Climbing the Dragon Horns: an unforgettable adventure on Tioman Island


The Dragon Horns (Bukit Nenek Simukut) are two granite peaks jutting out from the south end of Pulau Tioman; a small island, 39 km long and 12 km wide, located off the east coast of peninsular Malaysia. Climbing the Dragon Horns has to be one of the most magical experiences of my climbing life. The food, culture, views, commitment, and exposure, all add up to an amazing adventure of immense proportions.


The rainy season for the Dragon Horns runs from November-February, with April-September being the best time to climb.

Time needed

We suggest at least one week on Tioman Island in order to comfortably climb two routes. Although the guys from Headlamps and Clusterfucks, often made Tioman Island a weekend climbing adventure (heroes!). One could easily spend several weeks on the island climbing, snorkeling, and sea kayaking without getting bored.


A standard double rack and some courage will get you up all the tioman-the-dragon-horns-Gearfree climbs on the Dragon Horns. We highly suggest offset cams and offset nuts for some of the more tricky placements in flared cracks. If bolting, please use titanium glue in bolts! This is a Marine environment, and stainless steel shows rust even after a couple of years. Check out Headlamps and Clusterfucks info on bolt status here.

Level of Experience

There are significant runouts on easy ground (5+ and below) on both Damai Sentosa and The Polish Princess route, that could result in injury. There is no chance of a swift rescue; no helicopters or professional rescue squad, and most of the time you are the only climbing party on the horns, so the ability to self-rescue is a must.


We have tried to be as detailed and accurate as possible with the information included on this site to inspire and prepare you for your adventure ahead. However, no amount of information is a substitute for experience and judgment.  Weather, conditions, perception and experience level can cause this information to change.

Kate and Lee, rappelling the waterfall that used to be Polish Princess


The Dragon Horns are located in a tropical environment with lots of exposure to the elements. Days can range from blistering hot to chillingly cold and can change suddenly. Make sure to bring plenty of water (with electrolytes), sun protection, rain gear, and warm clothing.

Check out Windguru for detailed weather forecasts.

Routes Discussed

Damai Sentosa (6c+) and The Polish Princess (7b)


Photo credit: David Kaszlikowski at Vertical Vision

Damai Sentosa (280m 6c+, 6b+ obl):

First Ascent: April 2013: Stephanie Bodet, Yong Liu, Arnaud Petit, David Kaszlikowski and Tam Khairudin Haja

Topo from PlanetMountain.com; Route topo and detailed information can be found from Tam at Simukut Hill View Resort

Approach: “Take the Simukut Hill Trail. At CP5 follow the trail on left, after 10′ this trail starts to be not obvious, you reach the wall, then go left and follow the base staying 50-60m lower to go up again and reach the S-W pillar 1h to 2h depending on the quality of the trail.” – From Topo above

From Simukut Hill View to top of tree pitch takes about 2 hours if you know the trail, and are moving fast.

Sun hits face at 2 pm

Gear: 2x 60 m ropes. Standard sport rack with a single rack from #0.1- #2 cams and offset nuts. Lots of slings for natural pro are very helpful. Tricky nut placements (especially off-sets) are extremely helpful for reducing perceived run-outs. There are no more than 10 bolts per pitch. Hard-(wo)man bolting with creative pro 🙂

Pitches: A few notes below…Check topo for more detailed pitch by pitch instructions.

damai-sentosa-dragon horns

Kate and Lee’s beta on Damai Sentosa (Check out route topo by First Ascensionists for more info)

Pitch 1: (6a+) This pitch involves easy climbing up a tree/vines connected to the wall. Moves are easily protected by slinging branches if necessary.
Pitch 2: (6b+)  A wandering pitch with decent protection, and a spicy finishing move.
Pitch 3: (6c+) The crux is very well bolted and crimpy; most of crux can be french free’d if needed.
Pitch 4: (6c+) is the mental crux with big runouts but easy climbing.
Pitch 5: (6c+) The crux is very well bolted; most of crux can be french free’d if needed
Pitch 6: (6b+) Easier than the following pitch
Pitch 7: We found this pitch harder than the 6b+ pitch before.

Bolt Status: All anchors are rebolted with Titanium glue-ins, thanks to Stephane Coupleux & David Acott, find more info here. Some of the bolts showed rust in June of 2015 due to mismatching metals of hanger and bolts. Contact Tam at Simukut Hill View Resort for more updated information.


Photo credit: David Kaszlikowski at Vertical Vision

The Polish Princess (7b 260m)

Overview: An absolutely amazing route with varied styles, beautiful views and generally bomber protection.

First Ascent: April 2011 by Eliza Kubarska and David Kaszlikowski. Check out Eliza and David’s website at Vertical Vision. Detailed FA report at Planet Mountain.

Grade: 7b or Easily done as a 6b+ A0

Pitches: 7b (6b A0), 6c, 6b, 7a (6b+ AO), 6a, 6a+, 6c

Pitch 1: 7b (6b A0) 7b section easily A0 to make pitch 1 about 6b+ A0. The rope drag is truly horrendous unless you split this into 2 pitches, back clean gear, or run out the traverse.
Pitch 2: (6c) 4 stars, get ready to cut feet!
Pitch 3: (6b) Runout but easy; tricky nut placements
Pitch 4: 7a (6b+ AO) Go up slab to right from anchor with flaring crack to left. Go up zig zag feature just around corner (crux). You can pull on gear if necessary. Well protected, although at first glance it doesn’t seem like it will take gear.
Pitch 5 and 6 (linked): (6a, 6a+)Runout-out, very easy climbing up to 2 rusty pitons. Trad anchor is easily made to back-up anchor.
Pitch 7: (6c) 4 stars!, Takes great protection, although at first sight doesn’t seem to.
Class 4 scramble to summit!

Topo: Here on Headlamps and Clusterfucks with topo credit to  Eliza Kubarska and David Kaszlikowski and Vertical Vision (thanks for putting up such a great route guys!)

Gear: Double rack #0.2-2, singles in #3, #4. Offset cams and nuts are very helpful, as well as slings for slinging horns.

Note: Brought 2 ropes, topo suggests 1x 60m. Unsure about rap from top of pitch 7 to top of pitch 5 w/ 1 rope as topo suggests.

Bolt Status: All anchors up through pitch 5 rebolted with Titanium glue-ins, thanks to Stephane Coupleux, and David Acott, find more info here

Video by David Kaszlikowski at Vertical Vision

Getting There 

Kuala Lumpur is an international hub, so air travel to and from is generally abundant and cheap. From the KL airport you can take a bus down to the seaside town of Mersing. There are restaurants, pharmacies and grocery stores here, but make sure to buy any specialty items (like gourmet coffee, gear, etc.) in KL. In Mersing, the main bus terminal is about 1000 metres up river from the ferry terminal. From the terminal face the river and go right. Follow through the commercial centre of Mersing, past the stadium to the ferry terminal.

From Mersing you can take the public ferry through Bluewater Express service. You can find the updated ferry schedule is here.

The ferry will stop at the different Kampongs (“village” in Malay) along Tioman’s west coast. This is the usual order of the stops on the ferry to Tioman:

  • Kampong Genting
  • Kampong Paya
  • Kampong Tekek
  • Kampong Air Batang (“ABC”)
  • Kampong Salang

From Genting you can take a water taxi for about 150 MYR to Mukut, or rent a Kayak! Then it is a short walk to Simukut Hill View Resort, and the Trailhead to the Dragon Horns.

See Headlamps and Clusterfucks for a very detailed description.


Headlamps and Clusterfucks: An absolutely incredible resource by inspiring and kind people

Amazing Resource page from Headlamps and Clusterfucks

Simukut Hill View Resort: Simukut Hill View Resort has both luxury and basic bungalows at the trailhead for the Dragon Horns. Tam, a passionate and helpful climber runs the resort, and is more than happy to fill you in on all beta. Feel free to shoot him an email through the Simukut website.

Vertical Vision: Check out Eliza Kubarska and David Kaszlikowski Adventure photography and film-making site, with truly inspiring documentaries, media and a link to their blog.

Vagabonds de la Verticale: Stephanie Bodet and Arnaud Petit’s blog with great info and inspiration for their adventures. (in French)

Planet Mountain: Trip reports and topos

Suggested trips and itineraries in the area:

Tioman Dive Center: Tioman is a world class Scuba destination and a very cheap place to get PADI certified.

Sea Kayaking: Tioman has amazing sea kayaking from day paddles to multi-day expeditions. Kayaks are rented on most tourist beaches for about 15 MYR per hour, or at a discount for multiple days.

Lee Neale

Lee Neale

Photo Gallery:

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