Merbabu

Facts

Elevation: 3,145 m (10,318 ft) Prominence: 2,432 m
Ribu category: Google MarkerSangat Tinggi Province: Jawa Tengah (Central Java)
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Bagging It!

 

This Ribu is one of the most popular hikes in Central Java, and has spectacular views to other volcanoes in all directions from the summit area. It has five calderas, Condrodimuko, Kombang, Kendang, Rebab and Sambernyowo but no serious volcanic activity has been reported here for many decades. Merbabu can be climbed from several trails near Kopeng in the north (less than two hours by car from Semarang) with starting points at Thekelan, Cunthel and Wekas, or from the south at Selo (between Merbabu and Merapi and closer to Solo). There is also a newer trail from the west at Suwanting which is getting popular with hikers from Yogyakarta. As is often the case in Central Java, the basecamps at the trailheads (especially Wekas and Cunthel) are great places to get some rest, cheap coffee and noodles, and chat to other hikers.

The best hike is probably a traverse from north to south, because the climb from the north is a gentler slope and there are great views to Merapi when descending on the southern route. However, for those travelling from Jakarta for the weekend, it probably makes sense to use two of the northern trails as buses and trains to/from Semarang take at least two hours less than to Yogya and Solo. Do note however that there is a tricky section of trail just below the summit when approaching on one of the northern routes and not all hikers may be keen to attempt this. This hike could be completed in a day by very fit people, but an overnight stay on one of the summits is recommended. From the north, the hike is called the “seven summits” based on the fact that are indeed seven summits, although a few of them are more of a small bump on the ascent.

The starting point closest to Kopeng is Thekelan village (1,600m elevation), where you are requested to register at the tiny National Park Office.  It is a long 6 to 8 hours up to the summit and you will need a sunhat and sunscreen as most of the trail is not forested. This has an upside of course – views are breathtaking, particular towards Sindoro and Sumbing.

There are 4 “pos” or shelters: 1) Pending (1,936m); 2) Pereng Putih (2,162m); Gemuk Menthul (2,330m) where there is a water source; and Lempong Sampan (2,510m). Strong hikers should take no more than 2 hours to reach Pos 4, but your porters may need longer. After the 4 pos, there are the seven summits. The first is Watu Gubug (2,735m) and the second is more obvious and called Watu Tulis or Pemancar or Menara (‘tower’ in English) (2,900m) where there is an old radio mast. It should take strong hikers no more 3 hours to get to this point.It is also where you meet the trail to/from Cunthel.

After Watu Tulis/Menara/Pemancar, the path drops down a little to Batas Kabupaten (2,840m) – a short cement pillar marking district boundaries. Here you meet the path coming up from the third northern route, Wekas. Just before the climb starts to Summit 3, there is a possible source of water near to an obvious crater area – a large outcrop of white/yellow sulphurous clay soil. You are likely to be able to smell sulphur in the air. You drop down an obvious path to the right and if you are lucky can hear the stream below very clearly. This area is a popular camping spot for those who do not want to hike all the way to the summits over 3,000m. If you do camp here, it means an early morning start if you want to get to the summits for sunrise, and you’ll miss the best views of the sunset.

Continuing along the ridge, the climb starts to Summit 3 via a flat area known as Helipad (2,895m) where there is a prominent memorial. To the right is an attractive minor summit called Gunung Kukusan, which strangely is not included in the ‘seven summits’ list. Summit 3 is Geger Sapi (2,987m) is not really much of a summit, and is more of a small hump on the fairly relentless steep climb towards Summit 4. This section is known as Jembatan Setan (Devil’s Bridge) and offers great views back down to the north – from some angles the range resembles Machu Picchu.

As you reach the summit ridge (3,080m), you can turn left to climb the last few metres (i.e less than ten minutes) to Summit 4, Syarif (3,119m). This is a fabulous camping spot, with views of Sumbing, Sindoro, Merbabu’s highest summits and Merapi. There are surprisingly many good flat camping areas, and you may well have the whole of Puncak Syarif to yourself, until the sunrise hikers make their way up from Summit 3.

Another great camping spot is Summit 6, which is near the true summit and called Kenteng Songo (3,142m). To reach Summit 6 from Summit 4, you drop back down and hike along the ridge between the summits. The path actually passes around the south-east side of Summit 5, Ondo Rante (3,100m), before the final steep climb to reach Summit 6. Both Ondo Rante and the steep scramble beneath Kenteng Songo are a little challenging, but whereas Ondo Rante can be avoided, if you want to bag Merbabu from this side you will need to take great care ascending a steep, rocky section of cliff then scree with a little bit of exposure.

Kenteng Songo has numerous signs at the top and seems to be the most popular of all the tops, especially at sunrise during weekends, when many hikers head up from Selo. Most of interesting of all are the ancient-looking stone jars at the top which look like miniature versions of Laos’ famous stone jars near Phonsavan. A short hop from Summit 6 is Summit 7 – Triangulasi – which appropriately has a pile of stones and a blue cement rock at the very highest point (3,145m). Triangulasi is the true summit of Gunung Merbabu, being three metres higher than Kenteng Songo.

All three of the main campsite areas offer wonderful views eastwards to Gunung Lawu, northwards to Telomoyo and Ungaran and south to Gunung Merapi, but the highest peak is definitely the best for watching Merapi. On your second day, return on a northern route or follow the steep but well-used track down to Selo (the village nestling between Merbabu and Merapi) which leads down from both Triangulasi and Kenteng Songo. This will take at least 4 hours and is hard on the knees. It passes through Jemblongan, Savana 2, Pos 3, Savana 1, Pos 2 and Pos 1, and the higher areas are very popular with campers. After the steepest part of descent along the eroded trail you reach a fairly flat grassy area where the trail gives you two choices; take the left (more easterly) option and drop down through some open forest that becomes a denser as you descend further. Another hour or two and you’ll reach some pine plantation and suddenly see the village that marks your exit from Merbabu National Park, and the end of a fantastic hike.

The Cunthel trail: Basecamp is at 1,670m. Walk through the friendly village and up the cement track which ends at 1,770m. The trail initially leads through pleasant forest and has several posts as follows…. Bayangan 1 (1,855m) where there is a decent shelter, Bayangan 2 Gumuk (2,110m), Pos 1 Watu Putut (2,235m), Pos 3 Kedokan (2,430m), Pos 3 Kergo Pasar (2,570m). It should take no more than 3 hours to reach Menara where you meet the trail from Thekalan. This trail is a good option to head down on if you are descending back to the north (i.e towards Salatiga and Semarang).

The Wekas trail: Basecamp is at 1,780m making this friendly village a very attractive starting point and perhaps better than Thekelan. Following a thin white water pipe for a considerable amount of time, the trail leads up past a grave (1,885m), Bayangan 1 (2,055m), Pos 1 Tegal Arum (2,100m), Bayangan 2 (2,250m), Pos 2 Wekas (2,505m) which is a large flattish area popular with campers, Watu Kumpul (2,755m) near an obvious crater area, Pos 3 Wekas (2,825m) which is just before Batas Kabupaten (2,840m) which is on the Thekelan and Cunthel routes too. Strong hikers can reach this point in under 4 hours.

The Suwanting trail: Apparently there are three posts (Lembah Lempong, Shelter Bendera, and Ndampo Awang) and like the Selo approach there are great views to Merapi.

Bagging information by Andy Dean and Daniel Quinn (last updated in July 2017).

Practicalities

Getting there There are plenty of flights and train services from Jakarta to both Semarang and Solo. From there, public transport is available to both starting points but it will take much longer than if you can arrange your own transport.
Accommodation Plenty available in and around Kopeng, limited accommodation available in Selo.
Permits Register at one of the basecamps and pay the small entry fee. Take a photocopy of your passport photo page with you.
Water sources Available at Pos 2 on the Wekas route. Supplies usually available at Gemuk Menthul (2,330m) and sometimes between Watu Tulis (2,900m) and Summit 3 on the Thekelan route.
Local Average Monthly Rainfall (mm): yogyakarta

Location

Origins and Meaning

Ashy Mountain. The name Merbabu probably evolved from merabu or merawu which consists of the prefix mer– and the base word abu or awu. Mer– (same as the Indonesian-Malay ber-) means “to have/possess the quality expressed in the base word”, and abu / awu means “ash”. So Merbabu means “the ashy one” referring to ash expelled during the mountain’s incessant eruptions. Merbabu hasn’t erupted in recent historical times, but the name Mount Ashy may represent a memory of the mountain that goes back well beyond recorded history. See also Mount Lawu. (George Quinn, 2011)

Links and References

Wikipedia English
Wikipedia Indonesia

23 thoughts on “Merbabu

  1. This was my first gunung back in 2009 so I decided it was time for a second visit, and to try some of the other numerous routes available. The first time I went with Java Lava and we hiked up from Thekelan and down to Selo. This time I decided on up from Wekas and down to Cunthel, both northern routes meaning getting the train to/from Jakarta would be fine over a weekend (it’s 6 hours from Gambir to Semarang Tawang as opposed to 8 hrs to Jogja or 9 to Solo).

    We arrived at Wekas well before first light and got some rest at a basecamp. Very friendly folk and coffee for Rp3,000. Bargain. Great views to Telomoyo and Andong. Once we were up on the higher slopes my main impression was that I had forgotten just how great the summit ridges are. Once you meet the other northern trails beyond the Tower the views are brilliant in all directions.

    From the true summit (Triangulasi) Merapi was still in cloud. There was also a potentially aggressive monkey wandering about – one of the many negatives of hikers leaving rubbish behind on the mountain. Also the same species of very tame bird that hang around on Lawu too.

    Not all of us bagged the summit – one hiker was not keen on the rather tricky section below Kenteng Songo – admittedly I had totally forgotten about this too! If you are not sure about rather exposed sections but aim to reach the true summit, best try via Selo to be on the safe side. The small stone jars on Puncak Kenteng Songo are fascinating – a pleasant reminder of my trip earlier in the year to the Plain of Jars in Laos. Does the fact that there are a decent number of local Buddhists living on the slopes of Merbabu have any relevance to this?

    Unfortunately the porters were having difficultly and were way behind. We ended up waiting at the junction for Syarif / Kenteng Songo…. until almost dusk when we hurriedly set up the tents near the junction and took a few photos. The following morning we went up Puncak Syarif which is a great vantage point as you can see Merapi plus both of the two highest peaks of Merbabu (which were full of people, most of whom must have hiked up from Selo). Also the reservoir known as Waduk Kedung Ombo just as the sun was rising and the majestic Gunung Lawu.

    We were determined not to have porter problems on Day 2 as we had to make it back to Semarang for trains etc. Alas, two of the four were very very slow, so much so that two of us ended up carrying our porter packs back down the mountain (packs which included some of the porters’ own equipment!) Amazing to the point of comical – pay someone to carry your bag but actually end up carrying it yourself plus some of their stuff too! The important thing was that we made it back down in time for trains and flights. Cunthel too was a pleasant place to have a coffee and get changed. Very much recommend up from Wekas and down to Cunthel if you haven’t used those trails before.

  2. I just climb to Merbabu last week… I took Wekas, Magelang rute (North side) and go down via Selo. Actualy I want to climb via Thekelan, but my guide advice me to climb via Wekas. He told Wekas rute are shorter.. And ya… I walk slowly and I make it to the summit only 5 hours… Stuning…!!! Tired but I proud…
    Recomend local guide who can lead the trek to climb Mt. Merbabu
    He is Sura Mendhol
    +6281548615234 / email : suramindhol507@gmail.com
    He life in Selo (south side of Mt. Merbabu)
    Experienced, speakin English, can arrange sunrise trekking and camping program.

  3. Hi,

    Planning to climb Merbabu some time in July.If i’m coming from Malaysia, where is the closest airport that I should fly to? Is it Jakarta?

  4. It is easy to get there using public transport from Semarang: get a Semarang -> Solo bus & get off in Salatiga at the junction with the road to Kopeng, from there get an angkot to Kopeng & get an ojek from Kopeng to Tekelan. The highest point with permanent water is Gemuk Menthul 2330 Metres where there is a tap. There was no water below summit 3 when I was there in the dry season. The Cuntel route mentioned above is good for descent & probably quicker than Tekelan but better to ascend via Tekelan as as water availability is better on the Tekelan route. It is easy to get from Cuntel to Kopeng by ojek, angkot or walking

  5. Went to Magelang this weekend with the objective of bagging both Merbabu and Merapi. Long story short, I made it. Made my way up to Merbabu’s puncak trianggulasi from Selo base camp in just over 3 hours in time to catch the sunset. Just to let you all know I pay a lot of attention on my fitness and half sprinted my way up the mountain as we had a late start. I was with someone who started off as my guide but is now a very good friend of mine, Bayu Saputra (check resources: Guides on this website). Give him one phone call, and he will sort out the rest for you. Calling him before going to Central Java was perhaps the best thing I did. I had nothing to worry about once I spoke to him from the comfort of my office space in Jakarta. He will make sure that not only you enjoy your trek up to the top, but also ensure you’ve got all your logistics and other details in order before you start and once you get there as well (I’m referring to unexpected issues of any nature whatsoever). If you’re planning a trip there, or to any of the neighbouring mountains, call him. Period. Or you can talk to me as well. I’d love to help out in any way I can.
    Cheers!

    • Hi Gaurav,

      Need help with guide and logistics arrangement for climbing Mt. Merbabu. Appreciate if you can connect me to Bayu Saputra.

      br,
      Bryan Kho
      Malaysia

      • Hey mate,

        Here you go.

        Bayu Saputra: +62 857 416 713 22

        A few other reliable guides in the link below. I’ve talked to a couple of them and they seem to know their way around as well. Type in Merbabu in the search and you should be good to go.

        http://www.gunungbagging.com/guides/

        Cheers!

    • hai.. if you need guide to mt.merbabu or mt.merapi, call me 085743974154 (anis ,bayu saputra’s friend ) . Guide for Gaurav Tiwari to mt merapi last year..

  6. To Dan. Gito is an excellent guide and organizer living in Selo (southern approach). His number is 0878 363 522 60. He arranges everything from airport to airport.

  7. Just returned from a fantastic traverse of this superb gunung. We contacted Pak Danar of Kaloka Adventure (http://kalokaadventure.blogspot.com/2011/07/contact-form-name-email-subject-message.html) who provided good service, porters, water, tents and meals (excluding snacks) for the 2d/1n hike.

    We did a traverse from Wetas to Selo villages. Wetas is situated west of the Kopeng starting point described by Andy and Daniel above, and is about a 6 hour hike to the camping spot on the ridge between Puncak Syarif and the true summit of Puncak Kenteng Songo. We started in the afternoon (would have been preferable to start earlier but the guides were insistent for some reason) and stopped at several of the post along the way, notably at Pos 1 (1752 mpdl) and then at Pemancar (2504 mpdl).

    Starting from Wetas you walk through a conctrete path for about 30 mins up through the agricultural land and then slowly into deeper and denser forest. Very pleasant hike, before eventually emerging into the craggy rock formations, and then spending the night on the ridge connecting the various Merbabu summits. Very memorable spending the night there but be sure to pack warm dry clothes because of the dipping evening temperatures!

    After the summit the next day, the descent to Selo is a truly memorable experience, with the backdrop of Merapi guiding you the entire way down. A pretty straightforward 4 hour hike (faster if you are moving fast and willing to slide on your butt down some muddy slopes) to Selo, which is coincidentally close to the trailhead for a Merapi climb. For the truly ambitious a long weekend climbing Merbabu and Merapi is definitely an option!

  8. An Indonesian volcano lover is not a true lover before setting foot on the peak of G Merbabu. The summit view is the best in Indonesia, in the same tier with G Rinjani’s.

  9. i live in salatiga, i’ve climb this mountain more than 15 times (maybe 20 times :D) and never get bored. very beautiful mountain with wide view (especially from pos watugubug and above). i think best time to climb there is summer where the sky very clear and u can get 360 degre point of view from the summit.

  10. Another approach, that joins the Tekelan route at the antenna (2900 masl) is starting from Cuntel village, around 3 km from Kopeng (~ 1450 masl). It might be a shorter alternative, if heading on foot directly from Kopeng. Having not climbed the Tekelan route, i cannot compare the condition of both paths, but the Cuntel route is not eroded and most of the walking is on a black, solid soil with a good grip. The only clay and slippery passages, being an overall exception, are present on the last 100-200 m below the radio mast.
    There is an asphalt road on the right (S-SE), starting about 100 m after the centre of Kopeng and the junction (again on the right side) to the Hotel/swimming pool, when coming from Magelang and moving in direction Salatiga. Many hotels are present along both sides of the road. Take the left fork after about 1 km (signposted) and continue for another 2.5 km on good asphalt. Left hand is a lush green forest, right side is agricultural land. Base Camp is situated on the left side, at the entrance of Cuntel village (1600 masl). Continue on the main village street, which turns right straight thereafter and look for a sign on the left. This is the trailhead, starting through some onion fields and turning sharp left and up the slope after 10 min. Soon you reach Bayangan 1 (wooden roof – 1860 masl) and after another 40 mins is Bayangan 2 (better shelter – 2070 masl, water in front). The path continues up and through a denser vegetation, but is clearly visible. Official Pos 1 (Watu Putut – 2145 masl) with an area for 3-4 tents is a short distance from there and after some 30-40 mins you reach Pos 2 (Kedokan – 2300 masl), but a large camping area on a huge meadow can be found at Pos 3 (Kergo Pasar – 2450 masl, no water). Total walking time from Kopeng to Pos 3 should be around 3-4 hours and the impressive ridge and hill with the antenna on top of it is clearly visible from here in good whether. Further the path gets steeper, winding endlessly and gaining a lot of altitude until after 90-120 mins, you join the Tekelan route, several meters below Pos 4 (Pemancar/Watu Tulis – 2900 masl). There is a sign at this junction, marking Tekelan and Cuntel directions. From here you follow the original route description.

  11. I climbed in the wet season starting in Kopeng. Had to turn around at Watu Tulis after sheltering in the shack next to the radio mast due to bad weather.

    Freezing cold but good fun

    • I sat in the same shack for 2h (Nov ’10), sheltering from raining ash from Gn Merapi and waiting for the sunrise so we could carry on to the summit. Luckily by 5am the weather had cleared and the freezing cold 2hours in the shack were rewarded with beautiful views!
      A very divers mountain! Great climb!

  12. I Climb this mountain on 2001. I took Jalur Kopeng, Salatiga. From Jakarta I took train to Semarang (stasiun poncol), and took a bus to KOPENG. From Kopeng I walked to Cuntel Basecamp.

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