To Be the Highest in Java
Mount Semeru, also called Mahameru, which in Indian words mean “Great Mountain”, is one of the most active volcanoes in the world. Every 15-20 minutes, its crater is erupting ash 500 meters high into the sky, and makes spectacular scenery of a classic volcano portrayal. It is the highest mountain on Java with peak measuring 3676 M above sea level, makes other mountains in the Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park like a small hill.
By CopiPanas Team
June 2003 – Impressed with all information of this unique volcano, the CopiPanas set a goal that we will stand on this Java’s highest ground in 2003. A total of 4 days and 4 nights travel was set to allow us reach the top, and return to Jakarta.
Our journey began on Wednesday evening May 28th, we took a train from Jakarta, slept on the rocking car and woke up early morning in Surabaya. Our road trip continued in a small bus, which take us to the last bus stop in Tumpang. Then, by renting a 4-wheeldrive car, we went to the last village of Ranu Pane (2100 M) where National Park Visitor Post located and also the starting point for hikers who want to walk up Mount Semeru.
After lunch in the local warung, we geared up and started this 40 km trek. We hired 5 very polite local Tenggeresse as our guide and porters. Their strength to carry heavy load during this trip really impressed us all.
First step of the climbing is to reach Ranu Kumbolo (2400 M), a crater lake (Ranu = lake) where we were going to camp that night. A relatively easy hike with up-down terrain and windy trail about 10 km covers with green and dense tropical forest. At a point on this trail, we saw a huge volcano cone with smoke plume on its peak and a clear view of its un-vegetated steep slope. We were stunned with this first eye contact of the top that we are willing to reach and realized that it will be a tough climb. When the night fell we arrived at the lake, and stayed overnight in the shelter that intentionally built by the national park for climbers. The temperature dropped to 10 oC, and at no time, all of us already hide in sleeping bags.
At dawn, we woke up by the sound of singing birds, or perhaps because had enough sleep and excited to see what is the outside look like. In front of the shelter, we saw a perfect reddish orange sky where the sun about to rise with the crater rims silhouette on the horizon. Calm lake surface created a mirror image of this colorful landscape. Vapor water from the lake just make the scene simply fascinating. Cameras in our hands, pictures and movies were taken, full with smiling faces.
Second step of climb is to reach our second campsite in Arcopodo, about 2900 M high, and just below the tree lines. It is about 8 km trail, which getting steeper as we get closer. We crossed a beautiful vast prairie what used to be a crater, and into the pines wood that had a lot of berry fruit, “cipluk” or “ciplukan” called by the Tenggerese. Tasted sour-sweet, we enjoy some while continue the hiking. At many point we can see the Semeru cone, which seems growing larger and larger, the un-vegetated top has sharp cut shape of eroded terrain and it looks very, very steep.
After an exhausting last 1 km of 40-50 degree climb, we arrived in Arcopodo. Tents were set, had lunch-dinner in the afternoon and take an early sleep because we want to start hike again around midnight so that we reach the top when the sun rises. We were awaken by rain storm and whistling pines, but luckily it’s over soon after. At 11 pm, we were gearing up, carried only snacks and drinks, … and off course the cameras. We left the rest of the gear in our camp, which guarded by 2 of our porters. The starry night over the pine trees show clear condition that we consider it is safe to continue the climbing.
The final step, summit attack, is only 2 km long but it is the toughest part. The trail is nothing but loose sands, dipping 40-60 degree, and in average we slide down 1 step after 2 steps up. After three hours we were just about to have enough, we ran out of our energy to climb and to heat up our body. The wind chill temperature dropped as low as 3 oC, so we took a rest by sitting stacked up on narrow pathway closed to each other. Our GPS tells that we are only 300 m vertically from the top. Behind us, all vicinity terrain is already under our feet. City lights of Malang are cheering up us. With no moonlight, the Milky Way Galaxy ring is clearly seen above our heads.
We change our strategy to finish up our climb, instead of walking together at the same time, we walk like a relay race. This turns to be very effective, since we have better lighting from other who stop, we also have plenty short breaks. With hard works, the group constantly ascending and at 6.30 a.m. Saturday May 31st, 2003, we were…… The Highest Men On Java Island!!….
At the top, we greeted each other, firm shake hands tell how happy and proud we are. Like having an extra energy, all exhaust feeling was disappeared. Not long after those memorable moment, and just 300 meters away, slightly lower than where we stand, the Semeru crater ejecting its famous plume of dust. It grows very quickly and become a giant cloud….. just like saying “Welcome!”
Our way back from the top was not a straight forward one, but all just small problems. The picture of Bromo-Semeru from Pananjakan tells thousand words about the beauty of this region, and it is a complement to our journey. Finally, all team member return safely to Jakarta on Sunday evening.
With this report, the Semeru Team would like to thanks all of our colleagues who give moral support which make this trip a successful one. Please contact us if you are interested with this wonderful place, we have plenty of information including pictures and video, that we are more than happy to share with you.
CopiPanas – Volcanolovers in Indonesia
Redo Waworuntu, Yuvid Ristianto, Iman Affan, Bachtiar, Budiyono, Siswo Yulianto, Ari Saptono, Shinta Damayanti, and Ludy Andria.