Mount Lawu is a fun, amateur friendly hike, and a portal to other dimensions
Climbing Mount Lawu Indonesia - Mountain Stats
- #6 highest in Java
- #3 most prominent peak in Java
Climbing Mount Lawu Indonesia - Natural Form and History
Natural Mount Lawu Indonesia - Natural history
The geology of Lawu is pretty interesting – a massive compound stratovolcano which hasn’t erupted since 1885, but had a series of earthquakes in 1978, and since has a seemingly rather unstable and ominous topography.
The North slope is highly eroded due to a crescentic rift valley that has been left from the younger Lawu volcano of Holocene age. The eastern side of this rift contains parasitic volcanology, with crater lakes and cones. There is also a fumarole on the South flank half way up the trail that seems to be emitting sulphurous gasses.
Natural Mount Lawu Indonesia - Climbing history
There’s something strange about Lawu and its human history.
For one, there are surreal places of Javanese Hindu worship built in the 15th century (just before the area converted to Islam) on the western flank of Lawu. They’re quite distinctive and strange, even by the standards of Indonesia’s unique Hindu offshoot. The founder of Candi Sukuh thought that the slope of Mount Lawu was a sacred place for worshiping the ancestors and nature spirits and for observance of the fertility cults. Its main monument is a simple pyramid structure with reliefs and statues in front of it, including three tortoises with flattened shells and a statue of a male figure grasping his penis (which was decapitated by vandals after the conversion to Islam).
Also, according to some locals, a man disappeared on the mountain in early 2019 after he accidentally stepped into another dimension. Given that the complex volcanology on the Northern flank of the mountain actually creates cracks in the earth’s crust, which a man could perhaps fall down, and that climbers report an odd smell of sulphur in the upper reaches of the mountain, can we really rule it out?
Natural Mount Lawu Indonesia - Current status
It is considered the 6th of the “7 Summits of Java”, which makes it a sought after peak for local peakbaggers, but is otherwise not particularly popular for foreign climbers.
The road that gets you to the trailheads – which passes between Lawu and the neighbouring Al A’raf Peak to the South – is popular with locals. As an escape from the heat, with nice views and green areas, a cottage industry of strawberry farms and coffee shops has sprung up for day trippers from nearby towns.
Climbing Mount Lawu Indonesia - Climbing Experience & Itinerary
Climbing Mount Lawu Indonesia - Climbing Experience
Climbing Mount Lawu Indonesia - Trail options
There are two main trails that form a loop on the southern slope of Lawu, and most choose to trek up and down these trails. They aren’t well groomed, but don’t require technical skills or scrambling. There is one trail in the Northwest, but this is not popular, and may be unsafe.
Climbing Mount Lawu Indonesia - Support facilities
Guides and porters
Food & water
Climbing Mount Lawu Indonesia - Safety & Accessibility
Given that the trials start at 1900 m elevation, the weather on Lawu is cool tending to cold at its high summit. It still has an equatorial monsoonal climate, so prepare for rain regardless of the time of year.
The trails on the South flank of the mountain – which most people choose for summiting Lawu – are safe to climb. They aren’t well groomed, but don’t require technical skills or scrambling. However, if you want to take a shortcut up the switchbacks on the Cemoro Kandang trail, be prepared for a bit more of a scramble. The Cemoro Sewu trail is a bit steeper, but shouldn’t require scrambling.
It’s probably not a good idea to climb Lawu from the North. It seems to be unstable (and a little spooky too).
There are no special personal safety hazards on Lawu that wouldn’t apply to the whole of Java. You will find yourself more alone on the Cemoro Kendang trail compared to Cemoro Sewu, but there are a couple of caretakers that live at shelters along this trail.
Permits, Fees, and Regulations
A permit is required to climb Lawu, which can be bought at the trailheads of Cemoro Kandang and Sewu on the southern access point to the mountain.
Police and General emergencies: 110 or 112
Getting there and away
Getting to the Lawu trailheads on the southern flank of the mountain is pretty straightforward by way of the paved road that cuts through a 1900m saddle between Lawu and Puncak Al-A’raf.
If coming from the Eastern side, the smaller town of Magetan is the main transport node, which is about 200km drive from Surabaya.
If coming from the West, the nearest larger town on the Western side is Surakarta, about 50km from the trailheads, and the major city of Semerang is a further 100km drive from there. The Sukuh temple is on this side of the mountain.
Most either get taxis, or rent motorbikes which they leave at the trailheads overnight (the two trailheads are close enough to each other to walk back to the other one along the main road if you want to go up one and down the other).
The permit will cost about 50,000 IDR (~$3.50).
Climbing Mount Lawu Indonesia - Special Tips
Tips for amateur climbers
Lawu is an amateur-friendly hike. The Cemoro Kandang trail has easier terrain than Cemoro Sewu. If you’d like to go up one and down the other, it is usually a better idea to take the more difficult (Sewu) on the way up.
Tips for advanced climbers
There won’t be many challenges presented to advanced climbers. But the Cemoro Kandang trail does have shortcuts that cut through the switchbacks if you feel like more of a scramble. If you do this, please be kind to the foliage.
Tips for women
There are no special challenges to women on Lawu. If you’re climbing solo and would prefer to have people around, choose Cemoro Sewu. There are also some checkpoints/posts that are more popular for people to stay overnight.
Tips for responsible / safety-conscious climbers
Mount Lawu is not a protected area and is likely under some environmental stress, so please be careful to make sure that your activities on Lawu don’t do any damage to what ecosystem remains. Please be sure to bring your trash with you when you leave.
Tips for trail runners
Lawu is fair game for trail runners. Run up the steeper Cemoro Sewu, and down Cemoro Kandang. It’s a 14 to 15km loop with around 1,400 m vertical gain.
Tips for nature lovers
There are some parts where you can appreciate some alpine wildflowers.