Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Me, Mel and Merapi

Monday night Melis and I were picked up around 10:30 pm in Yogyakarta. We drove for an hour and a half to a small town near the base of Merapi. Around 12am we went into a little house to have tea and wait another hour. The guide didn’t want to start too early because he didn’t want us to wait around for the sunset at the plateau. It can get pretty cold up there if you’re not actively moving. After some tea and inhaling a lot of smoke from the locals and other climbers we drove to the town Selo (around 5,500 feet), where we started our climb.

We stepped onto the trail around 1 am. The moon was almost full, however, it was hazy. It was a little daunting at first, there were lightning strikes lighting up the clouds in the distance. I really wasn’t sure what to expect, but I thought it was going to be eaisier than it really was. The trail was very steep and narrow. We had one flashlight between us that was very handy since the trail was full of baseball size rocks and occasional branches to trip you up. The first hour or so Melis was not feeling well, I think nerves and her prior stomach ache from the day before were getting to here. After a few breaks, some food and fertilizing a near by garden she started to feel better. She did not want to turn around and kept on hiking. Pretty soon she was in full billy goat mode and we climbed to the plateau or base camp (around 8,500 feet) as I like to call it. We reached the base camp around 4:45 am, 20 minutes before sunrise. Our guide, Gilah made us some hot tea which was really nice since it was pretty cold. We watched as the gray haze covered the sunrise. There were glimpses of the sun but nothing spectacular. I was more impressed with the clouds and smoke that blew over Merapi which was just another 1,000 feet above.

After relaxing for awhile Gilah and I climbed up the last 1,000 foot section of Merapi. Melis hung back chatted it up with a fellow westerner who was also studying in Yogya. Gilah and I left around 6 and it took us a good 50 minutes to reach the summit. The climb up was a volcanic rock scramble. The rocks were large, loose, and sharp. It was not technically hard we just had to go slower since footing wasn’t as stable as we’d like. As we approached the top of the crater I noticed that some rocks were warm. I started to see the smoke coming out of the vents on the mountain. There were also bright yellow chunks of sulfur which is shown in one of the pictures I posted. Once we reached the summit Gilah and I took in the 360 degree view. It was hazy out but we could still see neighboring summits and the garden towns below. After about 15 minutes we headed back down. Going down was the hard part because of all the loose rocks. Both Gilah and I took a few spills.

Once we arrived at base camp we had some noodles for a snack. Then around 8:40 we packed up and started the long trip down. The trail was very steep and had many rocks so we had to watch our footing. This made our descent slower than usual. On our way down we took a short break while Melis curiously stalked wild monkeys. These monkeys we not as forward as the domesticated road monkeys in Lombok so we only got see them from afar. We finally arrived at Selo (which had a huge Hollywood style sign that read “New Selo”) around 11:20am. The car ride home was beautiful, there were fields of local farms with lush gardens surrounding the base of Merapi. Upon arriving back in Yogya Melis and I splurged the 4 dollars and enjoyed hour and a half massages. Good times!

There are a few other peaks I am planning on climbing once I return in July:

Bromo (East Java)

Rinjani (Lombok)

Agung (Bali)

Kinabalu (Borneo)

Anyone down to come out and do some climbing? Porters are 9 dollars a day and Melis said she’s willing to do it for 5!

Merapi (Fire Mountain) is one of, if not the most, active volcanoes in Indonesia. Click here for more information on Merapi.

Elevation start: 5,600 feet

Base Camp / Plateau: 8,550 feet

Summit / Top of Crater: 9,606 feet

Start time: 1am

Plateau: 4:45am

Summit: 7:00am

Return: 11:20am


CalBadger said...

Gee Todd and Melissa, it looks like you're having a boring Spring break! Just can't leave those mountains alone--no matter where they are: Melissa, are you going crazy?--you went too?! Awesome you guys, I'm learning about an area I've never thought of before, with great photos to boot (even tho I can't see, I'm a very visual person!).

Holly said...

Not exactly a walk in the park! It looked pretty menacing up there at the summit - very different from your California climbs. Kudos to Melissa for her tenaciousness, too. Glad it didn't decide to blow while you were there!!