BY NURMALIA HARDADY
Mount Kerinci is the second highest mountain in Indonesia with its summit elevated at 3805 meter, which is also the highest volcano mountain in the country. It is located in the heart of Sumatra Island, bordering between Jambi and West Sumatra provinces. An active stratovolcano and a home for rich Indonesian wildlife, including the endangered specieses such as Sumatran tiger and Sumatran rhinoceros. The area is also famous for its beautiful lakes, one of which is the awesome Gunung Tujuh Lake that can be seen from the top of Mt. Kerinci.
The base camp to start the hike is located in Kersik Tuo, a village with such beautiful view of Mt. Kerinci, which can be reached by driving for about 7 – 8 hours from Minangkabau International Airport. It is open 24 hours, where a visitor can take a rest, clean her/his own self, get a meal, or just have a chat with the fellow hikers. Also the very friendly staffs there will help us with the registration procedures.
Our last trip to Mt. Kerinci was coincident with the Dahlia tropical cyclone, which made the journey more challenging. We arrived at the basecamp on Friday morning. For some reasons, we decided to start the hike in that morning. So after the homey breakfast provided at the base camp, off we went!
From the basecamp we were dropped off at about 500 meters from the beginning of the forest, called Pintu Rimba, which saved us some one-hour (and from walking on the harsh asphalt). The beautiful view and wonderful smell of the tea plantation on the way to the forest nicely sent us off. There are six official resting points before reaching the summit, namely Posts 1, 2, and 3 then Shelters 1, 2, and 3. It typically takes 10 – 11 hours to reach Shelter 3, and another 1 – 2 hours to the summit. From the beginning of the forest to the Shelter 3, the trekking path consists of a green-lush woodland then followed by a combination of loose pebbles and a firm rocky path until the summit.
It was raining even from the very first second of our journey. From the starting point at 1.696 m, we passed through a comfortable sloping footpath for about 30 minutes to Post 1 at 1.890 m. The lush trees certainly will provide shade from the hot equatorial sun if we hike during a dry season. Post 1 was basically an open area with a long bench for hiker to take a rest.
As we went deeper into the jungle the trek was gradually ascending with a slippery path, even more slippery since it was raining. Mount Kerinci famously known among hikers for having a wet-ground all the year around, regardless of the season. The distance from Post 1 to Post 2 was just 750 m, according to the sign, and it took us about 20 minutes. Post 2 at 2.010 m was an open area without any shelter, but suitable for taking a rest while enjoying a light snack.
From Post 2 to Post 3, the the path was dominated by exposed tree roots while continued asscending. It took us approximately one hour from Post 2 to Post 3, with distance of 1.600 m. Elevated at 2.225 m, the post was a narrow open area suitable for only one medium-size tent, but water supply was available in this post. However, it was not recommended to camp between Post 1 to Post 3.
After Post 3, hikers consider that this is where the real Mt. Kerinci trekking path begins. The trek was still dominated by a firm soil covered by exposed tree roots, but it was much steeper than before. We spent some 1.5 to 2 hours to reach Shelter 3. Located at an elevation of 2.505 m, Shelter 1 is a wide and flat open area capable to accommodate up to 15 medium-size tents. From here we can see the towering mountain slope. Although it is the safest and most suitable place to camp, we decided to continue our journey of the day.
The trek from Shelter 1 to Shelter 2 is the longest one and required lots of energy. It took us about 2.5 hours and many cubic centimeters of sweat. Between Shelter 1 and Shelter 2, there is another open space, namely “Pos Bayangan, suitable for taking a break before continuing the hike on an even steeper path, which sometimes required us to use the availabe webbing rope. Shelter 2 is located at 3.056 m consists of several small open areas for camping. Although the area is not as wide and comfortable as Shelter 1, fresh water spring is available nearby Shelter 2, therefore some hikers decided to camp here, including us. What a nice rest we had after an exhausting journey.
On the next day we left the camp at about 3:15 AM and brought only a small back pack with us to carry water and a little snack. This was the most challenging trek, a combination between a very steep and slippery tree roots-covered soil and the muddy-narrow pits. We had to very carefully choose where to step on. As the evelation rised, the wind caused by the tropical cyclone was even stronger. At times, the trees almost collapsed, which made us terrified. We finally reached Shelter 3 at about 5 AM. Elevated at 3.291 m, the shelter can accommodate several tents, however, camping there would be a terrible idea as the area is totally open without any protection from the strong wind. The shelter is the vegetation boundary after which the trek changes totally into a firm rocky path and loose pebbles at some places.
After taking the dawn prayer at Shelter 3, we continued the journey. The strong wind was really a big challenge as it was an open path without any trees. After trekking for about an hour, somehow we managed to continue up until 100 m before “Tugu Yuda” at 3.700 m, the last milestone prior to the summit. After that point, we had a hard time continuing the journey as the wind was even stronger while there was nothing to grab unless we moved while crawling. We sheltered inside the last pit and waited for the storm to subside a little bit. There were a handful of hikers with us inside the pit, while most of other hikers could not even reach that point. After waiting for over an hour, we reluctantly decided to discontinue the climb and start ascending back to the camp. As safety is the most important thing, quitting is sometimes the most reasonable choice. We definitely will come again to give our best greeting to the summit of Mt. Kerinci.
- Photo courtesy of Sugi
Our fellow hikers while sheltering from the storm (left).
Gunung Tujuh Lake as seen from Mt. Kerinci (right)