- Elevation: 1,326 m (4,350 ft)
- Prominence: 893 m
- Ribu category: Spesial
- Province: Kalimantan Barat (West Kalimantan)
- Google Earth: kml
- Other names: Penerisan
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.
- 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.
- Guides and GPS Tracks: Want a PDF version for your phone? Looking for a guide? Need GPS tracks and waypoints? Gunung Penrissen information pack can be downloaded here.
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
- Water sources: Available near the start of the hike from streams, but best bring about 2 litres of bottled water.
- Travel insurance: We recommend World Nomads insurance, which is designed for adventurous travellers with cover for overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities including mountain hiking.
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