|Elevation:||2,423 m (7,949 ft)||Prominence:||1,967 m|
|Ribu category:||Spesial||Province:||Sarawak (Malaysia)|
|Google Earth:||kml||Other names:|
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Mount Murud is the highest peak in the Kelabit Highlands and, indeed, the highest peak in Sarawak. It is part of the recently-created Pulong Tau National Park although at present there are no Park facilities or anywhere near as many travellers as you would encounter in Mulu National Park. The first known successful ascent was in 1922 by Dr. Eric Mjoberg, a Swedish naturalist and then curator of the Sarawak Museum. Another curator, J. C. Moulton, had tried and failed twice previously to reach the summit in 1914 and 1920. Since 1985, Murud has been the ‘venue’ of an annual prayer pilgrimage organised by the International Revival Meeting.
There are two routes up the mountain, and although getting to either trailhead is quite difficult, there are regular flights from Miri to the highland towns of Bario (also spelt Bareo) and Bakelalan (also spelt Bakalalan or Ba’ Kelalan) . Despite its considerable height, the mountain is not climbed regularly and arranging guides can be difficult and time-consuming (especially for solo travellers) unless you want to pay a premium by booking an expensive tour online.
Both Bario and Bakelalan are very close to the Indonesian border and there are actually permitted trekking routes which cross over the border (but you are not able to get an official Indonesian visa here and must return to Malaysia afterwards). The eastern slopes of Murud itself are technically in Indonesian territory although the regular trekking routes do not pass by here.
Apparently September is a good time to see rare orchids in bloom on the mountain.
Based on the available information, Bario (1,085m) ought to be a better starting point as it is the largest town in the Kelabit Highlands (and even then more like a village) so you would expect there to be more potential guides available. During my visit, guides were very few and far between, and despite a couple of very encouraging maps of the area (at Bario airport and at Nancy Harriss homestay) I would recommend several spare days to find reliable and knowledgeable local guides who are actually available for what is a multi-day expedition.
The alternative starting point is Bakelalan, a smaller town than Bario and, from what I could gather, more expensive guides (200 Ringgit per day in 2014 according to a contact). All guides are supposed to have an official ID card proving that they are reliable and know the area. During my stay in Bario, I met only one potential guide and he had neither an ID card nor was he able to answer adequately my queries about how long certain sections of the trail would take.
Whether you start in Bario or Bakelalan, unless you are returning to the same starting point, you will have to pay any guides and porters and extra two days of wages for the time it will take them to walk back from Bakelalan to Bario (or vice versa). For most single hikers – or even many small groups – this can put considerable strain on one’s budget. Groups of 4 or more are likely to find an ascent of Gunung Murud more affordable and within one’s means.
According to one internet source, Bario-Murud summit-Bakelalan (or vice versa) can be done in 4 full days but you will need a minimum of six free days to allow for flying in at one end and flying out at the other. This account will describe starting in Bario and finishing in Bakelalan, and given my comments regarding difficulty finding a guide, please note that it is based on local and online research rather than personal experience on the actual mountaintop. Please also bear in mind that a 4-day traverse is likely to entail 4WD at either end – preferably booked well in advance.
Day 1 – Bario (or Pa Lungan) to Long Rapbun.
This is a long day that some guides will try to make you split into two by way of an overnight stay at a longhouse in Pa Lungan. Assuming you fly in to Bario on a morning flight, I would recommend either ensuring with your guide that you can cover the distance from Bario to Long Rapbun the following day or else make your way to Pa Lungan the day that you arrive from Miri. Pa Lungan is apparently the best place for guides on the Bario side of the mountain but they may be busy when you arrive if you have not made arrangements in advance.
Allow 5-6 hours from Bario to Pa Lungan. This trek goes via Pa Ukat. 30 minutes beyond Pa Ukat take a right at the fork in the trail. It makes sense to aim for a lunch stop in Pa Lungan. 30 minutes beyond Pa Lungan you will reach an abandoned airstrip. The trail follows to the left of it. From this point watch out for leeches on your footwear and legs. The pitcehr plant Nepenthes Stenophylla and rhododendrons grow in this area. The trail leads steeply up to a ridge and then down the other side to Long Rabpun. Rafflesia have been reported on this section of trail. In total it should take 5-6 hours from Pa Lungan to Long Rapbun, therefore 10-12 hours in total for Day 1 (unless you can arrange transport to Pa Lungan from Bario, or else stay in Pa Lungan the previous night). Long Rapbun is the site of a former longhouse attacked and used as an Indonesian army shelter. This shelter is often used by local hunters and lies on the banks of Pa’ Dabpur river. It has a bamboo roof so you should be able to manage without a tent however the roof may be in bad condition so best bring at least a tent sheet.
Day 2 – Long Rapbun to Camp Halfway Up.
There are no less than 6 river crossings after Long Rapbun (2 of which can be hazardous) so after heavy rainfall an extra day waiting for the level to lower may be required. Rapung river is first to be crossed – not too tough. Further on is another hunting shelter at Pat Liuk. The main river in this area is the Ulu Dapur which the trail crosses 3 times.
The ‘Halfway Up’ camp is at around 1,750m above sea level and you’ll need a tent here. There is a small stream available 10 minutes from camp but in general the site is regarded as less pleasant than Long Rabpun. Day 2 is likely to entail 8 hours total hiking and please note that there are no reliable water sources beyond this point on this side of the mountain range.
Day 3 – Halfway to Summit to Church Camp (AKA Reked Meligan).
The steep trail offers good views but the dense, mossy vegetation requires scrambling and crawling occasionally. Apparently 7 species of pitcher plants grow on these higher slopes of the mountain, as do several orchids. There are lots of steep drops and holes so take extra care. It takes around 5-6 hrs to reach the summit.
In very clear weather Kinabalu can be seen but unlikely at lunchtime (you need an extra day to allow a night camping here for early morning views). At night the lights of the Brunei coastline can be seen. There’s a blue sign ‘Buduk Murud’ at the very top, several rusting fuel drums and an ammunition box left by the British Army near the summit.
From the summit it’s approximately 3 hours down to Church camp (roughly 2,000m above sea level) via the Rock Garden (‘Kebun Batu’) – a beautiful area of boulders and small, bonsai-like trees. Church camp is considered ‘holy ground’ so you are not supposed to drink alcohol or smoke here. There are 80 huts, a toilet and a church for pilgrims (1000 capacity). The pilgrimage happens in July so you might want to check online so you can avoid the dates otherwise it will be very busy indeed.
Day 4 – Church Camp to Bakelalan.
The first hour of the day is a hike up to a ridge. Then it’s an hour and a half along the ridge before descending to a timber track and Pa’ Rabata stream. Another hour of ascent follows before meeting another logging road where a right turn leads you into the forest. From here it’s 2 and a half hours down to the Kelalan valley. It’s preferable to arrange transport to collect you on the logging road so you get to Bakelalan before dark. The trailhead on this side of the mountain is Lepo Bunga (roughly 1,000m). This section of trail is a plank walkway in disrepair, but apparently being replaced with metal to allow for easier access to Church Camp each July.
The population of the Bakelalan area is 1200 across 13 villages, the largest of which is Buduk Mur with 300 people.
|Getting there||The best method is to fly from Miri into either Bario or Bakelalan in one of the tiny 18-seater turbo prop planes on the ‘Rural Air Service’. It takes about 50 minutes and the view of the huge, vertical rock fingers of Batu Lawi seen from the left side of the plane is fabulous. Have your camera ready. There are 3 flights a day to/from Bario and 3 flights a week to/from Bakelalan. There is at least one flight per week from Bario to Bakelalan. Because of strict weight limits on these small aircraft you are only allowed 10kg checked luggage and 5kg hand luggage. You will also be asked to stand on a set of scaled in order to weigh yourself. If your luggage is just a kilogram or two over you may be asked to pay an extra ringgit per kilogram (although this does depend on how full the plane already is and you could technically be refused). The alternative to flying in is a slightly more expensive and much more time-consuming 4WD trip from Miri to Bario and vice versa which takes the best part of a day (approximately 150 rinngit per person for the 12 hour journey along logging roads). It takes roughly 30 minutes to walk from Bario airport to the centre of the village/town. For getting to the trailheads you either need a lot more spare time (at least a half-day on either side) or else enough money to hire a 4WD at either side. Unfortunately ojeks (motorbike taxis) are not common here (unlike in nearby Indonesia).|
|Accommodation||Normally, you shouldn’t have any problems finding accommodation in Bario or Bakelalan (though it is best to avoid or simply book ahead for special holiday dates). Given my problems in finding a guide in Bario, I would recommend NOT staying at the Nancy Harriss guesthouse simply because I didn’t get very far Murud-wise when I stayed there so best try somewhere else for the time being unless you have booked a guide in advance. Some of the better places may well be further out of town. Bear in mind that electricity only come on at around 6pm (until 6am).|
|Permits||You may be asked to sign a foreign visitors book at Bario airport. At present it appears you do not need an official hiking permit to climb Murud. However, you are supposed to take an official local guide with you (he should have ID for this) who will register your plans with local village representatives so that they know where you are going and when to expect you back.|
|Water sources||Ask your guide for further details.||Local Average Monthly Rainfall (mm):|