communicate with your guide beforehand to ensure that there are sufficient number of porters who will accompany your group to the top, depending on the amount of baggage to be carried.

Climbing Mount Tahan Malaysia - Food & water

Climbing Mount Tahan Malaysia - At the start of the hike

It is advisable to have breakfast at Merapoh before heading for the Park office.

Climbing Mount Tahan Malaysia - During the hike, along the trail

While on the trail, breakfast is made at the campsites, where often your lunch is also packed before starting the trek for the day. Dinner is cooked at the campsites. Not all guides include food as part of the package so it is important to clarify this before you start. In addition, it is advisable to have some additional snacks and chocolates in your backpack for the in-between times. There are there are a number of water points available on the way which are suitable for drinking unless you are sensitive to untreated natural spring water.

Climbing Mount Tahan Malaysia - During the hike, at base camp

Dinner will be prepared at the base camp the evening before you make the summit stretch, and breakfast on your way down.

Climbing Mount Tahan Malaysia - Network connectivity

Climbing Mount Tahan Malaysia - Phone and data (3G) connectivity

Mobile connectivity is quite patchy within the Taman Negara National Park. You will need to rely on Wi-Fi provided by hotels in Merapoh at the start and end of the trek.

Climbing Mount Tahan Malaysia - Accessibility

Climbing Mount Tahan Malaysia - Getting there

Climbing Mount Tahan Malaysia - Nearest airport
Taman Negara National Park sits in the middle of Peninsular Malaysia roughly equidistant to various regional airports such as Kuantan, Ipoh, and Terengganu, none of which would save you time if coming by road from Kuala Lumpur.
Climbing Mount Tahan Malaysia - From the airport to the starting point

Merapoh is 244 km from Kuala Lumpur and there are three possible means to get there: train, bus or car.

By train: Merapoh does have a train station on the KMT Intercity line. Getting on this line from Kuala Lumpur requires first going South to Gemas and connecting on the line heading to Tumpat on the “Jungle Line”, which is apparently spectacular.

By Bus routes from Kuala Lumpur to Kota Baruh pass through Merapoh and you could arrive directly at the Merapoh bus station.

By taxi/car from Kuala Lumpur to Merapoh should a little under three and a half hours. This is by far the fastest way to get started.

Climbing Mount Tahan Malaysia - Climbing permits

Climbing Mount Tahan Malaysia - Is a permit needed?
A permit is needed to climb this mountain and can be secured at the Park entrances at Kuala Tahan or Merapoh. Foreign visitors are required to file a report with the local police station before proceeding to the park for the permit.
Climbing Mount Tahan Malaysia - How to get a permit?

Permits are available at the Park entrances and can be purchased after paying the fees, hiring a guide and submitting to the baggage check.

Climbing Mount Tahan Malaysia - Special Tips

Climbing Mount Tahan Malaysia - For amateur climbers

Amateurs should feel up to the task, so long as they have the fitness

Climbing Mount Tahan Malaysia - For advanced climbers

Take the longer route: If you are committing 5 to 7 days of your visit to summit Gunung Tahan, go the whole hog and take the Kuala Tahan –-Gunung Tahan – Merapoh (or the other way round) trail and experience everything there is to this trek. You will not only have summited the highest peak in Peninsular Malaysia, you would also have pitted your skills against what is considered the toughest mountain to climb in this region and come back with memories of some of the oldest forests in existence before they disappear.