TEMPO.CO, Jakarta – The female student duo Mathilda Dwi Lestari and Fransiska Dimitri are the first female climbers from Indonesia to perform an expedition to the seventh of the world’s highest peaks / seven summits. Their ascent began on Mount Carstensz, Papua, in 2014. After that, four other summits were climbed, leaving only the summit of Denali in Alaska and Everest in Nepal.
Last Monday, the two set out to climb the towering Mount Denali as high as 6,190 meters above sea level. Earlier, in early January 2017, the two members of a group of students of nature lovers, Mahitala University of Parahyangan Catholic University, Bandung, raised the Indonesian flag of Red and White at the peak of the Vinson Massif (4892 meters).
“This is the first climb of female climbers from Indonesia. If successful, we are proud to bring the name of Indonesia to the world, “said Fransiska. On Saturday afternoon last week, these two srikandi/heroines received Tempo reporter Aisha Shaidra. Here is the excerpt of the interview.
What’s so unique about the Denali climb?
Fransiska: The challenge in Denali is, first, we had to carry a load of 40 kilograms by ourselves because there was no porter service. Second, the operational time is also long, about 2.5 weeks, so the logistics are many and we have to bring it all by ourselves.
Mathilda: In contrast to previous mountaineering preparations, we had to practice carrying backpacks and pulling tires because in Denali we have to bring backpacks and sleds to pull the goods. The rest, felt like physical exercise, it was still the same. We ran, up and down mountains, bring backpacks, swimming, and did yoga for relaxation. But the intensity and the target are more exalted. This time the physical demands were very heavy.
How did you set the rhythm of the exercise?
Fransiska: Each climb can act as a preparation for climbing the next mountain. Our specific Denali climbing exercise started in March. During the break from the end of January to early February, we were given time to rest, interview, then re-organize for the next program.
Mathilda: Two weeks before departure (we) kept exercising, but the intensity had been reduced. Commonly the phase of exercise was, cardio only. But, during the previous four months, specific exercises that fit the needs of the mountain. A month before leaving we were tapering (reducing the frequency) to avoid injury and to rest the muscles.
You are the first woman to climb seven mountains. Where did you look for references?
Fransiska: there weren’t any. There are not many Indonesians seven summiteers (only for the world’s top climbers) only eight people, and all are men. We are the first women to try so we do not have the formula yet. We really learned from experience, and were assisted by the seniors.
Mathilda: There may be more complete references overseas, for women as well. But, then again, the condition is different, the terrain is different, the physical aspects are different. So we learn what we need. We learn the character of mountain, the challenges, then create the climbing program, to finally prepare the equipment.
The mountain climbed has a below zero temperature, how did you train?
Mathilda: That is why, for us, the previous mountain became a training ground for the next mountain climb. We have studied the Wim Hof method (a Dutchman who can survive in extremely cold temperatures). We learned to regulate our breath and extrude heat from our bodies, soaking in the pool with blocks of ice.
Did you have a coach who determined the type of training?
Fransiska: We put everything together ourselves. But we have a support team from Mahitala. Usually, after we do research, (and) determine the program, we just leave it to them as a support team.
Why are you interested in doing this expedition?
Mathilda: Initially seven summiteers from Unpar in 2014 were offered (the opportunity) to install (climbing) ropes in Carstensz. In addition, we were offered as a team of supporters of PT Freeport Nature Lovers. We rejected the offer. Then the concept re-surfaced, why don’t do another seven summit but in a female version? This was offered by seniors, then the were the recruitment. Plus we are still young and want to do things that are still dominated by men. In Indonesia there have been no female climbers that have gone there, so we want to make achievements in the field of mountain climbing, in the field that we can master?.
The members of this expedition consist of only two people?
Fransiska: At first there were four of us. From the recruitment four people were selected and all participated in Carstensz. Then one person backed down because she had to graduate, while this expedition has a very tentative schedule. It had been planned for two years, now it’s in its third year. Then we went all three, until we reached the fourth mountain, Mount Aconcagua. At that time, one of our friends was affected by altitude sickness. Her body could no longer reach that height. The illness was pretty severe. Her parents were worried and did not give her permission again. Finally the two of us were left.
Did your parents give permission?
Fransiska: in my case, (everybody in) the family are all climbers. Papa is a Wanadri (Nature Lover Club) man. He once climbed Mount Blanc. Papa and my brothers all played in nature. Both my siblings are Mahitala members as well. At first I was interested, yes, because I wanted to play in the wild. Just play without thinking about risk. Probably because basically the youngest child gets a bit spoiled. During the entrance to Mahitala I learned to face things, be responsible, face risk, and many other things.
Mathilda: I’m the oldest child. There wasn’t anyone in my family who has a background of joining this kind of activity. I’ve loved nature activities since high school. When I saw Nature Lovers/Mountaneering activities on campus, yes, I wanted to join merely as a hobby. Although my parents initially forbade me to join the Mahitala. But, because I could show that participating in this activity did not interfere with lectures, and I did not do any bad things, I was finally permitted.
Are you sure it does not disrupt lectures?
Mathilda: Luckily we we are in our final years, he-he-he. Our remaining courses are few. Many parties also support us, the lower classes are also there to help us. The Campus is also very supportive.
Fransiska: We are pursuing the title of college students who climb the seven summits, so this must be completed before we graduate. And we want to bring the campus name too. The cost of doing an expedition like this is certainly is not small.
How do you handle funding?
Fransiska: Not very much, if my seniors said this opportunity should be really enjoyed. He may have to work corvee for up to 50 years to raise funds to do the same, ha-ha-ha. Expedition was rather slow, one of them due to constrained funds. But for now we already have a sponsor until the last ascent to Everest later.
Among the five summits, which one was the hardest?
Fransiska: The hardest time we had was on Aconcagua, the fourth mountain. There’s a lot going on. First, the time to reach its peak was the longest, then there was the case of a sick friend. We started of with three, now only two left. There we were also hit by a big storm with a 40 kilometer-per-hour wind.
Other obstacles are more common, such as the training field that is never the same, requiring external equipment which must be shipped, not to mention the high tax. So we must have our own strategy.
Mathilda: Our condition as women is different from men who can be freer. For example, we have to overcome the menstrual period on the mountain, that alone was tiring and physically painful. If you want to defecate we cannot simply do it anywhere.
What are the typical problems of female climbers?
Fransiska: Physically we are not very different. The difference lies more in how to respond to something. I once asked one of the seniors, how did he feel at the top? Was he excited? He just said so-so . The response was flat. Most just say, yes it was cold, slippery ….
Mathilda: No emotion at all, he-he-he. we are more excited yes, we even had a crying fit when we reached the top peak. It was like a roller-coaster to us , but on one side we have to control the emotions as well, especially when facing the menstrual period.
Ever thought of giving up?
Fransiska: Now, I do not think so. now we complain about being tired and question ourselves what had gotten into our heads to sign up for somthing like this? Ha ha ha. It is a taboo for us to think about giving up or any other strange thoughts. Complaining is normal, it’s human. So we focus more on remembering the original goal. Our goal is bigger, that is not only for us alone, but for Indonesia and we have made it this far.
After seven summits, what is the next target?
Mathilda: In the world of climbing there are still a few more, like a grand slam , climbing to conquer three special places, namely the North Pole, South Pole, and Everest mountain; Climbing the 14 highest peaks in the world; There are also climbing seven volcanoes in the world.
Fransiska: After finishing the seven summits, (it’s) more to be grateful for the opportunity, finish college. We have received good knowledge so far, who knows (we) could give input to national parks in the country because the management of the national park abroad is very good. Hopefully our journey will be made into a book later. Sharing stories, encouraging fellow women, if we are doing the writing it will definitely be more humane, he-he-he.
Jakarta, October 4th, 1993
Student of International Relations, Parahyangan Catholic University
Mathilda Dwi Lestari
Jakarta, 26 September 1993
Student of International Relations, Parahyangan Caholic University
Seven Summits Climb:
– Mount Carstensz Pyramid (4,884 meters), August 13th, 2014
– Mount Elbrus (5,642 meters) , May 15, 2015
– Mount Kilimanjaro (5,895 meters), May 24, 2015
– Mount Aconcagua (6962 meters), January 31, 2016
– Mount Vinson Massif (4892 meters), January 5th, 2017
Mount Gede, Sindoro, Cleft, Burangrang Cikurai, Rakutak, Papandayan, Wayang, Princess Argopuro, Rengganis, Ciremai, Pangrango, Bromo, and Semeru.