Truth be told. I never wanted to climb Mount Batur. It was always Mount Agung that I wanted to conquer. Why settle for 1,717 meters when you can push yourself up 3,031 meters? Eventually I was very unhappily talked out of climbing Agung by the group I was traveling with.
My research showed that the climb up Agung was not for the faint hearted and that it requires some form of physical ability and mental capacity to survive the grueling 3-4 hour climb from Pasar Agung Temple or 5-7 hour climb from Besakih Temple. Whichever way would have been a killer given how I am someone who does not exercise. (Still planning to do this climb in future!)
Did a list of pros and cons for both and with my friends we hired a guide and decided on a sunrise climb of the most active volcano in Bali – Mount Batur.
We made a special request to start the climb early to avoid the hordes of tourists we kept reading about on forums and the guide picked us up at our hotel in Nusa Dua at 11:45pm. We took about 2 hours to drive to the base of Mount Batur and after a short toilet break, we quickly began our ascent (around 2am).
It would be wise to hire a guide for the trip and if you don’t, you can easily get one at the base of Batur. The locals there will horde to you like flies to honey if you appear without a guide. It’s not actually as bad as what some tripadvisor reviewers say (mafia locals and what not) but perhaps that was because we arrived early and was already with a guide.
The guide took us through flat ground at a slight incline on these sandy paths in the dark and then through forestation at a steeper incline for what seemed like forever. He stopped here and there to give offerings to the gods for a safe ascent and decent. This was pretty interesting to see. After the easy part, we started on a path full of larger rocks forming a natural stairway up. This part was tough and it quickly became a painful climb mainly due to uneven the rocks up. You have to watch your step and pick large stable looking rocks for better footing in your climb up. A good guide will tell you where to step and help pull you up when certain areas are too steep. Another tip is to never stop here no matter how tired you are. It is hard to pick up the momentum after you lose it and the ache starts kicking in so push yourself and keep going.
The guide was pretty awesome. He kept tricking us by telling us that we were almost there and that it was another 15 minutes to the top. It somehow worked and after many blocks of 15, we finally stumbled up this concrete shed (also known as sunrise point). Many people stop here but our guide urged us to go further up. We got to another shed higher up and stopped for our breakfast of banana sandwiches, eggs and a hot beverage (heaven!). We reached the second shed at about 5am and then proceeded to eat in the dark with the silhouette of Mount Abang before us.
check out Mount Rinjani (Lombok) right at the back behind Mount Abang and Mount Agung
We thought this was the end of the climb but boy it wasn’t, there was still a final ascent to the top. This last stretch was without a doubt the toughest ever because here, you have to trudge through really brittle igneous rock. They are tiny, a pain in the butt if you fall, slippery and give way under your feet. Be prepared to really sink your feet into the ground to really get some footing to make the climb. We took so long trying to climb up this last stretch we had to settle midpoint to watch the sunrise. Bummer.
When we finally reached the top, the sun was out and it was surreal. The views, the air, the atmosphere, everything was just magical. I couldn’t believe I did it and would ask everyone out there who is reasonably fit to do this climb to see what I saw and to experience what I experienced.
The clouds started creeping in soon enough covering pretty much everything but it was still amazing walking around the summit in the clouds.
I found the descent down way tougher than the climb up (especially going down those brittle rocks! We could barely see in clouds and I slipped and fell so many times and got grazed so much). My legs started getting stiff and I could barely move my legs and muscles anymore. We ended up taking just as long to climb down Mount Batur which was quite unexpected.
Climbing Mount Batur was an amazing experience and it was certainly my favorite activity on the trip and by far one of the best things I’ve done in South East Asia. I still think back today with nothing but fondness of my time up there. Nothing seems to matter anymore. Do it!
Tips for climbing Mt. Batur:
1. Do a little research
Find a guide with an itinerary that suits you. Hit me up if you’d like the contact details for mine!
2. Train a little
Its not absolutely necessary but little exercises like climbing up stairs, squats and lunges would really help make the climb a lot easier.
3. Wear proper hiking shoes
My shitty sneakers did not survive the final ascent and I had to rip the sole off in my descent to prevent myself from tripping.
4. Empty your bladder
Do it before the climb at the little toilet huts near the carpark. Bring toilet paper. There are no toilets up on Batur. You’ll have to do it in the bushes if you get desperate (I did!).
5. Bring Headlamps
The guides usually provide torches but having your hands free to pull yourself up when necessary is very helpful on this climb.
6. Bring a windbreaker
It’s cold at the base in the morning and even colder up on top. Dress in layers and put on your sweaters / windbreakers when it gets cold.
7. Walk along the Caldera.
Most people do not do that after reaching the summit. It is nice to get a different view, to have a better view of the crater and to see some steam coming out from the sides of the caldera.
8. Whisky for good measure.
We nearly wept for joy when our friend pulled his tiny flask out at the summit.