My mind went blank for a moment when a friend of mine said that he would be climbing Mount Merapi with his friends. It had been a while since I last climbed a mountain, which is Mount Rinjani in 2006. I doubted I would be able to climb Mount Merapi. On top of that, Mount Merapi, is an active volcano.
On the other hand, I knew that climbing Mount Merapi would be an amazing thing to do. I knew that the landscape of Mount Merapi is so beautiful. In fact, from the top of the volcano you can even see Mount Sundoro, Sumbing, Lawu and Merbabu. This is the reason why I finally decided to join the climb. That and my love of nature.
There’s something special about watching the sunrise from the highest peak. You see the land spread out below you for miles around. The sun is in the distance creating shadows over the landscape. It’s an incredible view and I want to share it with you.
In this guide I want to share with you my experience climbing Merapi as well as reveal everything you need to know about climbing Merapi. I’ll start at the very beginning.
Yogyakarta to Merapi
It takes almost two hours to go from Yogyakarta to Merapi. It’s a long drive and although you can do it by motorbike I would really recommend taking a car. There’s a good reason for this; most people climb Merapi in the evening. Normally around 10-11pm at night. They do it so that they can watch the sunrise from the peak of Merapi.
Of course it is possible to climb Merapi during the day, but most people don’t do this as it’s super hot. An alternative to climbing during the day is to hike to the top of the Merapi in the evening. This is a good option to do if you want to camp at the top of Merapi.
I digress. The first time I climbed Merapi we departed from Yogyakarta at 10.30 pm and arrived around 01.00 am at New Selo, the base camp for Mount Merapi.
When you arrive at New Selo the hike really starts. It’s around 4 km from New Selo to the summit. In terms of altitude the trek is from 2200 m to 2900 m above the sea level. It’s a four kilometres at an elevation of 700 meters on what can feel like a nearly vertical track.
Most people need 4 hours to climb from New Selo to the peak of Mount Merapi. The first time I climbed needed 5.5 hours to climb to the first peak. When the sun rose I was not even at the top of the volcano, but I was almost there! The darkness (my torch was not good enough), my poor stamina, the cold (luckily me that it didn’t rain!) and the hard wind are all factors slowing me down. I was so lucky though because I had a great companion for the climb.
The good thing about arriving late at the peak was that I didn’t get too cold. The second time I climbed I was freezing. I arrived well before sunrise and immediately I felt the cold wind. For this reason I’d really suggest bringing a warm coat and maybe some good gloves.
There are two peaks to Merapi. The first peak is before the actual crater summit of the volcano. It’s a large bowel that is relatively flat and stretches out for a square kilometre or more. This is where people will normally camp if they are hiking to the top of Merapi.
The second peak is the crater peak. This is the really tough bit, which people start to climb just as the sun rises. It’s a 200 meter elevation up a shale slope of loose stones. When you climb this slope feels like you are taking three steps forwards and two steps back. It’s the most exhausting part of the climb and many people never actually make it to the top.
By the time you’ve climbed to the top of this peak you will be tired and dusty. The view from the top though is 100% worth it. Oh, the other great thing about going to the top is that by the time you return to the bottom you normally have breakfast and a warm cup of tea.
For many people the climb down is actually a lot harder than the climb up. One thing I can say about the climb down though is it’s a lot faster than on the way up. I actually made it in 2 hours, which is probably quite slow, but I felt proud of myself. Dusty, tired, but proud.
Even though I was super tired, the journey was not painful, because the landscape was really amazing. So beautiful in fact that I have a really hard time putting it into words, so check out my pictures here. My legs were sore, but I was really happy that I had decided to climb Merapi. It was a great experience with wonderful new friends and good companions! What else do you need, right?
While you don’t need to put much thought into preparation to hike Merapi, I would put a little thought into it (I did once see three Chinese girls climbing Merapi in fancy shoes and carrying handbags, but I really advise against it). Here are a few of the things I suggest you bring:
- Trekking shoes (or I found out that running shoes are ok)
- Trekking / hiking clothes (example: a quick dry t-shirt is great to wear, but a cotton t-shirt is ok as well)
- Water + Energy bar
- Trekking pole (optional)
- Warm clothes (it gets really cold at night)
- Torch – headlamp even better (usually provided by the tour operator, but good to have a backup or you can use your cellphone flash light as a last resort)
Personally I love climbing mount Merapi because the view that you’ll get from Pasar Bubrah is just amazing (well.. I confess the views from the top are usually amazing!). You will see Mount Merbabu to the north and Slamet, Sumbing, and Sindoro mountains to the west. It’s really special and something I recommend to all my adventurous friends who are visiting Yogyakarta for the first time. To get an idea of what to expect from the climb I’ve created this video. I hope you like it.
Let’s Conquer Merapi
Hiking Mount Merapi is one of the most fun things I’ve done in Yogyakarta and I suggest it to all of my good friends when they visit Yogyakarta (that’s actually my best friend who I climbed with in the video). To help you make the climb for yourself I’ve partnered with a local travel agency.
Interested in hiking Merapi? Press the button below to find out more.
Have you ever climbed a volcano? How was it and what was your biggest challenge?