Looking back, I consider this the most difficult trek I completed in Southeast Asia (including the volcano climbs). This is not only because we climbed (only 2.2km) at an average of 60% gradient, including 12 ladders of 100% gradient, but predominantly because I wasn’t mentally prepared for the excursion. We decided to set out into the untouched jungles of Borneo to conquer the Pinnacles after seeing them appear on the Amazon Firestick screensaver back at home. Little did we know that we would be thrown completely into the deep end, after spending a lot of money on the trip, to find out that on average 50% of people are unsuccessful on reaching the Pinnacles before the sun starts to set and the journey is deemed unsafe.
Tracing back to some sort of civilisation, we flew from Singapore -> Kota Kinabalu (BKI) -> Miri (MYY) -> Mulu (MZV). The flight into Mulu is with MASWings, a subsidy of Malaysia Airlines, there are around 3 flights a day and every flight is in a light, propeller aircraft.
The Pinnacles are situated in the unhabited region of Gunung Mulu National Park, Sarawak. We were greeted at Mulu airport by our guide and set off on the first day of our trip to the Deer Cave. This consisted of a 50 minute canopy walk from the National Park reception to the entrance of the caves. We spent around 40 mins in the cave following the man-made walkways, doing our best to avoid standing on the pungent guano (bat poo). The main reason for visiting the Deer Cave is to see the fascinating ritual of the bats leaving the cave as the sun sets for an evening of hunting for food. An incredible experience that photography can’t capture quite like the eyes can.
There are different options of accommodation when booking in advance, but if left until one week before to organise, it is likely that only the most expensive accommodation will have availability. This is a 5* Marriot Resort & Spa (with a restaurant) offering unlimited breakfast in the included extra price of around RM200 (£40). Well worth it in my opinion!
9am meet up at the hotel reception. Extra luggage can be left in the hotel’s storage room, which I highly recommend as the trek is hard enough with no additional baggage. The hotel has its own river “bus stop” and a long-boat is the only mode of transport to reach the start of the road to the Pinnacles. The boat journey takes around 1 hour, including a stop at another cave for lunch, and a quick break at one of the remote villages.
The first walk to tackle is a 9km footpath through the jungle to Camp 5 where you spend the second night. This walk took us around 2 hours 30 mins. The terrain was generally easy to walk on, with some rocks and tree roots to scramble around. The weather is extremely humid, attracting the largest swarm of mosquitos I have ever experienced. Mulu is not a red area for Malaria, therefore tablets are not necessary, but I would recommend you pack extra deet spray and apply it before you start to sweat.
Camp 5 has such beautiful surroundings. There is a fresh water river running alongside the site, with plenty of walking trails and wildlife. Sleeping arrangements are basic: a gym mat and a mosquito net (extra RM10pp/pn) so take your own if you have one. This is home for the next two nights. If your tour company provides food, you will not go hungry! The only option of drinking water has been taken from the river and boiled so is usually warm or hot.
Breakfast at 06:00, followed by an orientation chat and then it is recommended to set off on the trek by 07:30 to give groups the best chance of reaching the Pinnacles. You are required to carry your own water for the day which is recommended to be 4 litres, so make sure there is room in your rucksack. From the beginning of the climb, you will instantly realise how difficult it is going to be. Positive group moral is psychologically encouraging, so get to know your fellow climbers and support each other where necessary. We reached the view-point within 4 hours 30 minutes, (including multiple stops along the way,) we then enjoyed lunch and took photos for around 40 minutes before starting the descent back along the same route, which took around 4 hours to complete.
We then enjoyed a late afternoon cooling off by the river before dinner and an early night. We decided to wake up the next morning at 6am again, and set off in our own time back along the 9km walk to the long-boats (where you can guarantee there will be one waiting for you). It is possible to fly out of Mulu that same day on their afternoon flight if you leave Camp 5 by 09:00.
Tip: When you reach the half way point, leave a bottle of water on the ground to help with the weight of your rucksack.