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Jakarta Post

The heaven and hell of Mt. Semeru

  • The Jakarta Post

    The Jakarta Post

  /   Sat, September 28, 2013   /  02:59 pm
The heaven and hell of Mt. Semeru

Above the clouds: A hiker rest at the summit of Mt. Semeru after finishing the long and exhausting ascent.

Located in the heart of the ring of fire with hundreds of volcanoes littering its belt, Indonesia boasts one single volcano that almost all local mountaineers aspire to ascend: Mount Semeru, the highest summit in Java, legendary for both its stunning scenery and extremely challenging terrain. The Jakarta Post recently joined HUMUS FEUI, the University of Indonesia'€™s School of Economics'€™ mountaineering club, to climb the 3,676 meter-tall active volcano.

The scenery around Mt. Semeru was strikingly beautiful, yet the challenge to reach the summit was so demanding that it seemed some divine spirit had forbade humans to ascend to the mountain'€™s top, promising severe punishment for those who disobeyed.

Hikers can enjoy heavenly vistas even without climbing to the mountain'€™s summit, as the surrounding area boasts Ranu Kumbolo Lake, which is famous for its turquoise blue water and the stunning green hills that surround it. Only a 15-minute walk from the lake is a breathtaking view of the Oro Oro Ombo meadow, a 100-hectare savanna.

A two-hour walk from the meadow takes hikers to the Jambangan field, which is blanketed by countless edelweiss flowers.   

But for those that choose to climb, it is not only leg ache that you must contend with. Hikers need to avoid the poisonous gas regularly emitted from the volcano and, as such, hikers must reach the summit before noon as the change of wind direction wafts the poisonous gas onto the climbing route.

As the climb to the summit from the lowest camp takes roughly seven hours, hikers performing the so-called '€œsummit attack'€ must start ascending at midnight, in the face of strong winds and minus-zero temperatures.

The seven-hour climb was painstaking as a 60-degree climb on sandy terrain offers unstable footing, which is energy-sapping, as well as the constant fear of falling rocks from above.

Still, the reward from watching sunrise from the summit of Mt. Semeru was worth the pain, with Java'€™s coastline, the nearby mountains, cities and the crater all joining to create a panoramic, picture-perfect view above the clouds.  

Standing tall: Edelweiss flowers with Mt. Semeru in the background. At 3,676 meters tall, the active volcano is the highest mountain in Java.Standing tall: Edelweiss flowers with Mt. Semeru in the background. At 3,676 meters tall, the active volcano is the highest mountain in Java.

Overcoming hell: Mountaineers on the so-called '€œsummit attack'€ race against time to reach the top before the afternoon.Overcoming hell: Mountaineers on the so-called '€œsummit attack'€ race against time to reach the top before the afternoon.

Poisonous: The view atop Mt. Semeru, with the Jonggring Saloka crater seen here emitting poisonous gas. Hikers must descend from the summit before noon at 10.00 a.m., because after that the poisonous gas starts to drift over the climb route.Poisonous: The view atop Mt. Semeru, with the Jonggring Saloka crater seen here emitting poisonous gas. Hikers must descend from the summit before noon at 10.00 a.m., because after that the poisonous gas starts to drift over the climb route.

Falling heaven: A group of mountaineers continue their hike after resting at Ranu Kumbolo Lake. The turquoise blue lake is a popular camping spot.Falling heaven: A group of mountaineers continue their hike after resting at Ranu Kumbolo Lake. The turquoise blue lake is a popular camping spot.

Teletubby land: Hikers set up camp in the savanna sandwiched between two green hills.Teletubby land: Hikers set up camp in the savanna sandwiched between two green hills.

Morning breeze: A sunrise view of Ranu Kumbolo Lake at 6.30 a.m. in the morning.Morning breeze: A sunrise view of Ranu Kumbolo Lake at 6.30 a.m. in the morning.

'€” Text and photos by Putera Satria Sambijantoro

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