Mount Lawu

indonesia

Mount Lawu is a fun, amateur friendly hike, and a portal to other dimensions

Mountain Stats
Natural Form and History
Climbing Experience & Itinerary
Support Facilities
Safety & Accessibility
Special Tips
Gallery
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Quick Answers

Q:How do you climb Mount Lawu?
A:Mount Lawu is an amateur-friendly, 2D1N hike up a mountain that is geologically and spiritually fascinating. The two most popular trails link up to make a popular loop, with regular shelters to camp at along the way. The trailheads start at 1900m along a road on the southern flank of the mountain, and the 15 km loop has a 1,365m vertical climb to the 3,325m summit.
Q:Is Mount Lawu an active volcano?
A:Mount Lawu is 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. Lawu seems to be on the edge of the "dormant" category, but not quite. 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.

Climbing Mount Lawu Indonesia - Mountain Stats

Country
indonesia
Height
3,265 m (10,712 ft)
Climbing Height
1,365 m (4,478 ft)
Numbers
  • #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

Number of options
2
Summary

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.

Time to complete
2

Cemoro Kandang is the path less taken compared to Cemoro Sewu, which means its the more recommended. However, its facilities are still adequate, and the scenery is equally impressive. It is also less steep, but this means it is necessarily a bit longer to get to the summit.

There are rest-stops placed about 1 hour hike apart on average, some with good camping facilities. There is potable water available at some points, but this might not be available if the climate is in a dry cycle.

Like most mountains in Java, it starts in thickly forested areas, traverses through thinner and misty alpine meadows and forests, before having exposed and rocky upper slopes (which in the case of Lawu does not offer much by way of volcanology).

Itinerary
Number of days
2
Day 1
10:00:

Get your permit from the head of the Cemoro Kandang trailhead. It is a sheltered area near the main road with plenty of places to stock up on food and drinks before heading off up the trail.

Watch out for monkeys! (Carry a stick)

11:00:

Reach checkpoint 1, which has a small shelter where you can take a rest.

12:00:

Reach Checkpoint 2. This is a bigger and cleaner shelter than Checkpoint 1 or 3, and would be a decent place to camp if you were running late and its already getting dark.

13:00:

Switchbacks around this point offer a shortcut – i.e., to cut through the switchbacks with a smaller, steeper path.

If you have to make up for lost time, have the energy, and are up for a scramble, consider cutting across here.

On the way between Checkpoint 2 and 3 there is a “Pos Bayangan” or “Imagination Post”, where you can also rest.

You may notice a smell of sulphur around here – the same sort of smell that you might come across in more active volcanic calderas.

13:30:

Reach Checkpoint 3, which is a more exposed area with a shelter with space for about 2 to 3 tents if you need to camp there.

This area is exposed on one side, with the vegetation starting to thin out a bit, so winds can pick up. Otherwise its a good place for sunsets.

14:15:

Stop at Checkpoint 4 overnight. This is the more popular place for camping, and has more space for tents if there are many people camping out.

The vegetation is thinner by this point, with some interesting alpine vegetation.

This is also an exposed space and good place for sunsets.

There is also a caretaker who stays at a private hut here. He can sell you tea and coffee, and can help you out if you have a need.

Day 2
03:00:

Head off towards the summit bright and early (if you want to make sunrise).

If you’re coming back the same way, you could consider leaving your bags and fetching them on the return.

03:45:

Reach Checkpoint 5, which is pretty exposed, and you are starting to walk along the upper ridges and false summits of Lawu.

There is a way to skip Checkpoint 5 entirely.

04:00:

Reach a fake summit. And head towards the real summit.

05:00:

Reach the summit of Lawu in time to rest and enjoy the sunrise.

There isn’t much by way of volcanic intrigue or activity to explore on the Lawu summit.

07:00:

Head back towards the trailhead, either back via the Cemoro Kandang, or Cemoro Sewu (which is more popular, with more provisions of food and drink, but steeper and more dangerous to come down on).

12:00:

Reach the trailhead of whichever trial you chose to come down on. If you came down on a different trail and need to retrieve your transport from the other trailhead, you can walk back along the road (should take 15 to 20 minutes).

Time to complete
2

Cemoro Sewu is the eastern trail up from the main road on the southern stretch of the mountain. It is steeper and therefore a bit more difficult than Cemoro Kandang, but given that it ends up at the same summit, you might get more out of the trek if you ascend on Sewu and descend on Kandang (going the other way is marginally less safe).

Cemoro Sewu is also more popular than Kandang, which means its better if you’re interested in meeting people, feeling less isolated, or having food and drink available to purchase (at the various rest stops).

Otherwise, it’s a similar climbing experience to Cemoro Kandang, and could be climbed with roughly the same schedule.

Climbing Mount Lawu Indonesia - Support facilities

Guides and porters

Guides are not required
Porters are not required

Trail facilities

Trail head - Registration kiosk
Trail head - Toilets / Bathrooms
Trail - Rest stop shelters, such as huts, pavilions, etc.

Food & water

Trail head - Food
Trail head - Potable water
Trail - Portable water

Network connectivity

Trail head - Network signal
Trail - Network signal

Climbing Mount Lawu Indonesia - Safety & Accessibility

Weather

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.

Climbing safety

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).

Personal safety

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.

Emergency contacts

Police and General emergencies: 110 or 112

Ambulance: 118

Fire: 113

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).

Money Matters

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.

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