Mount Kerinci: Indonesia’s Tallest Volcano
Climbing Mount Kerinci Indonesia - Mountain Stats
- #14 Highest Peak in Indonesia
- #27 Highest Peak in South East Asia
- #1 Highest Volcano in Indonesia
- Peak of Indrapura
Climbing Mount Kerinci Indonesia - Natural Form and History
Natural Mount Kerinci Indonesia - Natural history
Mount Kerinci forms part of the Barisan Mountains, a chain of volcanoes that are spread out from the Northwest to the South East of Sumatra. The formation of the Barisan ranges is associated with the land mass movement that resulted in the formation of the Himalayas 70 million years ago. As the landmass of India rammed into the landmass of Asia, a resultant thrust also caused the Barisan range to buckle upward in Sumatra. Over the past 25 million years, continued mountain building and volcanic activity in the region have resulted in the ranges as they are seen today.
Natural Mount Kerinci Indonesia - Climbing history
The plateau around Mt Kerinci saw its first settlements around 10,000 years ago by the Kecik Wok Gedang Wok tribes. The first known ascent to the peak was in December 1877 by Arend Ludolf van Hasselt and Daniël David Veth.
Natural Mount Kerinci Indonesia - Current status
The tallest volcano in Indonesia is increasingly gaining popularity not only for its spectacular views from the top, but also the comparatively shorter and simpler trail as compared to the taller mountain ranges which can take several days to trek in inhospitable conditions – although that does not make it an “easy” summit to negotiate. It is also far less crowded than other popular trekking destinations, in part due to its location that takes an 8-10 hour drive from the nearest airport.
Climbing Mount Kerinci Indonesia - Climbing Experience & Itinerary
Climbing Mount Kerinci Indonesia - Climbing Experience
The trek to the summit of Mt Kerinci is not considered technical, and usually can be accomplished in two days and one night. Some might prefer to add an extra night on the way down to take in the breathtaking beauty of the surrounding rain forests. While the trek can leave you winded by the end of it and a couple of days of soreness in the legs, it is not a technical climb requiring special equipment. A reasonably fit person can expect to complete the trek in the normal two days with just a bit of preparation for the elevation and the strenuous upward climb.
The climbing terrain is composed of 5 distinct sections. From the start of the climb at Kersik Tuo village to the peak of Mt Kerinci, there is much variation in the terrain – from tea plantations to thick rain forest and subalpine vegetation to cracks carved into the rocks by molten lava.
The 20 minute drive from Kersik Tuo village to the Kerinci Seblat National Park Entrance takes you through tea plantations, rice fields and the villages of the farming population. The more adventurous climbers may choose to walk this distance.
The stretch from Kerinci Seblat National Park Entrance to Shelter 1 takes approximately 3.5 hours to cover over a distance of about 7km. It passes through typical lowland rainforest vegetation, and is generally not very challenging except for fallen trees along the way, and 1-2ft high natural steps made from roots that you will need to negotiate.
From Shelter 1 onwards, the trail grows steeper and the climb gets a bit arduous. The rainforest here borders with tundra vegetation. You may find yourself stepping over moss covered tree trunks and stones.
Shelter 2 – Shelter 3 of the trail is steep and shaped like a culvert. It is covered in subalpine vegetation and you may need to rely on the thick gnarly roots for support to climb. It almost seems like you have an umbrella of trees far above you as you climb. But watch your step – the soil is loose and slippery especially if it is wet and the best negotiating points are the intertwined roots that reach down into the culvert and provide a surer footrest.
The final stretch of the climb, generally attempted in the morning on the second day, is a rocky terrain with high altitude winds and no vegetation. It takes about 1.5 hours to climb. The soil is loose and there are shallow screes to negotiate. Good climbing gloves and a headlamp are very essential to tackle this stretch.
Climbing Mount Kerinci Indonesia - Trail options
There is one main, or most popular, trail from the Kerinci Seblat National Park Entrance at the Southern foot of Kerinci. The hiking trail here is pretty clear and easy to follow provided you stick with the main route as advised by the guide. There seem to be several small trails leading off the route and though one might be tempted to explore a bit of the enchanting greenery around, it is advisable to stay on the main trail since the area is surrounded by thick forest vegetation and it is easy to get lost if you wander off the main trail.
There may be other trials up Kerinci, but they are not recommended.
Climbing Mount Kerinci Indonesia - Support facilities
Guides and porters
Food & water
Climbing Mount Kerinci Indonesia - Safety & Accessibility
Sumatra gets a good amount of rain throughout the year and attempting to climb Mt Kerinci during heavy rains may be risky. However, even when it is not the rainy season, some amount of rain continues to fall in the rainforest. Also, expect colder climes as you ascend higher with night temperatures dipping as low as 5°C at the base camp.
The best season to visit is the dry spell between May and September with June and July being an especially good time.
Volcanic activity: Though Mount Kerinci last erupted in 2013, it continues to spew sulphurous smoke. The overwhelming smell makes it difficult to spend much time at the summit and some climbers have also experienced breathing difficulties. It is best to trust your guide’s advice on whether it is safe to go all the way up to the summit and some have even had to abandon the trek after reaching the base camp on days when there is more smoke and ashes than usual.
Slippery slopes: As some amount of rain is to be expected at any time of the year in the rain forests, there may be treacherous stretches which are muddy and slippery. Extreme caution is to be exercised in those stretches and the guide’s supervision is crucial. Once on the summit, do not go too close to the edge of the crater, since in modern climbing history there have been 2 casualties of climbers who have slipped and fallen inside the crater.
Going off-trail: There have been instances where climbers have left the main trail and been lost in the forests. Again, it is extremely important to stick to the trail as suggested by the guides.
Fatigue and injuries: Though this climb is not a technical one, it would still put a fair amount of strain on your stamina. There are possibilities of altitude sickness or exhaustion that may cause you to have to abandon the trek before reaching the summit. Also, carry emergency medicine for minor cuts and scrapes that are bound to happen on the shaggy rock surfaces.
Animal attacks: Though the trails will lead you through thick forests, animal attacks on climbers are quite unheard of. The most likely species that will attack you are small bugs or mosquitoes, hence it is advisable to carry sufficient bug repellents on the climb.
There are climbers who have completed the Mount Kerinci hike without encountering any other person on the way. Though there have been hardly any reports of danger posed to climbers from locals, be aware at all times that this is a remote and secluded area.
Permits, Fees, and Regulations
A permit is needed to enter Kerinci Seblat National Park through which the trail to the summit passes. Most guides or tour operators will help to get a permit at the time of entering the National Park on the first day of your climb. A passport copy may need to be produced for securing the permit.
Getting there and away
Padang International Airport with daily flights from Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta and Medan is the nearest airport for travelers to Mount Kerinci.
From the airport to Kersik Tua, which is the nearest village to the mountains is an 8 hour drive. It is generally advised to arrange transportation beforehand, either through your home-stay or tour operator. If you have not, you may need to seek out fellow travelers to share a minivan from the airport.
Depending on who you book with, there seems to be a lot of variance in how much it costs to climb this mountain. Remember to negotiate and confirm prices with your guide beforehand. A small national park fee should be collected either by your guide or accommodation before the climb, or by a ranger at the trailhead.
Climbing Mount Kerinci Indonesia - Special Tips
Tips for amateur climbers
Take 3 days: Instead of the standard 2 days that are recommended for this trip, climbers may wish to take an extra day to take in the flora and fauna and really savour the experience of hiking through the lovely rainforests. Photography experts must be aware of haze that may obstruct views even in the summer.
Tips for advanced climbers
- Climb in 1 day: For advanced climbers, there is an option to ascend the summit and descend in a single day. The one-day climb is more weather dependent though, and must only be attempted by advanced climbers with significant experience and high fitness levels.
- Continue the trek to Gunung Tujuh Lake: If your legs can take the exercise, you could follow your successful summit climb with a trek up the Seven Mountains Lake – the highest caldera in Southeast Asia – on the next day. A 6km uphill trek takes you to this lake rimmed by seven mountains. The hike starts from the village of Pelompek, 8kms from Kersik Tua village. You can ask your guide about this option.
Tips for women
The locals here are respectful of women and as with most of Indonesia, people are polite, conservative and respectful. For women travelers, Sumatra is a largely friendly region to travel alone but on this particular climb, the remoteness of the location and the fact that there may not be many others up in the mountains must be factored in while planning your trip.
Tips for trail runners
There aren’t any organised races at this peak however, consider speaking to your guide for further information.
Tips for nature lovers
Look out for wild orchids, pitcher plants and wild ginger flowers on this scenic stretch. You may also get to hear the sounds of some of the inhabitants of the Sumatran jungles – endemic Sumatran birds and the Siamang Gibbons.