All You Need to Know Before Climbing Mount Tambora
A definitive guide - what to pack and what to expect
When it was first decided that I would be climbing Mount Tambora for Seek Sophie, I had a whole lot of doubt about it because of my level of fitness at the time. The last climb up a mountain for me was on Mount Kinabalu, and that was almost 10 years ago! I was enthusiastic about Tambora, but I didn't know if I was up for the challenge at such a short notice, especially after months of avoiding the gym and stuffing myself with junk food every week.
But hey, here I am, very well alive after the trip to write about the climb like a pro mountaineer. If Tambora's on your mind, I wouldn't hesitate to tell you to go for it and the pictures in this article should convince you as well. However there are a few things I wish I knew beforehand, so here is a comprehensive list to get you fully prepared for the challenge and make the best out of your trip:
1. Train up - it's not a walk in the park
Before the trip, our boss Lina told us that Tambora would be a relatively easy hike with a steady uphill throughout. She wrote about her experience here, and other reviews on Tripadvisor didn't really mention that the climb would be difficult.
Well, Lina lied… kinda. While our superboss' amazing physical fitness was a perfect fit for any kind of climb, Corn (the other intern) and I were grossly unprepared for the sheer level of stamina required for Mount Tambora.
With that being said, it wasn't impossible for us either; we just think that it would have been a whole lot easier if we were mentally and physically prepared before we set foot. You can heed our advice and prepare yourselves by reading our article about the whole hike path.
2. Discuss your travel plans with us
Tambora is about a 6-hour overland journey from its nearest airport (Sultan Muhammad Salahudin Airport) via private hire. Taking public transport would be an uncomfortable 15 hour journey in non-air conditioned buses. There are no Google map directions to Mt Tambora, and taxi drivers will not be readily available to take you there directly.
However, actively communicating with us about your travel plans before your climb will allow us to help you arrange a suitable method of transport. If you book the trip from our site, let us know where you're coming from and where you're headed to after the climb. We will relay the information to our partner Rik who will then source for reliable local drivers for your journey.
If you would still prefer to figure out your own transport, you can read our article here. Also, check out some other cool things to do or places to visit nearby before or after your climb!
3. You won't have reception on your phone
Take this time to disconnect and pause your IG updates - reception is close to non-existent on Mount Tambora, even at the guesthouse before your climb. You might get short bouts of connection, but it's too weak to even make calls within Indonesia.
The only place in the village where you have any connection
In case of emergencies, or if you're desperate, there is a small area in the village where there is reception but you'll have to ask Rik to take you there because it's a bit of a walk. Not an impressive place at all though - it's literally just a small part of a slope along a nameless road.
4. The essentials you need for the climb
We wrote a separate article for our recommended packing list. Fortunately, climbers don't have to struggle with heavy trekking bags because it isn't a long climb - just make sure you have a sturdy day pack that can fit everything that's mentioned in the article!
5. There are no toilets along the way
We go back to our ancestral roots and dive in full jungle-style for the loo, ladies and gentlemen. Don't worry about being exposed though, at any given time you and your group will probably be the only ones on the mountain unless there is another group coming from the other direction. Even in that case, it is unlikely that your paths will cross when you need the privacy. Just find a secluded 'lil spot and it should be fine.
6. Sleep with what you would wear to the summit
There is no need to pack a separate set of clothes for your sleep; once you reach your camp spot for the night, cool down and change into your summit wear. They'll keep you warm in your sleep and cause less of a hassle when you wake up at 1:30am for the summit climb!
7. No matter how hard it gets, just keep going!
"Puncak" - a sign that there's a rest stop coming soon!
Here's the funny thing about conquering mountains: just when you think you can't go any further, your next pit stop appears like an oasis in a desert.
The stars we saw during our summit climb
I distinctly remember as I climbed to the summit I saw the clearest of skies with constellations and the milky way; each step I took made me feel like I was closer to the stars.
The massive caldera
Upon reaching the rim of the crater, the vast, 1.7km deep caldera exposed its stony surface and I felt like I was a lone astronaut, looking down on a miniature Earth from outer space. I still can't shake my mind off what my eyes saw, and it still feels like a dream.
Tambora has a magical charm to it
As I made my way down Mount Tambora, I cursed my wobbly knees and frail ankles and swore that I'd never climb a mountain again. Not even for those views! But I found myself forgetting all those struggles once I reached the guesthouse. I told my porter, Rama, that I couldn't stop thinking about the whole climb, how grand the mountain was, how metaphorical it felt and how I craved for it again. His reply resonated with me, and it probably will for you too:
"That's why I keep going back."
Afterword: This story was written by Jin, an intern at Seek Sophie. It was her first time exploring Indonesia outside of Jakarta and she felt ashamed by how little she knew about its hidden paradises. She's already looking forward to her next trip there!