Gunung Agung Bali, Summit

  • Written by:  Heinz von Holzen
  • Date Posted:  October 7th, 2011
  • Category:  Bali
  • Comments:  No Comments »

“Navel of the world” and Bali’s highest mountain dominates the landscape of east Bali. Folklore has it that when the deities made mountains for their thrones they set the highest peak in the east, the direction of honor  to the Balinese. In every temple a shrine is dedicated to the spirit of Gunung Agung. The tapering form of cremation towers, pagodas, and even temple offerings bear the shape of a mountain, mirroring reverences for this holy volcano.Every aspect of Bali’s geography and ecology is influenced by the towering range of volcanic peaks that dominate the island. They have created its landforms, periodically regenerated it’s soil, and helped to produce the dramatic downpours which provide the island with life-giving water. The Balinese recognize these geophysical facts of life, and the island’s many volcanoes, lakes and springs are considered by them to be sacred. Hiking @ Gunung Agung Bali

Rumah BaliThe Hindu-Balinese universe permits all aspects of life in Bali, from architecture to the making of Wayang Puppets. Acording to the Balinese, the universe is divided into three realms: The realms of the Gods, the realms of the demons  and the ground spirits, and the realm of people. Just as in the universe is divided into three parts, the microcosmos is split into three areas: The mountains, or home of the Gods; the sea, where the powerful forces of dissolution dwell; and the intermediary region, where people live. This three-part division  is repeated endlessly, in the lay out  of the villages, homes,shrines, and even in the human body. When climbing Gunung Agung, climb with a clean spirit, think positive and live all your bad thoughts at home. Keep in mind that you are climbing a sacred mountain.and live all your bad thoughts at home. Keep in mind that you are climbing a sacred mountain.Trekking @ Gunung Agung Bali

Gunung Agung Bali

Pura Besakih

Pura Besakih is not one temple but a fast complex of temples sprawling across the mountain side. For most visitors the first impression is of the hundreds of towering meru, their many tiered roofs of black palm fiber thatching pointing skyward. Their structural core, is an unobstructed square tunnel down which deities, ancestor, and spirits can descend on festive occasions to take their places in the shrines at their base. Pura Besakih is a landing field for the Gods. The central temple in the complex, Pura Penataran Agung, is dedicated to the God Shiwa. Pura BatuMadeg (Temple of the Standing Stone), approached from behind the Pura Agung and to the left (northwest) is dedicated to Wisnu. Pura Kiduling Kreteg (Temple of the South Bridge) over a bridge and across a gully to the right (southeast) is dedicated to Brahma. There are nineteen more temples spreading up the mountain slopes, each with it’s own purpose and ceremonial season, but the three dedicated to the Hindu trinity are the most important.Almost every day village groups come to pray and collect holly water to take home for local temple ceremonies, or to pay their respects upon completion of the complicated cycle rituals. Each temple in the complex has its own annual ceremony and approximately every tenth year the impressive Panca Wali Krama, a purification for the whole of Bali, drawn almost everyone on the island to refresh their links to the Gods.Trekking @ Gunung Agung

Pura Besakih, 927 m - Pura Bangpuhan, 1182 m

Gunung Agung BaliIf you wish to be on the summit for sunrise then it is wise to spend the night prior to the adventure at one of the home stays that are easy to find at the parking area of the temple. Your home stay will also organize your compulsory guide that is absolutely essential for a successful climb. This will cost about US$65 and includes a hearty breakfast of rice cakes and boiled  eggs. Estimate six hours for your hike to the summit which includes 45 minutes of rest time, meaning that you need to start your extremely exhausting but most memorable adventure around midnight. The first 45 minutes will lead you passed the mother temple, and then along vegetable  plantations  following an actual trek that is used by worshipers to reach the last  temple belonging to the Besakih temple complex.  Bring along a few offerings which will be gladly presented by your guide, asking the Gods for protection and a safe return from the sacred, holy mountain. Hiking Adventure @ Gunung Agung Bali

Gunung Agung BaliThe Forest

Once you pass the temple, cross the parking area and then the path leads slightly  downhill before ascending passed two recently cleared open fields. This will take a good 20 minutes ending at the entrance of the forest (1316 m) where the actual fun starts. Gunung Agung Bali

For the next three to four hours a good torch or much better a high quality head light is absolutely essential, as the dense forest prevents any moonlight from  penetrating down to the trackk. The first hour and half is steep but still comfortable and often broken by flatter passages across ridges. This first 1/3 of the up hill struggle  ends at  a point which we call the “super root ” (1723 m) a very steep section across some massive roots offering good grip. The following two hours are very tough, steep and often very slippery. Here one starts to realize why Gunung Agung is without doubt one of the hardest volcanoes in Indonesia to climb, as the path leads straight up towards the summit and not crisscross up a flank like found on most hills in Europe.Trekking Adventure @ Gunung Agung Bali

Gunung Agung BaliThe Rock

At an altitude of 2200 meter the forest gradually gets less tens and with it the path starts to become more stone and often covered by loose gravel offering an additional challenge. After four hours of hard and strenuous  slow climbing our so called base camp (2622 meters)is reached. An area which offers very little space for two tents and is often used by local hikers as a resting point before heading to the summit for the sunrise.  The arrival at the base camp completes about 2/3 of the way to the summit. This is one of the only places offering space to set up a camp. From here you will reach the top of Gunung Agung in about 1 1/2 hours. Unfortunately this resting point is often littered with empty water bottles, cans and thrown away plastic food wrappers. Please help to clean up this section and bring back home all your garbage. Hiking @ Gunung Agung Bali

Gunung Agung Bali

The rocky climb

The next section, which is a good 300 meters long, climbs just over  100 meters altitude and  is the only part of the entire hike where utmost care needs to be taken. This is the only area where one could fall over a cliff and with it  get seriously  injured. Stay close to your guide, especially during times when sudden clouds cover the area, making the track no longer visible. Slow down, take one step at a time and look forward to reach the top of this section which also marks the end of all vegetation. By now it is hopefully no later then 5 am and with it the horizon starts showing the first signs of the fast approaching day.Trekking Adventure @ Gunung Agung

Gunung Agung Bali The volcanic cone

The final hour of the climb continues to be very steep and frustratingly slow going. You reach the final cone of the volcano which is very rocky at the lower section and pleasantly even steep in the upper part.Gunung Agung Bali

With every minute passed the fast approaching day light allows you to actually see the glorious surrounding. At the same time one needs to be passionate as it is still a fair way to the summit. The burning, and exhausted muscles are screaming for more oxygen and the sweat continues to run down your body. Once again you float  in a most contradicting  world, where on one side your tired body wants to give up and rest, and with it you ask yourself, why on earth a normal person wants to endure so much body torture. Hardly any sleep, racing up a terrible steep hill where one sees nothing in the dark, but roots, rocks, slippery surfaces and the occasional leach that rides along stuck to your skin, leaving behind a sore that can be seen for weeks after the adventure. Then  there is  other side which will never give up and is only satisfied with the completion of the task which in this case is the summit of Bali’s sacred mountain. Volcano Adventure @ Gunung Agung Bali

Gunung Agung BaliThe first summit, 3030 m

The last 100 meters  before the first summit are not that steep anymore but offer terrific views of the highest point of Gunung Agung which is about 350 meters ahead to  the East. Once again at this point extra care must be taken from the often howling trade winds which can gust up to 100 km an hour. There are several cracks in the ground offering protection from these freezing cold trade winds. Especially during the months of June, July, August and September we were several times forced to quite here as it was simply too dangerous to continue with our quest. This first summit (3035 meter) is actually only 11 meters lower than the final top.Trekking @ Gunung Agung

Gunung Agung BaliThe Ridge

The final 15-20 minutes of the climb are an absolute joy. By now the sunrise is only minutes away and the entire horizon is painted with the warm colors only found during  tropical sunrise. Despite the glory in the distance one needs to watch every step along the mostly  less then one meter wide trek. Missing a step could easily result in a disaster as on both sides  the mountain falls down several hundred meters. Stop frequently and enjoy the views, that offer a different spectacle in every direction. About half way across the ridge there is one last technical passage which requires the utmost of attention, as the path winds in the shape of a horseshoe around and up a recent rock slide. This section is very slippery and offers very little grip and is best conquered going up on all fours or downwards on your back side. Once passed this section, then there is only 100 meters left to the summit of a very special mountain, offering some of the best volcanic views in Indonesia. Trekking @ Gunung Agung Bali

Gunung Agung BaliThe Summit, 3041 m

Every summit is very special in it’s own way and Gunung Agung is certainly not different. What makes this mountain very different is the fact that after 6 long and extremely physically demanding hours you reach the summit of a mountain towards which every single building and temple on Bali  is orientated.Gunung Agung Bali Not a day passes in the lives of every Balinese where not at least once a day he visits his temple at home for a prayer in respect of the holy mountain and Pura Besakih the mother temple. Hiking @ Gunung Agung Bali

Summit sectionThe long hard way home

Countless times we have made two statements

1. Gunung Agung is physically the hardest volcano in Indonesia to clim.

2.  Once you climbed Gunung Agung you can climb any volcano  in Indonesia

Two courageous  statements if you consider that we have climbed this sacred volcano dozens of times. Once you reached the summit one would not think that the second part down hill of the journey home would be countless times harder then the journey up.The cone Keep in mind that for the next five hours the path leads straight down, putting incredible strain onto your upper thigh. This together with the often very slippery and rocky surface in the upper section followed by the very steep and over rooted endless  forest section, makes the journey home extremely tough. Countless times we have passed unconditioned adventurers  (just as when I climbed Agung for the first time) on the way down in tears, and at the end of their physical and mental strength with the knowledge that they are only halfway down. Should you get to this point then turn around and try your luck walking backwards. No need to mention  how  the results feel  from this torture the day after, or even more severe two, three or four days later. A terrific muscle ache. What a fantastic mountain.Trekking Adventure @ Gunung Agung

As seen from Nusa Dua

Summary Gunung Agung

Elevation:  3041 meters

Coordinates: -8.340807,115.503302

Bali Airport Kuta: -8.743512,115.166416

Klungkung: -8.535348,115.403738

Besakih Mother Temple: -8.363693,115.467682

Location:  North East Bali 75 km from Bali’s Airport

Difficult Grade V3:The trail is steep, long and spiked with lots of root passages. Hold on to what ever you can, tree stumps, bushes and you will be very safe. Just after you get out of the forest there is a rock face and a little tricky section that requires special concentration and your hands for additional safety. The last 400 meters altitude is on volcanic rock, often slippery, especially on the way down.

Physical Challenge V4: This is without question one of Indonesia’s hardest climbs. Definitely not recommended to anyone, which is not in very good physical condition. The trail is steep and very long. The return journey will take just as long as the climb and will seriously challenge your upper legs and the knees. Serious sore muscles two days after the climb are guaranteed.            

Hiking time: 12 hours for the round trip

Water source: None. 3-4 liters recommended

Guide:  Essential. Available at the care park of the mother temple. Ask around and you will be directed in to the right people. Be prepared to negotiate hard.

Permit:  Registration essential at the police post. Your guide will show you the way.

Transport:  Airport Kuta-Sanur-Klungkung-Rendang-Pura Besakih / Mother Temple           

Accommodation:  Some simple and inexpensive home stays are at the car park of the mother temple

Direction to Gunung Agung

Trekking @ Gunung Agung Bali






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  • Welcome to Trekking and Volcano Adventures in Indonesia

    Unfortunately Indonesia is far too often for the wrong reasons in the lime light of the world press. Terror, tsunamis, earthquakes, destructions of rain forest and corruption seem to be the favorite subject of the media. To my great disappointment far too few people talk about the incredible cultural diversity of the nation, the enormous size, and totally forget to focus on the unbelievable beauty of this great nation.
Beside the incredible beauty of Indonesia, a nation is only as good as its inhabitants. I cannot think of another place on earth where you would find so many incredible kind people that will be delighted to look after you in a way normally only kings and royalty are treated.
 Hopefully these colorful stories will encourage many readers to pack a good pair of quality hiking boots and a backpack big enough to store the impressions of the countless memorable discoveries awaiting one throughout Indonesia. Selamat Jalan and happy trekking Heinz von Holzen Trekking @ Indonesian Trekking Adventure
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