Concept, Goals, Language 8

Concept and General Goals

e climb mountains - and the prominent ones often take precedent in a lifetime too short for pursuing goals in a willy-nilly fashion. A peak list objectively ranking mountains provides a scaffold for culling those summits worthy of one's time from "lesser" fare.

The boldest list is Earth's Fifty Finest - containing by definition the most vertically impressive peaks - the "Pick of the Planet".
flower and farm
Composition of bright flower
with farmland - Kersik Tua, Sumatra.

Bob Packard of Flagstaff, Arizona conceives of this trip in late 2006, noting that a stunning four of these summits lie in southeast Asia, and, as importantly, are within his technical abilities. After all, some prominent peaks are not feasible for the vast majority of climbers for various reasons -

Pico Colon (Colombia, too dangerous for an American traveler);
K2 (Pakistan/China, too technical and with a high mortality rate);
Vinson Massif (Antarctica, too expensive and remote).

However none of these issues apply to our four mountains -

Gunung signifies "mountain" in both Malaysian and the very similar Indonesian.

Motivating Bob is a successful, earlier journey by Norwegian climber Petter Bjørstad, who during a family vacation bagged three of these - all but Semeru; while his wife enjoyed sunny beaches. Surely, then, a trip dedicated to just bagging peaks could get all four of these - and more!!
KFC and mosque
Anachronistic juxtaposition
of old and modern.

Bob also has in mind Gunung Agung, the Bali island highpoint, Indonesia - so making a total of five peaks on his wishlist.

By January 2007 Bob is prepared to hire a travel agent for arrangements - an expensive proposition. Bob also solicits partners. Reading his description, I am jealous because at that time my plans preclude joining him. Specifically, I was trying to organize an expedition to Mount McKinley ("Denali"), and the timeframe for both trips overlap in June and July.

However Robert Woodall of the United Kingdom joins Bob. Robert is eager to explore prominent peaks around the globe now that he essentially has finished everything his home land offers in that regard.
Malaysian girls
Girls in Islamic dress cross
a rope bridge at the Kota
Kinabalu Natural Science Museum.

The Denali expedition plans fail, and, with the promise from a Seven Summits completer to co-organize a future Denali climb, I quickly sign-on with Bob and Robert for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity - and start planning with vengeance!

I convince Bob that we can eliminate the travel agent, relying instead on street smarts and experience to make arrangements on-the-fly. Thereby an estimated $7,000 expense, per person, is reduced to one third as much - and so within my financial reach.
Adam with candle
Adam at night in the
Kersik Tua homestay, Sumatra.
Electricity is not a given.

Robert advises that with spare time we should concentrate on Javanese peaks, as there are many with significant prominence besides Gunung Semeru. Investigating, I learn that Java sports a full 17 ultra prominence summits - peaks with at least 1,500 meters (4,921 feet) of prominence. That's a large number for an island no bigger than southern California - and with a population of 120 million, one of Earth's most densely-peopled places.

So why not add to the itinerary a good number of these peaks?

I generate several scenarios, discussing them by E-mail with Bob and Robert. Eventually we agree to using Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia as the entry point for our international flights, posing financial and logistical advantages over both Singapore and Jakarta.
shaving with tea
Adam shows disdain for
omnipresent, bland tea.

Then, on a February climbing trip to Baja California, I discuss itinerary options in person with Bob - including exact flight dates and times.

On returning home I purchase airline tickets for Bob and myself, while Robert does so essentially simultaneously to ensure we remain synchronized.

In brief, the itinerary calls for a 35 day trip, of which in principal 31 days are required for climbing a total of eight mountains. Four days pad the schedule to allow for unforseeable events, i.e. really bad weather, broken vehicles, etc... .

The additional three volcanoes all lie on Java - Gunung(s) Raung, Lawu, and Slamet. Notably, all eight mountains are on the World Top 100 list of prominent peaks - four of them being in Earth's Fifty Finest and four of them ranked 51-100.
smoking vessels
smoking implements, Kuala Lumpur

From a prominence-based perspective, scaling all eight peaks is the equivalent of climbing {Mount Rainier, Mount Whitney, Mount Elbert, Mauna Kea, Haleakala, Pico Duarte, Cerro Chirripo, and Orizaba} ... in a single outing!

Any of the four days not used by journey's end are applied to climbing additional volcanoes on Sumatra before flying to Kuala Lumpur and home.

With only climbing and "getting to the next mountain" on the itinerary, our travels are hectic and, frankly, exhausting. Such is the price to pay for bagging so many of Earth's most prominent peaks.

What these volcanoes lack in technicality, we compensate for in sheer numbers, vertical elevation gain, and cultural enrichment. Nobody to my knowledge has attempted to climb such a lengthy string of tropical volcanoes so quickly in a single journey.


surprise folks with this one, hinting at my Indonesian knowledge only on flying the Pacific with Bob. Learning Indonesian (Bahasa Indonesia) proves adequate as it is virtually identical to Bahasa Malaysia. Further, as a former British colony, many Malaysians have a decent knowledge of English anyway. With four weeks at Indonesia and only one week in Malaysia, teaching myself Indonesian is the correct choice among the two.
X-ray clinic
A Mataram, Lombok X-ray clinic
honors the island's highpoint.

Bahasa Indonesia has a very logical structure that makes learning easy. Further, each letter, including vowels, is pronounced the same, invariant manner from one word to the next. This contrasts with English which, owing to this point, is quite difficult to learn as a non-native speaker.

In many venues my rough-and-ready knowledge is important, facilitating understanding at such times as negotiating a taxi fare; finding a vacant motel room; and arranging for a mountain guide and porters. I cannot hold a detailed conversation - but I am able, by learning the most relevant words, to make our journey nearly free of communication barriers. Thus I learn how to convey "Climb up and down", "How distant?", and "We walk at 5 a.m." - but not "I love you", "movie theater", or "Shut up!"

My efforts are recognized and appreciated by Bob and Robert.

8Photographs on this page are a potpourri of unrelated
  topics that were difficult to place elsewhere.

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