Wildfire Expeditions celebrated May Day 2018 with an exhilarating trek across 4 peaks in the Java province of Indonesia. Read on to find out more!
28Apr18 ? ?Every mountain top is within reach if you just keep climbing? ~ Barry Finlay
Traversing the Welirang ? Arjuno stratovolcano over the May day extended weekend seemed like a great idea. 4 peaks in 4 days. What efficiency! I happily disregarded the arduous training required to get myself mountain-ready after a year of airplane mode.
We landed in Surabaya to clear blue skies. As our orange bus rolled through plantation and fields, I felt the familiar thrill of exploring yet another mountain, of the call of adventure.
In flagrant contradiction of the perfect weather that had followed us all the way, a heavy shower greeted us as we pulled into our drop-off point. Waterproofing kicked into high gear. At 2:30pm, we started rolling as the rain pattered off to a slight drizzle. The trail wound through the forest, a continuous gentle uphill. A plethora of sunflowers added colour and cheer. The rain turned out to be a blessing as it lowered the humidity and made for a much cooler trek.
Due to the lateness of the hour, we trekked into sundown. We were lucky enough to walk under a glorious glowing sky as the sun gradually set. As full moon was in two days? time, moonlight lit our way thereafter. (Of course, also headlamps).
We clocked into camp just shy of 6 hours later. Despite the cold, I had a good night?s sleep.
29Apr – Summit Welirang and Kembar I
?Climb the mountains and get their good tidings? ~ John Muir
A relaxed itinerary in that we were not pressed to get up at the crack of dawn, we clowned around waiting for breakfast, practicing headstands, crows, and all manner of hamstring and quad exercises to stretch out the muscles for the long day ahead.
At 9:04am, we set off for Welirang puncak. While the previous day was lush, this morning, we moved firmly into volcano territory. The route to the mountain base wound through the mountain shoulder and fog drifted in and out, obscuring our view now and then. From base, the approach became stripped, bare characterized by rocks, volcanic ash, sulphur pits and fumes. The switch was dramatic. With no rain today and clear blue skies, it was scorching but the wind at 3,000m still chilled.
This mountain with its pits of smouldering fumes is visually reminiscent of Semeru – sans the mini eruptions but with the pungency of sulphur infusing the breath each time the wind blows the wrong way.
Sulphur mining remains a big part of life here. We met the workers and witnessed firsthand how they crated the heavy blocks down the mountain with nothing more than a wheelbarrow ? and flip flops!
After taking in the dramatic views from the summit of Welirang, we descended back to our packs. This time, we pushed for Kembar I just about 100m shorter than Welirang, closer to the campsite for the night.
In contrast to Welirang, Kembar I was green. More mountain ranges eclipsed by fog drifting occasionally into view. From Kembar I, we descended about 30 minutes to Lembah Lengkehan, our campsite for the night.
We were blessed with a beautiful sunset the night before full moon. Two long descents were wearing on the legs but the ultimate was yet to come. Day 3 was expected to be the longest day. Heading to bed with a full belly, little did we know how much longer it would become.
30Apr ? Gunung Arjuno
?Mountains are freedom. Treat them respectfully? ~ Conrad Anker
At 7:30am we left for the summit of Kembar II, right behind campsite, facing Kembar I. The route was deceptive as we wound all the way to the left before heading up. Our guide casually strolled in flip flops. At the descent, I marveled at his footing as I slipped and slid my way down.
Kembar II was my favourite summit view. We nailed the timing. Literally above the clouds, we were quiet for many moments, watching the horizon spread in a thin line across the sky. Mountain after mountain, range after range unfolded as far as the eye can see
After breakfast, we set off for the climax of these 4 days, Gunung Arjuno, the highest and last of the four. This was another beautiful (though tougher) hike through forest to tundra. As we climbed above the clouds once more, Mount Semeru rose majestically in the distance.
The route was more varied, with logs and obstacles and lots of high steps and boulders along the way. The range of mountains never stopped. One after the other as we ascended higher, yet another peak, range unfolded itself. This is just one region of Indonesia, the country of countless wonders. Mt Rinjani, Mt Agung, Mt Semeru, Mt Bromo and now Welirang, Lembar, Arjuno. Mountains both challenged me and tested my spirits. Ocean that is an unending kaleidescope of marvels. How incredible.
After 3 hours of blistering heat, we finally broke through to the summit ridge and stepped onto the border between Malang and Paseruan. Knowing a long descent awaited us, we did not dally long in celebration. After indulging in the obligatory summit shot (with Mt Semeru as backdrop), we inched our way down, first in blistering sun, then fog, fast descending into complete darkness.
The mist hanging heavily over the mountain shoulder made it impossible to make out the trail with accuracy as the light from our headlamps diffused through the waist-high undergrowth. When it got to the point where I couldn?t be bothered to sweep the branches apart with my pole, I knew I was exhausted. City lights blinked into view around 6pm. We must be nearing camp. It took another hour before we hobbled into camp, heralded by whooping calls from the porters who made it first. The tents were ready and we stumbled in.
Gunung Arjuno was glorious. The views were stupendous and both the ascent and descent came with its unique challenges. Ending off with this brought the mission to a satisfactory close. Knowing the suffering will start in the morning, I nonetheless drifted off to sleep with wonder and appreciation of the beauty we have been blessed to witness and the weather that held up for us.
1May ? Descent to Wonosari
?How glorious a greeting the sun gives the mountains!? ~ John Muir
We woke up before sunrise to make it in time for our early afternoon flight. A little daunted by the memory of the most recent, most painful descent, we wanted to give it plenty of time. As a farewell gift from the mountain, we were blessed with a gorgeous sunrise from our camp!
The trek out was much less arduous than we had feared. Before long, we arrived at the flat plantation part where we sauntered our way to Wonosari and Lawang Base Camp for the final goodbye to the mountains.
In four days we were transported from supreme connectivity to a complete disconnection from the electronic world and to increasing connectedness with life. My thighs are burning, my skin is peeling, and battered by both intense heat and chilly winds, my body is rebelling. Yet I feel energized, cleansed and filled with wonder and appreciation. With a humbled spirit I marvel once more the power of the mountains. ?Great things are done when men and mountains meet?. So coined William Blake from another time, the phrase resonates even more in a life full of clutter. The elemental nature of the mountains manifests in simplicity. Survival is reduced to putting one foot in front of the next, finding your step, reacting to the changing conditions.? Beauty is defined by colours, the blue of the sky, the vivid yellows, pinks, purples, whites, greens of the flowers, the height of the trees, even the barrenness of the volcanic ashfield. The mind is filled with awe at the spectacle Nature presents. The spirit is serene.
Ready to try for your own Traversing adventure? Then check out our Taiwan Pintien to Dabajian Mountain traverse.? Also if you are a traveler, and you wonder where we stay on our Pre and Post treks, we use AirBnB!? For some good tips on keeping yourself protected while using airBnb, check the post from Hogan Injury on staying protected while enjoying your stay!