The Genting Highland is situated in Kuala Lumpur and is in fact a hill resort at an average elevation of 1,740 metres (5,710 ft) within the Titiwangsa Mountains on the border between the states of Pahang and Selangor of Malaysia.
There are several ways to the top but this is the classic route starting from Gombak, 15km north of Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur and to the east of Selayang.
Some reports say the gradient reaches 25% but that’s only on the inside of some tight bends, otherwise it is a tough 10% but not insurmountable.
You don’t need to be a mountain guide to find the Galibier but Genting offers a variety of routes. Even selecting the classic Tour de Langkawi approach leaves choices because there’s a tarmac palimpsest of overlapping roads, an elevated expressway and a winding road below.
Once the route is picked and the directions memorised the start is easy. It’s a scenic old rode from British colonial times and the traffic still drives on the left. In order to travel and exploit resources the Brits built a network of roads and you begin on the old road with with most of the traffic siphoned away by the newer Karak Express which snakes over the road at times.
It’s quiet. The tidy verges have kids dressed in European soccer shirts playing on rusty MTBs, presumably corroded by the steamy hot weather. Monkeys scavenge along the road, is it wrong to gift them a chunk of food from your pocket? Then again there are so many banana trees growing wild you needn’t bother. The vegetation is lush and dense. The gradient is relaxed, 3-4% for a lot of the way here.
After Genting Sempah – where the profile above starts – the road changes. Gone is the winding road, goodbye colonial legacy and hello 21st century Malaysia. You navigate huge junctions and select the multi-lane highway with a 10% gradient that’s loaded with traffic. The air is full of fumes from trucks and comfy aircon coaches labelled Bas Ekspres ferry tourists uphill. There’s not much room for the cyclist, a coach going uphill has to pass you and stick out into the second lane and if the drivers are courteous there’s just not much room on the road. There’s a downhill section soon after.
After the large Goh Tong Jaya roundabout you turn right for the final part of the climb and to the Genting Highlands proper, passing a checkpoint with a colonial vibe thanks to its wooden timber frame.
Still almost 10km to go and a steady 10-12% gradient that’s hard going but worse, you’re buzzed by traffic. There’s room for the cyclist at times with a small side lane but be prepared to share this with other two-wheelers from wheezing scooters to whizzing superbikes and it often gets too narrow to use. There are some steep hairpins here but they’re wide. But the traffic can pin you into the inside, forcing you to take the steepest line meaning an awkward 20% or more.
Arriving at the Genting Highlands is confusing and dazing and the psychedelic Hotel First World dominates. Once the world’s largest hotel it is the place to head towards but it gets a bit like Alpe d’Huez as once you’ve done the climb proper navigating your way through the resort to any “finish line” is anti-climatic. There’s now a wide choice of roads to take. Also just as the Alpe has ski lifts, the Genting Highlands can be accessed by a cable car and there are rail upon rail of rollercoaster rides around.