Up in the clouds of Mount Gede

06 June, 2014 | Source: the jakarta post

Groups of young men and women mostly from Jakarta were passing through a vegetable plantation before dawn, their headlamps illuminating the path leading to Mt. Gede through Gunung Putri village, Cipanas, West Java.

The peak: At the summit of Mount Gede, West Java, when the sky is clear, people can find themselves above the clouds.

The young climbers, ignoring the chill in the air, carried large backpacks with mountaineering equipment and food and drinks to sustain them on their trek to the peak of Mt. Gede, 2,958 meters above sea level.

As the predominant choice of Mt. Gede climbers, the Gunung Putri route offers a shortcut to the mountain’s plain, Alun-Alun Suryakencana, and summit. The ascent, however, is steep and poses a bigger challenge than other routes.

The other paths are Cibodas and Salabintana, Sukabumi, which are rarely chosen due to being longer and harsher, with muddy, rugged terrain infested with leeches.

After climbing for five to six hours with intermittent breaks, the young hikers arrived at Alun-Alun Suryakencana, a 50-hectare plain at 2,750 covered with thriving edelweiss.

“By walking at a steady pace and resting where necessary, it usually takes five to six hours to reach Suryakencana,” said Deddy, a climber from Jakarta who has frequently scaled Mt. Gede since he was in junior high school. “Beginners need longer than regular mountaineers,” he added.

“Mountain climbing is a means of relaxation at a low cost that we do during our days off,” said Jusni and Kenyo, two female private employees in Jakarta who also started climbing as teenagers. “We usually climb at dawn on Saturday from Gunung Putri and go down from Mt. Gede on Sunday morning to reach Cibodas by noon, so we still have enough time to return to Jakarta,” they added.

The climbers set up their tents at Alun-Alun Suryakencana and began cooking a late lunch. The clear afternoon sky invigorated the hikers. The air cooled as the sun set, and they sat outside staring up at the magnificent view of the heavens with twinkling stars and shining moon.

Despite the cold of the early morning, the hikers rose early the next day. After a quick breakfast, they packed up to carry on to the summit.

Leaving the path flanked by verdant Cantigi trees, the climbers approached the peak of the mountain. “When the sky is clear and the summit fogless, we feel as if we are above the clouds,” said Jusni.

“This is what makes climbing enjoyable, in spite of the exhausting ascent and descent,” remarked Kenyo. “All the stresses work will disappear as soon as we’re on top of the mountain.”

Near the top, the hikers encountered natural barriers, including a steep slope and stream fed by the water from a hot spring. These obstacles would have been within closer reach via the Cibodas route.

Though clearly exhausted, the hikers’ faces looked fresh and relaxed when they descended to Cibodas. Still friendly and amiable, they made plans for future summits before parting.

 

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