Friday, May 29, 2009

Mt Raung (3332m), East Java, Indonesia : 21-23 May 2009

Mt Raung via Sumber Wringin, Bondowoso, East Java

For more pictures please refer to my facebook album.

How do I describe Mt Raung? The trail wasn't that steep but it sure was long - through plantations, thick & overgrown bushes, rainforest, pine trees and grassland. We had to carry water for all the days spent on the trail and made our load very heavy.

The seven of us started from Surabaya with Augustinus providing us with the transport to Bondowoso about 5 hours away. Apart from Augustinus, the team includes Dwi Bahari and Riza from Jakarta, Mbak Endah and Erni from Kalimantan and Walter Rudy Wongkar (Woldy) from Jombang, East Java. The Mt Raung hiking post was in Sumber Wringin along the way to the famous Kawah Ijen. The post was quite big with rooms for rent (Rp100,000 per day) and clean and spacious bathrooms. Mbak Endang the caretaker provided us with a hot meal the moment we arrived. There we met our guide - Sugianto (Wanyo) and porters - Naruto, Hari and Aris.

A huge truck (Rp300,000 for return trip) took us to the starting point at Pondok Motor about 45 minutes away. From there we started to hike and because we started late, we had to hike in the dark. After slighltly more than an hour, we set camp on a flat land on the trail.

The next day, it was a long three hours hike to Pondok Sumur and then another hour to Pondok Tonyok where we took a longer break for lunch. About 2pm, we started the last leg of the hike through Pondok Mayyit, Pondok Demit and finally Pondok Angin. It took us a good 3 hours from Pondok Tonyok to Pondok Angin.

Pondok Angin was a small campsite in the grassland right after the pine tree forest. Here, the mighty wall of Mt Raung can be clearly seen. Mt Raung has a higher technical summit called Puncak Sejati which requires some rope skills, abseiling and longer days. We opted just to reach the crater ream. We were lucky because at Pondok Angin, the weather was clear and pleasant so different from the drizzle and thick fog during the hike.

We started the summit attack around 4.45 am. The hike to the summit wasn't especially steep but it sure was tricky, scary and sometimes confusing. At times we had to hike along very thin ridge just enough for one person and at other times, we had to slowly crawl our way along the small trail. Even the non-technical summit was eerie. The crater ream was practically walls jutting out and we had to balance ourselves when taking pictures. The crater itself was huge, deep and dangerous. The scenery really blow me away - picturesque with elements of risk.

The climbing down all the way to Pondok Motor wasn't as difficult and we reached it after 6 hours of hiking. Sugianto was definitely a very able guide cum porter cum photographer. Thank you guys.

To climb Mt Raung, Mt Merapi (East Java) or Kawah Ijen contact Sugianto at +6285258718838

Monday, May 18, 2009

Mt Sumbing (3371m), Central Java, Indonesia : 10 May 2009

Sumbing as seen from Sindoro

Merapi & Merbabu

Sumbing in the background from Sindoro trail

Somar & Rofique at crater ream

View from the other side of the crater ream

Rofique on Sumbing slippery trail

View on trail
View on trail

Climbing Mt Sumbing was in a nutshell - hell.

I was accompanied by Somar and Rofique. After registering ourselves at Posko Sumbing in Desa Garung, Kabupaten Wonosobo, we started the hike at 10.45pm. Even at the beginning, the trail along the farm was exhausting. Not too mention slippery. There were thick clouds in the sky and the mist was enveloping us like a shadow of death. I'm being dramatic.

Really, it was a never-ending uphill climb nary a flat surface for us to rest. I was gasping for air like fish out of water. My sweat can fill a bucket easily. And it was a night climb on an altitude of more than 2000 meters! What was I thinking?

But I presevered and after 3 hours, managed to reach another 'Devil's Market' (Pestan), a flat piece of land suitable for camping. The chill was shocking , I was shivering. We hid under some rocks trying to avoid the wind and at the same time ate supper. After one hour rest, we started the hike again.

There was these huge rocks called "Batu Kotak" and "Pasar Wetu" and we had to make a long round trip tp get on the trail again. But my guides decided to take a short-cut which involved having your back against the rock, climbing down a sharp rock and jumping for dear life to get onto the trail that led to the summit. It was crazy but it was definitely adventurous. I will not, however, ever do that again!

Anyway, the trail to the summit was one long torturous stretch that made me rethink the reasons of my existence in this world and day dreaming of a warm blanket and a cup of hot coffee. Drama aside, I managed to pull my big butt up the steep, rocky trail and finally reaching the summit at 6 am. Not bad actually.

The thick fog meant, no sunrise picture, not much view but I was happy and felt very much contented. The wind actually pushed away the fog for a while allowing me to see the beautiful green meadow inside the crater. It was a good place to pitch a tent.

The hike down was slow but consistent. It was painfull, in a way, because I had to really focus on my steps and the trail. Not only was the trail steep, it was also slippery.
But there was one moment during the climb down, I stood still and just feast my eyes on the cliff, the green slopes, the fog, the trees - and suddenly there was this feeling of real contentment, a joy, an appreciation, a lesson in humility - my surrounding seemed unreal, beautiful, majestic. I felt overwhelmed and I understood why I continue climbing mountains despite the hardship. I'm in love with the mountains!
There is this song "Sempurna" by the Indonesian band "Andra and the Backbone' which aptly described my relationship with the mountains.
We finally reached the starting point after four hours. The sky opened up celebrating our safe return from the summit.

Thank you Rofique and Somar. You guys were the best.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Mt Sindoro (3153m), Desa Kledung, Central Java, Indonesia : 8-9 May 2009

Mt Sindoro as seen from Mt Sumbing
Trail to summit
Mt Sumbing seen from Sindoro
Alun-alun Sindoro crater
Mas Ragil, Guide
Campsite at Batu Tatah
Posko Sindoro at Desa Kledung

When I reached the summit of Mt Merbabu in May 2008, I saw the twin peaks of Sindoro and Sumbing and I knew then I just had to climb the two mountains.

I reached the city of Yogyakarta on 7 May 2009 and thankfully Augustinus, an Indonesian friend from Surabaya whom I met while climbing Mt Arjuna & Welirang in 2008, was there with a car to take me to Desa Kledung in Kabupaten Temanggung, Central Java. Also in the group - Pak Ilham, Maria and Lee Siu. If Augustinus had not been there, I would have to take a bus to Magelang and change bus to Desa Kledung. The car trip took approximately 3 hours including dinner at Temanggung.

Mas Ragil the caretaker for Mt Sindoro basecamp greeted us with warm tea and a quick briefing. He will be our guide accompanied by two porters - Rofique and Somar. They will also prepare my tent and food during our 2 days 1 night hike of Mt Sindoro.

We started hiking the next day with Pak Ilham driving us to the starting point at the end of the village farm. The farmers were planting tobacco in anticipation of the coming dry season. However, the sky was cloudy and rain was expected. I guess, the rain season was reluctant to make an exit.

The trail was along bushes, pine forest and grassland. We started at 10.30am and I reached Pos 3 around 1 noon. Pos 3 was a big flat campsite. At 3 pm I started my hike to Batu Tatah, a small campsite about an hour to the summit. I reached the campsite at 4pm. Along the way, the bush and pine trees gave way to steep grassland. It also began to drizzle and I was shivering while waiting for the porters to arrive so the tent could be set up.

The drizzle continued but not too long. Soon, the sky began to clear . It was a full moon night. Splendid.

We woke up at 4.15 am for the summit attack. Only Ragil, Augustinus and I made the climb. Maria and Lee Siu were too tired while the porters had to stay back to prepare our breakfast. The 1 hour climb was not that difficult and it was not that cold either. I reached the summit at 5.45 am.

It was truly a blessed sight. The clear blue sky, the majestic Sumbing looming in front of us, the superbly green grassland, the awesome sunrise. I had seen all these before and yet I still feel excited and humbled at the beauty of the landscape.

We circled the crater ream. At the other side, surprisingly, was a flat plateau or 'alun-alun'. From here I could see the Dieng Plateau - a majestic beauty as far as the eyes can see. On 1 Suro (according to Javanese calendar), thousands of people will be flocking here to perform 'rituals' - most probably a leftover culture from animistic-Hinduism culture. Another vast flatland just after the alun-alun was called 'Pasar Setan' or Devil's Market where occasionally the empty field will be filled with chattering noise from the 'unseen' .
It took us almost an hour to tour the crater ream and it was truly worth it.
Going back to basecamp at Desa Kledung was easy. I started at Batu Tatah around 10 am and reached the basecamp at 12.20 noon.

To climb Mt Sindoro, contact Ragil at +6281328096081

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Mt Tebu (1036.6m), Terengganu : 30 April 2009

This is my third climb to Mt Tebu. Four of us took the bus to Jertih - Wong, Ah See, Angie and myself but only Angie and I went to the summit. I asked Lah at Lata Belatan, Jabi to arrange for a guide but none was available and in the end the Forestry Department allowed me to take Angie to the summit on the account that I was familiar with the route.

Mt Tebu was not particularly difficult but the 7km trail was long and never-ending. In addition, the weather was hot, exceptionally humid and windless. It really sapped my energy and I could feel that I was dehydrated. The last 500m to the summit was all willpower. We reached the summit at 12.45 noon.

Compared to a year ago, the trail and summit was pleasantly clean. Last year, the summit looked like a rubbish dump and litter was everywhere. Earlier, Lah told me that he had conducted a cleaning expedition recently and managed to collect almost a tonne of rubbish. Imagine that!

Angie and I went to the camp site to view the South China Sea. Along the way we stopped at the legendary Batu Madrasah. The campsite was also very clean. I took Angie for a tour of the area, looking at the lonely grave and the rock with Jawi carvings. Mt Tebu was known for its popularity among martial arts exponents for training and meditation. It was also infamous for 'missing persons' every year despite the trail being very obvious.

If we were to tour the whole summit area, it would have taken us more than an hour but we were eager to get down because the heat was taking a toll on us. The river at Lata Belatan was heavenly. If only people take the time to explore the part of the river far away from the madding crowd. The colour of the still water was aquamarine and it was deep enough to swim.

For those who want to climb Mt Tebu, contact Lah at 017-6544474.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Mt Kinabalu (4095.2m), Sabah : 13-14 February 2009

Agung, Latif, Amir, Zaidi, Deen and Ryco
South Peak

Sunset at Laban Rata

Malaysian and Argentinian flag at Kinabalu summit

Eric and Gina

This is my sixth time climbing Kinabalu, the highest peak in Malaysia and one of the highest in South East Asia. Joining me this time are two Indonesian - Ryco and Agung, Malaysians -Amir, Latif and Deen. Along the way I met Eric Linden from Sweden and Gina from Argentina.

This was my slowest hike. I was waiting for the rest of the gang but after a few stops, it was clear that they were being very slow so I ended up with a new group. Besides Eric and Gina, there were the Singaporean woman with her New Zealand husband, Lyn from Australia, an English man, a Canadian couple etc. The new group took our time to reach Laban Rata but the conversation along the way and at rest stops were exciting and refreshing.

I reached Laban Rata slightly before 4.30pm and to my delight they opened the buffet spread for dinner 15 minutes later. I had the delicious dinner before going to the dormitory at Gunting Lagadan. Ryco was the last to reach Laban Rata.

The hike to the summit was one of the best in my experience. The sky was clear, there was no wind thus it wasn't as cold as in my previous climb. I paced my hike in such a way so that I only reached the summit at exactly 6am just in time for the sunrise.

Kinabalu is magical and I can't wait to climb it again.
For booking call Sutera at +6000243629