Gunung Merapi(Mountain of fire) is one of the most active volcano in the world and has been erupting regularly since 1548. Last big eruption was in 2010 when hundreds of people died and thousands lost their homes. And I wanted to climb that thing?
The volcano is very well monitored and closed off to hikers in times of increased activity and the big eruptions happen with about five years apart so the risk of death isn’t so high if you go with an experienced guide with good knowledge of the volcano and a radio. It’s still easy to fall to your death at the top so extreme causion is advised.
Mount(Gunung) Merapi is located close to Yogyakarta in Central Java. Tours to climb the volcano can be arranged from Yogyakarta or you go yourself to Selo and arrange a guide from there. Ask in town for Sonny and his guesthouse(it’s a small town), if he’s busy himself he can arrange for an experienced guide for a sunrise hike for 200.000 IDR including a pancake when you finish. There are also some tours that stop over at his guesthouse before climbing up and you can lower your cost and join them.
When and how long
The views are most spectacular at sunrise, also if you climb during the night time it’s a lot cooler than during the day making the hike easier. You start hiking around 1 am and reach the top around 5 am for the amazing sunrise. Then it’s about 2 hours back down.
The climb is very hard. If you think it’ll ever be flat you’re mistaken. It’s a 45 degree climb all the way and at the top you have to climb through volcanic sand where you feel like you’re taking two steps up and one step down. You need to be in good condition to finish this climb. Some people said going down was the hardest but I think going down is just a matter of paying attention to your feet and letting gravity take care of the rest. Of course, that’s how you get yourself injured but it’s just more fun. And easier.
What to bring
- Good worn in closed shoes
- 2-3 Liters of water, even though it’s cold you’ll sweat like a pig
- Snacks for energy
- Flashlight and extra batteries
- Warm sweater, jacket, gloves and hat. It gets extremely cold at the top.
If you don’t want to attempt the extremely difficult climb because you don’t think you’re physically capable or you just don’t like the idea of climbing on top of an active volcano there’s an alternative. Christian at Vogels hostel in the town of Kaliurang has been running easy sunrise hikes in the area surrounding Merapi. The man is a legend and THE authority on Merapi. He has been running these tours for over thirty years. The tour is only 135.000 IDR(min 4 persons) and includes water and TWO breakfasts, one light one of toast and eggs before the hike and then a HUGE and delicious one after the hike. The views of the Volcano on a clear day are very nice and the breakfast alone is worth the small fee for the tour.
The feeling you get when you arrive at the top on mount Merapi is the feeling of great accomplishment. If you arrive early you can gaze at the amazingly bright stars and the town of Solo down below while you wait for the sun to come up. When it does, oh man! You start to see your surroundings for the first time and it’s stunning! The sun colours the smoke spewing crater in beautiful colors and you feel like you’re on top of the world.
And I made a video!
Have you ever climbed an active volcano? Would you?