Climbing the Mountain

So after climbing the rim at Songan, I had the middle of the day to myself. I checked out a tourist office, one that actually was a service. Jero Wijaya runs this store and info center and, surprisingly, he's not trying to sell anything. When I kept on asking questions about a xeroxed map under the glass at his main desk, he lifted up the glass and just gave it to me. Everybody else is on the take.

Volcano Mount Batur Bali hill & flow So I figured that the best, most noncrowded thing to do was to approach from the north and hit some of the steam and sulphur vents. On a sunny day you can even see steam coming out from a distance. "That's where I want to go", I decided.

This hill you can see from the tourist side of the rim, but just behind it is some lava fields and the trails I took.

Volcano Mount Batur Bali threatened I took most of the afternoon just driving around the inner road. It seems like not very much distance, but it's a rough road. Like other places I tried to drive, the asphalt was destroyed in places, and the worst parts were where it was only partly gone.

The north side was where the recent lava flows were so that was the place to go.

The first time I went around, I was looking for a reputed trail. The directions were sketchy, and there were lots of dump trucks barreling down the road (probably why the roads were destroyed). At one point a tourist flagged me down. Italian, he asked how far it was back all the way. The locals were charging him outrageous amounts for a ride back. It WAS a long, tedious ride back. I thought I was coming back that way, but to my surprise, I came out on the main road and had completed the circle without finding the trail.

Volcano Mount Batur Bali car Try two. The sun was going down. I drove back to where the biggest lava flows were. Parked. Started walking.

At first I started walking across the lava. This soon turned out to be a mistake. It had flowed decades (or maybe a century) ago and the rain had weakened it. Meanwhile it was very sharp. Think of pumice, but black, sortof sponge-texture but rigid and brittle. So you could be walking on part of it, it could collapse under you, and as you use your arms to catch yourself against the rocks,... I headed back to the road.

Volcano Mount Batur Bali by lava


I found a trail and headed up through the woods. There were several trails, but I found that if I kept to the part of the forest near the lavaflow, that worked out the best.

Volcano Mount Batur Bali lavafield At a point, the shrubbery stops and you're walking across uneven rock fields. Volcano Mount Batur Bali path up

Then you get to the side of the mountain proper. (You're already quite a ways up.) This part of the mountain is all dust - all incredibly sandy. You can see the "path" up here.

These are footprints you see. Although I didn't see anybody else, I could tell that there had been hikers within a day.

As you walk up this path, you see all the sand under your feet slosh down the hill just a little, with each footstep. Given enough hikers, maybe the whole hill would level out, I don't know. It's very tedious going up the hill, you go up two steps and slide down one.

Volcano Mount Batur Bali sifting dust As I walked up, I couldn't help but recall some technical talk by a chemical engineer who described the science of powders. Depending on the shape of the particles, their density, and other factors like how "slippery" they were, a pile of it will stack at a certain angle. If you tilt it or put more on top, the stuff that's at too high an angle slides down until it's right at the critical angle again.

So walking up was silly, but actually you could make progress, although you burned lots of energy.


Volcano Mount Batur Bali scampering across At the top, you don't exactly end up where you want to be, so you end up scampering across. It's better walking if you're not on the side of a hill, there's trails with more solid rocks.

Volcano Mount Batur Bali steam
There were a number of calderas there. Generally the insides had rocks and sand forming a cone in the middle, and there wasn't much in the middle other than a sortof floor. But all over there were vents with steam and sulphur coming up.

Volcano Mount Batur Bali sulpher Rocks are heated under the surface. Anything will vaporize if you heat it enough. But, the first two things in the crust to vaporize are water and sulphur. That's what's coming out of these vents.

Volcano Mount Batur Bali sulpher You can actually walk right up to these vents. It's warm near them, there's really steam coming out and it really smells like sulphur. They're right there. No guardrails or anything.

Volcano Mount Batur Bali sulpher Volcano Mount Batur Bali  three mountains The views up here were absolutely breathtaking. I snapped picture after picture.

The next day, I came up again and went further up the mountain. (no guide necessary.) The whole northwest side of the mountain is sortof a shoulder with all the active vents. In this view on the right, the peak of Batur is on the left, off the field, but you can see the green slope. But notice in the distance: in the near distance is mount Abang, on the rim of the crater. Farther behind that is Mount Agung, which I had climbed just a week before. (see story)

The point is that this sortof illustrates the hotspot theory: there's a hot spot that a continental plate oozes over, so you get a number of volcanos all in a straight line.

Coming Down

Volcano Mount Batur Bali full shoe You know when you hike like this your shoe gets some dust in it. Mine was basically, full, overflowing, as you can see in this photo.

Volcano Mount Batur Bali rocks The rocky areas had a wide variety of kinds of minerals in them.

Volcano Mount Batur Bali running down As frustrating as it was going up the side of the hill, it was a blast going down the hill. It's fun to run down any hill, except when you get to be a geezer like me, you can damage your knees. Well, no problem here as each foot pummels into soft powder. I ran down really really fast and it was really fun.

Volcano Mount Batur Bali lavafield I said goodbyte to Mount Batur, it was a lot of fun.
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