Above the Clouds on Mount Zwegabin

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Thinking about climbing Mount Zwegabin?

The first thing you should know is that this is no easy trek. Unless, of course, you’re crazy fit.

It’s over 700 metres of up, up, up. And if you don’t spend the night at the top (or find there isn’t space for you), then you’ve got another 700 metres to climb back down, down, down.

Given I’ve had crazy (bad) luck with arriving at places in Myanmar at the most inconvenient of times (like when I went all the way to Hsi Paw to trek, only to find there’d be no trekking), Mount Zwegabin could be no different.

The day I set aside to climb just happened to fall on the full moon.

This particular full moon day being the ONE TIME in the year when (what seemed) every single person in Myanmar would flock to the Monastery at the top of the mountain for some sort of festival. Before I got started, my guesthouse basically suggested I might not be able to get a bed up there (it’s possible to stay at the Monastery). And even if I did, I probably wouldn’t be getting much sleep.

Regardless, I set off at 6am, and was heading up half an hour later.

Here’s the stats (for going up):

Distance: 2.5km
Elapsed Time: 2 hours, 19 minutes (up), 1 hour, 34 minutes (down)
Lowest Elevation: 12m
Highest Elevation: 729m
Total ascent / descent: 749m / 38m

Mount-Zwegabin-Elevation-Profile

Appropriate responses to that elevation image include (like from my friend Mark) – “Whoo boy. That’s steady altitude gain right there!”.

This is exactly why the climb up is tough – in just 2.5km, you gain 717m of altitude. That’s effectively climbing almost 300m for every kilometre you walk. That’s a heck of a lot of up for very little across… No wonder my calves are still sore today!

And if that wasn’t enough, this country is hot. Especially from March (when I tackled the climb) when temperatures were frequently rising above 40 degrees during the day.

Going up so early in the morning was probably one of my better life decisions. I was able to take frequent breaks (to try and overcome the excessive sweating) and for the most part, the track was in the shade given the sun hadn’t risen much. By the time I was coming back down (around 10:30am – midday), I was mostly walking in the sun and that ensured I remained dripping with sweat even with less effort from the walking.

Now you’re probably questioning whether this one’s for you (or whether you’d be sane to do it given I’ve made it sound pretty uncomfortable), so here’s just why this ones such a good little trek.

1. Exercise: you can’t doubt this one will get the heart rate pumping and those muscles working.

2. The View: No doubt it’s better out of the hazy dry season, but it was still pretty epic when I was up the top.

3. Sleeping in a Monastery: How many people get to say they’ve done this? Sounds cool, right?

4. Sunrise / Sunset: Some of the best views of Myanmar are at this time – why not see it from the top of a mountain?

Getting to and from the mountain is pretty straight forward. It’s best to get started out of Hpa An, but you’ll need a lift out (it’s a fair distance from the town). A motorbike taxi will take about half an hour and set you back about 2,000 to 2,500 kyats. If you spend the night at the Monastery, you’ll be needing another 5,000 kyats as a “donation”. As for food and water, there are various stalls on the way up, and plenty at both the top and bottom to keep you covered (that is if you go up the western side).

Read More at: Myanmar Travel

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