Penrissen

Facts

Elevation: 1,326 m (4,350 ft) Prominence: 893 m
Ribu category: Google MarkerSpesial Province: Kalimantan Barat (West Kalimantan)
Google Earth: kml Other names:  Penerisan
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Photos

Bagging It!

 

Mount Penrissen is on the Indonesia-Malaysia border (West Kalimantan and Sarawak) and is the highest peak of a large mountainous area south and south-west of Kuching. It is most commonly accessed via the Borneo Highlands Resort and golf course on the Malaysian side. As the hike takes around 6 hours to complete, it makes a great day out from Kuching (2 hours away by car) and there are some excellent views down into Indonesia.

It is not mandatory to take a Borneo Highlands Resort guide, but unless you have experienced friends with you it is definitely advisable to make a reservation with them in advance because sections of the trail are incredibly steep and not recommended attempting alone. If you have booked a Resort guide and transport, your hike will start at the clubhouse / Annah Rais Cafe (835m). If you are going without a Resort guide you will have to leave your car a little further down at the carpark (700m). Note that you can also find a guide down at the Annah Rais Longhouse Homestay, but assuming you either walk up to the Resort or indeed don’t use the Resort access point then you will need a lot more time to complete the hike.

There are two routes up to the summit of Penrissen from the Resort, and it is customary to hike in an anti-clockwise direction. There are plenty of signs on the trail, and for the first hour you are never too far from the edge of the golf course! From the clubhouse, take a right then a left then onto a simple wooden footbridge over a small river which leads into the forest (855m). You cross another stream before passing an old, simple wooden shelter on your left (878m). Another stream is crossed before reaching a much more substantial wooden shelter known as Ma Gaseng (910m). It should have taken you about 30 minutes to reach this point from the clubhouse. There are quite a lot of leeches in the Penrissen forest, so take care to check every so often and look out for the smaller ones which are difficult to see.

The trail veers round to the left and you find yourself on the ridge (980m) which is the national borderline between Indonesia and Malaysia. There is little chance of anyone ‘escaping’ down into Indonesia as the drop is incredibly steep and several hundred metres down! There are one or two good spots between the trees to look out over Kalimantan and some distant hills. The trail then drops down a little and, somewhat surreally, onto the neatly cut grass of the highest reaches of the golf course! You can indeed miss out this first section of forest trail simply by asking Resort staff for directions and walking up the golf course to Hole 13 and what is known as Southwest Kalimantan View (970m).

There are a couple of signs here, and a pleasant wooden fence marking the national boundary. In the distance, in clear weather, you may be able to see the triangular cone of Gunung Merdai over in Kalimantan. Towering above the golf course are the steep, jungle-clad cliffs of Penrissen. It’s a great spot for photographs and you should have reached here in about one hour from the clubhouse.

The easy hiking is over, and the next section is on much steeper as you begin to negotiate the Penrissen cliffs. The ground is rocky, occasionally unstable and the trail is now much less clear, with occasional deep holes between rocks. Take real care looking where you place your feet. There are several ladders that assist in gaining elevation, but in June 2018 one of these had been crushed in a recent landslide and had been temporarily replaced with a very simple couple of pieces of rope next to a near-vertical drop of a couple of hundred metres! This is one reason you should not do this hike alone or with those who have a fear of heights. Look out too for pieces of wood which look fairly strong but which are in actual fact rotten and unable to take a person’s weight.

The going may be tough, but the views back down to the Resort golf course and nearby lesser peaks are lovely. Soon enough the summit ridge of Penrissen is gained at a spot called Takar Buru (1,180m). There are pitcher plants growing along this ridge. Another ladder or two follow (1,200m) before the true summit is reached. It should have taken you about 3 hours or so to get here from the clubhouse. The summit is crowned with a cement pillar with ‘Malaysia Sarawak’ written on one side and ‘Republik Indonesia’ written on the other. In 2018, there was an amusing laminated sheet of A4 paper with the words ‘Passport Control’ written on it!

Just beyond the summit, down a few metres on the other side, is what Resort guides say is a great view down to Indonesian villages and hills. If the weather is cloudy, which it often is by lunchtime, do wait a little to see if you can catch any glimpses of this view.

The trail continues in an anti-clockwise direction, steeply down via numerous ladders and simple roped sections, before you reach a col known as Tang Tuan. For here, the trail leads up a little to a viewpoint known as Bendera (‘flag’). The view from here over the golf course is quite stunning (!) and if you have Resort guides with you then they will probably offer you binoculars to use here.

Further down you meet a minor junction with a sign pointing onwards to the obscure Gunung Seruruh. It doesn’t appear that is peak is visited very often, and you need to take a left on the main trail down to the Resort. Before the edge of the golf course is a great spot with a huge rock called Batu Panggah ‘curse stone’ (1,040m). On one side of the huge boulder is what looks very much like a human face from a certain angle. It is not dis-similar to some of the stone carvings at Cambodia’s Angkor Wat temple complex, except that this was not made by human hands and is entirely natural.

From Batu Panggah the trail leads sharply left, over a small stream and then out onto the edge of the golf course (930m). From here you need to follow the golf road down to the right to get back to the clubhouse.

Bagging information by Dan Quinn (June 2018).

Nominated as a Spesial by Chris Whiting.

Practicalities

Getting there Unfortunately there is no public transport to the area so you will need to hire a car (and driver if required) for the day for perhaps 250-300 Ringgit in Kuching. It takes about 2 hours to drive from Kuching to the foothill entrance to Borneo Highlands Resort.
Accommodation Plenty available to suit all budgets in Kuching, or you can stay at the Borneo Highlands Resort itself.
Permits As of 2018, Borneo Highlands Resort charge RM260 (per person) for a guided dayhike to Penrissen summit. This includes a simple lunch afterwards. Transport from the foothill (the main entrance which is 25 minutes by car and 7 or 8 km away) to the clubhouse (at 835m above sea level) is RM50 per person return and the earliest pickup time is 0730am, but you are also welcome to drive up to the carpark which is at around 700m above sea level for RM10 and then walk for 30 minutes to the clubhouse. Contact Dianne via email at dianne@borneohighlands.com.my 
Water sources Available near the start of the hike from streams, but best bring about 2 litres of bottled water.
Local Average Monthly Rainfall (mm): kuching

Location

4 thoughts on “Penrissen

  1. Sarawak was a great choice for Idul Fitri week. Made even better by meeting Ken of Kuching who wanted to hike too and also had a car, making getting to Penrissen much, much easier. So first of all thanks to Ken. Also thanks to Wilson Chin who has helped with information and on his website which covers a lot of trails near Kuching and further afield in Malaysian Borneo.

    Hikers in Kuching are spoilt for choice for decent day-hikes… Santubong is probably the most famous, hiked by a lot of tourists. Serapi looks very good too, and it’s higher than Santubong but with a transmitter tower and access road. Might try that one next time.

    Before doing Penrissen I wanted to do Santubong, and thought this might just about be achievable the same day as flying in from Pontianak. It was indeed…. but only via the Bukit Putri entrance, which Park staff seem to want to dissuade hikers from using, except perhaps as a descent route for late finishers. Anyway, we made it up to the top in 2hr15min which is pretty good going. We didn’t rest much until we got to the top. However, this ‘top’ is actually only the second highest on the peninsula, the highest being called ‘Summit 2’ which is a kilometre or so further north, and with nothing like a regular trail to the top (perhaps 10 people have hiked the true summit in the last few years, whereas there are normally 10 people on the regular top known as Summit 1 every single day). Here’s a link to a Facebook page set up by a guy who has visited all 7 of the Santubong summits….. https://www.facebook.com/My-Santubong-Borneo-Adventures-1874759289510012/

    There are signs with the latin names of trees in the forest much of the way up. Ignore the Google Maps contours/elevation data as it is way, way off for Santubong Summit 1, as is often the case for very steep mountains with vertical cliffs. Santubong is definitely a good warm-up for other hikes, but some may find it exhausting due to all the ladders and the heat associated with starting from pretty much sea level.

    I was knackered, and we had hoped to get some decent rest at the only budget accommodation on the Santubong peninsula, at Pantai Damai, a hostel called BB Bunkers. Friendly spot, next to a convenience store, restaurant and the beach. Alas, neither of us got much sleep but we had to be up at 5am and off to Penrissen over 2 hours away for a 7.30am pick up at the foothill entrance. The journey was great at that time in the morning – stunning views of minor peaks and swirling mist.

    People say the road from the foothill to the carpark at 700m or so is very steep. Inactual fact, most confident drivers should have no trouble at all, so paying an extra RM50 (as opposed to RM10 parking fee) seems unnecessary.
    Earliest pick up is 730am. Road is 7km ish. Steep but fine for most drivers.

    I had already reserved a guide (in fact you get two for safety), but it is not mandatory – you can basically do it yourself if you know where you are going. Anyway, the guides were very good, and very keen, having not been out on the summit trek for quite some time. It is well publicised at the resort lobby / clubhouse / restaurant but it would appear most guests at the Resort think better of climbing a near vertical cliff and meeting numerous leeches – perhaps because they can walk to the border ridge to admire the view without even leaving the golf course!

    I expected Penrissen to be easier than Santubong, with slightly less elevation gain. It was actually about the same, or tougher given the less secure ladders and the leeches! It was a little cloudy at the very top, so the views to Kalimantan weren’t at their finest (early mornings are usually the best time, but difficult unless you camp or are staying at the Resort and can get started by 5am or so). Nevertheless it was a great day out and is the highest mountain in the Kuching area – and second only to Berumput/Pueh/Kanyi in western Sarawak.

  2. I arrived into Kuching from Sibu feeling fairly fed up with how the project had been progressing. Success with Mulu but only some preliminary information and photos for both Murud and Bukit Batu. I was hoping things would change in the Kuching area with Penrissen, Santubong and Pueh/Rumput.

    I fancied trying Santubong first – a sharp 810-metre peak just 30km from Kuching on the Damai peninsula in what was declared a national park in 2007. There are two starting points – Checkpoint 2 is at Bukit Puteri and is slightly higher up so can shave an hour of your hiking time compared to if you start your hike further on at Green Paradise Seafood which is presumably Checkpoint 1. I thought it might be nice to start at one trailhead and come down to the other, thereby getting a good understanding of different parts of the mountain. There seems to be some confusion over entrance fees with some sources stating 8 ringgit per hiker and others suggesting that an owner of Green Paradise is overcharging hikers who try to access the mountain via ‘her property’. By all accounts the trek is steep involving ladders and roped sections.

    Some tour operators in Kuching offer this day-trip but it’s 170 Ringgit per person and you almost certainly need a few people signed up or else it won’t be worth their while. Given that the K15 bus from Saujana bus terminal only takes 45 minutes each way and appeared to be a regular service I figured I could do it myself on a budget. So I went shopping for water and snacks for my day out the next day and was looking forward to finally using my hiking boots for hiking again.

    I got up the following morning at 6am and trekked over to Saujana bus terminal. Saujana is not especially pleasant or orderly, with buses turning up on various streets and no way of knowing where you should wait unless you ask at the information desk that doesn’t open until 8am. The 7am bus on the timetable back at the hostel never showed up. I consulted the boards at Saujana. 7.30 – another half an hour, that’s ok. 7.30am came and went and still no bus. Finally at 8am the desk opened and I made enquiries. It turns out that these Santubong bus services have been halved meaning that the first bus of the day is not until mid-morning. There would not be an early bus again that week, or perhaps for the foreseeable future, therefore making the plan of a dayhike starting nice and early to beat the high temperatures and humidity down near sea level rather more difficult. A word of advice on this – don’t trust the timetables even the ones on display at the info desk as they are wrong. Why they still have incorrect information displayed is a good question that staff were not able to answer! So, it meant either finding others interested in hiking with me to share the cost of a car and driver for a day or else starting late in the day and not being sure of when the last bus might be coming back. It was disappointing.

    Disappointment followed disappointment as I discovered that there was absolutely no public transport for Penrissen and that the price for a guide from Borneo Highlands resort which is at the main trailhead would be 220 Ringgit per person for just a short dayhike. Combing the high guide cost with the need to hire a car and driver for a full day from Kuching meant that this again was going to negatively affect the budget. How could ordinary hikers enjoy these places except by having local friends to help them or by hitch-hiking?

  3. if you like gunungs and golf it doesnt get much better than this. getting to the start of the hike will require transport to the borneo highlands resort which is about 1 hour from kuching.at the entrance to the resort the security guard will organise the resort bus to pick you up and then its a very bumpy half hour ride up to the golf course which is already at 1000 meters.this is my favourite golf course in malaysia as it is in amongst untouched forest and has penrissen as the backdrop.i didnt climb penrissen but the views at the lookout near the start of the climb are impressive as you can see a vast expanse of the kalimantan area. you will also see views of a couple of ribus ( merdai, niut ) . since the resort is the only way to the summit and it is quite exclusive( they have a quota limit each day of golfers) you will have solitude and its rubbish free and the jungle is full of wildlife and fauna.the workers at the resort are very helpful and will take you to the start of the trek in a golf buggy.

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