Ascending Via Ferrata

It was one of those moments where I tried not to overthink things. The day I made the decision to go for the climb, I pushed aside all the ‘what if’ thoughts and booked and paid for the 400 meter route. I thought, 400 m is like a 5-minute walk right, how hard could it be?

As the day of the climb got closer, all of my concerns and worries started to fight their way back into my brain. And they were winning. My biggest concern was the height. I am afraid of the height. I get a little queasy riding a transparent elevator for god’s sake. I know you might ask, “then why do it?” The answer is, “I don’t know, woman.”

So came did the day, and we started our journey to the rock. Hellish traffic was bringing the mood down, in addition to gloomy weather which later turned into a rainstorm. We were ready to cancel the plan.

But we pushed through and finally made it to the place. It might be the power of will or it might just be fortuitous, but the sun came out and the day suddenly felt like new.

Our spirit was elevated again and so was my worries.

Kang Bajing, who was our guide, a typical sweet sounding Sundanese man, led the way to the bottom of the rock, gave a short instruction (too short in my opinion) and gave a green light to start the climb.

The initial squad.

I looked up and thought, “this is a bad idea.” But like most bad ideas I’ve ever had, they always receive the ‘reasonable doubt’ treatment. So, up I went.

The first 100m climb.

“Don’t look down” they say, but it was just impossible to not look down, because that was part of the process a.k.a. the deal a.k.a. the package. I just couldn’t NOT look down.

Surprisingly, I got used to the climb–and slowly the height–pretty quickly. A hundred meters passed and I finally got the hang of it.

First stop (approximately at 125m). Waduk Jatiluhur in the background.

The kick of adrenaline that was previously making me a little panic, then was making me excited. We continued the climb, and later in the process I actually made a few stops to intentionally look down, just ’cause.

Towards the 200m mark.

I thought I was out of the wood, and that it was going to be an easy climb from then on. Boy was I wrong. As we went pass the 300m mark towards the 400m, which was our end goal, the wind started to feel stronger, looking down was not as enjoyable. My palms were sweating from being nervous and my legs were trembling. Exhaustion mixed with anxiety was not a good concoction.

I continued to go up, nonetheless, because I wasn’t going to give up with only about 100m left. All the while my breathing got heavier, my legs got weaker, and worst of all, the weather became more unfavorable. It was probably around 30m to the end, when I felt the first drop of rain on my body.

We all made it to 400m, but the weather really did not allow us to stay a little longer to enjoy the view and gather some more energy. Unless we want to risk having a slippery journey downwards and a potential to be hit by lightning then we were more than welcomed to stay. So we took our final photo and began descending.

400m mark. The final squad.

It took us about 3 hours to reach 400m, and less than 1 hour to go back to zero meter. The sprinkle was turning to rain, so we all raced to the bottom.

Descending was absolutely scarier and more tiring than ascending. Eventually we all made it to the bottom. And when I did reach the bottom of the via ferrata, I could feel my legs giving up on me. In a way that they actually could no longer hold the weight of my body. They were shaking so hard I had to sit on the ground right there and then.

If my body could talk, they would most likely berate and howl at me for torturing them. Even so, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Pushing my physical and mental limit was excruciating (it still is, as I deal with the soreness a couple of days later), but it was like a personal purge where I came out victorious, fresh out of defeating nobody but myself.

PS. Most of those photos were captured by Kang Bajing, our amazing guide who climbed like he was a descendant of Spiderman.

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