My summit attempt at Mount Merapi, the active volcano of Yogyakarta

Hiking the great Mount Merapi was one of the highlight of my trip. Being a huge hiking fan, I was very excited about my attempt to reach the summit of Mount Merapi. Standing at 2930m above sea level, Mount Merapi is an active volcano and the last explosion recorded was during 2010 which caused quite a number of casualty. Since then, it has been a go to hike for a lot of hikers seeking to enjoy the unforgettable view from the summit of Merapi.

I took a tour package with my hostel Wake Up Homestay for a total of IDR450,000 inclusive of transport, guide, breakfast and entrance fee as well.

A lot of you would ask, should I go with a tour or just find my way there? If you are a first timer in Yogyakarta, I would recommend going with a tour and here’s why:

  1. The drive to Selo, starting point of the Merapi Hike takes 2 hours from Yogyakarta and it crosses small villages that if you are not used to, could easily get lost in and costs you your precious time.
  2. Guides are essential when you are hiking such a trail for the first time, especially if you are catching the sunrise and you depart 2am at night.
  3. There will be a place for you to rest after the hike, which will be a blessing.
  4. You can rest on your way back to Yogyakarta as well and you don’t have to worry about the 2 hours drive back to town. The hike is of considered an intermediate-advance level hike, so you will need the rest.

Things to bring:

  1. 1.5L water, there will be no water point along the way
  2. Windbreaker and fleece jacket (get’s pretty cold and windy up there)
  3. Gloves
  4. Sport shoes or boots is fine
  5. Headlamp or torchlight (if you are hiking at night to catch the sunrise)
  6. Chocolate bars, bread and sweet

The Departure to Mount Merapi Base Camp

The tour MPV picked us up from our hotel at around 10pm at night. The trip requires at least 2 person and they will combine participants from other hotels as well to complete the number. The drive to the starting point, Selo takes 2 hours from Yogyakarta town and serves as a perfect opportunity for the guest to get some rest.

Arrival at Selo

We arrived at Selo at around 1am, one hour before our hike starts. There will be tea served for the guest and if you would like to purchase basics such as water and biscuits, feel free to ask the guides. They will have some in their stock pile. The usual signing of disclaimer will be done here as well in case of any injuries and fatalities. The homestay that we were dropped off at was pretty comfortable and had all the basic amenities that we needed, clean toilet, living room and really comfortable couches for you to rest on.

mount merapi - selo
Our drop off point at Selo
mount merapi - guide
Compulsory picture with one of the older guides in the team. There were 4 guides in total.

Departure to New Selo

We departed from Selo at 2am sharp. New Selo, the new base camp of Merapi is located about a kilometre away from Selo and it’s an uphill climb of almost 40 degrees. It’ll speed up your breathing but the view of the town is something that will take your mind away from the steepness of the road. Take it as a warm up before you start hiking Mount Merapi. It might be quite chilly at night so you might want to keep your jacket on if you are not one that thrives in the cold weather.

Arrival at New Selo and Hiking Up Mount Merapi

Reaching New Selo takes a good 20 minutes of uphill walk but it would be nothing compared to the hike to the summit of Mount Merapi. There will be four checkpoint for Mount Merapi: Taman Negara, Checkpoint 2, Pasar Bubrah and the summit of Merapi.

The hike is not only physically demanding but it’s a tough mental test from the beginning as well. Starting off a path of cemented floor, you will soon find yourself walking uphill on a path of sand and gravel. From there, the trail changes to large wobbly volcanic rock which moves when you step on them, so please be extra cautious when you are at the stony path.

The first checkpoint, called “Taman Negara” is a hut built by the locals. From here, you can view the sunrise as well so if the hike is too physically demanding for you, you might want to consider staying here to wait for the sunrise. The summit is another 3 hours away from this point.

The next checkpoint is plainly called “Checkpoint 2” and it’s a clear part of the path with a sign that shows you how far you are. I found some campers in this area and the clear pathway serves as a good camping ground. From here, you are 2 hours away from the summit and 75 minutes away from the last checkpoint before the summit, Pasar Bubrah. The view from Checkpoint 2 is amazing as well and the sunrise can be clearly seen from where you will be standing.

The road to Pasar Bubrah from “Checkpoint 2” is filled with large rocks and loose sand on a steep path, so it will seem really far although the distance is not of an extreme number. There will be a large opening at Pasar Bubrah and you can see the peak from there as well. Pasar Bubrah serves as a beautiful lookout spot for the sunrise and many would stop here instead of the peak for a clearer view of the sunrise.

Mount Merapi - Pasar Bubrah
Pasar Bubrah Checkpoint – 600m away from summit
summiting mount merapi
Road to peak of Mount Merapi

If you think the earlier part was hard, this will be the hardest part of the hike. The last 600m to summit Mount Merapi from Pasar Bubrah. You will be trekking on loose volcanic ash at a steepness of almost 70 degrees. It takes a lot of effort to reach the peak of Mount Merapi and I was 100m aways from the peak when my legs gave in. As much as I wanted to go on, I couldn’t. I had not enough energy to summit the peak this time and I had to stop just an eye shot away from the peak. This was my story posted on Facebook:

“Today I failed, but I am happy.

When people hike, usually they will post pictures of them being at the peak with great smiles and happy faces. Well, I do that as well, of course and I never once give up while hiking mountains in Malaysia. But today, I failed to summit Mount Merapi, Yogyakarta.

This picture was taken 100 metres away from the peak of Merapi and I was so close to the peak I can actually see the people walking around the peak area. Truth is, I though of giving up halfway up the climb because I was alone at the time, but I didn’t. On my way up, I met some friendly Indonesian hikers who let me in their tent for a quick nap because they noticed how tired I was and even offered me a hot chocolate drink before wishing me good luck when I set off, all that at 4.30am in the morning. That is something that will stick with you for the rest of your life.

From there, I continued on alone and I met another group of hikers which will be stopping 600 metres before the peak, the Pasar Bubrah checkpoint where you can get the best sunrise view. That’s the target that I set for myself despite how tired I am, to reach Pasar Bubrah and that’s it. My stop point.

So when I reach Pasar Bubrah, I looked up at the peak which was in full view and I told myself, “I came here to do this, let’s leave no regrets.” Summoning an enegry that I never knew I had in me, I picked up my bag, shook the hands of the hikers and went on alone.

The last 600m climb to the peak was hell. It was gravel road (volcano sand and stones) and for every step I take, I slide down half a step. It feels like you are not moving although you are trying your very best. Finally, at around 100m from the peak and countless attempts to keep walking, I stopped.

I decided that I will live to fight another day. I’m not afraid to admit that there were tears in my eyes when I sat there alone staring at the peak that I failed to summit, but then I realize that I didn’t actually fail, but in fact, I pushed myself way over the limit that I have set for myself despite all the things that I went through.

I’m happy that I met really nice hikers along the way who kept me going. I am happy I gave it everything and left nothing to regret about. I am happy that I will one day be here again and summit the Great Merapi of Yogyakarta, which will make it so much more meaningful.

This is the first peak that I did not manage to summit in my life and it humbled me. It really humbled me a lot.”

100 metre away from Mount Merapi peak
The view from where I stand, 100m’s away from the peak

The descent from Mount Merapi was as hard as the ascent as well. You descent from the same path you went up with and it can be more dangerous especially where the loose rocks are located. Please be very careful when you are going down and always use your hands to grab on the trees. The descent takes about 3 hours to New Selo where your transport will be waiting to pick you back to Selo.

At Selo, you will be served with breakfast and a complimentary group photo with the team before you make your way back to Yogyakarta, leaving all the memories and pain behind.

Hiking the majestic Mount Merapi is a must do for outdoor enthusiats in Yogyakarta and it will definitely be an experience that many will not forget for a very very long time.

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5 thoughts on “Mount Merapi : My Summit Attempt

  1. Narita says:

    Hi there Mike Chu, I enjoy reading this entry and I finally found a good info that i needed in your blog. Im going to Yogjakarta this early august and hiking merapi is in my list.

    • Mike Chu says:

      Ah, the great Merapi. God I miss that place and I will DEFINITELY be back. 🙂 Have fun and be safe. It’s amazing up there, trust me.

      – Mike

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