|Elevation:||3,466 m (11,371 ft)||Prominence:||2,940 m|
|Ribu category:||Sangat Tinggi||Province:||Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam|
|Google Earth:||kml||Other names:|
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The Gunung Leuser National Park lies within the boundaries of the UNESCO-proclaimed Leuser Ecosystem Reserve. The Park is split into eastern and western regions by the Kuta Cane “rift” valley running northwards from Karo Batak country in North Sumatera to Gayo Aceh country in the highlands of Central Aceh. Peaks, of interest to trekkers, lie in both the eastern and western sections of the Park. Those on the eastern side are of volcanic origin; on the western side, they are of uplifted sedimentary formations. The three most prominent peaks in the western Leuser National Park are Gunung “Tanpa Nama” (3,455m), Gunung Loser (3,404m) and Gunung Leuser (3,119m) – altitudes as per BAKO maps (see below).
All three peaks lie on the Leuser Range and can be climbed in two days from a base camp on the range. Gunung “Tanpa Nama” (mountain “without a name”), the highest, is so-called because the BAKO map does not attribute a name to the peak. More recently, the Aceh provincial government has apparently named the peak after the current Governor, Irwandi Yusuf, even though, as the local people are quick to point out, he has not climbed the peak. Sumatra is apparently being resurveyed and a name may appear on future BAKO maps.
Gunung “Tanpa Nama” reportedly has little to recommend itself (unless of course one wishes to “bag” the highest peak) – in fact, it is more of a rounded “hill” than a “peak” and, as it lies inland from Gunungs Loser and Leuser, does not offer similar spectacular views. By comparison, Gunungs Loser and Leuser rise from the east with sharp “drop offs” on their western faces offering spectacular views over the rugged country down to the west coast of Aceh. The coastal towns of Tampak Tuan, Blang Pidie and Meulaboh and the Indian Ocean can be seen in clear weather.
There are two routes to the Leuser Range – the usual route is from Kedah in the north-east, and a very difficult route from the south-west that is rarely used. Hence, most trekkers, approaching from the north-east, make their objective Gunung Loser being the closer and higher of the two peaks overlooking the west coast.
The Kedah-Leuser Trek
The Leuser Range remains one of the most remote areas in Indonesia along with Papua and Kalimantan. With an experienced and knowledgeable guide and sound porters, it is an exhilarating but long and, in parts, tough trek. It is best to allow 12 days for the trek, including some rest time, even though some groups have done it in 9 or 10 days.
Start Point: The start point is Kedah (1,200m), reached from Medan by car in one long day (or preferably over-night at Berstagi, Kuta Cane or Ketambe). Kedah can also be reached from Banda Aceh via Danua Tekengon in the Aceh central highlands.
Sinebuk Hijau (Rain Forest) Lodge is a convenient and pleasant place to begin and end the trek. Our guide was Pak Rajajalli (Jalli), operator of the Sinebuk Hijau Lodge, 0813 6229 1844, www.gunung-leuser-trek.net . Pak Jalli has much accumulated knowledge and experience having trekked in the western Leuser region since 1981 and is dedicated to the conservation of the Leuser National Park. He is training his porters to act as guides.
Maps: The relevant maps are: Badan Koordinasi Survey dan Pemetaan National (Indonesian National Survey and Mapping Agency – BAKO); map series 50-0-ed, 0519-63, scale 1:50,000, 1977. The trek from Kedah to Gunungs Tanpa Nama and Loser is within this map. A second map, adjoining to the south, is needed for Gunung Leuser. The BAKO maps provide a useful overview of the western Leuser National Park terrain but, without a GPS, it is difficult to locate ones position on the map during the trek.
Weather: Most of the trek is between about 2,400 and 3,000m. Temperatures drop to around 5-10C before sunrise but are pleasant during the day. The drier months are July – September. We trekked in September. The weather was quite predictable most days: cloud (kabut) rising from the east and/or west around mid-morning usually blanketing the entire region by mid-day. By mid-afternoon, drizzle (grimis) often began and sometimes became rain (hujan) in late afternoon/evening. Late nights/early mornings were normally cloud free.
The Track: Guide and porters know the route, camp sites and sources of water well. They are good in anticipating time and distance to the next camp and when/where the next camp should be set taking account of weather conditions. The outward and return routes are the same.
Size of Party: Trekking groups should not exceed 4-5 tents because camping space is limited at most camp sites, and, for every extra trekker, two additional porters may be required which, in turn, increases the pressure on available camp space.
Trekking Days: Days allowed for the trek should be 12 days: 5-6 days from Kedah to the Leuser range; 1-2 days on the Leuser range depending upon whether you aim to climb Gunung Loser only or all three peaks; 4 days return to Kedah; extra rest days. The return is via the outward route but, because it is on average downhill, it normally takes less time.
Guide/Porters: A guide should be arranged in advance who, in turn, will arrange porters and National Park permits (copy of passport/ID may be required). If trekkers plan on carrying a day pack only, at least two porters per trekker are needed. As the return is via the same route, food drops can be made en route thus progressively reducing the portage load. As most trekkers will be carrying day packs only, the porters will be required to carry your packs as well as your and their own food and gear. Do not expect the porters to have enough packs themselves – bring additional packs for porters to avoid them overloading your own packs.
Camp Sites: are numerous thus providing some flexibility when and where to set camp, especially in the event of bad weather. Several camp sites are spacious but most are limited to 4-6 tents including a large tent for guide/porters who have their pre-selected positions near the fire for cooking and warmth.
Camp sites have acquired various names. Pak Jalli was adamant that we and his porters adopt a common set of names for the campsites in the interest of safety – essential for conducting Search and Research (SAR) operations. Pak Jalli’s campsite names are used in this report.
Water: The usual source of water at each camp site is a “soak” – a hole dug in the ground where surface water accumulates during rain. With rain, the soaks provide adequate, clean water. We did not treat the water during our trip but care should be taken in dry periods when water may become more problematic.
Food: It is advisable to consult with the guide, before the trek, as to the food that he will provide and what you should bring to compliment this diet. On our trek, the basic food was rice, mie and potatoes with onions and chili for breakfast and dinner, and biscuits for lunch. We suggest that the guide bring additional vegetables to complement the basic diet. Canned food should be avoided (because of its weight) but dried foods such as soups, macaroni, pancake mix, dried vegetables, etc. would enlighten this basic diet. A good supply of muesli with powdered milk helps to sustain.
Cooking Gear: The porters cook over open fires. Our porters had a very limited supply of cooking gear. If you intent on cooking additional food, such as porridge, bring additional pots for cooking and scouring pads for cleaning.
Bush-knife: Desirably, the lead trekker/guide should have a light-weight bush knife to clear the track. The Perpanji ridge in particular is covered with extremely prickly rattan plants. Some porters may carry a parang (for cutting fire wood) but, because these are heavy, they are averse to using them on the track.
Contingency Planning: ensure that you have adequate supplies and equipment including medical gear especially should your group be required to split up. Camp Blang Beke (2,407m) has been used as a base for helicopter SAR. Consult with the guide, in advance, on complementary foods, additional cooking gear, packs and other gear that may be required. GPS, maps and Sat Phone are important in the event of an emergency.
The Trek – Kedah-Leuser Range
This section notes the terrain and trekking conditions including vegetation and points of interest en route as well as campsites and their conditions with altitudes and trekking times between each. Altitudes are based on GPS readings taken by Andy Hermawan and George Surjopurnomo (A&G, Leuser 2009 – unpublished report) and David Donaldson (DD, Leuser 2010). Most readings are close enough but, where they differ, an average is given. A&G readings are used in the absence DD. BAKO altitudes are given where known.
Trekking times refer to the outward trek and are measured from the previous camp site (unless otherwise indicated). Times include rest stops but exclude extended lunch stops. The return trek normally takes less time.
Pak Jalli recommends that the trek be planned in several stages with camps set at selected sites, subject to weather. These Recommended Camps are indicated as DAY 1, 2, etc. below.
Overview: The trek involves five stages corresponding to ridges traversed. Transferring from one ridge to another often involves steep descents/ascents. From Kedah/Sinebuk Hijau Lodge, ascend via the Simpang Uning ridge to Puncak Angkasan (BAKO 2,891m). Descend along the Kayu Manis (Ind: cinnamon) ridge. Cross over onto the Perpanji ridge generally follows the course of the upper reaches of Lawe (Aceh: river) Alas, and descend to Lawe Alas. Ascend and traverse Bipak III ridge. Finally, descend and climb onto the Leuser range.
- Simpang Uning Ridge
Sinebuk Hijau Lodge (1,360m); pass through local forest, tobacco fields/huts and enter tall, dense lower-montane forest. About 100m inside the forest, a path to the right leads to Pintu Rimbu, a campsite used by Sinebuk Hijau for wildlife tours. Continue ahead – steep ascent.
Camp Simpang Uning (2,250m; 2:40hrs; limited camping, poor water): entering upper-montane forest; trees diminishing in height and density.
Camp Simpang Air (2,585m; 2:00hrs; good campsite; water): entering sub-alpine forest with intermittent moss forest in damp glades at about 2750m. Suggested Day 1 camp.
Puncak Angkasan (2,919m, BAKO 2,891m; 3:20hrs): peak marked by a cement trig point, “T3356”; short descend to “Angkasan Intersection” where you can continue a short distance to Camp Angkasan (2,913m; 0:30hrs; good camp site; water), or turn right and begin the descent of the Kayu Manis ridge.
- Kayu Manis Ridge
The Kayu Manis ridge is characterized by knolls with burnt forest, regenerating scrub and heavy undergrowth and moss forest in depressions.
Camp Kayu Manis I (2,934m; 1:20hrs from Camp Angkasan; 3-4 tents; limited water)
Camp Kayu Manis II (est. 2,800m.; 1:00hr; good tenting space; water). Carry on past the main camp for more camping options. Suggested Day 2 camp. The trail drops steeply through moss forest before rising sharply towards the burnt out hilltop of Kayu Manis III.
Camp Kayu Manis III (2,760m; 1:10hrs; 4-5 tents; water).
- Perpanji Ridge
The track drops steeply again and enters moss forest with dead trees lying across the path before rising onto the Perpanji ridge. Generally, the Perpanji ridge follows the course of the upper reaches of Lawe Alas. Most of the trek, until emerging into the open country at Camp Blang Beke, is through heavy moss forest – laborious and uninteresting hiking! Tigers apparently still live here and may be seen (bumped into around a corner!) occasionally along this ridge. We did not see any tigers.
Camp Lintas Badak (rhinoceros track) (2,340m; 2:30hrs; 4-5 tents; water). This track, and others that we crossed on the Perpanji ridge (still quite visible), were used by rhinoceros to move between Lawe Alas and their feeding grounds to the north – until they were shot for their horns and became extinct in the 1990s.
Camp Perpanji (2,442m; 2:40hrs; 4-5 tents; poor water – not recommended). This camp site is in heavy moss forest, not comfortable, and should be avoided.
A welcome respite from the moss forest is a view of a waterfall on the Lawe Alas about 1 hour from Camp Perpanji.
About half-an-hour before reaching Camp Blang Beke, the ecology abruptly changes from dense moss forest to open, low bush on shallow soils derived from sandstone rock. From here on, the trek becomes much more interesting with views towards the Leuser Range and back towards Puncak Angkasan.
Camp Blang Beke (Ind: padang rumput; Eng: meadow). (2,407m; 3:00hrs; adequate space for tents; water). But can be wet. After a long day trudging through moss forest, this camp is a welcome respite with views of the Leuser range. Suggested Day 3 camp.
The track descends to Lawe Alas across open country and small streams with Rhododendrons in humid depressions. Wade across Lawe Alas which at this point is normally a small, fast-flowing stream. CAUTION: flash floods can occur – anticipate heavy rain in the upper reaches before crossing.
Camp Alas: (2,287m; 2:00hrs; adequate tent sites; water from the river). A pleasant camp on the south side of the Alas.
The track ascends through a combination of open country and humid depressions. Two depressions are unique as orchids, of very many varieties, dominate the vegetation.
Camp Kuta Panjang (2,459m; 1:15hrs; many tents; water). A pleasant, but exposed, campsite on a grassy slope with mountain views towards Leuser range and back towards Gunung Angkasan.
- Bipak III Ridge
Bipak Ridge is reached by a very steep ascent, one pitch in particular. The trail leads through moss forest in humid depressions and, at higher altitude, open scrub dominated by shrubs and some trees. The ridge comprises of a series of knolls – ups/downs – at around 2,900m.
Confusion exists over the name, Bipak. The BAKO maps identify three peaks as Bipak I, II, and III. Locally, some people refer to the ridge/peaks as “Bivak” which is probably a local transliteration of “p” into “v”. This, in turn, has led to some foreigners to refer to the ridge as “Bivouac”. The BAKO name, Bipak, should be used consistently.
Camp Kolam Badak (rhinoceros wallow); (2,723m; 1:40hrs; 3-4 tents; water – permanent waterhole). The tent area is not very flat.
Camp Bipak III (2,971m; 3:00hrs; 6 tents; no water). Good camp site, with views, but need to bring water from Kolam Badak. Suggested Day 4 camp.
The ridge narrows and the track, in places, overhangs the steep descent overlooking the rugged country to the west – CAUTION. Views towards the west coast begin to emerge.
Camp Putri (2,920m; 3:30hrs; 8 tents; water). Great panoramic views of the peaks on the Leuser Range and down to the west coast. A good camp site for a rest stop before proceeding to the Leuser Range. Suggested Day 5 camp and rest.
- The Leuser Range
From Camp Putri, the track descends and crosses several streams and then upwards onto the western slopes of the Leuser Mountain Range. Mostly, the track follows the very steep “drop-offs” overlooking the rugged country to the west. There are some seven camp sites between Camp Putri and Gunung Loser including one at the summit of Gunung Loser itself.
Camp Bipak Kaleng (2,932m). Wet, not recommended.
Camp Bipak Batu (2,945m; 3:5hrs from Camp Putri; water). Good site with views and plenty of room.
Camp Krueng-1 (2,872m; time; 4 tents; water from stream). Small camp, before crossing the river and heading up to the Leuser ridge and Simpang Tanpa Nama campsite.
Camp Krueng-2 (2,901m).
Camp Simpang “Tanpa Nama” (3,205m; 3:5hrs from Camp Bipak Batu; water). The camp site is spread out and not too level but everybody should be able to find a spot as it is quite open. Possibly “base camp” – Day 6.
The track divides here: the left branch leads to Gunung “Tanpa Nama” (the highest peak in the Leuser range); the direct track leads to Gunungs Loser and Leuser. The true summit of Gunung “Tanpa Nama” can be reached from here in about two hours.
Camp Sepak Bola (football field) aka Alun-Alun (village square) (3,130m; 1:30hrs; many tents; water). This is a big, flat area for many tents but wet and not recommended after persistent rain. There are also places before and after this open area for camping. Good views. Another possibly “base camp” – Day 6.
Camp Summit Loser (3,414m, BAKO 3,404m; about 2:00hrs; water). This camp lies almost on the summit of Gunung Loser and offers spectacular sunrise views. But it is small, has limited space for tents – it is not a good camp site. Better to camp below at Simpang “Tanpa Nama” or Sepak Bola and “summit” Loser from before dawn.
Gunung Leuser can be reached in another two hours from the summit of Loser.
Bagging information by Nick Hughes.