[VIDEO] Mulu Pinnacles: A journey of self-discovery, resilience, and determination

Mulu Pinnacles was a journey of self-discovery, resilience, and determination for writer Nancy Nais

By Nancy Nais

NESTLED deep within the rainforest and interior of Baram in northern Sarawak is the Mulu Pinnacles.

Known for its unique limestone rocks protruding some 50 metres high up into the sky in razor-sharp formations on Mount Api, it is also UNESCO’s heritage site in Mulu National Park.


Although the 1,750 masl (5,740 ft) Mulu Pinnacles does not sound tall compared to Malaysia’s highest summit, Mount Kinabalu (4,095 masl), it is honestly an incredibly gruelling, wicked, and intense jungle trail.

Chin (left) and Nancy at the Mulu Pinnacles viewpoint on Feb 18, 2024.

As I stood at the park headquarters on February 17, 2024, my heart was filled with a mix of excitement and anxiety as I made the final preparations to embark on the Pinnacles.

Although it was my third climb to the towering Mulu Pinnacles, the journey truly tested my limits, both physically and mentally, because I had summitted Mount Kinabalu just a week before.

The first part of the journey began with a 30-minute longboat ride to Kuala Litut, where my friend Chin Saw Sian and I began the nine-kilometre trek through the lush jungle to Camp 5.

The sun’s rays painted the rainforest canopy in hues of green, the air was cool, and we were invigorated by the sights and sounds of the rainforest surrounding us.

While the trek was easy and relaxing, knowing the ground with leeches eager for a taste of fresh blood made us walk as fast as we could.

Leeches eager for a taste of fresh blood.

I vividly remember how nobody could escape these leeches during my first and second trips in March and August 2022, respectively.

They smuggled their way into our socks and shirts even though we did a thorough check; some of my friends arrived at Camp 5 in quite a bloody mess.

Arriving at Camp 5 at noon, Chin and I had plenty of time to appreciate the tranquil and beautiful place, surrounded by enormous cliffs and a mesmerising river.

Camp 5 in Mulu National Park.
Accommodation in Camp 5.

This base camp provides basic accommodation with vinyl mats placed on a raised wooden platform, a large kitchen to cook our meals, and clean bathrooms and toilets.

After dinner, we settled in for an overnight stay, steeling ourselves for the formidable task that lay ahead.

The following day, before the first light broke through the dense jungle, we set off on our ascent to the Pinnacles viewpoint with our mountain guide, Nicholas Layang.

Shortly after the start, the going got hard, with an immediate and very steep incline of 45 to 60 degrees.

Climbing Mulu Pinnacles was a gruelling challenge with countless steep and treacherous paths.

It was a gruelling uphill slog with rocks and ropes. After 60 minutes, we reached the first marker, the Mini Pinnacles.

This area located at 900m served as a nice sneak peek into the spectacular views that laid ahead.

The Mini Pinnacles showcased some of the same karst rock pinnacle formations as we were expecting to see at the top, but much smaller.

Nancy (2nd left) with her friends Sylvia Ragai, Taslim Jalal Ahmad, Doria John and Charlene Lawrance at mini Pinnacles on the 900 meters mark

After a short stop at the Mini Pinnacles, we continued along the trail for another 60 minutes before reaching the halfway point at 1.2km.

From there, it took us another 90 minutes to reach the beginning of the ladder section, the toughest and most dangerous part of the climb.

One of the 17 metal ladders
One of the ladders to cross, testing our courage.

At the most dangerous sections, Chin and I had to navigate our way up 17 metal ladders and sections of ropes with inclines at 55 to 75-degree angles; each one was a test of our courage.

We moved slowly, respecting our bodies and our abilities. This final part of 400m took us about 30 minutes to beat the ladders and finally reach the Pinnacles viewpoint.

Although the journey was only 2.4km in the distance, the terrain proved to be a gruelling challenge. It was a steep and treacherous path littered with razor-sharp limestone outcrops and massive boulders that seemed to defy gravity.

It was very technical and slippery, and the dangers were real, but it was amazing, and so was the sense of exhilaration that came with overcoming each obstacle.

After four hours of climbing, we finally reached the Pinnacles viewpoint. As we gazed at the breathtaking view, a sense of euphoria washed over us.

Giant grey limestone, perking out of the jungle like razor-sharp shark’s teeth and soaring into the sky, were majestically poised for our viewing.

Nancy (back row) with her friends Law Poh Kiong, Jacky Chan and Felicia Bong at the Pinnacles viewpoint.
Nancy (3rd left) with her friends Sylvia Ragai, Taslim Jalal Ahmad, Doria John, and Charlene Lawrance in a moment of triumph at Mulu Pinnacles viewpoint with their guide Kenneth Nilong and the Mountain Search and Rescue team, Nicholas Layang, Willvien Robin, and Patrick Mani.

Tears filled my eyes as I realised the magnitude of my achievement—my third successful climb of the Mulu Pinnacles in just 22 months.

We had about 30 minutes to rest, enjoy the view and snack on mixed nuts, then it was time for yet another challenge.

Descending from the summit proved to be an even greater test of endurance.

The steep slopes and treacherous terrain made each step a battle against gravity.

Our body muscles began to scream in protest, but we pressed forward, drawing upon a reserve of inner strength we never knew we possessed.

Grueling uphill slog with rocks and ropes for every climber to Mulu Pinnacles

Another four hours later, Chin and I safely set foot back at Camp 5, exhausted but triumphant.

We rested for another night before returning to the trek to the National Park headquarters the next day.

After the third successful climb, I knew Mulu Pinnacles had changed me in ways I could never have imagined. It was not just a physical conquest but a journey of self-discovery, resilience, and determination.

In the heart of the rainforest, amidst the towering limestone spires of Mulu, I found my own personal summit—a place where exhilaration, success, adventure, and challenge converged to create a moment of triumph. — DayakDaily