Sago

Facts

Photos

Bagging It!

Starting from a village with several traditional Minangkabau houses, pleasant farmland quickly becomes unlogged, lush forest and an excellent, litter-free trail brings you to the summit area with views to the famous cliffs of the Harau valley. Gunung Sago (or ‘Malintang’ as the highest peak is sometimes known) provides a great alternative to following the tourist hordes and trail of litter up Gunung Marapi, or the more challenging Gunung Singgalang. It’s only 1 hour from the resort town of Bukittinggi and also reasonably accessible for those sweltering away in Pekanbaru.

There aren’t many mountains like this anymore in Java, where local communities and hikers respect the forest and the trail. According to the local Bakosurtanal map, there are actually three named peaks on the Sago range. Malintang at 2,261.5m, Sago at 2,078m down to the south, and Karas at 2,035m to the south-east of Malintang peak, though the lower two are presumably only very rarely visited, if at all.

The starting point for the hike is near the pleasant village of Situjuah Gadang (also spelt Situjuh), which has several impressive Minangkabau houses that are still simply family homes – this is very much off the tourist trail. Situjuah Gadang itself is about 15 minutes drive from Payakumbuh, which is on the main road between Padang/Bukittinggi and Pekanbaru. As you enter Situjuah Gadang from Payakumbuh, the small clock tower in provides an easy landmark, and at the T-junction you go south and uphill towards the trailhead at the village of Sikabu (919m), or better still, the village of Kaciak, according to a 2019 report. This takes about 15-20 minutes and the road is a little rough so it’s easier with a motorbike (see the practicalities section about getting a guide to pick you up on a motorbike in Payakumbuh). Park your motorbike at the bend in the road next to a bright pink house (820m) or get dropped off here by your driver. From here the trail leads straight ahead up through farmland.

The trail passes through pleasant farmland with chilli and tobacco being two common crops. You can see the small “Gunung Tiga” on the left and the lush forested slopes of Gunung Sago ahead. As usual, this is the most difficult part of the hike to follow the trail because there are so many possible paths through the farmland. After 1km you may need crouch a little where there is some tall grass falling over the trail (but this is nowhere near as bad as nearby Singgalang).

At roughly 1,125m you enter the forest and you see a sign “Jalur Pendakian” that informs you the summit of Gunung Sago is 2,261m. From here it is a very sraightfoward 3-4 hour hike to the summit area and almost immediately you are enjoying excellent forest with some very large trees – it’s a really pleasant surprise and shows what is possible when strong local communities respect their environment and prevent illegal logging. The trail is also wonderfully litter-free, which is a credit to the local communities and hiking groups that promote “sampah tolong di bawah pulang” or “please take your trash back home.”

The trail is not excessively steep and not eroded. Indeed, the first section of the trail has an absolutely perfect gradient. Higher up, there are a few occasions where you need to clamber over fallen trees and roots, but it’s really straightforward. At 1,225m you reach what our guide called Pos 1 and at 1,575m you reach what was called Shelter 1 / Camp Area, although there is no shelter. Similarly, you reach Shelter 2 at 2,000m, which is essentially a clearing where you could camp. Water is available near both ‘shelters’. Above Shelter 2, you should notice the trees becoming smaller and there is more moss around. You also turn and start hiking more due northwest and get a sense that you are on the summit ridge. You eventually come to a rocky outcrop where you can climb up easily using the trees routes, or if you go to the left there is an easier way up.

A few minutes later you emerge in the the smooth rock viewpoint (2,236m), from where you get fantastic views north towards the Harau valley and down to the plains and the town of Payakumbuh. Just past the viewpoint is a sign that supposedly marks the summit of Gunung Malintang at 2,261m – your guide will also declare you have reached the puncak. However, you haven’t and the true summit lies along an overgrown but clear path that takes you up and down over four other “summits’ about 15-20 minutes further northwest. At times you have to crawl under a few branches and over large roots, but you finally know you’ve reached the summit of Gunung Sago because it is the last in these series of “bumps.” It is also marked by a tree that has several metal nameplates marking this and other trail routes on the mountain and one that names the summit of Gunung Sago at 2,078m. This is of course an error – the peak is around 2,262m!

Having bagged the true summit, return to the viewpoint and enjoy being off the beaten track and on a mountain usually only climbed by locals. Return the same way.

Bagging information by Andy Dean (April, 2011) updated by Daniel Quinn (September 2011)

Trail Map

Peta Jalur Pendakian Gunung Sago
For a high quality PDF version of this and other trail maps, please download from our Trail Maps page.

Local Accommodation



Booking.com

Practicalities

    • Getting there: Payakumbuh is easily accessible from Padang and Bukittinggi in the west and Pekanbaru to the east. The starting point at Sikabu village, via Situjuah gadang, is best accessed with a motorbike. A good option if you don’t have a motorbike is take the express bus to Payakumbuh or arrange a drop-off by private car in Payakumbuh or Situjuah Gadang – then find an ojek for the ride to Sikabu. Better still, the guide we connected with picked us up in the centre of Payakumbuh with some friends and took us to Sikabu direct. It’s a long walk back from Sikabu to Situjuah Gadang if you don’t remember to book an ojek to pick you up, or have your guides and his friends to take you to catch an express bus back to Bukittinggi.
    • Guides and GPS Tracks: Want a PDF version for your phone? Looking for a guide? Need GPS tracks and waypoints? Gunung Sago information pack can be downloaded here.
    • Permits: None required but take a photocopy of your passport photo page just in case.
    • Water sources: Available in several places (notably Shelter 1 and Shelter 2) by descending left off the trail, but for a short hike you can take sufficient supplies with you.
    • 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.

Local Average Monthly Rainfall (mm):

bukittinggi

Location

Links and References

Wikipedia English
Wikipedia Indonesia

6 thoughts on “Sago

  1. I climbed Gunung Sago in mid-December 2019.

    I flew from Jakarta to Padang, noting that the ticket price has effectively doubled compared to December 2018, when I was on the way to Gunung Talang. In compensation, I did earn a free ‘Wonderful Indonesia’ t-shirt at the Tourist Information Office in the arrivals hall as a reward for nothing more than asking a few questions! Following their advice, I took the clean and comfortable airport train, opened in 2018, to Tabing Station (30 minutes, Rp10,000). Outside Tabing Station was a line of Colts [i.e. minibuses] heading up to Bukittinggi and points beyond. To Payakumbuh takes 4 hours and costs Rp25,000. Payakumbuh is on the main road from Riau province into West Sumatra, so it’s become a popular highland getaway for weekenders from Pekanbaru, and the main road is lined with shops, cafes and restaurants.

    From Payakumbuh I chartered an angkot for Rp70,000 to cover the last 20 minute stretch up to Sago Park Guesthouse, a homestay with simple rooms, hot showers and a large and well-kept garden on a hillside in Situjuah Gadang. Pak Heri, the owner, arranged for his nephew and a friend to be my guides for a two-day hike to the peak for a fee of Rp1,600,000.

    The walk from Sago Park to the trailhead is 5km. Although the Minang farming villages along the road are attractive, ojeks are advisable to avoid a 90 minute walk in hot sun. The trail we took (which appears to be the one described in the main text above) starts at about 800m altitude in the hamlet of Kaciak (not Sikabu). Just near the Nurul Hasanah Mosque there is a t-junction, with the asphalt road heading down to Payakumbuh, and a narrower cart track heading up toward Gunung Sago. The cart track, passing several farmers’ houses, is actually passable by jeep or motorbike right up to 1015m, where there is a turn to the right, shortly before entering the forest at 1100m.

    This is indeed a pleasant forest trail, clean, mostly devoid of mud patches or prickly plants, and with a gradient that steadily steepens as you ascend. We passed two obvious camp sites: one, called Camp Area, at 1550m and one, called Shelter 2b, at 1980m. Both have access trails to the stream on the left, which remains within earshot for much of the ascent. At about 2120m, there is a brief treacherous section where the trail skirts the top of a landslide, requiring extra care in foot placement and handholds. But within a minute the trail returns to forest, turns northeast and flattens off for the last 20 minutes to the campsite/ viewpoint (altitude 2232m on our GPS, but 2250m according to the Gunung Malintang sign).

    The campsite space is mostly occupied by a large, flat rock, leaving just three grassy or soil pitches large enough for a tent, and the large, grassy one is on an uncomfortable slope. We reached the campsite at 17.45, having set off at 10.00. The relatively long time to ascend 1500m resulted from the long approach march and from frequent rest stops in the forest.

    We twice visited the summit, once just before dark, and again next morning. It takes about 20 minutes from the campsite to reach the summit. The trail is clear and follows the ridge. The trickiest parts were a short walk on a fallen tree trunk, followed by a crawl under a fallen tree just before the summit, which is crowned by a volcano monitoring device, a radio antenna and some solar panels. Our maximum GPS reading here was 2264m, which matches well with the Nelles map height of 2262m and the Periplus map height of 2263m. About 2 minutes further on is the flat top with the large tree and metal signs, but our maximum GPS reading here was only 2256m; perhaps the Gunung Bagging equivalent of a Video Assistant Referee is needed to adjudicate which is the true summit.

    We experienced no rain during the ascent, but a one-hour rainstorm at about 21.30, partial cloud cover the next morning and intermittent drizzle during the descent. From the campsite, the ‘sunrise’ view actually extends only over the northwest quadrant, as other areas, including the sunrise itself, are concealed by vegetation. Gunung Marapi looms quite large, and Gunung Talakmau, about 90km away, is clearly visible. On the trail between the campsite and the summit, there are a couple of spots with views to the south; we could see subsidiary tops of Gunung Sago, but anything beyond remained cloud-covered while we were there.

    During the hike we saw some birds, including a flock of hornbills, and at the campsite we spotted a curious brown rat, perhaps a long-tailed giant rat (Leopoldamys sabanus), foraging through our left-over sauce packets. Our descent took 6 hours, with rain adding to the slipperiness of the trail, before finally reaching Sago Park for a hot shower and a nasi goreng. Pak Heri charged Rp50,000 to ferry me down to Payakumbuh, where I took a Colt (Rp12,000, 60 minutes) to Bukittinggi.

  2. Hello

    Does anyone have a good guide to recommend for these 3 mountains over 2-3 days from 14-16 Feb 2018?

    Mount Singgalang
    Mount Marapi
    Mount Sago

    Thank you.

    Regards
    Bernard

  3. Just heading to ascent Sago today. About that metal nameplates which were on the trees indicated the wrong elevation. I suppose that despite the whole mountain is called Sago, indeed it said there is 3 main peak there:

    “Gunung Sago terdiri dari 3 puncak dengan puncak gunung Malintang sebagai puncak tertinggi. Tetapi kebanyakan orang mengenalnya dengan sebutan Gunung Sago. Ketiga puncak tersebut berturut-turut dari yang tertinggi adalah:
    Puncak gunung Malintang dengan ketinggian: 2261,5 mdpl
    Puncak gunung Sago dengan ketinggian: 2078 mdpl
    Puncak gunung Karas dengan ketinggian 2035 mdpl.”

    So maybe the name plate was exactly put on the Sago peak so it is correct

  4. Bagged Gunung Sago on Saturday – unfortunately I had low clouds too but it was an easy and pleasant forest hike in an interesting and friendly area. Watch out for leeches – there are one or two on the lower slopes of the mountain, in addition to some of the largest ants I have ever seen. On the positive side, we saw quite a few monkeys thrashing around in the highest branches and there is a lovely wild raspberry bush at the viewpoint – which went some way to making up for the lack of view!
    If you google ‘gunung sago’ you will find local news reports of 3 tigers having descended from the mountain into local villages. This was in 2009. Apparently a man out collecting wood was eaten in Lintau (a less common approach for hikers climbing the mountain). I don’t know what happened to the 3 tigers but they almost certainly aren’t on the mountain anymore. They must have left the area as a last resort due to lack of food. But this is just another reason not to go hiking alone, especially in Sumatra.
    Thumbs up to the local hiking group Mapala Pagaruyung for their many red and green puncak signs. I’m not sure who put up the signs on the true peak but the elevation figure is way, way off!
    That night I had a great time at Bedudal Cafe on Jl A Yani, Bukittinggi – the best bar in town. The night before I stayed in Padang at a new place called Brigitte Guesthouse – owned by a pleasant woman called Brigitte and popular with surfers. For those who fancy an adventure, you may want to consider flying back from Pekanbaru. It takes the best part of a day to get there from Bukittinggi but there is some good scenery around Harau Valley and then some large lakes and rivers once into Riau province. You can use a ‘travel car’ (shared with other passengers) for less than 100,000 – much better than taking a bus.

  5. We had a great hike up Gunung Sago, even though it was cloudy on the summit. It’s a straightforward mountain to climb and if you are luckier than us, the views are supposed to be excellent.

    We stayed in Bukittinggi and arranged an early morning one-way drop off to Payakumbuh through one of the “tourist cafes.” We met up with Anto, our guide who we found Anto through a friend of a friend of a friend. Anto is now listed in the Guides database. Organising the hike and where to meet was easy using SMS. Instead of needing ojeks to the trailhead, Anto brought two friends along for the hike and also confirmed that they would drop us off at the right place to catch an express bus back to Bukittinggi after the hike.

    Apart from the lack of view because of cloud, everything worked out really well and we would definitely recommend this hike if you are in the area and looking for a nice mountain that is off the tourist trail.

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