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Tags: Indonesia, Mt Tambora Trek

Hiking Up Mount Tambora - Pitstops and Route Difficulty

Journey up the Pompeii of the East

Though Mount Tambora is not an altitude-sickness-inducing tall mountain, the climb up can be rather taxing because of path conditions. Most parts are narrowly paved soil/rocky terrains; some parts are slippery, and towards the summit there are sand-like slopes that are difficult to move past. It is no 'easy' hike for a beginner, mind you!

Nonetheless, it is doable for everyone as long as you are mentally and physically prepared. For those who are considering the hike, here is some useful information about the journey:

Training before the hike

Being in good physical shape is paramount for any overnight hike. For starters, you should be comfortable with walking long distances for 2-3 hours (that is roughly how long it takes from point to point).

The easiest way to incorporate training in your daily life is to use staircases whenever you can! If you go to the gym, train regularly by walking on a treadmill at its highest incline or use a stair climber machine if available. A good week or two of physically preparing your body will be sufficient.

Details of the positions

Note: This infographic was drafted after a map located at the entrance of Tambora National Park.

Position 0 to 1 - Route Difficulty: 2.5/5

This route starts light and easy with a mostly steady uphill path. While it is a bit of a distance, it won't take you too long to the first position where you can have some biscuits and refill your bottles.

A well at Position 1 to refill water - this water passes through the mountain to the villagers' homes

Position 1 to 2 - Route Difficulty: 3/5

The "puncak" sign signifies there's a rest stop coming soon

The incline starts to increase from Position 1 to 2, and roads start to get narrower. Overgrown shrubs start poking out from all directions, so be careful not to get scratched or hit in the face!

Roughly 2 hours later you'll arrive at Position 2 where the porters will prepare your lunch from scratch. There is a stream right behind where there is clean water for drinking and the break is about 1.5 hours long.

Position 2 to 3 - Route Difficulty: 3/5

This is the last stretch you will trek before ending your day. Similar to Position 1-2, this route requires a bit of stamina and endurance, but Position 3 will welcome you just about when you reeeaaalllly need a break.

Depending on when you start your hike (some people start at 7:30am, while others can leave as late as 9:30am), you'll reach Position 3 anytime between 2pm and 5pm. While the porters cook dinner, cool down and rest up! Everyone sleeps from 7pm to get ready for the summit climb.

Position 3 to 4 (beginning of summit climb) - Route Difficulty: 4/5

Enjoy the night sky!

At 1:30am, the porters will stir you awake. After a quick fuel charge with instant noodles, your summit climb begins at 2am so you can hit the summit before sunrise. It's pitch dark, so a head torch is necessary. Your porter will also let you know when there are stinging nettles on the way - avoid them at all costs!

Position 4 to 5 - Route Difficulty: 3.5/5

Position 5 is the last pit stop before the summit. It is next to a riverbed where you can refill your bottles and a perfect spot for stargazing. Take some time to lay down on the rocks to look up to the sky; you won't see one like that often.

Never in my life have I seen a sky like this before.

Position 5 to Summit - Route Difficulty: 6/5

Not going to lie, the very last part of the summit climb feels almost endless. The summit will be in front of your very eyes, but getting there will take so much longer than you think! As you climb higher, the landscape surrounding you starts to change as well; the jungle disappears and a savannah-like path unveils itself.

Built-up ashes from forest fires set by deer hunters make up a large portion of the climb. It's like walking on sand; each step you take sinks into the dusty ashes and you'll feel like you're barely moving at all. But don't worry, you're almost there - just keep going, past the ash slopes, past the rocks - and finally, you'll reach the caldera.

The legendary caldera of Mount Tambora

Congratulations, you made it!

Like every other mountain hiking experience, reaching the summit feels monumental. Take your time to enjoy the sights - in the distant background, the peak of Mount Rinjani, Satonda Island and Moyo Island can be seen. 

You're not on top of the world (2850m is really not that high compared to other mountains), but it sure feels like you are.

Afterword: This article was written by Jin, who hadn't climbed a mountain since she was 12 years old. She can positively say that climbing Mount Tambora was her greatest feat of 2019.

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