- Elevation: 2,868 m (9,409 ft)
- Prominence: 1,673 m
- Ribu category: Tinggi Sedang
- Province: Jawa Timur (East Java)
- Google Earth: kml
- Other names: Also spelt ‘Bhutak’
Gunung Butak is the highest mountain of a large range west of Malang, East Java. As it is under 3,000m in elevation, it is less popular than other, higher peaks in the region (many of which can be seen from the top). There is a delightful grassy meadow near the summit called Cemoro Kandang which is perfect for camping and the views at the top are spectacular.
Tuyomerto, Batu route
There are three main starting points for this Ribu and the most popular and easily reached is Tuyomerto village near Batu, Malang. Up until 2015 or so, the mountain was known only to hiking enthusiasts and a few local villagers – indeed, most locals had never heard of Butak and it was necessary to say ‘alun-alun’ or ‘savanna’ (alternative names for Cemoro Kandang) or ‘Gunung Kawi’ (a lower peak in the range but also the name of the range as a whole).
As of 2017 things have changed dramatically with a considerable increase in the number of people climbing this mountain and the smaller Gunung Panderman which is part of the same range but much lower at just 2,045m. The trail up Butak is no longer overgrown, and there are signs for both Panderman and Gunung Butak (spelt ‘Bhutak’ on the signs here for some unknown reason). From Batu, take an ojek to Kampung Tuyomerto (1,305m), which takes about 15 minutes, and follow the road as far up as you can go.
The old basecamp is gone but there is an attractive new wooden building (1,357m) above Tuyomerto village where hikers can purchase very affordable entrance tickets, find guides and porters, and leave their motorbikes overnight. There are even a couple of warungs to purchase snacks and drinks.
Pak Budi remains the best guide and can organise other villagers as porters. A guide can take you up and down in one long day (start early!) or a guide and porters will take you one-way and carry your gear to the camping area at Cemoro Kandang / Alun-alun / Savanna – you then carry your own gear down the next day. You can also hike at night in time for the sunrise and then straight back down – this means no need for camping gear but then again you won’t be able to savour the atmosphere properly unless you do camp up there.
From the new wooden building above Tuyomerto, it takes approximately 5 to 6 hours to reach the large grassy camping area known as Cemoro Kandang (or ‘alun-alun’ / ‘savanna’) (2,670 m) and the hike is almost 10 km following a fairly modest gradient. It takes about 3.5 to 4.5 hours to come down the same way. There are several places on the trail where it is possible to camp, but none are anywhere near as pleasant as Cemoro Kandang.
From the base camp, the climb through the cabbage fields and other agriculture to Pos 2 (1,573 m) takes about 45 minutes. From Pos 2 you continue up a valley in degraded/secondary forest before the steepest section of the hike up to Pos 4 (1,970 m), which takes about 1 hour. After this climb, the trail has a very nice gentle gradient via Pos 5 (2,180m), which mean you can hike at a good speed. Look out for edible physalis plants (‘ciplukan’ fruits) growing by the trail at an elevation of around 2,200, – 2,400m.
After another 3 hours you should reach Pos 6 (2,463m), faster if the trail is clear. The route to the alun-alun – known as Cemoro Kandang (2,670 m) – and camping area is much clearer from here, and should take no more than 2 hours. The views in good weather are lovely from here as you walk beneath tall trees and see Semeru and Arjuno-Welirang in the distance. As the trail skirts round the mountain, you will see a peak to the right (west north west) which is part of the same range as Butak but difficult to reach from here. It is called Gunung Kawi and has two peaks over 2,600m in elevation. In clear conditions, to the left of Kawi is Gunung Liman and Gunung Lawu in the far distance, and then the pyramid-like rocky summit of fiery Gunung Kelud in the foreground. Looking north, you may see the large forested range called Anjasmoro which lies west of Arjuno-Welirang and has an unusual-shaped peak.
Once you have arrived at Cemoro Kandang (2,670m), look for a suitable flat area to pitch your tent (preferably away from the main path to minimise noise from other hikers at night). In some areas the grass is very clumpy. There is an excellent source of drinking water from a spring with a pipe, and beyond the spring, further south, is a brilliant view to the summit of Java’s highest peak Semeru.
The highest point is a 30-minute climb up to the top of the ridge that surrounds the alun-alun and in good conditions you can see Arjuno, Semeru, Liman and Lawu in the far distance. This ridge is presumably the remains of an ancient volcanic crater wall, though these days there is no obvious volcanic activity here. In previous years it was not always easy to find the trail to the true summit, but as of 2017 there is a signpost for Gn Butak about 250m south of the spring (follow the path on the right) and at the point at which you have a very clear view of Semeru to the east. In good weather, you may even be able to see the large stone cairn and flagpole at the summit from Cemoro Kandang itself.
After admiring the panorama of the giants of East Java, it is 20-25 minutes back down to Cemoro Kandang from the summit, unless of course you wish to camp on the summit ridge which is certainly large enough for 10 or more tents. Although higher up, the night-time temperature at the summit may not actually drop as low as down in the valley, and if you want more solitude and the finest views at sunrise then camping here is a great idea, but note there is no water at the very top. The Bakosurtanal map suggests the peaks is only 2,862m high but GPS data seems to be in favour of 2,868m.
Kraton Gunung Kawi, Kepanjen route
Whilst most hikers return the same way to Tuyomerto (in under 4 hours for fast hikers), there are at least two other routes worth considering if time is not an issue. Firstly, a trail continues south from Cemoro Kandang to an ancient well and some interesting ancient grave sites and small caves. Note that if you have camped on the summit, you can simply follow the pleasant ridge down and meet the trail about 200 metres east of Altar Sembahyang (2,722m) which is a very impressive and ancient religious site on the ridge.
From the junction (2,717m), the trail drops down into a valley that used to be difficult to navigate but in 2020 seems more frequently-used and sadly suffered a forest fire in 2019. There are markers tied to trees every hundred metres or so so it is fairly easy to keep on the track. The col, or lowest point, is a beautiful grassy meadow (Pos 5 Savanna – 2,466m) which has great views and would make a brilliant camping spot.
After Pos 5, the trail leads up the face of another peak in the range. This is labelled on the Bakosurtanal map as Gunung Pitrang but is better-known as Batu Tulis. In actual fact, there are several minor peaks within this side-peak, so naming can be a little confusing! After a little ascent, a second meadow is reached, between two minor hills. This is Pos 4 Savanna (2,536m) and, despite having no water source, would also make a decent camp spot. The trail leads through the grassy area and then veers up to the left onto Pitrang / Batu Tulis, with a considerable drop on the right side of the trail.
This takes a little more time than expected, weaving left and right through undergrowth, but eventually you will reach a minor top with a small pile of stones and probably a sign for Puncak Batu Tulis. This spot on the main trail is simply the Batu Tulis ridge (2,601m on GPS), so if you want to visit the actual Batu Tulis peak itself (recommended) then you need to follow the obvious side-path leading east for ten minutes or so along the ridge to an ancient pile of stones rather similar to the huge cairn at the very summit of Butak.
Batu Tulis is clearly a site of considerable significance to local people with an interest in keeping the old traditions alive. Incense sticks are left here, along with various offerings that call to mind Java’s Hindu-Buddhist past which remains not far under the surface in many Javan mountain areas.
Puncak Batu Tulis is somewhere around 2,603 – 2610m according to GPS and appears to be the highest point in the Pitrang / Batu Tulis area. However, the Bakosurtanal map suggests only 2,593m with the overgrown and flatter summit you have just skirted round from Pos 4 a tiny bit higher at over 2,600m.
After enjoying this important spot, in order to continue your trek, whether ascending or descending, it is recommended to head back along the ridge to the main trail at the smaller pile of stones.
Continuing downwards towards Kraton Gunung Kawi, the trail heads roughly southeast to another minor top (Pos 3 – confusingly labelled Puncak Pitrang, 2,551m) where there is enough space for 3 or 4 small tents. After this point, the trail enters thicker forest.
There are a couple of Pos Bayangan signs (notably at 2,422m) and it is alleged that there is a water source to the east of the trail (left if you are descending) but you would need a very experienced guide to find it. Titik Resapan (1,986m), Pos 2 Gedang Cici (1,821m) and Pos 1 Kuburan Dowo (1,672m) follow in quick succession but none would make especially good camping spots.
As the name might suggest, there is a small and presumably ancient grave at Pos 1. Continuing on the descent, you will finally reach Titik Panaluki (1,376m) which is where plantation fields are reached. A little further down is a small Hindu shrine just to the side of the track.
Soon after this you will find yourself at the Kraton Gunung Kawi car park (roughly 1,160m elevation) which is a place where people go to pray for good luck and so on. There are several warungs where you can enjoy a snack and drink and also a public toilet block where you can wash and change. Note that there is no basecamp here and most folk are here to visit the temples.
Although this is a slightly shorter trail than Tuyomerto, it is much less frequently used, liable to be more overgrown, harder to find water, and it feels longer, and takes more time. However, it is the most interesting of the three main trails on what is a very interesting mountain indeed. Allow around 5-6 hours to get down to Kraton Gunung Kawi from Butak summit.
Ascending from this side would take more time, especially if carrying camping gear, so an early start is absolutely essential. Note that some say that you must first visit the local spiritual guardian of the mountain (‘juru kunci’) before hiking from here and that you should only hike up on even days of the calendar (Javanese calendar?) To what extent this is followed in reality is unclear but if you descend by this route then you shouldn’t need to worry about it.
Sirah Kencong, Blitar route
The mountain can also be climbed from the west in a very pleasant and friendly ecotourism village called Sirah Kencong (roughly 1,085m). It is in the middle of a tea plantation and there is at least one ancient Hindu temple here (Candi Sirah Kencong). This spot is best reached via Blitar (about 75 minutes by car) or Wlingi if coming by train.
This trail actually leads directly up to the summit ridge rather than via Cemoro Kandang. It is slowly growing in popularity but many come here to cycle or camp on the higher reaches of the tea plantations. The trail has several junctions near the start, and almost all of them need a right turn before you reach Wukir Negoro (1,416m), which is a large flat spot ideal for camping.
Just two minutes further on is Pintu Rimba (1,436m) which is another good camping spot offering great views over the valley to Gunung Kelud in the west. As might be expected from the name, this is where the trail enters forest.
Sadly, since 2019 forest fires here, there isn’t much forest left at present and it will take a few years to recover. For now, this trail is steep, dusty and hot. No spot between Pos 1 and Pos 5 is especially great or especially flat and there is no water source. The trail passes Pos 1 (1,752m) which is fairly pleasant, then Pos Bayangan (1,991m), Pos 2 (2,020m), Pos Bayangan 2 (2,176m), Pos 3 (2,292m), Pos 4 (2,407m), and Pos 5 (2,737m).
Pos 5 is lovely and has enough flat space for several tents. You may well see lutung in this area too. But why camp here when you are less than half an hour from the Butak summit ridge itself?
All in all it takes between 5 and 7 hours to reach the summit from Sirah Kencong and probably 4-6 on the descent. For the ascent, much depends on if you are carrying camping equipment and what the weather is like. It is hoped that the forest here will regenerate soon because with a bit less dust and a bit more shade it would be a lovely way to experience a different side of the range, best done in conjunction with another route in the form of a traverse.
Gunung Kawi (2,651m) from Pujon
Gunung Kawi itself is a much less well-frequented peak around 4 kilometres north/north-west of the top of Gunung Butak. It has a steep, presumably ancient crater wall to the west and two summits within 700 metres of each other.
Whereas in previous years the mountain was known only to a few local spiritual pilgrims wanting to pray at the summit, in 2020 the trail from near Pujon Kidul (1,219m) is open to hikers and there is a registration procedure and friendly local guides available. If you are looking for a quieter hike with superb views, then Gunung Kawi is very much recommended.
The actual starting point is at the parking area (1,360m) for Sumber Pitu waterfall, which is 2 or 3 kilometres along a bumpy tracks from Pujon Kidul. If you need to walk in, allow an extra hour, but most waterfall visitors take their bikes to the parking area. If camping on the mountain, best leave your motorbikes down in Pujon Kidul and take ojeks to the parking spot (allow 15-20 minutes).
If you meet other visitors in this area, chances are they will be visiting Sumber Pitu waterfall, which is less than one hour’s hike from the parking area and well worth a quick detour on the way down if you have an extra half an hour or so. From the parking area, follow the signs for Sumber Pitu / Sumber 7. The trail crosses a small stream (1,370m) before leading up beyond the edge of the plantation (1,500m) to a very pleasant shelter (1,502m) with a roof where you can sit and rest and enjoy the views back down towards Pujon and the Anjasmoro range beyond.
A second shelter (1,556m) is soon reached, and just beyond this is a crucial junction where the waterfall trail continues on the right, but the Gunung Kawi trail leads up the ridge on a clearly much less well-trodden path. This junction (1,570m) has a water pipe and is the last reliable source of good drinking water.
Further up, the trail enters forest, providing hikers with some very welcome shade and cooler air. This is short-lived however, and sun cream is advised. The trail passes the first of several danger signs (1,814m) before flattening out for a while and turning slightly to the left (east) and a very important junction (1,832m) with an old, disused trail.
On the ascent, make sure you turn right and make a mental note of this spot so that you do not simply follow the older trail straight down on your descent. Just above this important junction is Pos 1 (1,860m) which is another nice, shady spot. A second danger sign follows (1,930m) and then there are some good views over towards Panderman peak.
Like Pos 1, Pos 2 (1997m) is marked with a sign. From here, the trail becomes steeper as it leads via Pos 3 (2,222m) which in 2020 does not have a sign due to the devastating forest fires in 2019. The trail is perfectly obvious from this point, and the views get better and better and you get higher up and can look down to Pujon and Batu. There are also lots of edelweiss plants growing on the higher slopes.
The next obvious natural landmark is a pleasant rock (2,524m) on the ridge below the summit. You may be able to spot an Indonesian flag or two tied to the trees at the summit. The summit ridge is reached near a small marker stone (2,634m) and from here it is just two minutes to the northern top of Gunung Kawi. You should be at the top in a total of 4-5 hours depending on how many rests you have had.
As you will see, this northern top has two buildings on it. Firstly, a stone shelter with a roof which houses an ancient grave and has sufficient space for a small group to sleep in without the need to bring tents. There is also a water butt here for collecting rainwater, so you can usually use this once boiled for cooking. This stone building is several decades old.
A second, more recent building is the musholla, right next to the stone building, constructed in 2015. Behind them both is a small area which looks as though it was used for growing plants in the past. There is also plenty of space for camping.
This northern top is 2,651m (known as both Puncak Tugu Kawi and Puncak Redi Kawi) and the rather misleading Bakosurtanal figure of 2,622m is for a lower point a little further down on the ridge to the north. The southern top, seen clearly from the shelter, is 2,639m (possibly called Puncak Bantengan) according to the Bakosurtanal map but 2,646m on GPS, so only a few metres lower.
To reach the southern top from Puncak Tugu takes around 15-20 minutes one-way and is worthwhile in good weather. Follow the ridge down as it passes a stony area (2,598m) where there is a stone cairn of unknown antiquity. The col is at around 2,587m at which point the trail leads up the side of the southern top.
Once near the top, the path disappears and it is clear tthat very few people visit this spot. The views down to the valley between Kawi and Butak are impressive. It is another 15-20 minutes back to Puncak Tugu.
In clear weather the views are superb. Peaks visible include Anjasmoro, Arjuno-Welirang, Semeru, Butak and Kelud. Liman can sometimes be seen in the distance to the west.
It takes around 2-3 hours back down to the parking area. Allow an extra 30-45 minutes total if you want to quickly visit the waterfall.
Bagging information by Daniel Quinn and Andy Dean (updated November 2020).
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- Getting there: There are regular flights and train services from Jakarta to Malang. Batu is also around 4-5 drive from Surabaya, which has more frequent flights. There are lots of angkots to Batu from Malang – though you may need to change vehicle a couple of times. Taxis from Malang to/from Batu are also available and it costs around 100k Rupiah from Batu to Malang Airport, a journey that takes 1 hour. For Sirah Kencong, the nearest train stations are Wlingi and Blitar. For Kraton Gunung Kawi, the nearest train stations are Kepanjen and Malang.
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- Permits: Rp8,000 per person (2017) on the Tuyomerto route. Take a photocopy of your passport photo page just in case. Small registration fees payable at the other trailheads. For Gunung Kawi, tickets are Rp10,000 per hiker (in 2020) payable at Dusun Tulungrejo, Pujon Kidul.
- Water sources: An excellent spring is available at Cemoro Kandang camping area (2,670m) near the summit. On the Pujon trail to Gunung Kawi there is a water pipe at 1,570m where the trail leaves the Sumber Pitu trail. A water butt is at the northern Kawi summit but not always reliable and only strictly safe after boiling.
Local Average Monthly Rainfall (mm):
Origins and Meaning
There are two possible origins. The first possibility is that it comes from ‘botak’ meaning ‘bald’ in Indonesian. The mountain is rather grassy near the top which may lead it to be described as ‘bald’. The alternative origin is from the Javanese word ‘buta’ meaning ‘hidden’, unable to be seen.