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Ill-fated hill


Popular for its breathtaking views and easy access, Selangor’s Bukit Tabur has, however, been in the news for the wrong reasons.

Where in the Klang Valley can you clamber up a peak at sunrise, enjoy jaw-dropping views of forest-cloaked reservoirs and still make it home in time for brunch?

Little wonder, then, that Bukit Tabur, the spiny quartz ridge hill in northwest Kuala Lumpur — is usually thronged by hikers during the weekend. Forming the backdrop for Taman Melawati, Tabur is part of the Klang Gates Quartz Ridge, the longest and oldest quartz ridge in the world, say geologists. It’s also home to the serow (mountain goat), more than 30 frog species and five endemic plant species.

But Tabur has been racking up some bad press lately.

Two weeks ago, a 51-year-old man slipped and tumbled down some 30m. Thanks to bushes that cushioned his fall, he got away with just light injuries. In March, two medical specialists, both experienced trekkers, plunged to their death from about 200m high.

In October 2008, a college student plummeted from about 100m but cheated death because the trees broke her fall. She suffered a deep gash on her forehead, cracked ribs and a punctured lung.

There were two fatalities in 2000 and 2004 and there have been countless accidents, mostly unreported, in the past nine years.

Here’s the thing: Tabur is a relatively easy hill to climb for the fit and experienced hiker. What sets it apart from other popular trails in the Klang Valley like Gunung Nuang and Gasing Hill is its rugged terrain.

Its razor-shaped rocks are unforgiving. There are stretches of the trail where you need to claw your way up or inch your way down vertical drops. Or, totter precariously on pencil-slim ridges.

All it takes is a minor slip and you could tumble like a rag doll into the ravine. Still, hikers like Eric Ng Yoke Foo and his friends hit the Tabur trails regularly.

“It’s the refreshing air and beautiful views from above,” explains Ng, 60, about the draw of Tabur. He first trained here for his Mt Kinabalu climb in 2005. Since he lives in nearby Taman Permata, he’s up on the hill three times a week.

“The two rope sections on Tabur are where most accidents happen,” says Ng.

Due to his grasp of the area, the police and the rescue squad sometimes rope him in for search-and-rescue operations.

“Trekkers should take extra precaution at these sections. You need a firm footing, strength to hoist yourself up and whatever happens, never let go of the rope! Please go with someone who’s familiar with the trail,” advises Ng.

Appalled by the reckless and idiotic behaviour of some hikers, Agnes Tan, another Tabur regular, started a blog (bukittabur.blogspot.com) to promote safety on Tabur in early 2009.

“Some youngsters, wanting to impress their friends, walk to the edge of the cliff to show their bravery,” says Tan, 50, a semi-retired businesswoman. She hikes in Tabur one to three times a week.

“Once I met a group of college kids who hadn’t slept for days due to exams. They climbed Tabur to celebrate the end of their semester. But these sleep-deprived youths fall into the high-risk group (most likely to get into an accident),” she adds.

Tan and her hiking friends cobbled together some useful tips — like photo illustrations with step-by-step instructions on how to tackle the challenging stretches and the proper footwear for Tabur. Her blog also keeps track of accidents and the latest news on Tabur.

“We just want to share information about our experience and what we’ve encountered,” says Tan.

“Hopefully, it can help others practise safe trekking.”

Related Stories: Going up Tabur

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