No words can put you at the base of the mountains we climbed or share the warmth of our welcome at the gates of Mollo, but hopefully, we can open new roads to help you stand there yourself and feel the spirit of the Mollo people.
On this page, you will find the cast and crew who went to Sumba and Timor, an interactive map of the region with images from each location, a list of gear used, and a day by day recount of what we did.
This adventure started as an endeavor to combine paddling, climbing, and exploration, but when Andy Cochrane (good friend, brother in arms, badass, LeBron James fan, and former Director of Marketing at Oru Kayak) got his hands on it, the focus shifted to making a positive impact in underrepresented communities in Indonesia.
After many long-winded emails with representatives in Sumba and Timor, Andy built a plan to examine the viability of a few regions for tourism, and potential exposure to western outdoor enthusiasts. We had editors from major magazines on the trip, so if the region was deemed compatible with tourism, the story would reach millions of people. This concept had the potential to make a major positive impact on communities we had never visited and people we had never met. It also had the potential to blow up in our faces...it was a bit unnerving.
On June 22nd, we loaded 12 people into one plane, then another, and another, followed by truck after truck, until 48 hours later we arrived in Waingapu, East Sumba and our adventures really began. The group split up - most went to explore the amazing waterfalls of Tanggedu, while Angela and I strolled the local markets to buy food for the coming days.
After one of the longest days of my life, nearly 60 hours after leaving San Francisco, we camped at a primitive site near the water and prepped for the following day of paddling and climbing. The next morning, we walked about 4 miles to the edge of a sea cliff that hung over the beautiful blue water and was begging to be climbed.
Andy and I set out to explore the cliff face and water conditions, while Ben (sales manager) and Angela (accountant) organized the troops. Andy and I paddled and talked about how incredible it was to actually be there, but as we rounded a cliff face and saw the most northerly point of Sumba, a sacred place, we saw miles of stunning vertical to overhanging cliffs, full of features only accessible by water. We had found what we were looking for. There is not a lot of information about this region online, so we had to rely on geological research and Google earth. After months of uncertainty, we had found exactly what we were looking for: quality rock, over water, with deep, calm water. Time to get the rest of the team and start climbing.
When you plan a trip of this magnitude, it is important to have a secret weapon. Ours was Sasha DiGiulian.
Sasha “is a professional climber and a full time student at Columbia University in New York City. She is the athlete representative for the International Federation of Sport Climbing, which is competitive climbing's global governing body. She is also an ambassador for Women's Sports Foundation, Right to Play, and Up2Us. Sasha travels the world establishing First (Female) Ascents everywhere she goes. She's currently the World Ranking leader, has climbed dozens of 5.14s and is the first and only North American woman, and the youngest woman in the world, to climb the difficulty grade of 5.14d (9a); the hardest climb achieved by a Female Worldwide. She is also the first North American Woman to onsight 5.14a (8b+).”
The crew saddled up in our boats, cameras were staged, and we took our secret weapon to the base of the unclimbed cliffs. Sasha would establish two routes, one 10+ (Sharkduck) and a 12+ (Yeehaw Donkey). It was truly impressive to watch her execute on the virgin rock; she was controlled and unwavering when bits of rock would break off or were simply not as good as they could be. She ended every climb with a countdown and a jump.
That night, we stood around a beautiful fire, exhausted from sun, heat, and a bit of activity. We ate an incredible dinner and shared fresh coconut.
We would spend the next few days searching Sumba for more potential. We visited beautiful locations and wondrous markets, but in my opinion the gem of Sumba was the climbing and paddling outside of Waingapu. We ended our time on Sumba getting to know the families and community of our guides. We slept in traditional houses overlooking Waingapu, met the Ikat weaving master, and were able to witness the beautiful art that is Ikat Weaving. We all left Sumba with incredible memories, good friends, and at least one Ikat scarf.
Upon arriving in Timor, we hopped in trucks and began our pilgrimage to Mollo, the site of Mama Aleta’s original protests. After five harrowing hours, we arrived at the top of the region and sat under two beautiful limestone/marble features. The climbers in the group were shaking with anticipation. We wanted to run to the rocks and start establishing routes! But as we pulled up, we were asked to get out of the cars, and walk to the gates. I will admit, at this point I was disappointed: “Why couldn’t we just run to the rocks and start climbing?” I had NO idea why we had to walk there - we had driven EVERYWHERE. Our group of translators and the 11 of us gathered at the gates of Mollo anxiously awaiting permission to enter, when we saw the entire community dancing and welcoming us.
The music and rhythm were beautiful, the sky was magical, the smiles and faces of the villagers were kind and welcoming. A few of us were nearly brought to tears. You know those moments you never forget? This was one of them. Though the picture above is stunning, it does no justice to the warmth of our welcome. The welcome ceremony would last into the last hours of the day as we learned about the community, shared in song, dance, and food. Climbing would have to wait one more day, but no one was worried about it. We were all lost in the magic of Mollo.
I'm stepping away from the story for a minute to tell you about this woman. We were introduced to this incredible human by Ben Williams (good friend, brother in arms, badass, Ben and Jerry’s fan, and Oru Kayak Sales Manager).
When the most sacred of mountains, Naususu, was threatened, Mama Aleta decided to take action. Mollo indigenous people consider Naususu as the mother of stones, one that nurses the smaller stones in her surrounding, up to the highest area of Nenas and Nuapin villages. If Naususu, the mother, is cut off, she stops nursing the other stones. So, for three years, Mama Aleta and hundreds of Mollo women sat, day and night, occupying the mountainous ranges of Naususu and intimidating the miners. To sustain this long and stressful sit-in, Mama Aleta and hundreds of women weaved Ikat textiles to fund their peaceful demonstration. Ikat textiles are naturally dyed yarn, hand-woven to create beautiful patterned fabrics. Ultimately, they were able to intimidate the miners off their land and preserve what was left of their beautiful marble mountains. From this peaceful demonstration, Mama Aleta was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize in 2013. Our contact had worked with Mama Aleta and informed us that their community was sustaining on humble farming and selling Ikat products. This sparked the idea that perhaps paddling and climbing could provide income for the villages, and perhaps, we could help lay the foundation.
You can find out more about Mama Aleta and the Mama Aleta Fund by clicking on the following link.
Back to the mountain village of Mollo...
We all went to bed, exhausted and tingling with anticipation. Like kids on Christmas morning, we popped out of bed ready to see what surprises the day would hold. We were certainly met with a surprise - it was raining. Everything was wet and the blessing ceremony would have to be postponed. The people of Mollo are a superstitious bunch and they asked that the mountains be blessed before we climb. Of course we obliged, but it looked like we might not get any climbing done on our trip and people were disheartened. We walked around the mountains, slipping and sliding down the hillsides admiring the faces and formations: “Do you see that?! That would make an incredible line! Look! It is probably 800 feet of overhanging climbing!” We slogged around, picking leeches off our legs, hands and everything else, just hoping for conditions to improve.
After lunch, we received news that the elders of Mollo had performed the ceremony to bless the mountains and that if the weather broke, we could try to put up the first routes in the region.
So rather than beat the weather, we decided to embrace it. We found a very steep section of rock that was sheltered from the rain, and Lee Cujes bolted the first sport climb, and Sasha quickly sent it, establishing an incredible 5.12 rock climb with tufas and stunning features.
Soaked to the bone, tired beyond belief, and giddy with our new route, we dried off over a fire and enjoyed another delicious rice meal prepared by our hosts.
The next day (our last day), in Mollo, we split up the group: half went to climb and document the new route and put up more climbs, and the other half went to a small lake where we paddled with the local community.
The lake was owned by an elder and it too needed to be blessed before we were able to paddle, so we waited for the community to show up and when they did, they brought everyone! The elder and owner could only stand for short bursts, but was able to lead the sacrifice of a live chicken and welcome the four westerners to the lake. We took turns paddling around with the community members. Some wanted to go alone, and others sat in the front of the boat with us.
While we paddled, they cooked the chicken that had been sacrificed and cheered for those on the water. As we wrapped up the day, they sang a song and danced us away. Afterwards, we visited an abandoned mine. It showed us what happens to mountains that are not protected. The harsh reality of the excavation was stunning and sad.
The climbing group was busy climbing the existing route and establishing a second route. The entire group got the chance to try both routes and take in the beautiful day. We were able to capture stunning images of everyone climbing and built the foundation of our ecotourism venture. It was a good day.
That night, we said our goodbyes to the people of Mollo, we loaded up the trucks and headed down the mountains and got ready for our long journey home. It was a whirlwind trip and before we knew it, we were sitting back at our desks trying to process everything that had happened over the last few weeks. How do we document it, how do we tell the story, how do we do justice to the experiences that we had just had. No words can put you at the base of the mountains we climbed or the warmth of our welcome at the gates of Mollo, but hopefully we can open new roads to help you stand there and feel the love of the community for yourselves.
|Possible supplier||Link to product|
|Bolting Gear (1 person)|
|1x 80m static rope - 10.5mm||Petzl||https://www.petzl.com/US/en/Professional/Ropes/PARALLEL-10-5-mm#.WPNhaVOGNds|
|2x rope protectors||Petzl||https://www.petzl.com/US/en/Sport/Anchors/PROTEC#.WPNe71OGNds|
|1x L-handed jumar||Petzl||https://www.petzl.com/US/en/Sport/Ascenders/ASCENSION#.WPNdxFOGNds|
|5x rigging lockers||Petzl||OK' in TRIACT-LOCK: https://www.petzl.com/US/en/Sport/Carabiners-and-quickdraws/OK#.WPNdXVOGNds|
|1x Rollclip carabiner||Petzl||https://www.petzl.com/US/en/Professional/Pulleys/ROLLCLIP-Z#.WPNhPlOGNds|
|1x adjustable etrier||Petzl|
|1x foot loop||Petzl||https://www.petzl.com/US/en/Sport/Packs-and-accessories/QUICKSTEP#.WPNahVOGNds|
|1x Gri-Gri+ (appropriate for thicker ropes)||Petzl||https://www.petzl.com/US/en/Sport/Belay-devices--descenders/GRIGRI-2#.WPNbW1OGNds|
|1x locking carabiner||Petzl||Attache|
|3x 60cm slings||Petzl||https://www.petzl.com/US/en/Sport/Anchors/ST-ANNEAU#.WPNfGVOGNds|
|3x 120cm slings||Petzl||https://www.petzl.com/US/en/Sport/Anchors/ST-ANNEAU#.WPNfGVOGNds|
|15 quickdraws||Petzl||Spirits or Djinns|
|1x headlamp||Petzl||Actik - https://www.petzl.com/US/en/Sport/ACTIVE-headlamps/ACTIK#.WPNjA1OGNds|
|Bag||Petzl||Toolbag S - https://www.petzl.com/US/en/Professional/Harnesses/TOOLBAG#.WPNhqlOGNds|
|Drill, batteries, charger||Personal|
|Hole cleaning brush and blower||Personal|
|A small selection of trad gear||Personal|
|Glue gun||Personal (Hilti)|
|Climbtech removable bolts x2||Climbtech or personal||http://www.climbtechgear.com/1-2-removable-anchor/|
|Socket wrench (expansions)||Personal|
|Shifting spanner (backup)||Personal|
|Pack for the kit||Personal||My bolting pack is 80L|
Bolting consumables (whole team, not per person)
|Titanium Eterna Bolts - 80 bolts||Titan Climbing||80mm leg length - http://www.titanclimbing.com/Titan%20Climbing%20products%20-%20Eterna%20Titanium%20glue%20in%20bolt.html|
|Hilti RE-500 (5-6 tubes)||Hilti|
|8mm bits x2 (for concrete screws)||Hilti|
|10mm bits x2 (aid expansions)||Hilti|
|13mm bit (1/2 inch) x2 (removable bolts)||Hilti|
|14mm bits x3 (Ti glue-ins)||Hilti|
|Long bit for pinning||Hilti|
|Pins (for rock stabilisation)||Personal|
|10mmx50mm expansions for aiding (~20)||Personal|
|Hangers for the expansions (pack of 20)||Petzl or personal||10mm hole - https://www.petzl.com/US/en/Sport/Anchors#.WPNebFOGNds|
|Personal climbing kit|
|1x helmet||Petzl||Sirocco, Meteor or Elios|
|Sending rope (2 for the team?)||Petzl||Arial 9.5mm -60m likely sufficient|
|Quickdraws (also covered in list above - assume need 30 for the team)||Petzl||Spirits or Djinns|