We had signed up for a 9-day dive 'safari' around Bali and discovered some trip reports to Mt. Agung on some other web sites, so thought it would be a fun thing to do. In order to avoid risk of decompression injury, we needed to either wait 24 hours after diving, or climb prior to the start of the dive trip. So we booked our flight a few days early and planned an early bicycle ride for the warm-up activity, to be followed by the climb of Mt. Agung.
We found the Great Mountain Views
(GMV) Bali lodge online, reserved a room, and wrote to them about getting a guide for the crossover route on the mountain. Normally the trips leave at midnight but we all live in Colorado at high altitude and were in good shape so requested a 2 am departure. They agreed and found us an excellent guide, a retired schoolteacher named Wayan
Tegteg. In Bali, Hindus are named for the order of their birth. Wayan (plus 2 other names that I can't remember) is the first born, then Made (plus 2 other names, etc) and so forth. So it is easy to have just a few names to remember.
To prepare for the ascent, I climbed Quandary Peak a few days before our departure. It turned out to be an insufficient preparation for the steepness of Mt. Agung but was better than doing nothing.
The day of the bicycle trip we stashed most of our gear in the hotel in Kuta (near Denpasar) and took only a few things with us. We were picked up by the bicycle tour operator, which had also arranged our transportation to the GMV lodge after the bicycle ride. When we arrived at the GMV, we decided to add one more guide who turned out to be Wayan's nephew, young Wayan. This turned out to be a good decision as one of our group was recovering from an illness and later decided to stay on the main southern trail to a lower point on the mountain.
We left the GMV at 2 am and arrived at the trailhead in less than 25 minutes. There were quite a few vehicles already there. We used a filthy toilet and were on the trail by 2:30 am. Wayan told us there were 300 stairs to climb to the Pasur Agung Temple which was the start of the trip. That part went quickly and we waited while young Wayan made an offering near the temple so that we would have a safe journey up the mountain. Afterwards we were guided through some buildings to the start of the southern trail. We were very glad to have a guide at this point as there were no trail markers through the buildings. Once on the trail, it didn't seem long before we started passing other groups at rest. We also made a couple of stops but they were quick.
Mt. Agung crossover trail dirt section
When our route to the highest point split off to the left, one member of our group stayed on the main trail with the eldest Wayan who had been to the top hundreds of times, and we went with young Wayan on the crossover route. It was his 4th to 7th time to the top, depending on when you asked him. This section had no trail but consisted of a lot of rock-hopping and walking along slanted rock faces. Although it had been dry for days, there were many sections of slippery clay and pebble-sized gravel which made for unstable walking. Our guide kept implying that we should stop and rest but we made very few stops along the way as we felt good and wanted to keep up a steady pace. We made quite a few stops on the way down.
I had misplaced my headlamp in my luggage so had asked the guide to bring a spare, but it dimmed quickly so we stopped to change the batteries. Fortunately I had put these in my carry-on backpack, which is where the headlamp turned out to be when I found it a week later. The new batteries were effective and I could finally see where I was stepping.
As the sun rose the sky was bathed in a rainbow of orange, yellow, red and pink. It is for this reason that the guides like to get their clients to a high point before sunrise. Even though we weren't at the top, the colors were magnificent.
Sunrise on Mt. Agung
Climbing assist with rope on Mt. Agung
Climbing up the crossover route to Mt. Agung
The shadow of Mt. Agung on Bali
The route ascended steeply to the west and towards the top and joined with the trail from Pura Besakih within .1 mile of the highest point.
At the top our guide had a plethora of snacks, plus our choice of hot chocolate, tea and coffee. We spent about 40 minutes resting, taking photos, and enjoying snacks.
Looking down into the Mt. Agung crater
The view of Mt. Batur and its beautiful lake
Prior to the hike, we had been told it would take at least 6 hours to ascend and 4 hours to descend in addition to some time on top. It took us 5 hours to ascend, 4 hours to descend, plus 40 minutes on top. We were all in our 50s and 60s but enjoy the outdoor activities in Colorado and try to stay fit.
The descent seemed long, tedious, and hazardous. We had not brought our trekking poles, and 4800 feet over 2.75 miles was one of the steepest descents we've ever done. At the junction with the southern trail we saw about 20 monkeys sunning themselves on some rocks, perhaps looking for a free meal from a careless hiker.
The descent, an hour from the top - treeline in sight
Mt. Agung monkeys at the junction with the southern trail
When we finally arrived back at Pasar Agung temple the elder Wayan was waiting with cold water and soft drinks. We sat on the grass and enjoyed the beverages in the shade of a tree. After that, the 300 stairs down seemed easy. But walking for the next 2 days was painful, especially wearing heavy dive gear.
Into the deep
We thought about climbing Mt. Batur after the dive, as we had more than enough time to decompress before our flight, but by then we had adjusted to the Indonesian time zone and were feeling too lazy to get up in the middle of the night. So there is still another wonderful adventure awaiting us if we ever return.
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