|Elevation:||2,877 m (9,439 ft)||Prominence:||1,723 m|
|Ribu category:||Tinggi Sedang||Province:||Sumatera Barat (West Sumatra)|
|Google Earth:||kml||Other names:|
|Rating:||Eruptions:||Tandikat 1889, 1914, 1924|
This dormant peak is close to the pleasant tourist town of Bukittinggi and the huge Lake Maninjau. Along with neighbouring Gunung Marapi, it dominates the landscape south of the town. Singgalang is a twin volcano with the lower yet volcanically active Gunung Tandikat (2,438 m) and could be considered as Sumatra’s version of Gede-Pangrango. The mountain can be climbed from several places: Pakan Sinayan, Koto Tuo, Balingka and Pandai Sikat. Although approaches from the west supposedly offer views of nearby Lake Maninjau, the eastern approach from Pandai Sikat is by far the most popular and is just 15 minutes by public transport from Bukittinggi. Pandia Sikat itself is famous weaving and woodcarving village currently illustrated on the 5,000 Rupiah banknote. Unlike for neighbouring Mount Marapi, finding a guide in Bukittinggi is remarkably difficult – far fewer locals have climbed this mountain and barely any tourists trek to the top. In any case, the agents in Bukittinggi charge a bit more than is reasonable – the money then gets split between several people. The best thing to do is head to Pandai Sikat where there is new tourist information kiosk.
From Kotobaru on the main road heading south of Bukittinggi, follow the sign to Pandai Sikat and continue along the narrowing road and stop in Pandai Sikat opposite the beautiful and private traditional Minangkabau house with a lilly pond in front. On the opposite side of the road from the house is the small tourist information kiosk where you ask for help finding a guide. The road towards the starting point goes past the house and up the hillside towards several television transmitter masts. Walk up the road for about 5 minutes to the ojek post and take an ojek up to the starting point to avoid around 500m unnecessary elevation gain. You may be asked to stop at an information and registration post about one third of the way up the road and sign a guest book and pay Rp 10,000 to climb the mountain. The road gets rough but a ojek can get as far as the final TV mast at 1,575m. It takes 4-5 hours to reach the summit and 3 hours to descend the same way.
The trail itself leads from the end of the masts road along the right side of a wooden hut, past another, newer building before leading into tall and thick grass vegetation. The trail is a little hard to follow in a couple of places through the grass, so you need to a guide or to use our GPS tracks. A bundle of 4 or 5 black electricity cables follows the trail all the way to military and police communications towers on the summit of the peak that were erected around 2003, so if in doubt follow the cables. This first section of the trek is by far the most unpleasant – especially for tall people – several times you have to crawl under the the tall grass that has fallen over the path obstructing your headroom. There are also some leeches in this section so take some gloves and wear long trousers!
Thankfully the trail soon opens out into more regular tropical forest, with the sound of streams to your left. Water is not a problem on the hike as there are three posts on the way up near water sources and a lake near the summit. The first area used for camping is at 1,770m but the water sources (Mata Air 1, 2 & 3) are at approximately 1,974m, 2,240m and 2,594m respectively. At 2,650m the trail opens out onto steep rock and if you are lucky with the weather you should be able to see Marapi on the other side of the Agam valley.
Near the top of the rock section at 2,697m is a plaque dedicated to two students from Padang who went hiking here in 1988 and never returned. Shortly after this monument, the path dips slightly – still following the black cables – through some pleasant mossy upper montane forest. The beautiful lake, Telaga Dewi (Lake of the Goddess) is just beyond the muddy trail through the forest and it is a beautiful, tranquil spot and unusually free of litter. Locals like to camp here on Saturday nights but at any other time of the week you will probably be alone. The lake itself is where the crater of the volcano once was, thousands of years ago.
At the other side of the lake you should be able to see another transmitter mast at the highest point of the mountain. To reach this, follow the black cables along the side of the lake and then through very muddy and sometimes slippery forest. After 30 minutes you will be at the edge of the transmitter compound which is the highest point of Singgalang. This shabby and litter strewn area could not be in starker contrast with the natural beauty of the lake. One can image that Singgalang was a more rewarding summit before the authorities decided to erect the transmitter. However, in clear weather, you should be able to see Gunung Marapi on the other side of the valley.
There is no proper trail between Singgalang and Tandikat at present (2018). However, for those staying in the area for a while and keen for another serious hike, the separate trail up Gunung Tandikat is incredibly worthwhile as the crater is several hundred meters wide and offers great views. The basecamp (1,180m) is in Singgalang Ganting, less than 30 minutes by car or motorbike from Padang Panjang via Simpang Tawalib and Jalan Lubuk Mata Kucing. You will probably not be alone on the mountain during weekends (except possibly during Ramadan) but local mystical beliefs, tales of tigers and sun bears, and the lure of the more popular Marapi, currently keep numbers down at a low enough level that there is very little litter on the trail.
The pleasant trail is marked with regular, numbered yellow signs all starting with the letter R (R=’rambu’ (‘sign’)?) but you may need local help for the first 30 minutes or so, as the path gains little elevation at all, and follows a cement watercourse with a couple of minor junctions. Take care on this cement in wet conditions. You will need to cross a couple of minor streams here. Sign R04 (1,200m) is a about halfway between the trailhead and a proper narrow river crossing with boulders (1,250m). You may need to either take your shoes off or risk allowing them to get wet here.
After the river crossing, the trail enters denser vegetation and the next major landmark is ‘Shelter 1’ (1,380m), which offers no structural shelter but does have enough flat space for a couple of tents. The next decent spot for pitching a tent or two is R17 (approximately 1,600m) and a third one at just beyond 1,700m. However, if you can keep going to R25 (approximately 2,050m) then this is perhaps the best option before the crater rim as you are very close to a water source. It shouldn’t have taken fit hikers more than 3 and a half hours to reach R25 (also known as Camp 4 on one sign) from the trailhead. There are no views here as it is dense forest, but there is a lot of birdlife in the trees and you may also hear siamangs nearby.
Beyond Camp R25, the trail drops down to the right, crosses a river, then R27 sign, then another river (2,120m) before another potential camp spot at R28 (2,140m). Not long after is R29 (2,200m). The next major landmark is R32 (2,300m) where you can see the shapely forest-clad peak of Gunung Singgalang to the right. A little way beyond R32 is Batu Surya (‘solar rock’), a large boulder where hikers often have their photos taken. This part of the trail is allegedly where Sumatran tigers have been seen in the past, and also supposedly where tapirs live (a food source for the tigers, perhaps, given that locals say there are few, if any, wild pigs (‘babi hutan’) on this mountain.
After Batu Surya, the trail drops down a few metres, and crosses a muddy, boggy col before ascending once more to the crater rim (2,400m). Suddenly you will find yourself with an impressive panorama open in front of you and even a spot near the rim large enough for a small tent. To the right is Singgalang, the ‘mother mountain’ of Tandikat. The crater cliffs are very steep and must drop down around 100 metres to the sandy crater floor. You should be able to see various names written by local hikers using rocks in the crater. For those particularly interested, there is still some fumarole activity down there and it is possible to descend into the crater if you follow the rim to the right for a few minutes. Allow 30 minutes to get down into the crater and perhaps 45 to get back up again, but don’t consider doing this unless you have someone who has definitely been down there before!
For those wishing to reach the true summit, it lies just 10 or 15 minutes or so to the left (300 metres round the rim, clockwise). The path there is a little overgrown and occasionally passes dangerously close to the crater rim edge but is clearly signposted and definitely worth visiting. From the true peak (2,438m), the views northwest to Gunung Talakmau and north to Singgalang are very pleasant, and much better than from the usual spot that hikers finish. Do be aware that one sign in 2018 suggested we were at the summit a good 5 minutes before we reached the true summit. If in doubt, keep on going a little further!
From Camp R25 to the crater should take about 90 minutes or less, so approximately 5 hours in total from the trailhead (not including breaks). Given that the trail is not horribly steep like many others in Indonesia, most hikers should be able to be back down at the trailhead in just over 4 hours.
Puncak Lawang and Danau Maninjau:
For those staying down on the relaxing shores of nearby Lake Maninjau (e.g. at Bagoes Cafe and Homestay), a stroll up to the popular viewpoint top of Puncak Lawang (1,246m) is a worthwhile half-day (or less) out. Whilst Gunung Singgalang can only be seen from parking area rather than the actual top, and although Puncak Lawang is nowhere near the highest point of the huge Maninjau caldera rim (which is at least 1700m in elevation, likely to be densely-forested, and located to the north-west of the lake), the view from Lawang top over Lake Maninjau is very impressive. It’s a shame the authorities are constructing a huge building there at the time of writing, but you can always just ignore it and face the lake instead! You can actually hike up here from the simple guesthouses on the shores of the lake and back down again (total likely to be 5-6 hours) or simply get an ojek from the main Maninjau T-junction for around Rp100,000 return (in 2018) taking about 35 minutes each way. If you take an ojek, the entrance fee is Rp10,000 per person (2018) and in less than 5 minutes you will be at Puncak Lawang, presumably with numerous local tourists.
Bagging information by Daniel Quinn (2009, minor updates in 2018) and Andy Dean (2011)
|Getting there||The nearest city is Bukittinggi, the nearest airport is Padang, which is about 2 hours from the mountain.|
|Accommodation||There is very limited accommodation in Kotabaru – it is best to stay in one of the many hotels in Bukittinggi – try the Jalan A Yani area – or down on the shores of Lake Maninjau. If hiking Tandikat, Padang Panjang is the obvious place to stay the night before if required.|
|Permits||Pay Rp20,000 at the trailhead (2017) – and take a photocopy of your passport photo page just incase. For Tandikat the 2018 price is Rp10,000 per hiker and the same again if you want to leave your bike there.|
|Water sources||On the Pandai Sikat route to Singgalang, available at 1,974m, 2,240m and 2,594m. On the main route to Tandikat, available at the river at 1,250m, just beyond Camp4/R25 at 2,050m, and at 2,120m.|
|Local Average Monthly Rainfall (mm):|