- Elevation: 1,810 m (5,938 ft)
- Prominence: 1,610 m
- Ribu category: Kurang Tinggi
- Province: Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam
- Google Earth: kml
- Other names: Solawa Agam, Solawaik Agam, Selawadjanten, Goldberg
- Eruptions: 1839
This forested peak is the most noticeable mountain near Banda Aceh. It has a large caldera on the southern slopes, known as Lam Teuba, but it has not erupted since 1839. The traditional hiking route starts east of the peak, 2.5km north-west of Saree (pronounced ‘Saray’), up the lanes behind the mosque. Saree is about one and a half hour’s drive (70km) from Banda Aceh. The hike can be done in one long day although there are several places suitable for camping. The lower slopes of the mountain are full of monkeys and squirrels and apparently the forest is home to lots of white and purple orchids, usually spotted in December. Be prepared to meet leeches during the rainy season but conversely you may not see a single one during the dry season.
There is space for parking one car beside a smaller mosque (630m) just 5 minutes from the unmarked trailhead which is basically a track through farm fields. The crucial thing to find is the correct entrance to the forest. This is a small cement marker with ‘THR70’ written on it (685m). From here it is just 5 minutes to a wooden hut (690m) next to a hiking sign and a small stream which has been diverted from the main stream just a minute further on. The trail continues behind the hut and is fairly clear, assuming no huge trees have fallen over and are obscuring the path. Before long you will find yourself on what feels like a ridge (840m) with a well-defined path. Unfortunately this doesn’t last – fallen trees have made it quite hard to find the correct trail at this point and a guide who has climbed the mountain recently is essential for this very reason. There are bits of plastic taped to tree branches every so often but the next main ‘landmark’ is ‘pintu angin’ (wind door or even ‘porthole’) at 1,115m above sea level. This spot is on the edge of a steep drop with some reasonable views up to the higher slopes of the mountain. You should have reached this point after approximately 2 hours.
The next signposted point of interest on the trail is a cluster of old banyan trees known as ‘Beringin Tujuh’ (seven banyans). After this, the trail once again becomes a little unclear, but you need to drop down very briefly just 10 metres or so into a dry stream bed (1,390m) before immediately ascending out of it. Beyond this, the trail gets steeper as you begin to climb over a rockier area known as ‘tangga batu’ (stone stairs). At the end of this is a large boulder with a trees trunk curving over it (1,737m). This is known as ‘batu gajah’ (elephant rock) and it genuinely does bear a striking resemblance to an elephant. You may even be able to clamber up onto it for photographs.
It is not far from here to the true summit which is marked with a small memorial to a handful of the 2004 tsunami victims plus an old Dutch triangulation pillar which was refurbished in 1995 by a local nature lovers’ club. There’s also a treehouse (take care on the steps) but even from up here views are very limited though you should get a glimpse of the coast in the distance. Fast hikers should be able to reach the top in about 4-5 hours total, although it could take 6 hours if you’ve carried a huge bag and tent up with you. Beyond the markers is a fairly large and flat spot big enough to accommodate several tents. It seems that local hikers used to climb this mountain regularly but they have recently become bored with it, and the lack of litter on the trail certainly leads you to assume that it isn’t climbed as often as you might expect for what is a rather accessible mountain.
The temperature at the summit is wonderful (assuming no rain or strong winds) and you should be able to hear the call of siamangs in the distance. Back down the same way (the only route on this mountain, apparently) should take just over 3 hours. When back at the trailhead you will notice a much smaller peak on the other side of Saree. This is Seulawah Inong – the female mountain counterpart to the male Seulawah Agam. To visit the active crater area requires an entirely different hike from the southern side, but you may spot a bit of smoke rising from the southern slopes on your journey back to Banda Aceh.
Bagging information by Dan Quinn (October 2013)
- Getting there: It takes just under 2 hours to reach the trailhead from Banda Aceh. A taxi from the airport to the city is Rp85,000 (Sept 2013).
- Accommodation: Hotel Medan in Banda Aceh is pretty good, but if you have time then take the ferry over to Pula Weh and stay at the excellent Freddies at Sumur Tiga.
- Permits: Not usually required but check with local people about volcanic activity before climbing.
- Water sources: Available at the shelter (690m) near the edge of the forest.
- 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
In Malay ‘lawah’ means ‘old’. ‘Seulawah’ could mean ‘old one’. Seulawah Agam could mean ‘old man’ and Seulawah Inong (a nearby lower mountain) could mean ‘old woman’ (Mark Durie, 2011).