Mount Kerinci; Indonesia’s Smoke-Spewing Secluded Wonder
Summary Mount Kerinci Indonesia - Summary
Mount Kerinci is the tallest of Indonesia’s many volcanos and one of the most breathtaking.
Being an 8-hour drive from the nearest major airport on Sumatra, Kerinci is one of the most secluded jungle treks and mountain climbs in Southeast Asia. It would normally take two days and a night to summit Kerinci, and you may not spot another soul.
Climbing Mount Kerinci Indonesia - Height and Distance
Natural Mount Kerinci Indonesia - Natural Height
3,805 m (12,483.6 ft)
Natural Mount Kerinci Indonesia - Hiking Period
The trek up Mount Kerinci takes two days with a night halt at the base camp.
The first day starts on a leisurely note as you need to reach the base camp only by night. The second day usually starts very early in the morning so you can get to the summit by daybreak.
Difficulty Mount Kerinci Indonesia - Hiking Difficulty
Difficulty Mount Kerinci Indonesia - Terrain
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.
On day 1 hikers leave Kersik Tuo village for the Kerinci Seblat National Park Entrance (1,500m/ 4,921 ft) where the trail begins. This stretch is a paved motorable road and you can opt to either be driven in a car or a pick-up (as small trucks are referred to in those parts) or ride a motorbike. By road, it is a distance of about 20 minutes. Of course, some prefer to walk this distance, taking in the tea plantations and rice fields along the way.
After about 30 minutes you’ll begin the climb from the entrance to the base camp which is at 3100m (10,170.6 ft). The total hike on day 1 can take between 5 to 8 hours. The first part of the trail is broad and the slope is gentle so it is a relatively easy climb while you can take in the wild orchids and look out for Yellow Handed-Mited Langurs on the way.
After 3.5 hours you should have reached Shelter 1. Packed lunches are generally provided by the guides at this point. From here, proceed to Shelter 2. The rest stops not only offer places to relax but also great photo vistas.
By 17:30 on day 1, you should have reached base camp at Shelter 3. The guides and porters will first set up tents for the night. Depending on the weather, some guides may prefer to pitch camp earlier, at Shelter 2 as it is at a slightly lower altitude and surrounded by more tree cover, and hence offers more protection from winds. Most guides would however insist on going up to Shelter 3 for the night as it is closer to the summit and would therefore require less walking in the dark the next morning.
Your guide will wake you up before dawn to start the final leg of the climb. Shelter 3 to the summit of Mt Kerinci takes about 1.5 hours of climbing and is the toughest part of the hike. But the sight of the sunrise through the clouds is worth the effort.
You should reach the summit by 05:30 in time to take in the breathtaking view from the top of the highest volcano in Indonesia.
You will find yourself with the sparkling blue Indian Ocean on one side and the smouldering crater on the other. You will also have extensive views of the villages below and the Gunung Tujuh Lake (Southeast Asia’s highest volcanic lake) in the distance.
By 07:00 you’ll climb back down from the summit to Shelter 3 to pack up camp and your belongings, and begin the trek back down the mountain. Expect to reach the starting point of the trail by late evening.
There may be other trails up Kerinci, but they are not recommended.
Difficulty Mount Kerinci Indonesia - Weather
Sumatra gets a good amount of rain throughout the year and attempting to climb Mount 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 a colder climb as you ascend higher with night temperatures dipping as low as 5°C (41°F) 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, with very little rain.
Difficulty Mount Kerinci Indonesia - Equipment
You’ll need basic equipment for this trek. Wear proper hiking boots, and gloves, bring poles and wear appropriate clothing. Make sure to carry first aid supplies for minor cuts and scrapes, as well as bug repellent for the mosquitoes.
Facilities Mount Kerinci Indonesia - Support Facilities
Facilities Mount Kerinci Indonesia - Rest Stops & Facilities
At the trailhead, you’ll find food, potable water, and a registration kiosk.
Along the trail, there are rest stop shelters, such as huts, pavilions, etc., but food & potable water is only available from guides/porters.
At the summit base camp you’ll find shelters for overnight rest and any food/water will have to come from your guides/porters or your backpack.
Facilities Mount Kerinci Indonesia - Guides and Porters
Both guides and porters are recommended. It’s best to book ahead.
Accessibility Mount Kerinci Indonesia - Accessibility and Safety
Accessibility Mount Kerinci Indonesia - Location
Padang International Airport with daily flights from Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta and Medan is the nearest airport for travellers 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 homestay or tour operator. If you have not, you may need to seek out fellow travellers to share a minivan from the airport.
Accessibility Mount Kerinci Indonesia - Safety
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 so this must be factored in while planning your trip.
Volcanic activity: Mount Kerinci is an active volcano, which continues to spew sulphurous smoke even when it’s not erupting. 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 rainforests, 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.