No walk in the park – trekking her way to empowerment

Aziz Idris

In April this year, Munah a 28 year-old-woman of Bruneian and English descent, boldly embarked on a self-funded trek on the PCT with her university mates, with the goal to promote mental health awareness. A lab manager at Pinewood Studios in the United Kingdom (UK), Munah took time off her demanding job to undertake the social initiative she named ‘Munah and the Mountains’.

The 4,265km PCT stretches from California desert near the Mexico border to the Northern Cascades of Canada – roughly the distance between Bandar Seri Begawan and Tokyo, Japan – traversing all of California, Oregon and Washington along the way. The elevation loss and gain of this challenging trek is equivalent to climbing Mt Everest approximately 16 times.

Munah aims to raise £1 per mile, for the 2,650 miles (4,265km) PCT for the British mental health charity MIND and has by now exceeded her target with a total of £3,857.50 and hopes to raise even more.

In an email interview with the Bulletin, Munah, currently halfway through Washington at mile 2,393 (3,851km) in Snoqualmie Pass said she has 257 miles (413km) to go before conquering the trail.

“In the beginning it was the thrill of the adventure, meeting people along the way and living as one with nature. And of course overcoming the physical challenges,” Munah shared.” We had to face different hurdles everyday, be it weather, terrain or our state of mind. Whatever we encounter, the sense of accomplishment at the end of a long day of hiking, as we retreat into our camp is extremely rewarding,” she added.

Maimunah Haji Yahkup – also known as Munah – is expected to reach Manning Park, Canada by August 25, becoming the first Bruneian to conquer the Pacific Crest Trail. PHOTOS: MAIMUNAH HAJI YAHKUP
MAP: ATLASGUIDES.COM

Munah started her journey covering a distance of 15 miles a day in the first month and built up her stamina to hike an average of 20 to 23 miles a day in the third month. However, as she entered her fourth month on the trail, her body started to feel the strain of the huge distances with less days off.

“My feet hurt all the time now unlike when they only hurt in the evenings and as I’ve lost so much weight, my backpack became more uncomfortable. Sometimes I feel like it would be pure stubbornness that will get me to Canada!” she shared.

But the rewards for the risks Munah took came in the form of breath-taking sights like majestic mountain ranges and beautiful lakes, as well as lush flora and fauna.

The PCT is also popularly known for its friendly locals often referred to as “Trail Angels”. They come out to the trail and give food and drinks to hikers. Some will even welcome hikers into their homes and give them rides to towns or trails. “The small towns we pass through are a very humbling experience. The locals really support the trail and will do what they can to help hikers,” said Munah.

Munah has made many friends along the trek known as her ‘Trail Families’. These are fellow hikers who travel with the same pace and distances. “You spend almost 24 hours a day with them so you really get to know each other. The hiking community is very close and friendly.” During the day though, she does enjoy solo-hiking as it gives her time to reflect on the journey and think about all sorts of things like home cooking and eating rice.

“Luckily every town I’ve been in was like home home. I also carry a satellite device which my loved ones can track me on and I can send messages on when I have no signal,” she added.

Some of the things in her backpack include things she needs to survive – a tent, sleeping bag, warm clothes and food. “You can also carry bear spray but it’s quite heavy and you’d have to get very close for it to work! I have been very lucky and have not seen a bear yet, I’ve only heard one crashing through the undergrowth and that was scary enough!” she recalled.

Meanwhile, her family is anxious and nervous about her adventure but is always supportive of her journey.

“Munah is a highly motivated, energetic and determined young lady, said a family member. “She is expected to reach Manning Park, Canada by August 25 and will become the first Bruneian to conquer the trail.”.

To know more about Munah’s campaign, you can visit www.mymountains.co.uk. To donate, visit https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/mymountains. All proceeds will go to MIND! – mental health charity that provides advice and support to empower anyone experiencing mental health problems.