Central Java and the area around Yogyakarta without Gunung Sumbing and Gunung Sindoro would be a little like New York without the Empire State Building and The Statue of Liberty or Paris without the Arc de Triumph and the Eifel tower. Regardless of which volcanoes in central Java you climb these two perfectly cone shaped husband and wife volcanoes offer a magnificent back drop. Legend has it that on the summit in Sumbing’s crater lies the tomb of one of the holy men who brought Islam to Java. Trekking @ Gunung Sindoro Central Java
Therefore it comes as no surprise that both mountains are sacred and worshiped by villagers. For centuries, especially during the Majapahit period countless important buildings, shrines and temples were centered on these two volcanoes. Majapahit was based in Central Java, from where it ruled a large part of what is now western Indonesia. The remnants of the Majapahit kingdom shifted to Bali during the sixteenth century as Muslim kingdoms in the western part of the island gained influence. At the end of Ramadan, Idul Fitri is celebrated when thousands of devotees make their way to the top of these massive mountains. Not only during festivals but also throughout the year both mountains offer the perfect sanctuary for people to meditate in order to gain back the strength to cope with the everyday challenges of life. With so much mythology around two magnificent volcanoes one can only expect the very best from climbing these very picturesque twin mountains.
When we climbed Sindoro for the second time in March 2012 it was our aim to ascend from the village of Sigedang on the north slope, spend the night on the summit, then descend the next day to the Kledung pass for refreshment, and then ascend again the next day to the summit of Gunung Sumbing. Climbing in March is perhaps a little early in the year as the weather in our case was absolute terrible making this trip seriously memorable and an exceptional wet hiking adventure. It was actually not an adventure but a race against daylight and the elements. Hiking @ Gunung Sindoro
To climb Gunung Sindoro it is essential to obtain a permit, which you will receive from Pak Mohamed Sari Hudin (085 228 198 316) the village chief who lives right on the main road just about in the center of the village. However as in our case the volcano showed some serious seismographic activities, Pak Hudin was not allowed to issue a permit and as such it was totally up to us to take the risk of climbing this sort of active volcano. This meant, that in an emergency situation nobody would have looked for us, and we where left to our own destiny. The visit at Pak Hudin’s home turned into a most pleasant and educational few minutes and later a comfortable cozy warm night. Trekking @ Gunung Sindoro Central Java
Whenever visiting Government officials it is part of the protocol to discuss first the where about of our origin and the purpose for our visit. Over a strong, but very delicious, sweet hot glass of coffee and an even sweeter strong hand rolled clove cigarette our planned journey the following day was discussed. One of the main topics was the ongoing and exceptional wet raining season, which did not seem to come to an end this year. Just as we became philosophical about the rain, the sky opened and the sun finally broke through the clouds. By this time it was 2.30 in the afternoon and all of a sudden the sun helped to make an emergency decision. Trekking @ Gunung Sindoro
Pak Mohamed and his assistant simply questioned why not to make the journey to the summit right now as there is still enough day left. Two hours of serious speed hiking were required for the fit ones to reach the summit. Cautiously he mentioned that this is the time for youngsters in the early twenties and of course not for old Westerners in their fifties. This now meant we could potentially reach the summit by 5.15 pm just for sun set, giving us enough time to take hopefully lots of great pictures and then still have one hour of light left on our way down from the mountain.
Within a minute the decision was made to repack our bags, stock up on a few snacks, two bottles of water, a change of t-shirt and of course a good rain coat, and we were on our way. Hiking @ Gunung Sindoro
The journey started at 2.45 pm in the back of Pak Hudin’s retired mini van. Well the van looked like it was retired, but as we all know, retired does not mean we could no longer be active. The first kilometer followed the main road back from where we came, then turned off to the left into hundreds of hectares of tea plantations. For 20 minutes up and across a rather bumpy and rocky track through the plantation, which ended at a shelter that served as a collection point for tea at an altitude of 2067 meters. Trekking @ Gunung Sindoro
Quickly we embarked from the tiny van and within a minute we were on our way to the summit. The entire trail is in good condition and well defined. The first half is comfortably steep allowing us to make good progress. 2160 meters marks the end of the tea plantation and at 2323 some wooden skeletons are the only remains of a shelter that is gradually rotting away. A little further up trees give way to small bushes and at 2600 meters the trail gets even steeper, but still offers good grip. At this stage our weather Gods decided to change their minds and heavy clouds and thunder started to quickly roll in. Hiking @ Gunung Sindoro
We decided to rest a minute, have a sip from our bottle and munch on some chocolate bars, nuts and other high-energy snacks. Within 10 minutes we were on our way again and raced towards the summit which by now was covered in heavy clouds.
Then at 2780 meter you will have a most picturesque rocky cliff formation on the left which can clearly been seen from the village far below. At this altitude the vegetation once again changes and you will find the first edelweiss.
The final 400 meters are steep, rocky, exciting and moderately challenging. The many short bushes with solid roots offer a most welcome grip on the way up and more importantly on the way down. With 200 meters altitude to go we finally hit heavy fogs with which the visibility dropped to a few meters. This additional challenge seemed to give us extra strength and motivation to reach our final destination as quickly as possible.
The summit we then reached within less then two hours of uphill racing, bringing us on to the same level as youngsters in their twenties. No need to say that we were super proud over this achievement. Trekking @ Gunung Sindoro
Well equipped with our GPS and my previous memories from visit a few years earlier to Gunung Sindoro we quickly navigated across the flat summit towards the crater rim, which we reached within a few minutes. This then was the section that actually was active and through the heavy fogs we could clearly hear the bubbling of the crater lake and smell the strong sulfuric fumes. We quickly followed the rim down anti clockwise towards the highest point of the caldera that was reached within minutes. The moment we started our circumnavigation the mountain Gods decided to open the clouds andbless us with rain. First a little drizzle, that quickly turned into a steady down pour. We quickly found time to dress into to our high quality raincoats, which not only protected us from the rain, but also the often strong howling winds. Finally a quick photo for our records and within a minute we were on our way back to Sigedang the base. Hiking @ Gunung Sindoro
This was without question the most memorable journey home from any volcano. It was wet, rainy, slippery, dark and seemingly endless. Rain all the way from the top to the bottom and after 30 minutes into the return journey night took over command and it was time for our headlights. Countless times in the past we made our way in the very early morning hours towards a summit for a sun rise, but we never thought of going down hill in the darkness during a miserable dark wet night. Obviously the rain made the trail extra slippery and I forget how many times I ended up on my backside. The journey down took substantially longer and especially the seemingly endless rocky path down the tea plantation asked for additional stamina. By now there was not an inch on us that was not soaking wet and our boots were filled with water giving us the feeling of wading across a river in gumboots.
Then by 8.30 pm we finally reached Pak Mohamed’s home where we quickly showered, changed into dry clothes and enjoyed perhaps the best hot noodle soup ever. We snuggled into our sleeping bags, listened to the horrible storm that went on into the early morning hours and eventually enjoyed a most rejuvenating night’s sleep. Trekking @ Gunung Sindoro
5.30 am the next morning. Sleepy we crawled out of our cozy bags and when we stepped out of the house we were overwhelmed by Gunung Sindoro that sat under crystal clear blue sky, showing us the thorough beauty of this spectacular mountain. Why would you want to climb a mountain in sunshine anyway we ask ourselves, if you can have all the fun in the rain……Trekking @ Gunung Sindoro
Trekking @ Indonesian Volcano Adventure