Hiking mountains has always been the best way to spend time with nature and work on your physical fitness at the same time.
It gives you sweeping views of peaks, tree lines, and tremendous lakes that you’ll never find in the city. At the end of July, I decided to travel to East Java to explore downtown Malang and hike up to the top of the island of Java; Mount Semeru.
Being at an elevation of 3676 metres above sea level, Mount Semeru is the highest peak on the island of Java and it is also known as Mahameru, meaning “The Great Mountain.” Hiking Mount Semeru was going to be a part of my routine to increase my physical fitness and also recharge my mind because nature offers such a peaceful environment.
The twittering birds accompanied my walk, along with other hikers. Semeru is regularly climbed by tourists, usually starting from the village of Ranu Pane to the north, leading to the famous lake of Ranu Kumbolo. The normal length of the walk is about five to six hours.
During the uphill hike, I tried to take small steps. I avoided taking bounding steps as it quickly tires me out; we’re activating our bigger muscle groups like the hamstrings. The best principle while hiking a mountain is to enjoy every single step we take and control the pace. I never want to enter my “red zone,” where my legs are burning, as it absorbs a lot of energy.
Focusing on short regular steps matters. When you face a long hike, which might lead to you getting tired, you can stop and rest. We can give our mind and heart rate a chance to settle back down before continuing with the next step. From this perspective, hiking mountains has challenged me to measure my ability to walk distances over uneasy trails; it’s all about endurance.
For me, getting to the summit is the best part of mountain hiking. After walking for hours, getting hot, and dealing with the fatigue, the view from the summit can pay it all back. I always cherish the moment on the top of the mountain; take some photos and a rest, take in the view over the surroundings. Looking at the open vista with a full canopy is a treat for the eyes. It is always good to be rewarded with the positive energy that comes from connecting with nature.
I always say that hiking a mountain also means controlling your pace. After getting to the summit, it is time to head back down. The situation is very different. By this time, we’re tired and the situation allows us to move faster as we are going downhill. One of the risks is that you can slip, or roll an ankle.
As long as you can balance your body and stay focused, going downhill is fun. You can walk faster and spend less time. I always tell my team to have a bite to eat at the summit so we can have the energy to focus on our way down. I remember, once I found that the trail looked different going down in the opposite direction. I needed to stop and observe to make sure I was on the right track, I guess getting tired had influenced my focus.
Overall, most of the trail on Mount Semeru is good. I can go at my normal pace, although I sometimes go down about as slowly as I went up. The most challenging part of hiking Mount Semeru is getting to the summit because the trail is sandy. Once I took a step up, the sand gives way so your pace will decrease and it is very exhausting. Two steps on the sandy trail is the same as one step on the normal trail. However, I thank my hiking pole, it helped a lot in pushing my body to make the steps.
It is important to note that hiking mountains also trains us to manage our time, estimating how long we think we will be on the trail. Make sure not to walk when it’s dark or if there are bad weather conditions. Furthermore, I always manage my expectations when hiking a mountain. Mentally accepting that I will get tired, sweat, and at one point I will be asking myself why I want to do this, knowing that it won’t be easy.
I always believe that hiking mountains can increase the health benefits we get from other physical activities. It pushes us to engage and strengthen muscles we rarely use because we control our body and walk at many angles. Furthermore, it can build strength in our hamstrings and the muscles in our hips and lower legs.
Besides the physical fitness, hiking mountains also impacts on our mental health. You will find that hiking is more than just a workout. Doing outdoor activities brings joy with a lot of epic views, fresh mountain air, the sounds and smells of mother nature. It will calm your mind whilst you have some fun out on the trails that nature has to offer. It also helps to increase your self-esteem. Hiking mountains is also a good moment to self-reflect; nature is a place where we can let go of technology and be completely in the moment.
Some tips for hiking mountains
• Ask for advice from experienced hikers
• Choose the right season
• Adjust your hike to the weather
• Train, train, and train
• Get proper permissions to hike the mountain
• Follow signposted and marked trails
• Take enough food and drink
• Use a map and compass
• Prepare emergency tools and first aid
Images: Arnaldi Nasrum