Upon arrival at Denpasar Airport at 11pm, we were picked up in a MPV by our friendly English speaking driver Botak to the village at the base of Mount Agung. Along the way, we dropped by a 24-7 convenient store to buy some mineral waters and snacks for the climb. It was a 2.5 hrs. drive to Botak’a house in the village where we met up with our mountain guide Ketut. After some refreshment of coffee, tea and snacks, we were driven to the park office for climb registration (approx. 10 min drive from Botak’s house).
We started the trek around 2am which was considered a bit late as most trekkers start the trek around 1am. From the park office, we climbed up a flight of 300 concrete steps to Pasar Agung temple (1500m). At the gates of the temple, our guide made an offering to the Gods to seek for protection and safe return from the sacred mountain. The trailhead was located on the right side of the temple compound. The initial part of the trek was through a secondary forest of low trees and shrubs.
After 2 hours of trekking, we reached a cross junction where the left path led to the summit and the right path led to the crater rim. This was the decision making point where we had to decide which trail to take; the easier and safer crater rim trail or the challenging and summit trail. The crater rim trail ends at the crater rim and does not lead further to the summit while the summit trail ends at the summit and does not pass by the crater rim. Ketut forewarned us that the summit trail was much steeper, narrower and longer than the crater rim trail and that there were a number of steep drop-off by the side. Since we already paid for the summit trail package (the crater rim package was slightly cheaper), we decided to give it a try. However after about 15 min of treading along precarious path, LY threw in the towel and we backtracked to the cross-junction. Later on we were informed by Ketut that 99% of trekkers go for the crater rim and only rarely do they bring trekkers up the summit. We consoled ourselves that the summit trail was probably reserved for the die hard or super fit.
After the cross-junction, the forest gave way to bare volcanic rock terrain. It started to get colder and windier above the tree line. I was wearing a fleece jacket with a dri fit tshirt beneath and a track pants. I started to regret my laziness for not bringing my beanie or gloves along. It made me feel better to see some brave-hearts (or silly souls) wearing only short and t-shirts. Along the way, we were accompanied by starry skies above and city lights below. Occasionally, our eyes were blinded by the powerful headlights of our fellow trekkers. If there is any climber’s equitique, one of it should be never cast your headlight onto other trekkers’ eyes.
It took us another 2 hours to reach the crater rim which was only about 150m lower than the summit. At the crater rim, Ketut asked us whether we wanted coffee or tea. At first we thought that he was joking, then he took out a big thermal flask and bags of coffee, tea and sugars from his bag and started making hot beverages for us. He also served us some local biscuits to stave off our hunger. It was already dawn by the time we reached the crater rim but the sun was nowhere to be seen (difference between dawn and sunrise). We waited for another 20 mins before the sun rose from the horizon and cast it first rays across the surrounding peaks. From the crater rim, we could see the lofty Mount Rinjani of Lombok island to the east, Mount Batur – Bali most active volcano – to the west and the beautiful coastline of east Bali below us. After sunrise, we descended down the mountain via the same way which we came up. It took us about 3 hrs to return to Pasar Agung temple.
10 Humble Tips on Climbing Mount Agung
1. A pair of trekking shoes (preferably mid or high cut for good ankle support). Otherwise normal track shoes with good traction will be good as well.
2. Headlamp (preferably those LED based for stronger illumination). Hand torch is not recommended as you need to be hands free for the scrambling towards the summit.
3. Have a cup of coffee or tea before the climb to keep the drowsy bug at bay if you are going for the overnight climb. Some guides will invite you to their houses for simple refreshment like coffee or tea before the climb. Otherwise canned coffee can be bought from the convenient stores located along the road to the park office.
4. It is a good idea to conduct a water parade (https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/water_parade) 30 min before the trek so that your body will be well hydrated before you start the trek.
5. Trim your toenails before the trek. On downhill trek, untrimmed toenails will be constantly hit against the front of the shoes and might result in bruised toenails.
6. Bring a trekking stick along for the trek to reduce impact and strain on your back and lower limbs and especially when going downhill. Studies have shown that trekking sticks when used correctly can reduce the body weight carried by the legs by few kilograms per steps which translate to significant amount for the whole trek.
7. Bring along sunblock lotion for your face, neck and limbs as the sun is going to be blazing hot on your return leg down the mountain.
8. Waterproof all your electronic gadgets and passport in a ziplock bag or waterproof pouch. Weather in the mountain can be very unpredictable, you do not want to drench these vulnerable items in a downpour.
9. There is no water source along the trek. Bring at least 1.5-2 liters of water for the whole trek. It is always better to bring more than less. If the weight gets too heavy for you along the trek, you can still drink up or drain away some of the excess water to lighten the load.
10. Wear enough warm clothing for the trek. Most of the body heat are lost through the head and fingers so a beanie and a pair of gloves will be great for keeping you warm for the night. I recommend you to wear at least 2 layers for the trek; a dri fit tshirt as the base layer and a good quality fleece or wool jacket for the outer layer. You can also consider wearing a third layer of wind breaker to block the wing. For your lower limbs, a slightly thick track pants will suffice.