- Elevation: 2,690 m (8,825 ft)
- Prominence: 1,218 m
- Ribu category: Tinggi Sedang
- Province: Sumatera Barat (West Sumatra)
- Google Earth: kml
- Other names: none.
Gunung Pantaicermin is not a popular destination for hikers, and it is probably because of this that the trail is clear of litter, there are pitcher plants growing undisturbed on the higher ridges, and at least one of the few Sumatran tigers in this part of the island stalks its prey on the lower slopes of the mountain. There are very few decent views due to the dense forest, but because the trail is so well-defined it makes for a great outing if you’ve already done West Sumatra’s more popular peaks.
The mountain forms an extensive high plateau heading southwards towards the Kerinci region, although the highest point is tucked away and difficult to see from the main road. The name ‘Pantaicermin’ (‘mirror beach’) sounds very exciting but it appears to be simply named after a local village. But why that particular village is ‘a mirror of the beach’ is uncertain.
The trail starts in the small village of Koto Tinggi (‘high city’). A city it certainly isn’t, although it is pretty high up at just under 1,300 metres above sea level. It’s just 15 minutes from the main Padang-Kerinci road, near Surian. The village has several water wheels which are used for irrigation purposes and there is even a hot spring hidden above rice terraces. Local people have helped student hikers (such as those from Padang’s Mapala Unand ‘MU’) up the mountain on several occasions but the trail up towards the highest ridges is very pleasant mainly because of the local people using it to hunt for rare birds to sell. Why so many Indonesians want to keep birds in cages rather than enjoy the sounds of them in the forests is a real mystery. Sad.
As usual, there are a couple of ways to get up into the forest from the village itself. One follows the river and leads onto an area at the edge of the forest (1,450m) which has suffered from a forest fire recently. The other leads straight up the ridge of the mountain (on the right side of the road if you are looking towards the mountain from the village). In a straight line it is about 6.6km from the village to the highest peak but, as you might expect, the trail does not lead in a straight line.
Once you have gained the ridge in the forest (1,567m) you will probably be able to hear the wondrous sound of the siamangs as there are many living on this mountain. There is also a good chance of hearing and then seeing hornbills as they fly above you and settle in the highest parts of the trees. The trail is pretty obvious at this point, and climbs gradually with an occasions steep section before levelling off again. There are a couple of metal arrow signs left by MU in 2009, and other ‘landmarks’ include a tiny temporary shelter (1,834m), Pos 1 (1,965m) and unmarked Pos 2 (2,270m). Pos 1 is the best place to camp on the mountain as it’s as flat and large as you will find (perhaps enough for 3 or 4 small tents) and Pos 2 only offers space for one or two small tents at best.
At what we have called Pos 3 (2,534m) are a cluster of pitcher plants (Nepenthes singala, named after another mountain of West Sumatra – Gunung Singgalang) and enough space for just one small tent. 100 metres further you will reach a cement pillar (2,540m also). This is a boundary marker, marking different ‘kabupaten’ (Solok and Pesisir Selatan). Again, there is space for one small tent. You should be able to reach this point in between 4 and 5 hours from the start. The trail then leads down about 70 metres or so before reaching an easy-to-miss junction (2,475m). The decent trail heads down the side of the mountain (down to the left) whereas a very rough and overgrown trail continues forward/right just a few metres along the top of the ridge. Alas, it is still 1.9km from here to the true summit of Pantaicermin.
To reach the highest peak, which MU claim to have done on expeditions lasting up to a week on more than one occasion, would require several hours of careful machete work. 1.9km on a reasonable trail could take an hour or less. To have to open a trail (or ‘re-open’ it if nobody has been there for several years) is a serious and tiring undertaking, perhaps requiring an extra day (but certainly not a week). In any case, you might not be sure you have reached it unless you have the summit co-ordinates in your GPS. Look out in this area for a species of Arisaema, plants which have the ability to change sex based on nutrition and genetics, which has a dark red/purple leaf overlapping the inside of the flower.
On the way back down, it makes most sense to continue along the ridge rather than drop down at 1,560m because firstly there are some lovely views back down the valley, secondly you may be lucky enough to spot fresh tiger prints and finally because ‘air panas’ (hot springs) can be found down to the left (on descent) near rice paddies and a jambu (guava) tree. Ask locals as it’s tricky to find and is basically just a wide bamboo pipe with lovely warm water gushing out of it. A great spot for a post-hike wash, especially as the cold water in the village is pretty cold indeed up at 1,300m.
Bagging information by Dan Quinn (September 2013)
For a high quality PDF version of this and other trail maps, please download from our Trail Maps page.
- Getting there: A private car should be able to cover the distance between Padang and Surian in between 3 and 4 hours.
- Guides and GPS Tracks: Want a PDF version for your phone? Looking for a guide? Need GPS tracks and waypoints? Gunung Pantaicermin information pack can be downloaded here.
- Permits: None required but take a photocopy of your passport photo page just in case.
- Water sources: Available up to around 1,350m only. Water can be found higher up but it is a long way from the trail and difficult to find without a guide.
Local Average Monthly Rainfall (mm):
Origins and Meaning
‘Mirror beach’ mountain in Indonesian. Named after Pantaicermin town at the foot of the mountain.
3 thoughts on “Pantaicermin”
Bagged by Adrian Tejedor in June 2018! Might have to try this one again next year! Here is his comment:
“Just back from the top of Pantaicermin, Sumatera Barat, 2664 m in my GPS. It took 15 hours with very few and very short stops to get to the top and back to Koto Tinggi in a single day. Not steep but the trail to the very summit is a mess of mossy roots for the last 1.5 km. Hard. Local Koto Tinggi guide/farmer/hunter Tirdaus was amazing and relentless. We both lost and found again the upper trail, which often looks no different from a game trail, on maybe 8 occasions combined. Still, sometime back locals got gravel and cement to the very top to build a boundary pillar that is now destroyed; fragments are lying about. Some sections of the upper trail are wide and used often to hunt for Sumatran serow (Capricornis sumatrensis) and there were also remains of recent camp fires but all these were interspersed with sections of the less-often walked mess of mossy elfin forest. Unusual. The amount of pitcher plants along the last km or so was the highest I’ve seen in Indonesia so far. Definitely worth it!”
The following is from Arisaema expert Guy Gusman.
“Wonderful photos. I think it is most probably Arisaema ornatum Miq.
However, we never saw living specimens of this plant and our knowledge is based on the original description and a beautiful colour drawing. I also got a few photos taken in Sumatera that show that the length of the spadix appendage may vary. It is an evergreen species with 5 to 7 leaflets.”
A thoroughly enjoyable weekend on Pantaicermin, despite not reaching the absolute summit. The pitcher plants and tiger prints more than made up for it.
I had heard that Mapala Unand (MU) had originally opened a route up to the top back in 2000. It took them 5 days to reach the top (one way). A female-only climbing team then did similar in 2006. And a third time they accompanied two Japanese Nepenthes (pitcher plant) researchers. Was this third time the occasion mentioned on the metal signs still there (MU 2009)?
According to MU accounts, there is an old Dutch triangulation pillar at the summit, which has been partially dug up by local residents who, for some reason, believed that money or gold was hidden beneath it. This is an identical story to the one in North Sulawesi on the island of Manado Tua.
With regard to the pillar, one has to wonder whether there was confusion between the district boundary marker and a Dutch trig pillar. Similar size – but the boundary marker is over 2km east of the true highest point and we haven’t seen any photos of the Dutch one. But, given that they took several days to get up there I assume that there may indeed be two pillars on the mountain.
On the Friday night, me and Kim met Ojat, Rizal and Angi and set off for Koto Tinggi. The passion fruit (markisa) is particularly good on this journey (near Danau Diatas) so I bought a few for the hike and for breakfast.
By the time we got there (1.30am) all the residents were fast asleep so we had to sleep outside on cement! Not too bad because it didn’t rain and the temperature at 1300m is lovely. Next to a river too.
The following morning began rather painfully as it took what seemed like forever for the local residents to arrange a guide and porter (even though Ojat had visited the previous week). Then th local residents wanted to renegotiate the price (probably due to mega-rich foreigners being present – the usual ignorant beliefs). And then it was time for breakfast. So, we were awake at 6am but didn’t start hiking until almost 9am. Frustrating, all this hanging around, but for many in Indonesia time is seemingly not very precious.
Thankfully the trail was wonderful – much better than expected. Clear, and with a generally gradual gradient. Just a few logs to climb over and one or two steep sections.
We were up at the cement pillar in about 4 hours after spotting the nepenthes (very easy, right next to the trail) and enjoying the sounds of the siamangs and the hornbills. There are a few bird traps near the trail set by local residents so they can sell them to collectors in Padang and elsewhere. A real shame.
After the boundary marker, the trail drops down and we appeared to be getting closer to the peak. At one point 1.7km away (near some Arisaema species). But then we didn’t get any closer, the GPS was stuck at 1.7km away and the trail seemed to keep going down away from the higher ridges of the mountain. Back at the little junction (difficult to spot but basically where the trail drops down from the top of the ridge, mentioned above) we had a look further up the overgrown ridge itself. If MU had been up there in 2009 then there were no more signs and the path totally overgrown again. No chance to re-open 1.9km of dense forest unless a spare day is available.
So we decided to descend a little to find a spot for camping. The boundary pillar spot and Pos 3 are both too small. Pos 2 is a little bigger and Pos 1 even better. But we decided to stay at Pos 2 rather than descend into the leech zone (there aren’t many but certainly you’ll meet one or two).
The night was a loud one! Not the pleasant sounds of the jungle but the annoying music from the porter’s handphone. It was actually fascinating music – unusual Minang violin trills being played primitively at lightning speed and wayang-orang opera vocals. Avantgarde music. I’ve heard a lot of strange music in my life but this was definitely one of the strangest and would never end! I had to ask them to switch it off! Who wants to listen to loud music after a week of working in Jakarta?
The next morning everyone was up early and we shot down the mountain quickly. Only 3 hours (including finding the tiger prints and then having a quick wash at the air panas). The tiger prints were fresh – the same morning – and there were also babi hutan (wild pig) prints so presumably the tiger was in pursuit of a pig or two for an early breakfast.
The hot spring is very small but worth a visit in order to wash the leech marks away and freshen up before departing. So lovely views down the valley too. Alas, once more it seemed that we were going to be waiting around for ages back at the village, technically to have noodles and coffee at the warung (which was not yet open) but in reality it was just a method employed by the local porters to extract more money from us (despite them already having received more than they might get for well over a week of regular farm work). Money changed hands and we were able to leave. A shame, as others in the village were very friendly and it would have been nice to develop a longer-term relationship in which they would be recommended to others as guides/porters. But, as happens so frequently in this part of the world, short term greed destroys it. One of them even (only half-jokingly) asked if I could leave my tent behind for him. You’ve been paid, if you want to buy a tent, go and buy a tent and stop cadging all the time! Honestly!
We stopped near Danau Diatas for lunch and some nice shots of Gunung Talang free from cloud before getting back to Padang in no time (3 hours total, excluding lunch break). Much easier to drive that road during daylight hours. Me and Kim had a couple of beers at the Havilla Marantha hotel in Padang – in the smallest beer glasses I have ever seen. The hotel is supposed to be ‘a hotel and restaurant’ but upon asking I was told that the restaurant is only for breakfast. So, not really a restaurant at all then! Bizarre. My own flight back to Jakarta was uneventful, especially compared to Kim. The chap sitting next to her died of a heart attack just as they were landing. How awful.
Anyway, Pantaicermin is well worth a visit and I may go back when i have more time to see if the true top can be reached. Until then, let’s hope the tiger is left alone and not disturbed, especially by poachers.
One final note. Thanks once again to Alastair Robinson for identifying the pitcher plant species.
On the Arisaema he says “it is from
section Fimbriata – most Arisaema have an undivided spadix (the bit
that is usually phallic in other species), but a subset of species
have a finely divided one, as in this photo. There are only a couple
of such species, and I don’t know this one. You may have found
something new, but an Arisaema expert would need to verify.” Let’s wait and see… if so, Angi gets the credit as he spotted it first!