Mount Merapi

indonesia

Merapi, or “Fire Maker”, is one of Indonesia’s most active volcanoes, yet is strangely one of the most popular hikes.

The 4km long hike contains a portion where 700m is climbed at about 45 degrees. If you’re fit, you could expect to reach the summit in under 4 hours. You don’t want to be up there too long though, as it erupts every 5 to 10 years, and the last eruption killed 350 people.

Country
indonesia
Height
2,930m (9,610ft)
Climbing Height
1,300m (starting from Selo)
Rank
  • Outside of top #20 in Indonesia
  • Outside of top #50 in SE Asia

Climbing Mount Merapi Indonesia - Natural Form and History

Climbing Mount Merapi Indonesia - History

Climbing Mount Merapi Indonesia - Geological history

Known as the Fire Mountain, Merapi is situated in southern Java in the region where the Indo-Australian Plate slides under the Sunda Plate. Merapi is the most active of 129 active volcanoes in Indonesia and as per stratigraphic analysis it started experiencing eruptions about 400,000 years ago. Today, the mountain is one of 16 decade volcanoes, identified by the International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth's Interior (IAVCEI) for special study given the regularity of eruptions and proximity to populated areas.

Climbing Mount Merapi Indonesia - Modern climbing history

Merapi has been a climbing destination for a long time, despite regular volcanic activity. It has erupted twice in recent years: once in 2006 and then again in 2010, when a long series of explosions killed 350 people broke the previous record of 120 hours recorded in 1872.

Climbing Mount Merapi Indonesia - Current popularity as a climbing destination

In an odd correlation, as its popularity has grown for being a dangerous volano the last few decades, its popularity among climbers has also picked up. Tens of thousands of people attempt the climb every year now, although The Mount Merapi National Park Agency some times proactively steps in to limit the number of climbers, as they did on New Year's eve in December 2016 (with a limit of 2,500 hikers) and again in May 2018, when a new explosion led to a 3km evacuation zone around the mountain and a halt in all hiking activities.

Climbing Mount Merapi Indonesia - Overview of the Trail

Climbing Mount Merapi Indonesia - Overall Assessment

Climbing Mount Merapi Indonesia - Summary of trail accessibility

The Merapi trail is about 4km long and stretches from New Solo to the summit with an elevation of 700m at an angle of about 45 degrees - making it a steep and challenging exercise. The trail has a number of different sections and switches from roads to rocks, and roots to sand. A fit person requires around 4 hours to scale the height, but whereas an inexperienced climber would take an additional hour to do the same.

Climbing Mount Merapi Indonesia - Trail options

Number of options
2
Summary

There are two listed trail options, one from Selo on the northern slope and an alternative one on the south from Kinahrejo, the latter one generally considered to be extremely dangerous and hence better avoided.

The Selo trail is often used by walkers when the volcano is inactive. The altitude of the trek goes from 2,200m at New Selo to 2,900m at the summit. It is a 4km trek and requires 8 hours for the ascent and descent of the peak.

This trail is on the southern slope of the mountain, and starts starts at the lava stream 200m east of the memorial museum. If you're lucky (depending on your perspective of course) and there is volcanic activity going on, you may see molten lava flowing way down the slopes of the mountain in some sections. Considered too dangerous for most hikers, it is also usually closed.

Climbing Mount Merapi Indonesia - Most popular trail

The Selo trail.

Climbing Mount Merapi Indonesia - Standard itinerary

Number of days
1
Summary

The Selo trail allows the climbers to complete both the ascent and descent within a span of 8 hours. The climb begins from the parking lot of New Selo and takes about 4 hours to reach the summit. Most of the climbers prefer to start the hike after midnight to reach the summit by sunrise at 5:30. Great care needs to be taken during descent as the trail is extremely slippery.

Climbing Mount Merapi Indonesia - Day 1

19:30:  Pick up from the hotel at Yogyakarta. It takes 2 hours to reach Selo, a small village that is 1600 meters above sea level.

22:00:  You can start walking from the Selo village, or drive on for another 30 minutes to reach the New Selo basecamp, which is about 4 km from the summit.

01:00:  The hike starts from New Selo basecamp which is about 4 km from the summit. You’ll walk up first along an open farmland and then through a forest that can be thick in places, so make sure you have your headlamps on to see the path ahead, even if the moon is up in the sky.

04:30:  Reach the rest camp at Pasar Bubrah. Catch your breath before starting up again towards the summit. If the moonlight is bright, or you’re late and there is some sunlight already, you will see the almost moon-like landscape of Merapi at this point.

05:30:  The last part of the stretch is the most difficult, as you may need to scamble over sand and loose rock to negotiate the 200m to the summit. Get there in time for sunrise though, and you’ll be rewarded with a perfect view of flat lands spread out around you for miles and amazing shadows from the rising sun.

06:30:  Start the descent to New Selo. As difficult the loose sand is on the way up, it is the easiest thing to navigate while coming down, since every step you take will sink in the dust to bring you down even further.

09:00:  Get a late breakfast at New Solo, and take a taxi back to Yogyakarta hotel or airport.

Climbing Mount Merapi Indonesia - Climbing Difficulty

Climbing Mount Merapi Indonesia - Terrain

Number of distinct sections
4
Summary

The trail starts through farmland and grass and tropical forest before getting rocky and unstable. Beyond 2,400 m, the trail is mostly volcanic rock and gravel and one dominant boulder called Watu Gadja by the locals. Afer the Pasar Bubrah plateau which is at an elevation of about 2,640m, starts the most difficult section of the trail until the crater summit.

Climbing Mount Merapi Indonesia - From Selo to the start of the forest
If you start from Selo, the first section of the trail is a steep paved road until a big Hollywood sign that says "New Selo", although some tourists also start hiking from this point on. The path here begins with a series of concrete tiles embedded in volcanic ash. It then turns into terraced farmland which leads to the edge of a forest with sub alpine vegetation.
Climbing Mount Merapi Indonesia - Through the forest
The forest is thick and bushes in some sections may limit your ability to see other tourists' flashlights above you. The terrain constantly changes, from dirts and rocks to tree roots, and will need you to hold on to surrounding vegetation to maintain balance as you navigate up. This part is the steepest of the climb, with inclines of 45-degrees.
Climbing Mount Merapi Indonesia - From the forest to Pasar Bubrah
The forest clears up a couple of hours after the trek, and brings you to a stretch covered with volcanic rock and sand. This is a short stretch and brings you to Pasar Bubrah, a large open area about 1 square kilometer in size and flat.
Climbing Mount Merapi Indonesia - From Pasar Bubrah to the crater summit
The last part of the stretch, to the crater summit is the most difficult section up the mountain. With inclines at nearly 60 degrees, and loose sand and rock which will slip every time you take a step, you will very quickly find yourself having to scramble on all 4's. In this section, it is difficult to see the end of the trail, so the best thing to do is to just put your head down and keep walking, until you get to the summit and there are no more steps to take.

Climbing Mount Merapi Indonesia - Weather

Climbing Mount Merapi Indonesia - Overview of climate

The weather in this part of Indonesia switches between the dry season from May to October, and he the rainy season from November to April. The weather is often plesant when you start the trek, but one needs to guard against a remarkable drop in temperature at night which can go below 10 degrees.

Climbing Mount Merapi Indonesia - Best time to climb

The season from May to October is the driest and hence considered to be the safest (the trails become slippery and dangerous in the rainy season). Usually, trekkers prefer to begin the hike at around midnight and reach the summit before the sunrise. Some also attempt daytime hikes, but they are more dangerous given sulphuric gas emissions that pick up in the day.

Climbing Mount Merapi Indonesia - Common weather challenges

Rains:  The path can become dangerously slippery if it rains. The last 300m incline especially is very steep and devoid of any plantation, covered mainly with loose rocks and almost nothing to hold on to.

Climbing Mount Merapi Indonesia - Safety tips

Climbing Mount Merapi Indonesia - Climbing safety

Slips and falls:  Even though it is a just a 4km climb from Selo to Mount Merapi, parts of it are very steep, with a high risk of slips and falls, especially if it rains. So it is advisable to not to rush into the climb. Reaching the crater peak is the most difficult part, and one should stay away from the adventure of trying to look into the bottom of the crater. A young man from Yogyakarta died in 2015 at the summit, while trying to take a dangerous selfie.

Volcanic eruptions:  Check the news before you start planning. Mount Merapi is an active volcano and the Merapi Volcanic Observatory constantly monitors the volcanic activity of Mount Merapi in order to issue evacuation orders to the population of the area. There are three different levels of warning with the highest being evacuation done till 10km from the crater.

Climbing Mount Merapi Indonesia - Personal safety

As Mount Merapi is one of the most popular hikes in Indonesia, there is no fear of being left isolated or stranded.

Climbing Mount Merapi Indonesia - Safety for women travelers

Indonesia is generally considered a safe country for women, and there is no apparent risk on this trail. Even so, the hike is best done in a group if you have the option to find fellow travelers to accompany.

Climbing Mount Merapi Indonesia - Recommended equipment

Climbing Mount Merapi Indonesia - Footwear
  • Hiking boots or good sports shoes.
  • Sandals might come in handy during the descent. Indonesian trekkers can be seen trekking up in slippers though it is not advisable for foreigners.
Climbing Mount Merapi Indonesia - Clothing
  • Bag pack with rain cover
  • A quick dry T-shirt
  • A warm jacket or sweater for the night
  • Gloves:  for protection against cold
  • Warm cap:  for protection against cold
Climbing Mount Merapi Indonesia - Bags

Waterproof backpack

Climbing Mount Merapi Indonesia - Weather protection
  • Rain coat / poncho
  • Waterproof cover for backpack
  • Waterproof cover for camera
Climbing Mount Merapi Indonesia - Climbing support

Hiking poles (optional)

Climbing Mount Merapi Indonesia - Navigation tools
  • Headlamps
  • Flashlight (optional)
Climbing Mount Merapi Indonesia - Medical equipment

Basic first-aid kid, for cuts and bruises

Climbing Mount Merapi Indonesia - Food
  • Drinking water; bring at least 3 litres with you as water is not available on the way.
  • High-calorie dry food items – chocolates, energy bars, etc.
Climbing Mount Merapi Indonesia - Hygene sanitation
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Toilet paper
  • Wet and dry tissues
  • Disposable plastic bags for waste collection
Climbing Mount Merapi Indonesia - Connectivity

Mobile phone(s)

Climbing Mount Merapi Indonesia - Documents
  • Passport (or other IDs): for registration and emergencies
  • Entry ticket for the National Park

Climbing Mount Merapi Indonesia - Support facilities

Climbing Mount Merapi Indonesia - Resting stops and facilities

Climbing Mount Merapi Indonesia - Rest stops

The first rest stop comes at the New Solo after 30 minutes of starting the hike from Solo. The second stop is at the Pasar Bubrah plateau at an altitude of 2,640m where climbers camp before scaling the final part of the summit.

Climbing Mount Merapi Indonesia - Base camp

Given the short trek, the only “base camp” is at the start of the summit, which offers you local street food and basic washing facilities.

Climbing Mount Merapi Indonesia - Guides and porters

Climbing Mount Merapi Indonesia - Do you need a guide?

It is not mandatory to have a guide at Mount Merapi, but one needs be updated with the weather warnings as well as the guidelines from the observatory regarding eruptions. Having one though will definitely make the trek easier, and save you from taking a few wrong in places when the path forks in two. Guides also carry walkie -talkies to call for help should anyone get hurt.

Climbing Mount Merapi Indonesia - How to find a guide?

Various travel agencies in Yogyakarta provide with a guide. One can also engage a guide from Selo.

Climbing Mount Merapi Indonesia - Tips while working with guides

If hiring a guide on the day, talk to them in advance to make sure they understand your language and communication is clear.

Climbing Mount Merapi Indonesia - Porters

Climbing Mount Merapi Indonesia - Do you need a porter?

Porters are not required for this climb.

Climbing Mount Merapi Indonesia - How to find a porter?

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Climbing Mount Merapi Indonesia - Tips while working with porters

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Climbing Mount Merapi Indonesia - Food & water

Climbing Mount Merapi Indonesia - At the start of the hike

For the preferred night hike, a light supper at New Selo is enough before embarking on the journey ahead.

Climbing Mount Merapi Indonesia - During the hike, along the trail

There is no food available along the way, and any sources of water you find are likely to be sulphurous and not potable.

Climbing Mount Merapi Indonesia - During the hike, at base camp

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Climbing Mount Merapi Indonesia - Network connectivity

Climbing Mount Merapi Indonesia - Phone and data (3G) connectivity

Mobile connectivity is quite patchy on Merapi.

Climbing Mount Merapi Indonesia - Accessibility

Climbing Mount Merapi Indonesia - Getting there

Climbing Mount Merapi Indonesia - Nearest airport
Yogyakarta airport is the nearest, and sits aroud 30 kilometers from the volcano.
Climbing Mount Merapi Indonesia - From the airport to the starting point

One can hire a taxi from Yogyakarta to Selo. It takes about 2 hours to reach Selo and another 30 minutes to reach the base camp in the New Selo parking lot. Taxi drivers might be willing to wait for you to complete the hike and bring you back once you’re done – talk to them beforehand if you’d like to keep that an option.

Climbing Mount Merapi Indonesia - Climbing permits

Climbing Mount Merapi Indonesia - Is a permit needed?
Yes.
Climbing Mount Merapi Indonesia - How to get a permit?

There is a registration ticket required at around 1.5km up the trail from New Selo, although it might be closed if there are danger signs of the volcano erupting. Be prepared to be presented with a 10x higher entry fee if you’re a foreign climber.

Climbing Mount Merapi Indonesia - Special Tips

Climbing Mount Merapi Indonesia - For amateur climbers

If you want to spend more time up on the mountain, there’s an option to start the climb earlier in the evening, and camp overnight on the mountain before you wake up and carry on towards the summit the next morning.

Climbing Mount Merapi Indonesia - For advanced climbers

tbd

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