Climbed like hell to reach heaven: Mt. Semeru (Mahameru), East Java, Indonesia

14-18 Aug 2014

Climbing this mountain came about while P, M, J and I were having some desserts at Dunkin Donuts, Changi Airport. We just flew in from climbing Mt Agung in Bali, Indonesia.

Then, the plan was actualised just last 14-18 August 2014 with the help of Lyan, (email : Lyan Christie Whatsapp: +6281217336611 (cell phone)) the main contact for this trip.

All set, the twelve of us flew in to Surabaya, Indonesia. Lyan have arranged our transport to our first campsite in Malang. So, the itinerary and plan goes like this:

14 Aug : evening flight from Singapore to Surabaya , camp at Ranu Pane Lake

15 Aug : after breakfast and do the regristration, we will start to climb to Ranu Kumbolo , lunch @ Ranu Kumbolo and continue our trek to Kalimati ( stay at Kalimati )

16 Aug : 1 am summit attack And walk down to Ranukumbolo (stay at Ranukumbolo)

17 Aug : down to Ranu Pane and drive back to Malang ( stay at Morini Smart Hotel in Malang )

18 Aug : drop to Juanda Airport (Surabaya)

It was my first time to do multi-day camping, my last experience was just 1 night. So, I was really thrilled to be doing this with good friends.

Our group comprised of 6 nationalities, 5 Filipinos, 1 Malaysian, 2 Indians, 3 Singaporeans, 1 Japanese and the guides who were Indonesians. Friends and second degree friends. We all went along well, I guess.

Upon arrival, Lyan picked us up from the airport and brought us for dinner and our first camp site via, van then 4×4 pajeros. We arrived at our first campsite at about 3am. “The tents are ready” according to her, we all excitedly checked the tents out and yeah, fit all 12 of us in 3tents. It was a little crammed but, it was ok, at least for me, because camping is supposed to be not too comfortable.

During the freezing morning, Lyan did all the paper works, registered for us and all. All prepared, we started our climb. The trails were well-maintained so I guess one may opt to do it without a guide if it’s allowed. As we come closer to Ranu Kumbolo ( after 4posts), the view was becoming more and more scenic. Afar, at some point we could see the mighty Mt. Mahameru and the bird’s eye view of the lake. Like a paradise, it was breath-taking.

View of Ranu Kumbolo from atop

View of Ranu Kumbolo from atop

After lunch, we had to walk another 3-4hours. Views of the mountains from the Teletubbies land, hills and greeneries higher than us made me feel like singing “the hills are alive..with the sound of music..” It was ethereal. “Hay” moment for me again.

teletubbies land

Teletubbies land

After a few more ascent and descent on different trail conditions mostly on sand or fine soil close to dust, I couldn’t really differentiate, near the Kalimati campsite, we could already see the mighty Mt. Semeru. The thought that I would be able to touch, step and climb on this grand mountain made me feel incapable and intimidated.

View of Mt. Semeru fr worms' view

View of Mt. Semeru

I have read that it stands 3676m and that it’s active and that it requires one to be physically fit to be able to summit it. I have also read that it’s summit assault would include extremely challenging terrain of sand and gravel. I knew that minor eruptions occur from time to time….I knew a lot…I have read a lot..and the more I read, the more troubled and worried I became.

But, nothing..nothing could have prepared me for that night’s summit attack. At 1am, amidst the freezing cold temperature, we were all set to go. Whether I was freezing because of fear or plainly because of the temperature, I couldn’t anymore distinguish. I prayed and wished for God’s grace and for our safety. We started…half of the Great Mountain was foresty with soil still manageable to stride on.

After an hour of all ascending motion, we commenced our mostly 60degrees of sand and gravel ascend to the summit. Koya and I painstakingly followed the lights, literally. The summit looked attainable and near…but looks, as always, can be decieving.

Every step made with so much muscular effort would just go to waste because I just kept on sliding down. One tiny step would be equivalent to a few steps of sliding away. The terrain offered unstable footing, which was energy-sapping, as well as the constant fear of falling rocks from above. My knees were shaking, my eyes were wet with tears, my arms holding koya’s trekking poles were almost giving way. I was tired. My body was already telling me to stop and just stay put to where I was. But everytime, I would feel that way, Koya, appeared and re-appeared, like heaven’s sent, he motivated me again and again and again. As our guide said, summitting Mahameru requires 20% fitness and 80% spirit!

The summit looked near but with the rate and pace that I was maintaining, it wasn’t. The sun rose, and I wasn’t at the summit. This was a first time. I told myself, never mind, anyway, I have already seen a lot of sunrises recently. I just wanted to summit with or without sunrise!

After 4 or 5hours of sand fighting, woohoooooo…I finally reached the summit. My first sight was koya seated by a rock up there. Two other guys from our group slowly showed up. We tooks some selfies and walked towards our group.

Mt. Semeru's active crater spewing smoke and rocks

Summit Marker

We then walked to a path toward the active crater. I was wondering why were there a lot of people at the summit but only a few bravely walked to the crater. Later on, I would know why. But, that time, I thought, less people with that amazing view was a blessing, because it would mean I could take more pictures without being blocked by people. Haha selfish, I know.


Mt Semeru’s active crater spewing smoke and rocks

Seeing a volcano erupting every few seconds was surreal, beauty beyond my expectations. Hearing it roar like an airplane taking off was scary but it was ,at the same time, awesome. Observing the active crater spewing out smoke and rocks was an experience I would always remember. I thanked God for giving me the opportunity to witness this amazing geological occurrence which not a lot of people were able to endure and witness.

We then, slid our way down back to Kalimati camp site. 6Hours going up, 1hour coming down.yeah! Proudly telling everyone in the camp about our experience, our trip contact, who was not able to summit, informed us that we ,actually, were not allowed to go close to the crater. The Government closed that view point to public because of previous accidents whereby, rocks being spewed by the crater reached the viewing point causing deaths of tourists (but the rangers were not present during the time we were there and there were no signages that stated as such?). Then only that we realised the dangers of what we were doing just a few hours ago.

Anyway, after lunch, we trekked back to Ranu Kumbolo to stay up for a night. Another freezing night indeed. But as a reward of that sleepless night, we were there to witness the beautiful sunrise emerging perfectly in between the 2 hills. The view of the lake with the backdrop of 2hills with sun rising in between them was incredible. Another “hay” moment for me.

Sunrise view at Kalimati campsite

Sunrise view at Ranu Kumbolo campsite

We were there 17 Aug, Indonesia’s Independence Day and according to our guides, every mountains in Indonesia would have some form of flag raising ceremony. And there we were, witnessing something new again. I could really feel the Indonesians’ patriotism, it was touching!

After breakfast, we were set to trek back to Ranu Pane, have lunch and go to Malang city area, (via pajeros not by walking ok) Trekking back was easy.

By 7pm, were in Malang city. We were there to spend a night at Morina Smart Hotel because the next day, we would have to drive another 4hours to go to Surabaya Airport for out flight back to Singapore.

Another experience I would always remember. Thank you God for this opportunity. Thank you friends for making this possible. I am grateful because I am always blessed!

About Miss_Pia

Neurotic Health-care Professional who enjoys sleeping, running, reading, introspecting, pole art and exploring new things and sometimes, places!
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