- Elevation: 1,724 m (5,656 ft)
- Prominence: 938 m
- Ribu category: Spesial
- Province: Jawa Timur (East Java)
- Google Earth: kml
- Other names: Kelut
- Eruptions: 1548, 1586, 1641, 1716, 1752, 1771, 1776, 1785, 1811, 1825-26, 1835, 1848, 1864, 1901, 1919-20, 1951, 1966-67, 1990, 2007-08, 2014
This mountain is one of the most active and dangerous volcanoes in Indonesia. A large eruption in 1919 killed approximately 5,000 people and a more recent eruption in 2007-8 resulted in the crater’s pleasant blue lake being replaced with a vast lava dome. In February 2014, a huge eruption occurred two days after local people reported animals fleeing from the surrounding forests. International airports in Central and East Java were closed as ash rained down over a wide area. 200,000 people were told to evacuate. No surprise then that the Kelud area is often closed and constantly monitored by volcanologists. By 2015 or so, the lake had returned, but who knows how long it will be before the next lava dome emerges to displace it once more?
During quiet times, it is a popular place for local people at weekends since there is a good quality road leading all the way to the crater where until 2014 there were lots of small stalls, and some hot springs in the river below the crater. The road is open again (in 2018) but it remains unclear if cars can reach the same parking spot as in previous years and it does not look like many warungs have re-opened yet, their owners perhaps rightly being concerned about another future eruption.
Most visitors come from the west via Ngancar from the city of Kediri – where there is a good range of hotels – but Blitar also makes a good base though the roads are slighter lower in quality. It takes just over an hour to reach the crater (1,250m) by car or motorbike from Kediri or Blitar and there are numerous signs for the mountain on the routes. The entrance point is the village of Sugih Waras. About a mile beyond the village is the Volcanology Post. From here the road leads for another 10km to the crater area whose jagged outline is visible for many many miles. There are places along the way to stop for basic snacks and fuel. At the end of the road is a place to park motorbikes and a signpost for a right turn down to a hot water bathing area. Straight on leads through a dark but flat tunnel – known locally as ‘the channel tunnel’ – before emerging a few metres above the new lava dome (or, since 2014, lake). There is an incredibly impressive rockface on the right – Gunung Sumbing – which is a great place for rock-climbing but totally impossible for regular hikers to scale. Photos online suggest that at least one group of experienced climbers have made it to the top.
The steep and jagged crater rim is a fascinating area – the true Kelud peak is the huge vertical chunk of rock with a couple of pinnacles at the far side of the crater. Local hikers reached the top, known locally as Setinggel Mahesosuro, in both 2018 and 2019. According to these local hiking enthusiasts, it is a daunting task requiring rock climbing skills and ropes.
There are basically three main hiking routes on the mountain. From the crater carpark, beyond the tunnel, there are cement steps up to the left of the crater (in the direction of minor crater rim peak Gunung Lirang) towards a small pendopo (1,360m) (unsure if this still exists post-2014 eruption). This is about as far as most visitors to Kelud venture and ask them if they’ve been to the puncak – ‘peak’ and if they’ve been here they’ll probably say yes! From this small roofed structure, perched on the rim, a trail continues some way along the rim beyond a small cement pillar (1,427m) towards the true peak. After a few minor ups and downs, a small rock crag is reached (1,454m). To get beyond it, skirt round to the left of it and watch out for holes in the ground beneath any foliage!
From the top of this crag the views towards the true Kelud peak are astounding – it appears as an impenetrable castle of rock with impressive rocky turrets crowning it off. The trail continues to a slightly higher part of the rim (1,518m) after which is a vast drop between this part of the rim and the next peak. Even for skilled rock climbers this would be a tough proposition and for any ordinary hiker it’s totally impossible. This hikes does, however, offer some of the most excellent views of Kelud peak, Sumbing rock-face and the crater below. It’s a short morning stroll.
There is a second approach from this side, but it is difficult! There is a vague and rarely-used trail which skirts to the right below the Sumbing cliffs and then up onto a fairly flat ridge. Finding this trail is quite difficult and staff at the crater car park or office will definitely try to make you take an over-priced guide with you. It may be worth a try if you want to reach the summit area from this side.
The best approach, however, is from the east at Tulungrejo on the small road running north-south between Kelud and Butak mountain ranges. Although this route is longer, you have the advantage of being able to start at whatever time you like (instead of having to wait until the crater road gates are open) and you won’t have any hassle from staff hoping to make a quick buck from a ‘tourist’. If you set out early, this hike could be done comfortably as a day-hike. It takes just under an hour to reach Tulungrejo from Blitar or just 25 minutes from the railway station at Wlingi.
Once in the village, take a left past the mosque and then up to the right on a road which runs above an impressive wide river. This was an obscure hike back in 2011, but fast forward to 2018 and there is a dedicated parking area, ticket office and several warungs (662m). Local guides used to be essential in order to find the starting point but the route is now clearly marked and on most weekends there will be many local students hiking and camping too. Be warned that although it is technically possible to traverse the mountain and reach the warungs and crater car park on the Kediri side from this side it appears that very few people do this and it is customary to return the same way. Do take plenty of water and snacks with you.
From the ticket office and parking area, you can either simply follow the road on foot for 20 minutes or take an ojek Rp5,000 or Rp10,000 maximum (2018) to the proper trailhead on the left side of the road (750m). This small trail drops down a little before leading very clearly through pine forest on a pleasant ridge (709m). After40 minutes or so you will have reached a brand new pleasant shelter – Pos 1 (975m). The last reliable water source is near here (you should be able to hear a small river a little further on and to the left of the main trail). In previous years, this trail was not often used by hikers, but it has always been well-defined thanks to the local farmers and hunters who use it. The biggest danger on this route is leeches – sometimes there are lots and sometimes you may pass by totally unscathed, especially during dry weather! In wet weather, be sure to check your boots and socks every ten minutes or so. This area of the mountain is known as Hutan Glimbung.
In 2018, Pos 2 (1,140m) is a simple but pleasant shelter less than 30 minutes from Pos 1. From here, the trail continues to rise gently via an area known as Kipon Kethek which has a few views north towards Waduk Selorejo (Selorejo Reservoir) and after about 2 or 2.5 hours in total from the very start you should have reached the top of outlying peak Gunung Tumpak (1,428m).
In 2018 Tumpak is now the favoured campsite by the many local students who come here especially during weekends. It is not unusual for this section of trail to be covered with tents sheltering well over 100 hikers. If you are lucky with the weather, you will see the dramatic vertical cliffs of the peak of Kelud beyond. Note that Gunung Tumpak is no longer the most well-known name for this spot. It is, in 2018, known as Pos 3 or Puncak Bayangan or simply Basecamp.
From Gunung Tumpak, the trail descends steeply before following the crest of a very narrow ridge – take extra special care here – which is known as Punggung Naga (Dragon’s Back). The trail them leads upwards towards the col on the left of the vertical cliffs of Kelud, some of which until 2014 were covered with a deep red lichen but have since been completely burnt off. From Tumpak to the col takes about one hour and the col (1,510m) marks the edge or outer rim of the crater area and, post 2014, the end of vegetation. There used to be a boundary marker pillar here and the ground used to have sufficient vegetation to make camping here the best option (although the space is limited to about 5 tents). However, since 2014, the area is devoid of much vegetation, and the ground is gravelly meaning a decent mat beneath your sleeping bag is very useful indeed.
From this point, the panorama to the west suddenly appears before you and the cliffs of Gunung Sumbing are visible on the other side of the crater. From the col, it’s still more than another 200m of height gain to the true peak which lies just to the right and according to local people nobody has truly gotten to the very top – please contact us if you have! The lower cliffs used to be overgrown before the 2014 eruption but even now their steepness means that very few who visit this point will even contemplate trying to scale them. However, it certainly looks negotiable if there were ropes on the higher sections.
If, like most sane people, you don’t fancy trying to clamber your way up the summit cliffs, it is definitely worth wandering over to the inner rim and peering over at the lava dome. A reasonably well-defined little trail leads up towards the summit cliffs (which it stays close to) and drops down into a few crevices and over a few small roped sections of rock before bringing you out after just 15 minutes on the edge of the inner rim – the real crater rim of Kelud. From here you will be able to gaze over one of the world’s most dangerous craters and – during the daytime – watch visitors emerge from the tunnels from the car park on the other side of the volcano. It’s a great panorama.
You can contimue all the way along the crater rim via a minor top (1,485m) over to the ridge near Sumbing cliffs, but do take real care as the drops down to one side into the crater are near-vertical and the trail gets fainter and fainter which could present a problem in low cloud. It takes about one hour to walk from the Tulungrejo col to the Sumbing cliffs (and one hour back again). There appears to be a faint trail leading round the back of Sumbing cliffs (and presumably eventually down to the Kediri side or crater road) but it is not customary to do a traverse in 2018 and you really would need a guide if you wanted to try it.
Back near the Tulungrejo col / outer rim junction, an alternative viewpoint is the little top just metres away from the col. It only takes five minutes to reach the rocky little top (1,540m) which in 2018 had an Indonesian flag on it. You can admire the view to Gunung Butak and other mountains to the east from here. It’s a good sunset and sunrise spot. In 2013, you could see the top part of the lava dome from here but post-eruption you cannot quite see the lake.
After admiring the panorama, it takes 3 hours or less to descend to Tulungrejo from the edge of the crater area.
There is apparently an even newer trekking route to Kelud from the south at Karangrejo. It sounds as if this is rarely hiked at present and potentially more challenging than the Tulungrejo route. Perhaps one for the connoisseurs only. It appears to meet reach the crater rim somewhere between the Tulungrejo col and the Sumbing cliffs ridge, most probably at the minor 1,485m top. Do leave a comment below if you have tried this route.
Bagging information by Daniel Quinn (last updated November 2019).
- Getting there: For Tulungrejo you would need private transport or ojeks from the main Blitar-Malang road up via Semen. In 2018, ojeks cost around Rp40-50,000 each from Tulungrejo to Wlingi (one way) so presumably the same in the opposite direction. Some executive class trains (.e.g the Gajayana which runs between Jakarta and Malang) stop at the pleasant little station at Wlingi, which is the ideal place to get off at if you are hiking from Tulungrejo. Ojeks to the crater car park can be arranged from Blitar or Kediri. Public transport would take longer.
- Accommodation: There are several hotels in Kediri and Blitar. The colonial-era Sri Lestari in Blitar is truly excellent and has rooms to suit all budgets. There is actually a basic losmen in Tulungrejo for those wishing to do the proper hike from the east (2013).
- Guides and GPS Tracks: Want a PDF version for your phone? Looking for a guide? Need GPS tracks and waypoints? Gunung Kelud information pack can be downloaded here.
- Permits: Rp15,000 per person at Tulungrejo, though foreigners may be asked for more. If you have a KITAS or KITAP you are encouraged to argue your case as you presumably already pay lots of local taxes. Ticket price at the entrance to the crate road from the Kediri side is unknown (2018) but gates are probably not opened until 7 or 8am.
- Water sources: There were plenty of warungs selling drinks at the crater car park prior to the 2014 eruption but it remains unclear if many of these have re-opened yet by 2018. On the Tulungrejo route there is a stream at 1,002 m just beyond Pos 1.
- 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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Origins and Meaning
(not clear, possibly) Old-Man Mountain. One of the meanings of kelud in Old Javanese is “old and decrepit” so it is possible that the name Gunung Kelud reflects a perception that the mountain is an ancient, ancestral entity. In modern Javanese kelud means “a feather duster” so it is possible (though I think unlikely) that Gunung Kelud is “that which sweeps through everything (when it erupts).” (George Quinn, 2011)