Saturday, 6 November 2010

High Altitude Adventures at the Klang Gates Quartz Ridge

I have developed a taste for heights in recent months. This is partly motivated by the fact that I have determined that my document drafting and reviewing duties as a Malaysian Nature Society volunteer could only be improved by direct contact with and personal experience in environmentally-sensitive sites in need of legislative protection.

Or it could also be that the ennui of urban life and a desk job (though I don't suppose that many others would classify suicidal asylum seekers, hostile applicants, and run-ins with law enforcement bodies as a source of ennui) is making me restless for different challenges and riskier adventures.

And so on Halloween morning, I joined the MNS Pathfinders on a sunrise hike up the eastern part of the Klang Gates Quartz Ridge.

The Klang Gates Quartz Ridge (KGQR) is the longest quartz ridge in the world, spanning 14 km and soaring to 380m at its highest point. Surveys indicate that at least 265 plant species thrive in this unique ecosystem, and that 5 of these are endemic to the Quartz Ridge and are found only in a particular 'island habitat'.

Isolated vegetation at the top of the ridge differs from those in the surrounding areas. The grass-like Eulaili milsumii is a rare plant that grows only on the ridge and nowhere else in the world. Other endemic plants are small woody shrubs known taxonomically as Aleisanthia rupestris, small trees classified as llex praetermissa, the wiry herb Borreria pilulifera, and the ground herb Henckelia primulina.

A National Parks and Wildlife Department survey carried out in 1985 found the tracks of 5 rare animals, the serow, but it's anyone's guess how many are still around today.

In 1958, a retaining wall was built at the natural gap along the ridge to form the KGQR dam to hold water whilst the whole ridge acts as the foundation. Will the proposed Kuala Lumpur Outer Ring Road (KLORR) cutting through KGQR, Selangor State Park, the forest reserves of Hulu Gombak, Ampang and Hulu Langat or any alignments affect the fragile ecosystem?

Come on a virtual hike with us to find out!

We follow the pipelines past the village at the foot of the hill.

The gradient increases as we enter the forested area. Tree roots form natural steps in the terrain.

My buddy, Doc, ascends a steep slope with the help of a rope. Many of the ropes on the trail are not well-maintained. 4 deaths have been recorded in the western side of the Ridge in recent years.

"Is it time for breakfast yet? I have Oreos in my backpack!"

The natural beauty of the Quartz Ridge and its surrounding environment is a photographer's delight.

... During the tectonic folding millions of years ago, massive buckling and faulting in the Earth's crust thrust hydrothermal quartz upwards, where they then crystalised, forming a quartz ridge.

Consisting almost entirely of quartz crystals, the Klang Gates Quartz Ridge deserves the status of a World Heritage Site due to its size and the diversity and uniqueness of flora in its vicinity.

There are major quartz veins around KL and Seremban due to the Kuala Lumpur - Mersing Fault Zone, but none are equal to the Klang Gates Quartz Ridge in size.

Exposed quartz crystals in the granite. I mentioned to Doc that these must be the capillaries of the quartz vein!

Semi-opaque quartz crystals a.k.a. silicone dioxide abound on the surface of the Ridge.

Loose quartz crystals in the palm of my hand.
Sorry Jacob, I ruined your cycling gloves!

The din and pollution of the City seemed lightyears away...

Watershed areas are protected zones. But the area is now threatened by urban development. Our forests provide vital ecosystem services, including as water catchment zones. Please help us protect and conserve the Klang Gates Quartz Ridge!

More adventure beckons over yonder! We are off to do vertical climbing with no safety equipment. Hurrah! We love living on the edge!

Up we go again. One careless step and it's curtains for you, buddy.

Photographing the photographer. Our guide, Leo, is the Coordinator of the Pathfinders and a reliable friend and compatriot.

We completed our hike within 3.5 hours and adjourned to breakfast after that. I had to attend a MYCAT (Malaysian Conservation Alliance for Tigers) Volunteer Appreciation Lunch at noon, and bade goodbye to my friends. There is still so much data collection and lobbying work to be done in relation to the Klang Gates Quartz Ridge, and so little time left to do it.

Please lend your voice to support conservation! Help us by signing the petition to protect the Klang Gates Quartz Ridge and Selangor State Park from the proposed Kuala Lumpur Outer Ring Road (KLORR)! Thank you for your support!


Pak Zawi said...

Ee Lynn,
The proposed KLORR will definitely affect the sensitive eco system of KGQR. As usual my guess is there must be something valuable in that area that they are going to plunder, otherwise why would they bother with such a difficult terrain.
As an example of a damaged eco system just look at what happened to South West Kelantan after the opening up of Lojing - Gua Musang route started in the late 80s. What was started by the previous state government continue unabated by the next state government.
There is no limit to human folly with regards to environmental damage under the guise of development which we could definitely do without.

Cat-from-Sydney said...

Why the need for another highway? I propose that people should be encouraged to move out of Klang Valley to reduce traffic congestion. Build more LRT instead of highways and improve bus services.
BTW, did you bump into any serow or kucing hutan? Mama said she did that route more than 20 years ago. Now? har har har ... purrr...meow!

~CovertOperations78~ said...

Salam, Abang Zawi!

We did think about that possibility -- that the tunnelling and blasting could just be another excuse to plunder resources -- perhaps gold, since gold often occurs in granite where there is also quartz. But the geologist in our group dismissed this possibility -- there is no gold in the KGQR. And quartz is common and abundant. So maybe it's the land that is valuable. Open it up for development and the cronies could stand to make millions without having to work.

Thank you for your support, Abang Zawi. It is so good and so heartening to know that there are people out there who condemn crony politics, money politics and environmental destruction as strongly as we do.

~CovertOperations78~ said...

Dear Kitties-In-Sydney,

Yes, yes, you've hit the nail right on the head! We should move away from building more highways and encouraging more private vehicle ownership. Instead, we should work on improving existing traffic systems and increasing and improving public transport facilities. More people should have the option of telecommuniting, video conferencing, working from home, working flexi hours or going in to the office only 3-4 days a week, the way they do in progressive nations. It would be so much better for the environment, economics, human health and sanity!

I don't think there are any serows or leopard cats left up in the KGQR. No droppings or tracks or anything has been seen in decades.

Pak Zawi said...

Ee Lynn,
Granite is the Gold! Being so close to KL the granite which is an important material in concrete and needed in abundance in the construction industry. Since granite is bulky material, its proximity to KL will reduce the transport cost. I have a classmate from KL who is hunting for granite all the Malaysia and is looking to Gua Musang as a source for it. So KGQR is a goldmine for granite! Greedy people don't mind damaging the eco system as long as they can get filthy rich.

Ellen Whyte said...

This looks lovely - and great pics Ee Lynn!

louis said...

Must have been an exhilarating climb!

Pat said...

I enjoyed the virtual hike with you, E! The best and only kind of hiking I am up for ;)

Klang Gates isn't very far from KL, and yet not a whiff of KL can be spied in any of the pix. How lovely!

I agree with Cat-in-Sydney: people should just move out of KL, like Chuan and I have!!! Hehehehe!!

~CovertOperations78~ said...

Abang Zawi, golly, you could be right! The GOLD could be granite, for construction piling and suchlike! I hope good sense prevails and they realise how risky it is to do construction and granite extraction work so near the retaining wall of a dam. Seems to me like the greedy government mechanism never listens until there is loss of lives.

~CovertOperations78~ said...

Dear Ellen, Au and Target,

In Malaysia, "lovely" is synonymous with "threatened". Everything that is lovely and natural is endangered and under threat.

~CovertOperations78~ said...

Dear Louis,

Thank you for coming by! It was an immensely exhilarating climb! I am glad we all survived it -- not everyone has been this lucky!

~CovertOperations78~ said...

Dear Pat,

The view was just plain magical up there. My fellow nature nutjobs and I thought it looked rather like the Royal Belum Forest with all the lakes and green, green islands.

You and Kitties-In-Sydney are right -- we don't need more highways. We need better and more efficient public transport services, more telecommuting and flexi-working opportunities, better transport and road systems, and more opportunities to work and live outside of cities.

I would move to PD in a heartbeat if it were closer to the SPCA and MNS office, though.

Unknown said...

Strong legs, mind and body, eh? Great views of KGQR. Seeing its beauty and precious self through your lens and info.

~CovertOperations78~ said...

Thanks for coming by, Keats! Isn't it good to know that MNS members are leading the way in familiarising the public with sensitive sites like the KGQR?

hobbit1964 said...
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hobbit1964 said...
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hobbit1964 said...

The Klang Gates Quartz Ridge you speak of is referred to by Nuri bush pilots as the Trojan Hill. She has led us home to Sempang (KL Base) many a time when less favourable weather would have had us stuck too near yet too far from home.

~CovertOperations78~ said...

Dear Major,
Thanks for the info! Trojan Hill sounds like a most appropriate name for the KGQR!