|Elevation:||2,212 m (7,257 ft)||Prominence:||762 m|
|Ribu category:||Spesial||Province:||Sumatera Utara (North Sumatra)|
|Google Earth:||kml||Other names:|
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In terms of effort to enjoyment ratio, Sibayak is easily one of the top volcanoes in Indonesia. Situated above the friendly hill town of Brastagi which is just 2 hours from Medan, the volcano’s crater lies just over an hour’s walk from the nearest road and can therefore be explored by anyone in reasonably good shape. It is one of the most visited mountains in Sumatra and can be climbed from three directions. The most popular route is from the road at Jaranguda just 3km from the town of Brastagi but some people even just allow an extra hour or so (three hours in total) and walk from Brastagi such is the volcano’s proximity to the town itself. The second route is from Semangat Gunung (also known as Raja Berneh) where there are hot springs (a two-hour hike). This is also a short hike but it’s better to descend this way to make the most of the hot springs after hiking. The third and least popular route starts at Tongkoh on the main Brastagi-Medan road near Air Terjun Panorama. This route is the longest as it involves a trek through jungle to reach the mountain. Allow 4 or 5 hours from the road to the crater. Whichever route you take, it can easily be accomplished in a single day but the earlier you start the better, not least because the views are at their best just after sunrise.
Unless you’ve climed this volcano before and fancy trying the longer Tongkoh route, we recommend arranging a guide to meet you at your hotel in Brastagi at 4am, charter an angkot to Jaranguda (approximately Rp100,000 which isn’t bad considering the driver has to get out of bed at 3.30am) and hike to the crater rim by 6am. After enjoying the spectacular post-dawn views, you can descend a different way to Semangat Gunung and enjoy the hot springs before chartering another angkot back to Brastagi (approximately Rp 70,000) in time for a late breakfast /early lunch. For a full exploration, allow about 7 hours altogether, which includes transport time and 20 minutes in the hot springs.
At your guesthouse in Brastagi, you will probably be told about how dangerous hiking Sibayak can be. The volcano hasn’t erupted for nearly 400 years, but over the years a number of hikers who went without a guide never made it down again. Whilst the crater area is very accessible, certain parts of the mountain are very, very remote and wild – moreso even than neighbouring Sinabung. The terrain is straightforward for the most part, but if you got lost in bad weather you could easily end up on the remote wrong side of the crater. Two professors from a New York university went up Sibayak in 1983 and never returned. Whether they got lost or were the victims of a very rare robbery or wild animal attack remains unknown. But, although there are likely to be lots of other hikers on the volcano, it really is worth paying for a guide rather than going alone.
Assuming you charter an angkot from Brastagi, you will be dropped off on the road that snakes up the side of the volcano near Jaranguda. Follow the road and take a left turn cutting up through vegetation and up over the lower sections of the outer rim. Once over the outer rim, the very well-trodden trail leads up through the crater which has the appearance of a rocky, volcanic valley. Ahead of you, the outer rim climbs on your right to reach a narrow impressive little rocky peak known as Puncak Antene (antenna peak). On your left, above a crater lake and vertical cliffs, is the highest point of the actual volcano (Puncak Tapal Kuda – horseshoe peak). There are many fumaroles down near the crater lake, and the sound they make as jets of hot gas and steam shoot out is tremendously eerie – especially before dawn breaks.
Most regular hikers climb back up onto the outer rim for sunrise. This is indeed a superb viewpoint, looking down towards Brastagi town and the geothermal plant near Semangat Gunung. You can be here in about 90 minutes from Jaranguda or 3 hours from Brastagi. Do take care here as the drop down the side of the volcano is sheer and there are often lots of gas clouds which blow over the outer rim from craters on the actual side of the volcano. As soon as it’s light you will be able to admire the strange beauty of Sibayak and in good weather conditions you should see Sinabung in the distance.
After enjoying sunrise on the outer rim, do continue along the outer rim to the steep, narrow little top which marks its highest point. This is Puncak Antene (2,057m) and – whilst cluttered with a few small but unnecessary cement constructions – offers stunning views over the whole volcano area. There used to be an antenna here but apparently a local madman dismantled it to sell it for scrap value! Puncak Antene is the second highest peak of the actual volcano area. The highest peak is Tapal Kuda (2,101m) which is above the sheer cliffs above the crater lake. However, the actual highest point of the whole Sibayak mountain area is called Gunung Pintau. It’s a very remote, forested peak (2,212m) hiding behind Tapal Kuda. From Puncak Antene you should be able to see its wild jungle-clad cliffs. The terrain is very difficult and dangerous and a trail needs to be cut through the jungle. It has been reached on a handful of occasions by student hiking teams on expeditions and there is a trig pillar at the top. Have a search on Google for images. But it’s a dangerous place to go – one hiker died on such an expedition a few years ago – and no regular guide from Brastagi would be able to take you there.
So, whilst most people can’t truly bag the highest point of Sibayak, we do recommend climbing up to Tapal Kuda above the crater lake. You will probably have this peak to yourself and it is here that you will be able to appreciate the wild areas on the other side of the mountain. To get to Tapal Kuda from Puncak Antene, drop back down to the crater lake area and follow the trail round to the left of the crater lake and up onto the the side of the cliffs. There are lots of holes in the rocks beneath your feet so do take extra care as you peef over the edge of cliffs back down to the crater lake. The highest point of this peak is a large rock which requires moderate rock climbing skills to reach the top of – if in doubt, don’t bother as the views are good enough from here.
After enjoying the views and solitude of the Tapal Kuda peak, it is best to head back towards the antenna peak and from the lowest point of the outer rim opposite the crater lake drop down the other side of the mountain on a trail to Semangat Gunung. It is a steep and short trail over narrow cement blocks (supposedly 2600 of them originally) which leads through forest and impressive bamboo (1,521m) then out at the Pertamina geothermal plant. From the end of the road it is just 5 minutes to the first of many hot spring baths (1,382m). The water is a wonderful temperature and it is only a couple of thousand rupiah to bathe. Well worth it!
Getting back to Brastagi from Semangat Gunung can be done very cheaply – but only if you’re prepared to wait up to 2 hours for the angkots to slowly fill up! It’s much bette to arrange ojeks to the main road or just charter an angkot for about Rp 70,000 which will take you back to your hotel for some well-earned food.
Bagging information by Daniel Quinn (September 2011)
Origins and Meaning
The mountain of rich men (Geleng, guide in Brastagi, 2011)