Climbing at Bukit Keteri is one of the reasons why we have chosen Malaysia as our Asian destination this time.
2007 David Lama and Mammut team have bolted several difficult routes in Perlis, the northern region of Malaysia, at the border with Thailand. Bukit Keteri is the most famous area where they bolted.
Perlis is probably the most rural area in Malaysia. You can find nice topos and GPS coordinates of the crags but be aware that people there are not used to climbers and many walls are ruined or covered by the vegetation and therefore cannot be climbed. You will need a trial-and-error approach or a guide. We booked 3 days with Rizuan Abdullah at Khatulpica Adventure.
(you will also see some photos of our trip)
Rizuan is a passionate climber, he is from Perlis and is one of the few locals climbing there and maintaining the routes.
This is something I have noticed while climbing in Asia. Foreigner people mostly use climbing spots. Few locals use to climb and the ones working in the climbing field work more with foreigner people than with their conational. Climbing is a very young discipline in Malaysia and it will take years before it becomes mainstream like in Europe or in the US.
We have climbed two days in Bukit Keteri and one day in Gua Kelam. Bukit Keteri is a scenic cave ca 30 minutes drive from Kangar, the main city in Perlis. Rizuan had visited and cleaned the site two months before our arrive and vegetation already covered the path and it was necessary for him to clear it with a machete!
Rock quality in Bukit Keteri is very good and routes are difficult, nice and challenging, exactly in David Lama style! There are several walls, some of them inside the cave on an elevated platform and with a very steep approach.
The two days in Bukit Keteri were very nice. We were the only ones there since months and we felt like the kings of the crag because it was at our complete disposal. Moreover, it was in the shadows for the whole morning and with very few bugs and mosquitos (a luxury in Asia) so we could climb without any issues. Rizuan took photos of us and showed us some typical vegetation. He also helped us to reach the steepest walls inside the cave.
In the afternoons we visited a waterfall inside a park and a local “biergarten” specialized in nipah juice and ice kacang. Rizuan remained at our disposal for the whole time and we also visited a pasar malam (night market) and had meals together.
The second climbing site, Gua Kelam, was disappointing. It is a park directly on the border with Thailand, famous for his cave systems (named Gua Kelam) that can be entirely walked through. The rock was slippery, some holds broke off and the park was humid and full of rubbish and insects. We stayed there just few hours because we did not like it.
You can reach Perlis by train to Arau, by flight to Alor Setar or by boat to Kuala Perlis. The best way to contact Rizuan is via his Facebook profile. In addition to his service you will have to arrange accommodation and car hire. Rizuan does not drive but will find somebody to drive if you do not want to drive by yourself. He can also take care of the accommodation, either in hotel or in a homestay in Kangsar.
(with Khatulpica t-shirts)
Please remember that you will be not only in Asia but in a rural Asian area. People, including Rizuan, will speak very little English and will not be used to Western behaviours. There are few foreigners and you will have to accustom to and accept local traditions and culture. Few examples of this: you will be a local attraction, everybody will approach you including Rizuan´s family and friends; there is little you can plan in advance but have to decide day by day; on Fridays you could have to wait for people because they are at the mosque.
(me with Rizuan and his family)
I was fully aware of this when I planned the visit to Perlis and in fact this was something I was looking for to challenge myself and go out of my comfort zone. You can really experience non-touristic Malaysia and Malay people in an occasion like this one. It is something you will not get in Kuala Lumpur or figuratively following the beaten path.
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