2nd Highest in Malaysia – Trus Madi

Yippy! I have finally trek up to Trus Madi in Sabah.

Trus Madi is 2,642m above sea level – the 2nd highest peak in Sabah and also the 2nd highest peak in Malaysia (West & East). It lies on the same range as Mt Kinabalu, the Crocker Range. The Trus Madi Forest Reserve is bordered by three districts – Ranau, Tambunan and Keningau.  Trus Madi can be accessed from this three districts, we will begin our journey from Tambunan. Tambunan is a small town south of Mt Kinabalu.

We arrived in Kota Kinabalu (KK) airport on Silk Air flight, Silk Air arrives in KK at noon, giving us sufficient time to travel to Tambunan town, 80km in distance, about 1.5hrs drive on private van. East of Tambunan is Trus Madi. We stayed at TRCC – Tandarason Resort Country Club – though not quite the expected resort, it is relaxing and secluded.

Vincinity around TRCC

TRCC vicinity

Sunset at TRCC

Sunset view from TRCC

The next day, we hopped onto a 4WD and off we went for a 1.5hrs not-so-bumpy ride to the Trus Madi Forest Reserve check point gate.

Trus Madi Gate

The “butterfly” gate – Trus Madi Forest Reserve check point

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4900m = 4.9km = distance from trail head to summit

After making verification on our permit, we moved on with our 4WD for another 20mins to the trail head. The route after the check point is steeper and hence we had a really bumpy ride. The trail head is anchored with a hut, and a few sign boards that give information about the trek to Trus Madi summit. There is a sign board indicating “4900m” , it is a distance marker, and there are also distance marker along the trail to the mountain hut. The total distance is 4.9km, from trail head to the summit. Here, the altitude is about 1,800m*. We have traveled 27km from Tambunan town, where TRCC is located.

*My alti-meter was later re-calibrated at the summit with a GPS. The trail head should be about 1,600m +/-

Trail head of Trus Madi (1,800m a.s.l)

Trail head of Trus Madi (1,800m a.s.l)

From the trail head to the mountain hut, it is a series of board walk leading to the mountain hut. It took us about 45mins to reach the mountain hut, some trekkers may take a shorter time, on an average, a leisure walk would be between 40mins and 1hr.  The newly constructed board walk made the trek so much easier. When we look below the board walk, the old trail could be seen; steep rocky roots and narrow path. No wonder it was said to be tougher trekking here (before the renovation) than trekking in Mt Kinabalu.

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The mountain hut at 2,100m above sea level. About 2km from trail head.

The mountain hut offers good (because it is still new for now) basic facilities – dormitory beds with sleeping bags (tropical), slippers, toilets. You can also choose to shower if there is sufficient water. Water is mainly reserved for cooking and drinking. With this newly renovated facilities, trekkers no longer need to carry camping accessories that weigh them down on the approach trek. Like climbing Mt Kinabalu, trekkers’ carrying pack would likely not heavier than 8kg. If you are a minimalist trekker, you will be smiling from cheek to cheek on this trek.

The summit trek starts from the mountain hut. We set off at 2:20am. We arrived at the 2000m distance marker at about 3am. Unlike Mt Kinabalu’s clear and easy path, the terrain requires plenty of high steps and scrambling, some segments are fixed with ladders and ropes to help with the climb. The enchanting pitcher plants made the trek more interesting.

IMG_1949 IMG_1952 IMG_1953The trek from the 2000m distance marker is walking on ridge line, still rich in flora and fauna, with a series of up and down hill. Like in other mountains, the last push to the summit is always enduring. We arrived at the summit at about 530am. The sunrise view was breathtaking. We also enjoyed a panoramic view of Mt Kinabalu.

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View of Mt Kinabalu from the summit of Trus Madi (approximately 40km north)

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On the summit of Trus Madi. Photo credit: Prasanna Srinivasan

On the summit of Trus Madi. Photo credit: Prasanna Srinivasan

We made our way back to the mountain hut, and eventually descent to the trail head. Took 4WD out to TRCC and transfer to Kota Kinabalu town the same day. The day light unveiled the beautiful dense forest of Trus Madi, along the way, we witnessed the Crocker mountain range through the pockets of forest window.

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Summit certificates

Summit certificates

With the newly renovated mountain cabin and established board walk that covers up to 2km, Trus Madi’s trek is less demanding as it was before. Many who have scaled Trus Madi before the major renovation in 2011 reported that Trus Madi is tougher to climb than Mt Kinabalu. Now that I have experienced the trail on Trus Madi, my conclusion is that it is difficult to make accurate comparison between Trus Madi and Mt Kinabalu. While I agree that Trus Madi is “tougher” to climb than Mt Kinabalu, the “toughness” of both mountains are somewhat different.  Both mountains offer differing challenges. To help you understand better about the differences, I have identified two key points for comparison – Altitude, Terrain:

1. Altitude

Mt Kinabalu’s main challenge is in the altitude and it can be really cold from Laban Rata (est. 3,200m) onwards. Trus Madi is about half the height of Mt Kinabalu, there is almost no risk of mountain sickness, the cold is more manageable though wind at the summit can still post a threat. The trail head at Mt Kinabalu starts at 1,800m and Trus Madi starts at about 1,600m above sea level. The mountain huts on Mt Kinabalu is located at 3,200m, while Trus Madi’s mountain hut is located at 2,100m. This makes climbing Mt Kinabalu more breathless than Trus Madi, and chances of getting mountain sickness is higher on Mt Kinabalu. With the disparity in height, Mt Kinabalu’s trek distance from trail head is 8.5km while Trus Madi is 4.9km, Trus Madi is definitely less physically demanding to trek compared to Mt Kinabalu.

2. Terrain

Before renovation work on Trus Madi between 2011 and 2013, the trail up to the mountain hut was very adventurous and strenuous. It was also said to be not suited for the faint hearted, only for hard core trekkers. The dense forest trek involved walking on narrow trails and big trees with roots that required plenty of scrambling with hands. The hut on Trus Madi was less than basic, trekkers had to carry tents & other camping accessories to camp overnight for the summit climb. Trekkers also had to walk 2km on logging road before arriving at the trail head at 1,600m. Upon completion of the renovation work and reopen for climbing in 2013, Trus Madi’s mountain hut access point has greatly improved and made easy. The trail head can be reached by 4WD, and the trek up to the mountain hut is now on board walk, making the terrain similar or easier than Mt Kinabalu, but still there is a fair bit of vertical walking to be done. While Mt Kinabalu’s trail is well established and has clear path all the way up to the highest point, Trus Madi’s summit trail is more interesting and still as demanding. One needs to be a sure footer to do well in this trek; and the comfort level during the trek is also way lower as compared to trekking in Mt Kinabalu (such as higher humidity in Trus Madi).

In summary, the route to Trus Madi summit is far more challenging than Mt Kinabalu, though the air is richer with oxygen. It is a mountain worth an attempt. If you enjoy trekking in the west Malaysia mountains, you will enjoy and appreciate Trus Madi even more. There are many reasons you should trek up to Trus Madi:

  1. The peak is below 3,000m, hard to come by in our region;
  2. You get to enjoy the serenity in Tambunan and at the mountain hut;
  3. It can be done in four days like Mt Kinabalu, including flying in and out of Kota Kinabalu;
  4. Permit is easy to secure as it is less crowded; (at least for now, so climb it soon before it gets overly crowded)
  5. There is no need to carry heavy load to trek;
  6. The view from the summit is awesomely beautiful! (Ok, difficult to guarantee on this point, you sure need some luck 😛 )
  7. Probably the most important of all, you get to shower before and after your summit trek! 😀

Contact us to arrange for a trek to Trus Madi. Email to Contact@aceadventure.com.sg

Hooray to more short treks!

~ Joanne Soo

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