- Elevation: 2,145 m (7,037 ft)
- Prominence: 1,368 m
- Ribu category: Tinggi Sedang
- Province: Sumatera Utara (North Sumatra)
- Google Earth: kml
- Other names: none
- Eruptions: 1879, 1892, 1893, 1917, 1970, 1986
This scenic volcano has 2 crater lakes – the largest of which is called Danau Merah – and is reached from Sibanggor Julu village (950m, apparently written “Singojambu” on some maps) which is beyond the hot springs signposted at Pasar Maga on the Sumatra Highway. Strangely, it must be the only mountain in Southeast Asia which women are expressly forbidden from climbing for ‘traditional reasons’. In addition to this peculiarity, the atmosphere in Sibanggor Julu is unfortunately not the friendliest and especially if you are a foreigner you may feel a little unwelcome and then exploited when you are asked to pay several times as much as that of a local hiker. Nevertheless the volcano itself is fantastic and it’s a reasonably straightforward hike which is little-known outside of the local area.
The trail leads up behind the village houses and up a very short, steep section before leading through a plantation of rubber trees (1,050m). Shortly afterwards, you find yourself on bare, volcanic rock in an area used for the mining of sulphur (1,120m). Unfortunately the trail soon enters forest (1,200m) and you do not emerge onto the rim until much higher up (2,050m). It takes about 3 and a half hours to reach the rim from the village and there are a couple of places you could pitch a tent in the forest (at 1,540m and 1,810m) although there are none of the hiking signs usually seen nailed to trees. There are one or two leeches but not enough to make the hike unpleasant.
In clear weather the view of the crater is superb. Two lakes – one large and one small – fill much of the crater floor. It is possible to do a circuit of the rim but it is uncommon and the trail is very unclear in places. To do a circuit takes approximately 90 minutes but take extra care in low cloud and expect to get very dirty clothes! If hiking in a clockwise direction the route is easy enough to follow at first. After some excellent, narrow sections of rim you find yourself on a bushy plateau which is just 5 metres or so lower than the true summit which is on the other side (and saved until the end of the circuit). From here you need to walk right along the very edge of the crater, pulling yourself between bushes with half-burnt and sulphur-coated shrub branches before reaching another little plateau. From here the trail is almost non-existent and you will have to drop down about 40 or 50 metres before clambering over rocks rather than following the crest of the rim (which is probably impossible).
Once you have regained the top of the rim (after a further 30 minutes of tough-going) you need to take a left and double back up to the true high point of the volcano which is marked with a large cement pillar and the remains of a small telecommunications structure. For the less adventurous (or perhaps more sane) hikers, you can simply ask your guide to take you to the ‘pillar’ once you have reached the rim (i.e head anti-clockwise). Heading back to the junction where you climbed up takes just 15 minutes or so (and goes past a tiny cement marker on the edge of the crater at about 2,090m) and from this point you can be back in the village in about 3 hours.
Bagging information by Dan Quinn (May 2013)
- Getting there: It takes about 5 hours to reach the trailhead by car from Bukittinggi. At around 25km away, Kotanopan is the nearest major town on the Lintas Sumatera south of the turning at Pasar Maga though there appear to be no hotels. The situation may be different if you are travelling to/from the north. At Pasar Maga there is a signpost for the hot springs. From the sign it is about 8km up via Desa Hutalombang to the village of Sibanggor Julu though you may have to ask for directions when reaching a couple of minor unsignposted junctions.
- Accommodation: Not much seen in the local area. It is possible to stay in the village though you may not enjoy it.
- Permits: You will definitely be asked to pay a fee in Sibanggor Julu.
- Water sources: High sulphur content in the area so take plenty of your own.
- 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.
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