HIKING IN THE RAIN, MIST and STORM
Mt. Slamet amongst Central Java residents is well known for being spooky but somehow hikers frequented it in whatever seasons. Perhaps because of its peak altitude (3428m), which is the 2nd highest in Java. Accesses to the various treks’ base-camps are not difficult. At least 6 treks/approaches could be studied in the hiking reports. Bambangan 1500m east (most popular because the last part of the trek ends at the 3428m peak), Baturaden 900m south with hot water spring, Kaligua 2050m south west, Kaliwadas 1700m west, Guci 1100m north west with hot water spring and Gambuhan 1000m north east.
In this CopiPanas’ 4th hike to Mt. Slamet, we did the same route as our 3rd hike (Bambangan – Peak – Guci) but this time without porter. We wanted to test our strengths and skills. We rode the same train from Jakarta to Purwokerto, stayed overnight at the same hotel in Purwokerto and bought our nasi gudeg from the same warung in front of the hotel. Hotel Mulia is a good place for it is inexpensive, clean and quiet.
Despite our regular exercise we still packed as light as possible in anticipation to the limited time and bad weather. We expected our speed would be significantly less without porter and with the bad weather. The porter aspect later on appeared to be not very significant but the rain, mist and storm significantly slowed our paces. The positive side of the rain is water availability in seasonal gullies. But Mt. Slamet is particularly good with the existence of clean water at high altitude ca. 2900m on Bambangan trek. On the way down to Guci at 3000m altitude there was a mini stream and at ca. 2300m a small river that roared loudly in the rainy season.
We started from Bambangan at 9:30 on Saturday morning Jan. 12, 2013 amidst light shower. We passed Pos 1, 2, 3 and 4 including a lunch break, then stopped at the 2900m high Pos 5 to collect water from a stream at the right side down of the shelter when you exit from inside it. The Pos 5 shelter is in good shape and sleeps 20 hikers without a tent inside. Ten more if you do not mind sleeping under the large 1.2 m high wooden bench.
Less than an hour later the previously nice Pos 7, but unfortunately at the time the shelter was in bad shape. One roof and 2 wall corrugated steel plates were missing. The other parts of the roof were holed (punctured) the shelter wooden bench and ground floor were wet under the rain. Well, the bench is still good for 2 hikers under the rain and the ground floor is still dry for 2 – 3 hikers too. The space under the 1.2 m bench is the safer place under a storm. The night in the shelter was scary initially for there was a 2 hours or so storm around 19:00. We were afraid if the storm escalated to fly the rest of the roof. The storm came to us in many hits with quiet moments in between. The roar made us really think if we should continue to the peak the morning after.
After the storm ceded, overall with the shelter door closed, sleeping inside it was not bad as it was not so cold with a thin sleeping bag and a set of medium thickness clothing.
The morning was lazy and we left the Pos 7 shelter at 6:00 o’clock after a warm nasi gudeg breakfast and hot chocolate drink, amidst the cloudy and wet air. Light shower all the time. The rocky final ascent to the peak at some parts became more treacherously slippery. Several times we fell belly down but overall it was ok, also the chill was not very cruel. Closer to the peak, we took a short rest and got a short glimpse to the siblings in the distance, G Sindara and G Sumbing. A little further was their cousin, G Merbabu. But the clear sky was only a moment, then the dark cloud came to the scene. Very much like what we expected. The morning before when riding the car from Purwokerto we saw the Mt. Slamet slope quite clearly but the final ascent and the summit area was completely covered by dark clouds.
Upon arrival at the summit area the storm started again together with light shower and thick mist, visibility was around 5 meters sometimes 1. We could not see the triangulation point close to the summit edge, so we continued our hike quickly descending towards the caldera for the descent to Guci. The caldera was very dark, we lost the path for quite a while and were assisted by the GPS. Without it we would need much more time to find the right path to the descent starting point at the northern summit edge. Then we found it amidst the darkness of the mist, storm and the intimidating sulfur fume. It was only a point marked with a pile of stones, not more than ½ meters. The roar of the wind or the active crater somewhat scared us and quickly we descended to the next target, the Pos 5 at the vegetation limit.
After almost an hour of descent we got to the “Pos 5” but it was not at the vegetation limit. Very soon we realized that we took a wrong descending path and then were convinced that the trek most likely was towards the Kaliwadas basecamp. So we changed course moving east towards the supposedly correct trek and then Pos 5. There was practically no path and we had to figure out the trek crossing shallow ravines. Some parts we had to haul ourselves up some steep but fortunately short rock walls. Clearly it was not a path normally passed by hikers for there are no signs of hikers shoes print, cigarette butt, garbage or anything like that.
After 2 more hours of cold, hunger and worry we got to the right Pos 5 and found no one over there. There was a loud sound of people chatting at Pos 5 but they must have descended to Guci.
After crossing a small stream and recognized the right Pos 5 we marched quickly towards Guci and the shower started to pour again. Almost non-stop we passed Pos 4 and some 30′ minutes later realized that we lost the trek. After a small square all the paths led us to a roaring small river that I did not know of. A good finding but we were desperate finding the right trek.
We returned to the small square, studied our GPS and checked a path blocked by a fallen tree parallel with the path we came from the summit direction. That was it and then we marched again quickly towards Guci amidst the afternoon shower. Fortunately the trek was very clear afterwards and it was not steep, and not slippery. Approaching Guci, it was quite dark like early evening due to the trees canopy and the absence of the sun. We took a shortcut I knew from my previous hike, and by 17:15 we got to the small coffee shop by the paved road close enough to the famous Guci hot water spring complex.
No time for complete our hot tea slurp, let alone hot water dip. We quickly jumped into the rental pickup car quickly to Tegal for the 18:14 train to Jakarta. Thanks to the Jakarta hikers who paid for our tea, hopefully we could do the same for you guys another time at another mountain. The road was quiet so the driver raced like driving in the Paris – Dakar Rally. No seat belt, we prayed quietly in our seats. By 18:15 we got to the gorgeous Tegal Railway Station. Quickly we jumped out to find out the train was 15′ late. For sure we have to forget the super infamous tasty sate-kambing of Tegal although the restaurant is only 3 minutes away. Then while changing our wet clothes on the train we promised to ourselves not to grumble anymore whenever our train comes late.
We did not take many pictures for the weather was very bad up there. The summit area was particularly dark it was almost impossible to take any meaningful photo. We were also busy with finding our ways using a GPS we never used before. Also we raced with the time not to miss the train to Jakarta. However we rate our journey to Mt. Slamet this time as a successful one, with the pride of being able to self support ourselves carriage wise and directions wise. Hiking a mountain without porter in bad weather is manageable if we are fit and well prepared. A GPS is instrumental but make sure the data is correct and you can use it properly. But, if you ask me would I do it again, I would say no even if you reimburse all the expenses.
TIMETABLE AND COST
Jakarta – Purwokerto 19:00 – 00:30 Sawunggalih Train Rp 185,000
Nasi Gudeg at Purwokerto (4 ea) Rp 80,000
Roti Go (since 1898) at Purwokerto (11 ea) Rp 50,000
Purwokerto – Bambangan 7:00 – 8:30 Pickup Car Rp 250,000
Bambangan – Pos 7 9:40 – 16:30
Pos 7 – Peak 6:00 – 7:30
Peak – Guci Summit Edge 7:30 – 9:00
Guci Summit Edge – Guci 9:00 – 17:15
Guci – Tegal 17:25 – 18:15 Pickup Car Rp 200,000
Tegal – Jakarta 18:30 – 22:15 Argomuria Train Rp 280,000
MT. SLAMET SITUATION MAP