Mount Semeru and Mount Bromo was an all-out adventure with a tale of two summits, the mystical Ranu Kumbolo lake, a 4×4 adventure along the sand dunes and a whole lot more. #TaleOfTheTrail
Mount Semeru and Mount Bromo
Unlike my previous hikes with Trail Adventours, I didn’t know what to expect with Mount Bromo and Mount Semeru trip. I had a short briefing with Coby a few days before the trip and it dawned upon me, “What have I gotten myself into?” Semeru was a tough one. The Summit Assault takes about 6 hours on Scree surfaces and on steep slopes. Those thoughts would linger on the actual assault as my legs did get a shock when I was cramping midway and barely moving forward on the scree surfaces. Well, that was my toughest moment that made the summit even more worth the climb. The story does not end there as we’re in for several days around the volcanic trails of Java, Indonesia.
Trekking Mount Semeru
It took a long way just to get to the start of the tour as I had to fly in to Singapore via Jet Star and take the flight to Surabaya the next day. It took another 3 more hours heading to Tumpang Village, where we arrived early at around 3 am just a few hours before our start. After breakfast, we went for the medical clearance, where it took time for me to reach the regular blood pressure to be allowed to climb. Credit that to lack of sleep. After the medical, we went to Ranu Pani for the start of the hike at around 10 am.
Ranu Pani to Calimati
The first hike is about a 10 kilometer hike from Ranu Pani to Ranu Kumbolo for lunch and followed by another hike from Ranu Kumbolo to Calimati Camp Site for dinner and short sleep before the summit assault early the next day. It starts about 2,100 MASL until 2,800 MASL with about 1,300 meters of elevation gain for this section.
The trail starts with about a kilometer of paved roads before heading to the trail head. Starting from the trail head, the route shifts to single track dirt grounds with slight ascents. I joined the second group consisting of Ed and Cathy of Trail Adventours with the first group consisting of Yuan (tour coordinator from Rani Adventours), Max, Shiela and Fabian. The trail is heavily forested with short ascents and flat surfaces. Because of the slight ascent, we were able to go at a faster pace.
We had our first break 3.5 kilometers into the route in one of the rest stops. The views from the trails was even better from this point as we were already at a higher vantage point. We also had some peeks at Mount Semeru and the sea of clouds at some area. The ascent still was moderate so we just kept on our consistent pace. There were also section that were rolling with some descents and another round of climbs.
We had another break before a short stretch with a steep climb. This is the last steep climb before a rolling terrain and as we slowly descend to Ranu Kumbolo. This stretch got even more scenic as we were about 2,400 – 2,500 MASL and we also were getting closer to Mount Semeru. We even got witness some minor eruptions of Mount Semeru.
About 10 kilometers into our hike, we’ve reached Ranu Kumbolo. The lake was special, which was about 2 kilometers in diameter. It was such a serene and mystical site. This is where we had our lunch break all set up courtesy of our Indonesian guides. We had a comfortable setup near the lake.
We had about an hour of lunch break before we resumed at 2 pm. It was another 5 kilometer climb heading to Calimati Camp Site. There was the hill heading out of Ranu Kumbolo, wherein if you can finish it without looking back and stopping, you’re wish would be granted. I was able to do it without stopping but was too occupied by the effort to think of a good wish.
After the climb, we headed out to a large open field. It was a nice view because of the rich backdrop of lavender plantations. We went fast on the flatter parts and rested before the climb started.
It was continuous climb from hereon. We kept a consistent climbing pace with a few rest stops. The climbs at this parts are a lot steeper so we went a bit slower from our previous climbing pace. The trails were dry and the routes were mostly open, which made us feel the warmer weather. The climbs headed to a view deck seeing Mount Semeru and we needed another kilometer of descent heading to Calimati Camp Site.
You can actually see the scree surface from here and it’s on a steep incline. I really wouldn’t know how to approach this one as it’s my first time I’d be trying out that surface with that steepness. We arrived at Calimati Camp Site at 4:30 pm, which was about an hour and a half than our expected arrival. This was really a fast group.
Calimati to Summit and Back
We had dinner at 6 pm and I was already asleep at 7 pm. We had to wake up at 12 midnight and start climbing at 1 am. If there was a time that I was really afraid of the climb, it was at this time. How can a less than 3 kilometer loop take 6 hours average to climb? It must be a really tough one. We shifted to our assault pack but added more layers of clothes as it was really cold early in the morning.
The first part of the climb were forested trails with moderate ascent. The trail was a bit technical as you have to hang on some twigs and branches at some area. Compared to the scree surface, this was the easy part. This was about 1-1/2 kilometers before we entered the Kree surfaces. We were given the instruction to follow our guides and not to tap rocks as it could fall of and can be dangerous. It was also a bit dangerous as you can fall of at some areas.
I just went on with my stride and it every step, you end up sliding half a step. I tried to be patient and was able to crawl my way through half a kilometer of the Kree Surface. Since I was trying to stop my downward momentum every time I slid, I ended up straining my calves. I was cramping halfway into the climb. I had it relaxed and stretched by our porter in one of the rest stops. It remained sensitive as I had a lot of bouts of almost fully cramping in some of the steps.
I was barely moving, cramping and was now really frustrated at my pace. This was shifting to be a mental battle and I was losing it. There were some points I wanted to just go down and give up and there were times that I tried digging into my mental bag of tricks just to keep my head distracted from the idea of quitting. There were really not much surface or trails that was similar to this one. Good thing Cathy always stayed with me all through out.
Scenes from the Indonesian movie, 5 cm
I was looking at my watch just to have an idea on the remaining elevation so that’s the best trick I had my sleeve. I was counting down the meters of elevation that I needed to ascent. Out of the total, 1,200 meters, I was down to the last 500, then to the last 400 and then to the last 300. I also found a better way of moving faster as I let my guide take a 5-6 steps before I then took another 5-6 steps. Taking it one at a time left me unable to start a good momentum in the climb.
It was good that it was dark as you are not overwhelmed with seeing how far the summit is. It was nice to see the quarter moon at one side. I was already going at a much better pace before the weather went really cold and foggy. I had to stop once in a while to wipe my glasses. Everything has come to a close and so was these torturous climb as I’ve reached the summit in 5 hours and 13 minutes and it still below the expected 6 hours.
The summit was extra cold and foggy. We were not blessed with a clearing to appreciate the beautiful view of the summit. I’ll take as I was just happy to reach the summit given the difficulty of this one. I was able to reach the highest peak in Java at 3,676 meters above sea level.
It was really cold in the summit so we had to descend the summit after our group shot. It was really fun going down as the uphill struggle became a fast skid going down. It felt like skiing on the loose scree surface so in no time, we were already at the middle part of the scree surface.
We hang out in the area to appreciate the scenery as we were overlooking the forest. There was a sea or rather an ocean of clouds to our right. The summit remains a foggy site. It was just great to hit the pause button after the experience.
We then headed to the forested trail area after a lot more skiing in the scree surface to be back in our camp for breakfast. The descent did bring up the kid in us.
Calimati to Ranu Kumbolo
We had breakfast after our descent from Mount Semeru. We had a few chats before we went to catch up sleep again. We were supposed to leave at 2 pm but ended up leaving at 1 pm because it looked like it would rain. We would then just have our lunch at Ranu Kumbolo.
The first kilometer was a climb out to the viewing deck of Mount Semeru. We stopped a while to have a last look at Mount Semeru before heading on the descent. It was quick hike and we reached Ranu Kombolo in just over 1:30 of hiking from Calimati.
Ranu Kumbolo would be our home for the night. We had lunch at 3 pm and dinner at 7 pm. The lake was just beautiful and felt really calming. Visiting Ranu Kumbolo is really one of the highlights of the trips as it gave us a lake-side abode in the middle of our adventure. It was raining in the afternoon so we slept between meals and woke up early to catch a glimpse of sunrise.
Ranu Kumbolo to Ranu Pani
After having breakfast at the lake, we were then off to Ranu Pani to culminate the Semeru Part of our adventure. It was a long 10 kilometer hike but it’s mostly downhill. With the tougher part of the hike over we just went on to enjoy this one. The first kilometer and a half was pure climb so we just went at a steady place. We did appreciate the view of the lake from several vantage points. Mount Semeru was also visible along some points of the route along with the sea of clouds along the way.
After the climbing part came the partly rolling part until mid-way of the climb. We had two stops with a lot of daddy joke time in between. I guess it’s a lot different on the way back as we were a lot more comfortable with each other now. The hike felt like a breeze especially as it went downhill on the forested time.
After 10 kilometers of hiking, we were back for Ranu Pani for lunch and we’re now off to the Bromo part of the tour.
Trekking Mount Bromo
This is the 4×4 part of the adventure as we made our way from Ranu Pani to Ngadisari Village. This part was the sightseeing part as we had different vantage points of the view of the nearby Volcano and mountain range. We also had a sand dunes adventure before heading to our village.
The village was full of tourist as Bromo is the more tourist friendly volcano with just a short hike to the summit. It was nice to explore the village before dinner, which was at 7 pm. It was also a welcome relief that we are now back to our rooms after being on tents for the past two days.
We were up early again the next day starting at 4 am heading to Mount Pananjakan for a sunrise view. What I like about this was the view of the nearby volcanoes including Mount Bromo and Mount Semeru.
Up next, we were allowed to play a bit in the sandy part on the wide area at foot of the volcanoes. It was a bit chilly at this time but it was fun playing around in the wide area. These were also sand dunes so it was fun as well going around via 4×4 vehicle.
We then headed to the foot of Mount Bromo, which was already packed by tourist. There were options to go on the summit via horse but it’s a very short climb and also, poor horses. There was a long walk to the start of the climb probably to put some separation among the climbers.
We started walking our way to Mount Bromo and it was really dusty because of the surface and also the foot traffic. It’s a really short climb and you can probably reach the summit in 20-30 minutes walking. There was a long stair climb towards the summit wherein you can get to explore the top of Mount Bromo.
It was nice to see the summit of Mount Bromo, especially since we didn’t have the clearing at Mount Semeru. There was a thin trail along the caldera. I explored only a short portion of the caldera since I was not that confident moving around the volcano. It was still a nice view from our spot.
After waiting for our group, we then run our way back to our car to cap this adventure at Mount Bromo and Semeru.
I started a tour with no idea on where is Surabaya (it’s already near down under in the Globe) but I was really impressed by how well the tour was planned and also how complete our adventure is. I really enjoyed this one and I’m glad that I went out of my comfort zone and just booked the trip. Thanks to Trail Adventours and Rani Adventures for the wonderful experience.