Elevation: 1,717 m
Date: 17 March 2013
It was a passion that started recently. When I chose climbing, I was searching for something that we could do together as father and son. I wanted it to be something that would test our limits and yet bring our relationship closer to each other. The memories and the lessons that we experience on our trips will last our lifetimes.
Climbing is a wonderful bonding experience for those involved. We can only make it to the top by relying on ourselves and on each other. It’s often said that you do not know what you are capable of until you are pushed to your limits. Climbing pushes us. It teaches us both teamwork and self-reliance. It teaches us patience and perseverance. I personally see it as a way to teach Nicolas that if he can overcome himself physically and mentally, he can do anything. Above all, climbing brings us into nature. It takes us away from the the world and lets us contemplate in silence. It quiets our minds and our surroundings without the distraction of technology and noise of the world.
Mount Batur is a truly unique and wonderful place in this world. It is an active volcano on the island of Bali in Indonesia. Mount Batur itself is unique as it sits inside a caldera, which is a crater formed by volcanic activity. It is still an active volcano, in fact, that erupts about every 10 to 20 years. Imagine hiking an active volcano in the dark! It’s a once in a lifetime experience. We looked at several places for our first trip, but Mount Batur seemed to be the right choice for us. Specifically, we wanted to see the sunrise. The sunrise from the summit is listed as one of the best places on Earth to behold.
We had never been climbing before, and we learned a lot from this initial trek. I was initially concerned about Nicolas, who is 9 years old, being able to handle the physical aspect of the climb. We were picked up from our hotel at 1:00 am, which is early for anyone. I was concerned because of that and the physical demands of the trek. There is nowhere to stop once you begin the ascent. There is no place that you can quit and wait for a car or a plane. Once you start you are committed to finishing it. The hike was also scheduled to take about two and a half hours. That is a long time for a tired adult, much less a tired 9 year old.
We were surprised and blessed right away near the beginning of our journey. We began our ascent around 2:30 am, and were blessed with darkness and a breathtaking meteor shower. The only lights for miles were the stars and our torches. This gave us a once in a lifetime view of the night sky and the dancing meteors.
As we continued our journey we were challenged greatly. We had not prepared for this climb, and it tested us. The elevation of Mount Batur is quite steep and requires a great deal of physical endurance. In addition to this, we were underdressed. More experienced hikers were wearing boots and light jackets, while we were in our shorts, t-shirts, and sandals. The sandals proved quite uncomfortable as we slipped often, and fine volcanic rock was constantly getting into our sandals. It was the promise of the summit and the sunrise that motivated us.
Along the way, we made the mistake of asking the guide how much further the summit would be. It was very disheartening to hear that it would be another hour or two. It seemed as if we had been climbing forever. We were getting tired and had hoped that he would say we would be there in 10 to 15 minutes. It is always hard to hear that you must continue struggling for a while, especially when you are tired. The halfway point seemed to be the toughest. We were in the middle of nowhere and we could quit even if we had wanted to. Looking back, I guess that life is very similar. We often ask God how much longer we must bear something, and are disheartened to hear the answer. We often get halfway through a trial and feel as if we cannot go on. In spite of this, we were nearing the summit. We were closer to the summit than when we started. The motivation seemed to increase as the summit drew nearer, and we seemed to draw strength from that knowledge.
Finally, after three hours of hiking in the dark, we made it to the summit. There, it was the most beautiful sunrise we had ever experienced. We were 5600ft above sea level, when the first sun ray pierced thru the darkness and rising above the cloud – it was truly a sight to behold. It was as if the Creator was standing on top of that mountain with us and painted that sky just for us to see that morning, loudly expressing himself through the stars, the rock formations, the beauty of nature and the sunrise. We were able to enjoy the moment of solitude and closeness with nature.
We took a lot away from that trip, and became hooked on climbing. In spite of not being properly prepared, we learned a lot and overcame ourselves and the mountain. This experience taught us to train for the future. It also reminded me to look around. There is beauty all around us, and sometimes we might miss it when we are too absorbed in life’s distractions. I have to slow down and look up. I can’t help but wonder how much beauty I miss during my everyday life. I do not know what challenges lie in our next trek but I do know that I will be taking away great things from my time with my son if I do not do this again.