- Elevation: 2,563 m (8,409 ft)
- Prominence: 2,130 m
- Ribu category: Tinggi Sedang
- Province: Jawa Timur (East Java)
- Google Earth: kml
- Other names: Ngliman, Wilis
This peak is the highest point of a vast and complex mountain range most commonly-known as Wilis. There are three main peaks: Liman (the ridge to the west), Limas (east) and Wilis (south) but there are a large number of other peaks with considerable drops between them. Wilis is the most well-known name and Limas is the most often often climbed (from Roro Kuning via Nganjuk, or sometimes from the Kediri side at Besuki.) However, Liman itself is rarely climbed and unfortunately access is a grey area. Technically, it would appear that the most of the mountain range is closed for ordinary access (unless you are conducting scientific research, for example) and this has been the case since 2006, presumably when a change in the forestry law, or the implementation of a new one, closed access to wild places across Java if they were not on a recognised climbing lane.
For ascents from Kediri or Sedudo waterfall near Nganjuk, you may be able to obtain special permission from KPH in Kediri, but even if you get lucky they are likely to send their staff members on the expedition with you – and charge a considerable price for it. It’s a bizarre and incomprehensible situation given the popularity of hiking in the province and the fact that more hikers means more people visiting the area and hence more revenue for local people. So, you can either get on with it yourself, ignoring the strict rules (which are, or course, ignored by local farmers anyway) or attempt bureaucratic negotiations which are tiresome and often unpleasant. Finding local guides can also be difficult because so few people know the mountain range.
From Sedudo waterall, Nganjuk:
At first glance, the most accessible starting point would appear to be Sedudo. The waterfall is a popular place with local people and is indeed very impressive. It is about one hour by motor vehicle from the friendly and laidback town of Nganjuk via Sawahan. The entrance gates and ticket booth are at an elevation of 930m but the road itself leads all the way to the waterfall itself at 1,292m. From here, steps lead down to the waterfall and a trail leads across to the right along the side of the ridge to the right of the waterfall. This vague and overgrown path is very tiresome to follow in the heat and makes for incredibly slow progress but it does eventually lead up to the top of a ridge (1,388m) which has a reasonable path running along the top of it, used by local farmers. There are good views eastwards to Penanggungan and Arjuno-Welirang in the distance and a small hill in the north, lying north of Nganjuk, labelled Gunung Gede on Google Maps but seemingly known as Gunung Pandan to local people.
From the trail on the ridge, you would be forgiven for thinking that it would be an easy stroll southwards up onto the highest parts of the ridge. After a kilometre or so of steady climbing along a perceivable path, the trail almost entirely disintegrates, at an elevation of about 1,750m. This is perhaps because local farmers do not climb much higher than this and very few people climb this way.
The terrain is very troublesome – steep, sometimes bouldery long grass where you never know just how or where you next step is going to land. Overgrown is an understatement. It is assumed that the terrain is similar for much of the Liman ridge, sadly due to the fact that it is so rarely hiked at the present time and it would be a rather time-consuming expedition to reach the highest point of the range from this route.
From Pulosari, Kare, Madiun:
Better still is to start from the Madiun side at the tiny hamlet of Pulosari (1,250m) near the town of Kare. Local hikers should have no problem if they bring photocopies of their ID cards to the security post at Kempo (900m) but foreigners hardly ever climb this mountain range so eyebrows are likely to be raised and senior security officers and police asked if it is ok for you to proceed. Even with local hikers as guides and photocopies of your passport you should expect to have to wait a couple of hours for clearance.
Motorbikes or 4WD are essential to reach the trailheadf at Pulosari because the plantation track is in poor condition and often muddy during the rainy season. From Pulosari, the trail leads up along a overgrown ridge on which are a couple of cement markers (first is at 1,445m). The best advice that is simple to remember is to ‘stay to the right’ because there is a junction (1,450m) just an hour beyond Pulosari where the trail to Liman leaves the main trail (which continues, flat, into the forest). There is another cement marker at 1,525m. The trees in this area were badly damaged by forest fires in September/October 2012 and so the trail is almost impossible to see at this point.
A little higher up, you reach a field of tall grass (1,600m) through which runs a very clear footpath. 20 minutes beyond this is a small shelter at the entrance to the forest (1,630m). After about 30 minutes ascending in the forest, the trail leads out onto the grassy, overgrown ridge of the mountain (1,730m). Gloves are advisable because this grass can be razor-sharp. Unfortunately the terrain remains like this for much of the rest of the climb, but the frustrating nature of the trail is somewhat balanced by the pleasant views which improve with every metre gained. A decent place to rest is Watu Ombo (2,085) – a jumble of rocks one of which is large and flat – perfect for sitting on. After a total of around 5 hours you will have reached an excellent flat area of short grass perfect for camping (2,200m) just beyond a couple of rocks incluing Watu Garuda – ‘Garuda Rock’. In good weather you can see Lawu to the west and the city of Madiun to the north.
From the camping area it is still about 2 and a half hours to the northern Liman peak (2,552m on Bako maps) and another 1 and a half hours to the southern, higher Liman peak (2,555m on Bako maps) so a very early start is essential if you want to be back down in Madiun by the end of your second day. The distance is not so great but the terrain remains tough to negotiate for much of the journey and a machete may be helpful.
Just southeast of the camping area is a minor top, Puncak Batas (2,355m), named so because it has a boundary marker at the summit. The trail then drops down a little bit before meeting the vague trail up from Sedudo at a wooden ‘x’ sign (2,345m). The next point of interest is another boundary marker (2,475m) before a small shelter and grave (2,528m), complete with incense sticks and signs that someone stays here from time to time just north of the northern top. From this area you can enjoy views through the trees to the lesser summit of Limas to the east in the direction of Kediri. The northern top (2,560m on GPS, 2,552m on Bako maps) is just ten minutes further and features a small, oval stone structure built into the ground which may or may not be another ancient grave.
From here it is another 1.5 kilometres southwest as the ridge curves round (and an unbelievable 2 hours) of hard slogging through seriously overgrown terrain to reach the southern top (about 2,565m on my GPS and 2,555m on Bako maps, though some devices suggest less of a difference – if any – between this and the more northern top) which is according to both Bako and Google Earth the highest top of the entire range. Very, very few people ever continue beyond the northern top. Between the two highest peaks is a middle top which yet again features a small grave of unknown antiquity and another boundary marker (figure approaching 2,560m on my GPS). The mountain ridge then descends to a col where lots of wild pig (‘babi hutan’) droppings can be seen. Pick your way through the dense undergrowth and ascend up the steep, final section of the climb to the supposed true highpoint of this remote mountain area.
The highest point itself is at a pine tree into which someone has inscribed ‘GI 2010’. Be careful here because there are lots of holes between rotten tree stumps. To have made it this far – onto one of the most remote and least-visited high points of Java – you deserve a serious pat on the back. Enjoy the views before slogging all the way back to camp and back down to Pulosari (reached in 7 hours total by fast hikers) or spend another night back at the Watu Garuda camp area.
Once out of the forest on the way down towards Pulosari, make sure you do not simply follow the good path through the long grass. You need to take a slight left and head down the scrubby, partially-burnt ridge on which are the couple of cement posts. Making this mistake could leave you in a very remote area far from Pulosari so take extra special care at this point.
Because the higher of the two highest peaks is the more southwestern, an approach from Pundak Kulon may be an attractive option, although this is a more remote area and no signs of a trail leading up from that side were spotted during a December 2012 trip to the highest top.
Gunung Limas (c2,376m with a prominence of around 552m)
The most popular trek on the range is to the top of Gunung Limas, which is to the eastern side of the highest ridges of the range and is a thoroughly worthwhile trek with good views. Although Gunung Limas is sometimes climbed from near Kediri, the primary route starts at the village of Bajulan (700m) near Roro Kuning waterfall, which is less than one hour by motorbike or car from Nganjuk.
From the very friendly basecamp, the route leads along a plantation track through corn and cassava fields before entering forest scrub (895m). It then passes Pos Panjer (1,119m) which is a very tiny clearing in the scrub which you should have reached after an hour or so. Look out for interesting wildlife in this area as we saw a critically-endangered slow loris.
The next Pos is Pos Gentongan (1,210m) and then an un-named Pos sometimes called Pos Bayangan (1,260m). Watu Tahu (1,311m) soon follows and this is not a ‘stone of knowledge’ as you might hope but rather a rock shaped a bit like a cube of tahu (tofu)! After this you gain a ridge at another small pos that can fit a tent or two small ones (1,350m). From here, the vegetation becomes less as the low-growing grass dominates, meaning excellent views from this slightly undulating ridge. Remember suncream!
Pos Alap Alap (1,376m) is reached (after around a total of 2 hours from the start) and in less than 30 minutes you will be at the favoured camping spot called Pos Sekartaji (1,475m). This is an area of ridge with attractive boulders and two ancient stone structures, one of which now only features the very base). Down to the right near the bamboo is a water source which explains the popularity of the spot for camping.
Gunung Limas is still rather quiet compared to most mountains in Java but you will almost certainly meet local students on weekends. This means a trail which is clear enough to follow and with sufficient but non-intrusive signage and very little litter.
Those that you meet at Sekartaji will probably be surprised if you have made it up there in 2 and a half hours, but unless you are carrying camping equipment there is no reason why fit hikers cannot be there in under 3 hours. Allow a further 2.5 to 3 hours to reach the summit ridge and around 4-5 hours total for the descent.
Sekartaji is a pleasant spot for sunrise, with views to Arjuno-Welirang and Gunung Butak, but even higher up is even better, with a shapely triangular top on the neighbouring ridge to the north and a large rock on the neighbouring ridge to the south. Because of the lack of trees the views are wonderful, especially early in the morning. Gunung Pandan (897m) can be seen below to the north of Nganjuk.
Beyond Sekartaji, Pos Pospan (1,895m) is reached after an hour of steep hiking, and apparently marks the meeting point with the less well-used trail up from the Kediri side. Pos Cemoro Beser (2,113m) comes next and is clump of tall pine trees. Just after these is a tough section with a simple rope where you need to pull yourself up very steep terrain of ten metres or so. The ridge around here is narrow in places and the trail rather slippery too, so be very careful.
After Cemoro Beser be sure to look out for lutung which are known to live in this area. Finally, after a total of 5-6 hours (or 2.5-3 from Sekartaji) you will find yourself at what local hikers regard as the summit. There is a flag, some signs and a simple pillar of some sort. There is also partial remains of a ancient stone carving and in clear weather some great views over to the Liman ridge about 5 kilometres to the west.
True peakbaggers will probably see that there is higher ground along the ridge to the left and indeed the highest GPS reading we got (around 2,378m compared to 2,368m for the signs) was about 100 metres away (less than 5 minutes) where the views to Liman are even clearer. In between the two you might spot the remains of what might have once been a trig pillar and may have been the source for the 2,368m figure on the Bakosurtanal map of the area.
Additional short hike: Anyone staying in the Kediri area after hiking Liman or Limas might want to hike Gunung Budheg (483m) just a few kilometres south of the town of Tulungagung. Up a steep, well-used muddy trail it takes just one hour to reach the first summit (463m) which is just beyond a telecommunications tower. From the first top are great views to the Liman-Wilis range and to the higher peak which is only about 20 metres higher. Both tops are on near-vertical cliffs and are presumably an ancient volcanic plug of some sort.
It takes just ten minutes to hike between the two tops but watch out for aggressive monkeys. The summit is popular at weekends with local students camping and/or photographing the sunset or sunrise.
Bagging information by Daniel Quinn (January 2013), Budheg information added November 2017, Limas information added February 2018.
- Getting there: One or two express trains between Jakarta and Malang/Surabaya/Jombang call at Nganjuk and many call at Madiun. For Sedudo from Nganjuk there are angkots to Pasar Sawahan (Rp 7,000) from where you can get an ojek to Sedudo waterfall. For Pulosari you really need locals with motorbikes or a 4WD.
- Accommodation: There are several hotels in Nganjuk and Madiun.
- Permits: You may wish to speak to KPH (Kesatuan Pemangku Hutan) in Kediri but if you start from Pulosari near Kare you may find things easier to arrange with local security and police officials.
- Water sources: Available at Sedudo waterfall but none available higher up or on other access routes. Take more than you need for what is a very wild hike.
- Travel insurance: We recommend World Nomads insurance, which is designed for adventurous travellers with cover for overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities including mountain hiking.
Local Average Monthly Rainfall (mm):
Origins and Meaning
Elephant Mountain. Liman is the high Javanese (krama) word for “elephant”. Elephants used to be fairly plentiful in Java but they have now died out completely on the island. Nevertheless there are several place names that recall the presence of elephants, including Gunung Liman which (presumably) is so called because it has the big, solid, greyish appearance of an elephant. Gunung Wilis = Dark Green Mountain. In Javanese wilis means “dark green”, especially dark burnished green like the shiny dark metallic green on the wings of a beetle. (George Quinn, 2011)