Climbing Kerinci was never on my travel wish-list. I’ve always loved climbing volcanoes in Indonesia. I guess you could say I’ve climbed a lot of volcanoes. In the last few years I’ve trekked up Merapi in Central Java, Inerie in Flores, Agung in Bali and Tambora in Sumbawa. I love the feeling of looking down at the landscape below me as the sun rises over the horizon.
If you know me pretty well then you’ll have noticed that I haven’t explored Sumatra and Kalimantan that much (it’s something I want to do). So while I was in Colombia I decided to do something about it. I vowed that when I come back to Indonesia I’d visit Sumatra and climb Kerinci.
Arranging the trip from Jakarta was quite easy. I researched the trip and got a recommendation from a friend for the local guide with a good reputation. Then I thought I would just need to book flight tickets and I would be ready to go.
Turns out that arranging the flights would be a pain in the a**. For whatever reason, three days before the departure date the airline decided to reschedule the first leg of the flight (Jakarta-Jambi). Then guess what?
Because they rescheduled the first leg of the journey, I couldn’t catch the second flight. How could they change the flight schedule without considering this? I booked the whole journey at one time with the same airline.
Long story short, we sorted it out… Of course it took countless calls to their customer service to sort it out.
Now let’s talk about Kerinci…
How to Get to Kerinci
If you’re planning to climb Kerinci Volcano you have two options. I recommend you fly to Padang and then continue overland by bus or mini bus for 6-8 hours to Kerinci. There are a lot of different airlines flying to Padang.
Alternatively you can fly to Kerinci with two transits. This is the option I chose. It’s more direct, but there’s only one airline that operates this Jambi-Kerinci route. So, if for whatever reason there’s a delay or anything you’re going to be stuck.
I heard that 10 hikers needed to take bus from Jambi to Kerinci because they learned when they arrived in Jambi that there was no plane for the last leg of the journey. If you do choose to fly to Kerinci then you’ll need to follow my route. First fly to Jambi and then fly to Kerinci via Muara Bungo.
Kerinci Volcano: A Few Basic Fact
Kerinci Volcano is the highest volcano in Indonesia. The volcano is 3,805 meters high and is located in the province of Jambi (oh well based on the map, the summit is located in West Sumatra. It is basically on the border of Jambi and West Sumatra province). It is situated in the middle of Kerinci Seblat National Park.
We flew into Kerinci Airport. The view when we were about to land was spectacular! Forests surrounded the town. There were no palm oil plantations as far as the eye could see. Our guide for the Kerinci climb picked us up from the airport.
As we drove towards Kersik Tuo area from the airport we were greeted by beautiful views of the Kayu Aro Tea Plantation. It reminded me of Sri Lanka.
Climbing Kerinci: Our Itinerary
I’d made a four-day itinerary to climb Kerinci as I was travelling from Jakarta. The climb itself was only a 2-day 1-night trip. We started at 8 am from the base of the volcano on day 1 and we returned, with tired legs, around 2:30 pm on the second day. You can find a rough breakdown of our journey as below:
- Start at 8 am. Car drop off (1,800 meters) to Pos I: 25 minutes
- Pos I-Pos II: 25 minutes
- Pos II-Pos III: 30 minutes
- Pos III-Shelter 1: 1-1.5 hours
- Shelter 1-Shelter 2: 3 hours
- Shelter 2-Shelter 3 (3,300 meters): 1 hour. Arrival around 3:30 pm
- Camping at Shelter 3
- Start at 4:30 am. Shelter 3 to Tugu Yuda: 1.5 hours
- Tugu Yuda-Summit Indrapura (3,805 meters): 40 minutes
- Shelter 3-Car drop off: 4,5 hours. Arrival around 2:30 pm
The first part of the Kerinci hike to Shelter 2 was in the forest. Trees covered the path. It was a bit cold, maybe because there was no direct sunlight. I remember I needed to change my top, because the first one got all sweaty and put on my warm jacket when we stopped for a lunch break at Shelter 1.
Parts of the trek were muddy. We were lucky that it didn’t rain during this first part of the climb, so it was the dry kind of mud. I can imagine that climbing Kerinci would be really challenging during the raining season. I’m sure it would be really muddy and slippery.
After Shelter 2, the trekking route started to open a little bit. There were still a lot of trees, but they weren’t as tall. Once we arrived at Shelter 3 the area was more open. We camped there and the wind was insane.
Our guide, Reki, said that it actually wasn’t that windy. He told us that we were lucky. However, the wind blew constantly so I was unable to sleep that night. I don’t know why I felt scared that the tent would fly away with me in it, haha.
Reki said that we needed to wake up at 3:45 am for the summit attack at 4 am. However we decided to start the hike at 4:30 am. We had a quick meal before the hike. It was cold and I was really happy that I was wrapped up in my long sleeve top, doubled up with a warm jacket and my windproof jacket. So good!
And my gloves… Never forget gloves!
We reached Tugu Yuda just after sunrise. I took a moment to enjoy the first light of the day. It is always nice to see a sunrise. When the sun comes out it feels like you’re a battery getting energy for the day. I really like to see the transition from night to day.
It took about two and a half hours to reach the summit. There were around 8-9 people on the summit that morning. It was surprising because I met a lot of hikers during the hike. Later I found out that a lot of them decided to do the summit attack around 7 am. I guess they were not morning people hehe.
We took some photos, ate some biscuits with hot tea and enjoyed the views. It was so nice to see the movement of the clouds! I’ll post a video of the short time-lapse that I took from the summit on my Instagram.
Returning to Base Camp
The views from the summit were amazing, but we needed to hike back down Kerinci. This is always the toughest part of hiking volcanoes for me.
The journey from the summit to Shelter 3 was the worst part of the trek. It was slippery and I guess my legs had just decided that they didn’t want to cooperate with me anymore. If they could talk I guess they would probably say: “Enough lady! I don’t want to walk anymore.“
I can understand why. At the end of the journey, according to the tracking data from my iPhone I had walked 24 km in 2 days.
I was quite surprised that I didn’t feel as tired as I thought I would after the climb. The climb was not super hard I suppose (it was hard but not like super super hard). At some points it was near vertical, but it was mostly ok. Yes my legs were so sore though. For three days after the climb I could still feel the pain whenever I needed to go down any stairs.
Now the Big Problem
I’ve climbed quite a few volcanoes around Indonesia. I can say, based on my experiences, Kerinci is the dirtiest volcano I have encountered. Two friends of mine actually warned me of this before the trip. They said to me: “Firsta brace yourself. You’ll be heart broken in Kerinci. The amount of garbage is worrying.”
They were right. It was so painful to see.
Piles of garbage surrounded all of the shelters and stopping places on the hike. If you hike a volcano or a mountain in the future bring a bag for garbage please. There is so much trash created by other people that we should clean up.
A volcano is not a trash bin. If you climb the volcano bring your trash down. Trust me, nobody who is climbing the volcano wants to be a garbage collector. If you leave your garbage on the volcano it is going to stay there… Unless of course the local authorities or the local community decide to do a clean up, which rarely happens. So let’s work together to protect where we play.
Did I regret hiking Kerinci because of the amount of garbage there?
No. I still enjoyed the hike. All the sacrifices, including the freezing night and the countless leg stretches to climb the vertical parts of the trek with wide gaps, were worth it. I can recall that I was smiling widely when I saw the sun slowly rise from the east. It was so beautiful.
I’m forever a nature admirer. What I love most about doing things like climbing Kerinci is the fact that it makes me realise that we, humans, are so small. A journey to the mountain/volcano always made me appreciate life even more.
Have you climbed Kerinci? What was your experience? And one more thing, what do you think we should do to reduce the garbage up on places like Kerinci? I would love to hear from you.