The heaven and hell of Indonesia's Mt. Semeru

The heaven and hell of Indonesia's Mt. Semeru

Located in the heart of the ring of fire with hundreds of volcanoes littering its belt, Indonesia boasts one single volcano that almost all local mountaineers aspire to ascend: Mount Semeru, the highest summit in Java, legendary for both its stunning scenery and extremely challenging terrain. The Jakarta Post recently joined HUMUS FEUI, the University of Indonesia's School of Economics' mountaineering club, to climb the 3,676 meter-tall active volcano.

The scenery around Mt. Semeru was strikingly beautiful, yet the challenge to reach the summit was so demanding that it seemed some divine spirit had forbade humans to ascend to the mountain's top, promising severe punishment for those who disobeyed.

Hikers can enjoy heavenly vistas even without climbing to the mountain's summit, as the surrounding area boasts Ranu Kumbolo Lake, which is famous for its turquoise blue water and the stunning green hills that surround it. Only a 15-minute walk from the lake is a breathtaking view of the Oro Oro Ombo meadow, a 100-hectare savanna.

A two-hour walk from the meadow takes hikers to the Jambangan field, which is blanketed by countless edelweiss flowers.

But for those that choose to climb, it is not only leg ache that you must contend with.

Hikers need to avoid the poisonous gas regularly emitted from the volcano and, as such, hikers must reach the summit before noon as the change of wind direction wafts the poisonous gas onto the climbing route.

As the climb to the summit from the lowest camp takes roughly seven hours, hikers performing the so-called "summit attack" must start ascending at midnight, in the face of strong winds and minus-zero temperatures.

The seven-hour climb was painstaking as a 60-degree climb on sandy terrain offers unstable footing, which is energy-sapping, as well as the constant fear of falling rocks from above.

Still, the reward from watching sunrise from the summit of Mt. Semeru was worth the pain, with Java's coastline, the nearby mountains, cities and the crater all joining to create a panoramic, picture-perfect view above the clouds.

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