Hiking Mount Agung (3,031m) – See the milky way with the mother of volcanoes.
Mount Agung has huge spiritual significance to the people of the island, being the home to the ‘Mother Temple’, temple of Besakih. According to Wikipedia, it “dominates the surrounding area, influencing the climate. The clouds come from the west and Agung takes their water so that the west is lush and green while the east dry and barren.”
Balinese legend has it that Agung was created when the Hindu God Pasupati split Mount Meru (the spiritual axis of the universe) and formed Mount Agung with a fragment.
When to go :
The best time to climb Mount Agung is in the dry season of April to October. January and February should certainly be avoided if possible due to heavy rain, possible flooding and even landslides in the area. (Wikitravel)
Having said that, the most important thing is that it is not raining when you hike, or cloudy. You want really clear skies when you trek. Raining makes it quite dangerous as the route is full of rocks both big and small rocks. If you have clear skies, there is a high chance that while you hike, you will be accompanied by a sky filled with stars and the milky way. It is truly a sight to behold.
Do take note that during April, there is a grand ceremony to be held at the Besakih temple. From what I have read, “Ida Bhatara Turun Kabeh, the grand ceremony, will be performed until April 24“.
This complicates things as there isn’t much information. Sometimes they stop people from climbing Mount Agung. Your guide might not be willing to trek during that time, or they might use a different route (avoiding the temple).
Should you get a guide? :
You should get a guide. As it is still a huge forest area, with very few climbers and no proper infrastructure, it is not easy to do it by yourself. The routes are marked after awhile but it will still be confusing, especially at night. There are cases of climbers getting lost or dying (not surprised). I get annoyed hearing/reading about it because I feel it is not really respecting the local culture and mountain, helping the local economy as well as a great deal of inconvenience to others.
Therefore PLEASE GET A GUIDE!
How to get a guide :
The best way is to contact the guides directly. Go through Trip Advisor or Gunung Bagging (links are below) or check blogs of other people who have done the trek before. You can find the guide’s contact number or email addresses. Once you confirm the guides, they will arrange for the driver to pick you up. As Agung requires some expertise, this also means that the money you pay goes directly to the guy bringing you up to the summit (as compared to agencies).
Of course, you can always go through an agency/hotel. My friends went through an agency and managed to get a deal similar to mine! Market rates seem to be around 1,500,000 IDR to 1,600,000 IDR for 2 people.
*Smart Tip : My friends negotiated really well. They went along the lines of saying that they have used the agency many times and recommended many friends before. Smart tactic!
However, there is a high chance that an agency (especially the small shops that does Batur) simply gets any local person or inexperienced guide. Batur is fine, but not Agung. This could result in an unhappy trip.
Therefore, do get yourself an experienced guide. Here are some of the guide names on the grapevine.
1) Wayan Dartha Mobile: +6285237008513
2) Gung Bawa <[email protected]>
3)I Wayan Widi Yasa <[email protected]>
4) Pak Nyoman <[email protected]>
I used Wayan Yasa. You can check out the prices, or if you want I can help with the negotiation. Do drop me a message if needed.
The Trek :
*Important : Regardless of which route you take, always clarify and make sure they are bringing you to the true summit! Many times the agencies/guides lead you to the false summit or crater rim or southern peak, usually from Pasar Agung. It is quite obvious from many blogs I have seen.
If you are at the true summit, you get to see the sign which says the height of the mountain (like most true summits).
I would suggest to do sunrise hikes. It is always better to do steep inclines and ascents in the dark because mentally it is easier for me to keep going. The sunrise view is amazing. There is also a higher chance of rain in the early afternoon. You could consider camping but it is more expensive and you have to carry the camping equipment up. I would rather start earlier and have more breaks and enjoy the view at night than camp.
1. Besakih Temple (west) 1200m –> Summit (3142m)
Estimated distance : 9,7 km one way.
Suggested Start-Time : 11pm
This is one of the most suggested routes, but also the longest route.
It is an extremely demanding climb. You start close to Besakih temple at 1,200m. The ascent will take about 6-7 h and the same amount down, so a total of around ~14 h average. The first 4-5 h will be gradual uphill through forest. In my opinion, that makes a really humid, extremely boring and tiring trek when doing it at night. The final hour or so before the summit will be steep and will require you to scramble up to the summit.
A sensible start time from the base is about 11 PM, so that you arrive at the top before dawn and wait for the sunrise.
2. Pura Pasar Agung Temple (1563m) –> Crater Rim (~3,000m).
Estimated distance : 4.2 km one way.
Suggested Start-Time : 1.30am.
This climb starts at Pasar Agung Temple (1563m altitude).
To find the trail, from the parking lot at the Pura Pasar Agung temple (1563m altitude), climb the series of stone stairs to the entrance gate of the inner temple. Walk along the stone ledges and paths around the left side of the temple (with no signage) until it turns into a wide trail. You will switch-back once left, then back right and then straight up. There is also an older path, obvious and easy to follow but nearly completely overgrown with thorny underbrush leading up from around the right side of the temple, which intersects the main path after 1 km (at 1880m altitude) which is apparently not recommended.
From there, you will start walking gradually up a lush rainforest. The forest steadily thins and the trail becomes a “route” – finding the best way around small rock obstacles. It gets progressively “steeper and more exposed, resulting in a slight 20 meter long traverse of a ridge line, with a final, less steep section over dark, crumbly solidified lava and then ending dramatically at the crater rim.
This trip will takes around 4 hours ascend and 4 hours descend. This is the ‘easiest’ route, but you will still need a good level of fitness because it is steep at some points and you require to traverse. However most beginners are led to the crater rim because it is the shortest journey.
3. Pasar Agung Temple (1563m) –> Summit (3142m) –> Besakih Temple (1200m) –Suggested Route!
Estimated distance : 5.8 km one way.
Suggested Start-Time : 12.00 am.
This is a combination of both 1 and 2. It is the best route for now if you ask me.
This route is a lot steeper as you have an altitude change of around 1,600m to the summit in just 4-5h. It really is just an uphill trek all the way. I am a fan of going up fast and coming down slow.
You avoid spending too much time walking in the dark through the forest if you start from Besakih. Instead, you start from Pura Pasar Agung Temple (same route as to crater). You walk through the forest for around an hour. It is a good steep climb. If the skies are clear, you will have a high chance to see the star lit sky with the milky way as you hike. As you go higher up, and turn around, you can see the twinkling lights of the towns of Bali. It will be extremely tempting to just sit there, enjoy the view, the silence and your panting breath. However, it is only the beginning.
At around 2,300m, there is a junction where you will split from the route taken by the crater rim group to cross over to the left side of the valley. After which, you will continue uphill parallel to them before traversing left. You can actually see them walking up on the other side across the valley.
This is where the hard part starts.
You spend a good part of the next 3 hours traversing diagonally (around 30 degrees – 45 degrees) around and up the mountain. You will scramble up small crumbly rocks, with your body slanted closer to hug the mountain face as you traverse. The terrain becomes even more frightening because of the darkness, you feel as if one slip or misstep will result in you falling into the abyss. There will be some moments where you encounter bigger rocks or huge gaps, where you will be required to use your hands to pull yourself up or swing across. At this point, the guide will most likely help you so that you don’t swing off the rocks. To my surprise, there are actually route-markings on certain rocks to highlight the path one should take. It is actually possible to DIY, although it can be quite a distance apart so you will need to know a rough route to begin with.
If the weather is bad, it makes it even more dangerous due to landslide as the whole route is open to the elements.
The following pictures were taken on the way down as there was light, so just imagine doing the opposite direction and in absolute darkness. This is to give you an idea of the 3 hours of traversing.
Once you stop traversing, you will know that you are very close to the summit. The last stretch leads you towards the horizon, before crossing a ridge line path to the summit.
Congratulations! You have reached the summit.
You will be greeted by sweeping views of the entire Bali island with the deep blue sea stretching 360° along the horizon. You can also get to see Mount Batur and Mount Abang which look really small now.
It will be extremely windy and cold at the summit, especially while waiting for the sun to rise. Look around you and you should see the morning fog or clouds sweep across the ridgeline. You get to see darkness turn into light, as Bali slowly waking up while you are at the top of it, all the while shivering.
Behind you lies an immense crater. I was too scared to go too close because it felt like I could be blown by the wind and gobbled by the crater anytime.
There is an additional satisfaction if you did Mount Batur the day before and you were looking at the view of Mount Agung and thinking ” Wow, that is one huge mountain and it is so far away. I might be at the summit there tomorrow.”
Here you are, 24 h later looking down at where you were yesterday. It is definitely a crazy moment, a great feeling of accomplishment that you had achieved something you had set off to do. What seemed as ephemeral as a thought, as a distant dream only yesterday, suddenly became your reality.
When the sun comes out, you can see the shadow of Mount Rinjani which lies in Lombok. It is like a tri-factor of volcanoes. Batur, Agung and Rinjani. If you were in Rinjani and waiting for sunrise, you can see a similar view except it is the shadow of Mount Agung! Quite amazing. At this point, if you have not done Rinjani, that is the next step! Please click on the link to read more on my detailed post for Rinjani,
Your guide will most likely prepare some much needed breakfast and hot tea. You will usually get to rest around 1 h at the summit. Some say the guides, having done this so many times simply want to go back to rest. Others say that it might be because it usually rains in the early afternoon. It is usually a combination of both. I believe that it generally rains in the early afternoon which will give your trek a shitty ending if your shoes and clothes are wet when you end it.
You can choose to go down the same way, but of course the better way would be to go down via Besakih Temple as it is more gradual and well, it is a different route. Although I went down the same way (due to the ceremony in April). You should cross the ridge-line and go down, where it is descending on rocks for awhile before descending through the forest for a much longer time. This way it is better for your knees too.
As you descend, do stop to admire the scenery once in awhile because you did not enjoy them in the 5 h of darkness while you ascended.
There are some nice viewpoints to take some good pictures on the way down. The hard part is done, but descending is always torturous for me. My knees will start to hurt slightly and my legs will tremble. Luckily pictures are an excuse for me to stop and take a break.
Regardless of which route, once you get back to the forest you know you are pretty close.
Mount Agung was one of the most memorable hikes I have done in South-East Asia. Not many people know about this mountain, less attempt, and even lesser make it to the true summit. You require a good level of fitness. At some points, the hike might feel too daunting, just ask the reviewers on Mount Agung on trip advisor. Don’t worry, just stay calm and follow your guide. The night sky, milky way, summit view, makes it all worth. I can guarantee that if you summit Mount Agung, it will be a memory to stay with you for some time.
For additional links on what others say, please take a look here :