In 2011, after authorities denied me a visa to return to Socotra Island, Yemen, due to war mayhem, I looked at my long list of areas to explore, with more than 20 expeditions on the docket. Batu Daya caught my eye; I had never been there. The first two weeks of December are in the rainy season, but I decided to go. I arrived at Jakarta and flew to Ketapang. A few hours drive, a few hours on a speed boat, a hitched lift on a big truck working the palm oil fields, and I was near Batu Daya, staring at its massiveness. I made this journey with a local guide and new friend, Herry, from Kalimantan. We paid locals to camp at their house near Batu Daya. As in so many places, these people were wonderful and kind. I had many good meals and laughter with them, but with a roundtrip from home limited to two weeks, there was no time to lose.
Herry and I hacked through the jungle with razor-sharp machetes. It took a few days to reach the base of Batu Daya, some of the worst suffering of my life. Hours of slogging in swamps, razor-wire bushes, 35°C, 95%+ humidity. Jungles are the worst; I would rather freeze. I have been in many jungles, always a sufferfest. Respect to all fellow jungle explorers. Of course, there is something wonderful about suffering: the pay off, survival and/or summit, seems so much better. We had a base camp near the foot of the tower, making beds out of vines and trees. The route looked like it would allow a fast ascent, and Herry asked if I could teach him some rope work, so he could follow me up, as he had always dreamed of going to the summit of Batu Daya.
We left super early and climbed all day. The rock was good and highly featured, with solid jungle foliage and vines to hold. The runouts were quite fun, as everywhere there were sweet holes and pockets in the stone. The worst part was getting to the jungle after the end of bare rock. This jungle was the thickest, most insane, I have ever seen. After four hours of being shredded by the vines and organic razor wire, we reached the summit as the sun disappeared.
Herry was able to light a fire, and we sat waiting for the sun to light our descent. It was a creepy night, and I wiped several bugs and spiders off my neck and face. Next day we reached base camp by nightfall, and the following morning got lost trying to find our way out of the jungle. I got increasingly worried as we spent all day walking through muddy swamps and razor-wire bushes and vines, but 20 minutes before full darkness we stumbled onto an old, barely visible bulldozer trail. Definitely some of the worst suffering I’ve experienced.
Locals say there was a team that tried to climb Batu Daya 10 or 15 years ago, and one climber died. I talked with an elder local who helped carry the body. Other than that I can find no information on attempts or successes. I graded our 650m route on the southeast face V 5.10 A1.
Mike Libecki, AAC