// Ijen (Merapi)

Facts

Elevation: 2,803 m (9,196 ft) Prominence: 1,218 m
Ribu category: Google MarkerTinggi Sedang Province: Jawa Timur (East Java)
Google Earth: kml Other names:
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Eruptions: Ijen 1796, 1817, 1917, 1936, 1952, 1993-94, 1999, 2002

Photos

Ijen (Merapi)Next »
The route from the west to the true summit (east) of Merapi-Ijen (Mykhailo Pavliuk, 2013)The route from the west to the true summit (east) of Merapi-Ijen (Mykhailo Pavliuk, 2013)
The route from the west to the true summit (east) of Merapi-Ijen (Mykhailo Pavliuk, 2013)
The summit of Gunung Merapi, Photo published in Taverne, 1926 "Vulkaanstudien op Java," (courtesy of Volcanological Survey of Indonesia).The summit of Gunung Merapi, Photo published in Taverne, 1926 "Vulkaanstudien op Java," (courtesy of Volcanological Survey of Indonesia).
The summit of Gunung Merapi, Photo published in Taverne, 1926 "Vulkaanstudien op Java," (courtesy of Volcanological Survey of Indonesia).
The pillar at the true summit of Ijen-Merapi (Mykhailo Pavliuk, September 2013)The pillar at the true summit of Ijen-Merapi (Mykhailo Pavliuk, September 2013)
The pillar at the true summit of Ijen-Merapi (Mykhailo Pavliuk, September 2013)
A view to Crescent Moon crater from Ijen-Merapi south western summit ridge (Mykhailo Pavliuk, September 2013)A view to Crescent Moon crater from Ijen-Merapi south western summit ridge (Mykhailo Pavliuk, September 2013)
A view to Crescent Moon crater from Ijen-Merapi south western summit ridge (Mykhailo Pavliuk, September 2013)

English

View a slideshow in our Picasaweb gallery

Bagging It!

The Merapi-Ijen volcano complex lies within the much larger Ijen caldera on the eastern-most tip of Java overlooking Banyuwangi, the point of departure for the ferry crossing to Bali. The calderais about 20 kilometres across and famous for its Arabica coffee plantations. Gunung Merapi – not to be confused with Central Java’s volcano of the same name or West Sumatra’s Gunung Marapi (sic) – is the highest point of the caldera complex, on its eastern rim.  The Ijen crater lies immediately below, and on the western flank of, Gunung Merapi and contains Java’s largest crater lake renowned for the molten sulphur that exudes from vents in the crater. It is one of East Java’s most visited natural attractions. Most visitors do not venture beyond the crater, which is fascinating in its own right. In fact, it seems that very few seek to climb Gunung Merapi let alone reach its highest point (‘true summit’). The ranger post at Paltuding (1,850 m) is the start point for both the crater and mountain where permits are obtained and guides available.

Ijen Crater: Guides are not necessary for the pleasant walk to the crater. A well formed, three-metre wide, track leads two kilometres to Pondok Bunder (2,214 m) where the sulphur porters weight their loads and another kilometre to the crater rim (2,350 m). Most visitors take a break at the saddle on the crater rim (‘viewing point’) to view the sulphur vents and turquoise lake some 300 meters below.  Here, you will see the porters carrying their 75-90 kg loads, in two baskets on their shoulders, up the steep crater wall and then a further three kms down hill to the collection point. Most porters make the journey twice a day.

You have three options at this point. You can climb to a high point, to the south-west, above the crater rim (2,400 m) for magnificent views; or, continue on around the rim, in an anti-clockwise direction, for even more expansive views of the lake and the larger Ijen caldera beyond. The third option is to take the very steep track down into the crater to the sulphur vents and highly acidic (H2SO4, pH = 0.5) lake. The descent normally takes about 20 minutes but you may spend longer taking photographs of the porters and the surreal surroundings. Give way to porters carrying their heavy loads up the track! Be alert to sulphur fumes emitting from the vents as these can make breathing difficult, even suffocating, especially when the winds changes in your direction. Face masks, dampened with water, can help to protect from the worst of the fumes. Needless to say, don’t even think about swimming in the lake!

Gunung Merapi lies directly above Ijen crater to the east. The route to the summit is via a ridge rising from the north and clearly visible against the skyline from the eastern side of the crater rim. Continue around the crater rim in an anti-clockwise direction from the ‘viewing point’. After about 2-300 meters, you will pass over a small knoll on the rim. About 20 metres after this knoll, an ill-defined track leads down through scrub into a ravine below and up again onto the summit ridge. Be careful to make a mental note of where the track leads up from the bottom of the ravine (assuming it is visible and not totally overgrown) otherwise you may have to ‘scrub bash’ your way up onto the summit ridge – an exhausting exercise! Once on the summit ridge it is a steady, but steep and not enjoyable climb, to the rim (2,650 m) through heavy undergrowth – bracken and burnt/dead trees. Long trousers are advisable.

The summit of Gunung Merapi consists of a now extinct, broken crater with five or so knolls (high rounded hills) around its rim. The old crater consists of several open, flat, sandy areas, alun-alun, that would probably be flooded in the wet season.  A pleasant camp could be made on these alun-alun, out of the wind, if dry; otherwise, on the rim by clearing some undergrowth.

The ‘true summit’ (2,803 m), one of the five knolls on the rim, lies on the northeastern side overlooking Banyuwangi and Bali and is marked with an old Dutch triangulation pillar. After emerging onto the rim from the summit ridge, continue in a clockwise direction around the rim – if you want to reach the summit, do not descend into the sandy crater. As the ‘true summit’ is rarely climbed, you may have to bash your way through thick undergrowth. Also, note that the approach to this knoll is quite steep. 

The views of Bali’s Gunung Agung and Lombok’s Gunung Rinjani from Java’s most eastern mountain would be fabulous especially at sunrise so a night on the summit would be worthwhile. Peaks to the west include the massifs of Gunung Raung and Argopuro. Gunung Baluran can be seen to the north. Perhaps the most impressive view is the Ijen crater lake 500 metres below best seen from a knoll marked with a small handmade sign (2,775 m) on the western side of the rim looking directly over the lake and the Ijen caldera beyond.

It is possible to reach, and return from, the ‘true summit’ of Gunung Merapi in one long day if you start early and do not spend too much time at Ijen crater on the way. However, it might be advisable to camp a night there and really explore what is such a great area. It seems that the local guides, who mainly take visitors to the Ijen crater, have little knowledge of the route up Gunung Merapi and even less about which of the knolls is the ‘true summit’. In fact, there is really no need for a guide if you can find your way from the Ijen crater rim across the ravine and onto the summit ridge. The rest of the climb – up the summit ridge and around the summit of Gunung Merapi – is quite transparent. If you do hire a guide, make sure that he, at least, knows the track across the ravine. Of course, the ranger post at Paltuding may insist that you be accompanied by a guide and even dissuade/forbid you from the climb if not!  If you plan to hire porters to camp on the mountain then you will need to make more detailed arrangements.

Bagging information compiled by Nick Hughes from information provided by Heinz von Holzen, Nicholas Hughes, Mykhailo Pavliuk and Dan Quinn (updated November 2013)

Practicalities

Getting there Better approached from the north although the route from Banyuwangi is passable in a jeep.
Accommodation There are plenty of places to stay nearby because Ijen is a leading tourist attraction.
Permits A nightmare! Officially you are supposed to arrange a permit in advance from some office or other in Surabaya. The information on this office and why it is required is very unclear. There is normally not a problem just climbing up yourself but you may have to ‘tip’ the staff in the Kawah Ijen office.
Water sources None available – take sufficient supplies with you.
Recommended Hotel:
Local Average Monthly Rainfall (mm): banyuwangi

Location

Origins and Meaning

‘Ijen’ is Javanese for ‘alone’ or ‘lonely’. Merapi means ‘mountain of fire’ and from the appearance of the craters it is obvious that Gunung Merapi was a very active volcano in previous centuries.

Links and References

Wikipedia English
Wikipedia Indonesia

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Trip Reports and Comments

11 entries for “Ijen (Merapi)”

  1. avatar

    Made an attempt on Ijen-Merapi today. Some great views but overall a rather disappointing experience unfortunately due to a mixture of all the usual problems – excessively expensive transport, terrible roads, having to pay ‘uang rokok’ for permission to climb a hill and then the ‘puncak’ not being the actual ‘puncak’. I got a jeep from Banyuwangi which was a rather steep 700,000 for 12 hours rental with driver (my fault for travelling alone I suppose – hopefully enough time to get to the summit and back) because there is seemingly no other transport available from the Banyuwangi side. The jeep proved totally essential as although there are plenty of signs for Kawah Ijen the road up from Banyuwangi is not passable by ordinary vehicles on the higher sections – that’s why most visitors head to Ijen from the north though why local authorities haven’t done something about the condition of the road is a mystery given that it is one of East Java’s main tourist attractions. The warungs at Paltuding were full of tourists heading up or back down from dawn at Ijen.
    I had been advised to ask for a chap named Pak Im who is supposedly the main person who knows about Ijen-Merapi – a mountain which despite being only 400 metres higher than the Ijen rim itself is hardly ever climbed by anyone and is wrongly considered a major expedition. At first he declined to help me reach the top as he claimed you would have to set off at 5am to climb Merapi and come back in one day. After a week of bizarre and ridiculous reasons given for not being able to climb various other peaks in East Java (including ‘magic in the area’ for Gunung Tarub/Lamongan) this seemed fairly normal. I trotted over to the office to enquire about someone else who might be able to assist. My request to climb Merapi was greeted with a great deal of shock. I was told it wasn’t possible, that I needed to have a special permit from Surabaya (several hundred km away). In the end it was agreed that if I took full responsibility for any accidents enroute then if I paid 200,000 ‘admin’ fee (to keep the guys in the office with enough cigarettes for the next week) plus 300,000 guide fee then it would be ok. It’s amazing but rather depressing what a few bank notes can do. Pak Im suddenly re-appeared and we set off.
    Seeing the sulphur collectors coming down the Ijen trail with their heavy loads is a surreal and humbling sight – a very tough job indeed. We were at Ijen crater itself in just over an hour and the lake shone a brilliant blue in the morning sunlight and there were some excellent views west to Gunung Raung. From the rim we turned right through dense foliage and headed up a bracken-covered ridge of Gunung Ijen-Merapi. The path is faint and we needed a machete – this was the first trip up Ijen-Merapi by anyone for well over a year! Views down to Ijen lake are superb at this section but watch out for occasional razor-sharp grass. The drop to the left is also very steep so be extra careful. Finally the rim of Merapi is reached (we did it in just 3 hours) and you look down over the north-western sandy crater (there is another one further east with a horse-shoe shaped clump of foliage in the middle). This point we had reached (approx 2,777m) was, according to my guide, the ‘puncak’ and there was indeed a small sign – allegedly made by volcanologists a few years ago. However it was obvious that the forested ridge to the north of the eastern crater was higher (2,803m according to the Bako map) and I tried to convince the guide to keep on going to reach the true summit. He declined, saying he had never been there and never heard of anyone going there. I’m pretty sure Java Lava got to the true summit in 2006 so I told him to wait for me while I descending into the dry sandy crater and tried to bash my way up the other side and onto the ridge higher ridge above the horse-shoe crater. The first sandy crater itself was a great place to walk in – on the world’s most densely-populated island you can still find some remarkably wild areas. Unfortunately the vegetation – including Javanese Edelweiss – was just too thick to get up to the ridge between the two main sandy craters and follow it along to the highest point of the ridge. It reminded me of Papandayan where the highest point of the mountain massif is just too thickly-vegetated to be reached. It was at least another 400 metres distance of thick and spiky bush so I had to retreat and we were back down at the Ijen crater in just over an hour.
    Despite the short distance of the hike, this one requires more than one day at the moment because of the terrain. It’s a hike of tremendous potential and a real shame that more local people haven’t thought of climbing this hill. It’s the last huge mountain before the Bali strait so views east to Bali are incredible. Why have so few hikers shown any initiative in this regard? It’s also a great shame that any other hikers wishing to climb it will – for the moment – have to pay bribe money at the office in order to try to do it. In my eperiences so far, it would appear that Indonesian tourist attractions and national parks seem more concerned with keeping people out or deflating their plans or simply pocketing whatever cash they can extract from Indonesians and non-Indonesians alike rather than enabling and assisting access – here’s hoping things will change before too long. It wouldn’t take a lot of work to keep the route open and actually allow people to explore the area and perhaps put up a sign or two. I’m sure it would be a very popular route once people began to know about it – many of the ‘turis’ who wander up to Ijen every morning must wonder what is it the top of the bigger neighbouring peak. That hikers supposedly need permission from Surabaya to hike up this interesting mountain highlights the fact that serious problems with access to the natural environment remain for all hikers in Indonesia.

    Posted by Dan | July 29, 2010, 07:12
  2. avatar

    For pedantic baggers out there (of which I admit to being one) according to Wolfgang Piecha, one of the Java Lava trips certainly got further east toward the true summit than both my own and Heinz and Roman’s trips did. This was probably in 2006 when perhaps the vegetation was a little less dense that it is now. They weren’t specifically looking out for the highest point so they may or may not have ‘bagged’ it. They did enjoy the ‘view on the straits and Bali’ and had a good look at the horseshoe shaped ‘island’ in the more eastern crater.

    Posted by Dan | August 16, 2010, 00:28
    • avatar

      as an Indonesian, I’m ashamed of bribery exist in Ijen. corruption seems to have ingrained and become part of Indonesian culture, culture of corruption. shame! shame! shame!

      Posted by Frans | March 9, 2011, 19:29
  3. avatar

    Here are some amazing photos of sulphur mining at Kawah Ijen at night…
    http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2010/12/kawah_ijen_by_night.html

    Posted by Dan | December 27, 2010, 11:00
  4. avatar

    I just received the email below, which may be of use for anyone thinking of climbing Ijen-Merapi this year. Because of how long iot takes to get to from Jakarta I’m not sure I’ll have enough time this year but it’ll be on the schedule for 2012 for sure.

    Dear Daniel Quinn,

    Salam kenal,

    My name in Aan , I found gunungbagging.com on browsing and interestingly to say it covers gunungbagging.com/ijen/

    It is interesting to know
    that you are a climbing lover and had climbed Ijen-Merapi in July 2010. I’m a
    friend of Imam Ijen who manage his website
    (http://imamijen.wordpress.com) to publish his willingness to arrange
    tourist trip especially in Kawah Ijen and Banyuwangi in general.

    Imam is well-known as a sulfur miner and an occasional guide to Ijen,live in Pakel village-Banyuwangi, he knows the areal very well and everyone working in the volcano (including Pak Im). This season, he
    initiate to focus in serving travelers going to Ijen and to make a relation with future travelers to Ijen .

    Climbing to Ijen-Merapi is worthy trip for hiking enthusiasts, kind of taking a 2-in-1 package trip. The last time he assisted
    visitor climbing to Ijen-Merapi in 2010. Imam has good character and
    can work cooperatively with. We’ve heard that accessing to Merapi
    sometimes requires permit pass and the cost requirement is unclear.
    According to the Chef-Ranger the pass is required since we’re
    accessing the conservation areal and to know the objective of entering to the site. However, this permit can be made locally via the Chef-Ranger
    Safari, we have close relation with him, and the man is
    understandable. I’m sure this would no more tipping case happend to the
    on-duty ranger at Post Paltuding and I hope there will be more the Ribu enthusiats come here in the future

    Before I tell you further about us, let me know that this introduction
    letter will suit with your project . Or you may forward this to the next climber to Ijen Merapi. Thank you.

    You can call me at: 085236352909

    Salam,
    Aan

    http://imamijen.wordpress.com
    facebook.com/imam.ijen

    Posted by Dan | February 13, 2011, 13:55
  5. avatar

    Kawah Ijen is closed for visitors at the moment. Sulfur mining has also been interrupted, due to high activity. There is a possibility that Merapi Timur might also be closed. This information I received from my tour organizerfor a tour next year. So, better double-check before you go there.
    Best
    Wolfgang

    Posted by wolfgang piecha | December 23, 2011, 20:14
  6. avatar

    Is it possible to visit the crater lake on my own without a guide using public transportation?

    Posted by Bettina | October 14, 2012, 18:49
  7. avatar

    After Bromo I and the old French couple were then driven by the Hotel Helios jeep driver to Kawah Ijen. It was early morning of October 30. In retrospect this was one of the most excruciatingly exhausting drives I’ve taken. First of all, the jeep’s AC was busted so it was no match for the 35°C afternoon heat that day. Secondly, that drive dragged on forever, passing through Probolinggo and Situbondo on the northern coast of Java, and then several hours on endless fields and mountain roads.

    We turned towards the Ijen plateau in the town of Wonorejo, which is on the Bondowoso-Situbondo road. This bit was initially on paved road that passed through vast corn and rice fields. The road then gradually became rougher as we climbed towards the mountains. I was sleeping the entire time but was jolted awake when I heard a commotion inside our jeep.

    Our driver, who by then had not slept since the previous night, was visibly exhausted. His driving skills and wakefulness were suddenly tested in one split second when we encountered roadworks on the mountain road and the road blocked by oncoming traffic. I opened my eyes just as our driver was trying to reverse and maneuver to stop our jeep from sliding uncontrollably backwards on the gravel road. Our jeep kept on sliding despite his efforts and we ended up perched incongruously on the side with the right rear wheel embedded in a ditch. Only the bushes prevented our jeep from rolling off the cliff. The French woman suddenly screamed “descendre! descendre!” and that was my cue to get my backside off that seat and jump onto the road.

    So there we were, stuck on a mountain road with our jeep precariously hanging by three wheels. Our driver tried to step on the gas to force the jeep to drive off the ditch but that was fruitless. Road workers soon congregated around our jeep and there was a tremendous babble in Indonesian around us. The Frenchies and I got our bags out the jeep quickly as it really seemed as if it was going to roll off into jeep purgatory, i.e. down the cliff. Our driver kept on trying to force it, some guys even stood on the left side of the jeep to provide counterbalance. All this only made the jeep slide deeper into the slope.

    I and the French lade by that time were already contemplating the long walk back to civilization or begging for a ride back. Will we starve? Could we subsist just on coffee beans? Some smart worker then brought cable and attached it to the front. Everyone then lined up and grabbed the cable to drag the jeep off its perch. There was a moment there when manpower seemed as if it were about to win over machine and rock but that effort too was in vain. The Frenchies and I looked at each other and we sensed impending doom. Zout, c’est un cauchemar!

    Finally the head honcho suggested that the tractor be brought over. He kept on motioning towards me and making the “give me money” sign. Wait a minute, why me?! I then protested in half Indonesian, half Inggris, making him understand that I’m just a hapless passenger. The million rupiah that I paid for this Bromo-Ijen trip then seemed a million too much.

    The tractor made short shrift of our dangling predicament. The Frenchies and I thanked our stars. We will not starve! We don’t have to survive on coffee beans! It took seven hours for us to reach our destination. We arrived at the Catimor Homestay in the town of Blawan around sundown. I was too whacked out to complain about the hard mattress, the rotting bathroom door, mosquitoes and non-flushing toilet in my room. Apparently this homestay is also owned by the Helios Hotel people according to its website. They boast of their Lonely Planet recommendation. I have a thing or two to say about that.

    Again it was an early morning start the next day: 4 am. The only consolation was that we had a full night’s sleep beforehand. Our driver too looked rested that morning. I realized then that that was crucial to our survival. You don’t want a driver dozing off on the wheel!

    We arrived at the Paltuding post after 1.5 hr driving through coffee fields. Our driver’s laconic instruction was: “follow path for 3 km”. Ok then, off we went. What he failed to mention was that these are three kilometers up a very steep and ashy and dusty trail. More work. So what’s new in Indonesia?

    So there it was finally, Kawah Ijen. Just like Bromo the previous morning, all my recriminations and doubts about the entire expedition melted away as I caught sight of that steaming crater. We were prevented from walking down the path towards the sulfur mine at the water’s edge by some security guy. We only had about an hour by the crater before we had to leave so I had no opportunity to look for or attempt the summit. Even after reading Heinz’s and Dan’s description above and thinking about the crater in retrospect, I have no idea where the path to the summit is. The walk back towards Paltuding with Gunung Raung and Gunung Merapi clearly visible in the morning sun was lovely.

    We rested in Paltuding before our long journey back. We dropped off the Frenchies for their onward drive to Bali. The thought of another seven hours in that jeep with our driver was a frightful grisly notion. I asked him if we had to drive through the same mountain road as yesterday. His ‘yes’ turned knots in my stomach. Baby Jesus, please send angels to guide his hand and help me survive the day!

    I was wide awake the entire time so I didn’t miss a thing. We did pass through the same road, the roadwords and the workers were still there, but we coasted beautifully. It was when we were down from the mountain and reached the first town on level ground did trouble start again. Just my amazing luck! Our driver stopped at some rickety car repair shop by the side of the road without saying a word to me. I quickly gathered that the brakes were loose. Then came two excruciating hours waiting for a couple of mechanics to manually fix the brakes on three wheels. These two days were a combination of highs and lows: fantastic experience with volcanoes and then distressing experience with jeeps and roads and drivers.

    I arrived in Malang after eight hours. Never go on the Helios Hotel tours. Their jeep is junk. I only survived because baby Jesus was on my side. :-)

    Posted by Marcus Malabad | November 25, 2012, 00:59
  8. avatar

    Along with a couple of photos to be published on the site in due course, the following message arrived from Heinz von Holzen last week regarding his successful bag of Ijen-Merapi’s bushy summit last month….

    “This shots I took yesterday around 8 am from the absolute summit of Merapi. Only just 20 meters higher as the spot where people sometimes go. Not really hard to get there. it just takes time. Lots of rough bushes and plenty of thick scrub. It took us 1 hour and 40 minutes to get there. You do not need a porter to assist you hacking as you can make your way through on your own.
    Please note that last year perhaps only 10 people hiked up to Merapi and as such the entire trek virtually does not exist. Even with our friend Rudi a Sulphur Porter we had great difficulties finding our way through the thick bushes at the bottom”

    Posted by Dan | February 9, 2013, 13:33
  9. avatar

    A bit of much-needed info from one of the very few people who have actually reached the true summit of Ijen-Merapi, Myhailo Pavliuk…. (see also the Google Earth map in the photo gallery)

    “About Ijen-Merapi. When I arrived to the first summit I did not descend and then go up to the craters until “horse shoe”, I took left side ie clockwise to the summit and just followed the ridge wading through the bushes. Bushes are very thick at times, but the distance to the summit is only 1 km so after 3 hours slow moving in went to the foot of the summit hill, its was grassy and less dense thus not much overgrown. It was at night about 2 am. Myself still surprised how i managed to reach the summit by myself at night without GPS nor map! I spend a night on summit and next day descended to the lowest point on the rim dividing two of craters. I suppose that if using crater to crater way to the summit ie anticlockwise one the final section from “bulan sabit” is looks somewhat dubious as too lush vegetation predominates.

    Best regards,
    Mykhail “

    Posted by Dan | November 18, 2013, 09:03
  10. avatar

    A few notes sent in by Carl Bernd Kaehlig…

    “Going anti-clockwise the crater rim and down to the dam containing/controlling the crater lake is not possible anymore due to a rockslide.This is unconfirmed information from our guides.And true enough we saw a rockslide on that side into the lake!

    Actually the walk clockwise around the rim was probably the more fascinating one.From the starting point where the trail hits the crater rim you go up to the highest point of the rim so it seems and then it is a very steep climb down the slope.One part was for most so tricky that they went down on their bottoms and slowly moved down.Close to the bottom of this peek,there is a clearly visible junction.Turn left and it takes you back to the middle station where the sulphur is weighed.Turn right and after having crossed a couple of small bridges you come to a platform,apparently the foundation of a building in the old days.Near this foundation there is a concrete staircase to the dam.

    By the way it is not fluid sulphur that comes down the clay pipes.Sulphuric gases come down the pipes and in such a way the gases cool down and are able to condensate so I think.For an example of fluid sulphur see the cover photo of Volcanoes of Indonesia.

    Trust my little addition is of assistance.

    Best regards,

    Carl”

    Posted by Dan | November 25, 2013, 08:27

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