A double date with Merbabu & Merapi

Amid the clouds: Merbabu as seen from Merapi.

Some might consider mountain climbing an ordinary task, but to reach several peaks on one trip is no easy feat.
We’re not talking about an extreme hike, one that, for example, could take 30 days to reach 20 summits. Some mountain ranges or several adjacent summits can be reached in a just a few days.

The 2M – Merbabu and Merapi - hike in Central Java is quite famous among trekkers. The Sindoro, Sumbing and Slamet hike, better known as 3S, is also a challenge, although Slamet is currently closed to climbers on account of the recent eruptions.

Shorter hiking trips suit those who have limited time and budget yet are looking to be challenged. Hiking the 2M, for example, can be done in three days, excluding time spent on the road.

It takes about eight hours to reach the top of Merbabu through the shortest — yet toughest and steepest- track called the Wekas route, which is located on the western slope of the mountain in Magelang, Central Java. Hikers can reach the mountain in one day, but you can still stay on schedule if you choose to stay the night.

But if you choose to stay the night, be prepared to endure cold temperatures. Come prepared with the proper gear, as well as food and beverages.

Merbabu has several false summits. The true summit is 3,145 meters above sea level at Kenteng Songo, where Merapi’s smoky peak is only a stone’s throw away. Kenteng Songo is also the best spot to feast your eyes on a stunning landscape where Sindoro’s, Sumbing’s and Lawu’s peaks are above the clouds.

Ascent: One of the hardest tracks to Mt. Merbabu, along the Wekas route.
Trekking back down the mountain is always faster through the same Wekas route. If you’re up for a challenge, you can take the longer Selo route, which is on the southern slope of the mountain. Heading down via the Selo route takes around eight hours, bringing you along vast meadow before entering a pine forest. Starting at Wekas and going down through Selo gives you the opportunity to see the beauty of Merbabu from two different sides.

Merbabu, also known as the mountain of ash, is a mysterious mountain. Try to keep calm and remain patient throughout your trek, especially if you decide to take the Selo route.

“I’ve climbed Merbabu three times, traversing down via Selo, and was expecting to re-route the same path. However, in the last three trips I ended up in three different places,” said Eko Wibowo, a hiker who took the 2M challenge last month.

From Selo, the journey can be continued to Merapi, whose starting point, now called new Selo, is in the same village. This is why continuing the journey from Merbabu to Merapi, the most active volcano in Indonesia, is irresistible — even if your legs are still sore.

Merapi, the mountain of fire, offers more challenges due to its route, which is steeper than Merbabu’s. However, it takes less time to reach Merapi, around five hours. Sunrise hunters can start hiking at 1 or 2 a.m. and will be greeted by the first light at well over 2,900 meters above sea level.

Besides the steep trail, Merapi’s summit attack tests your courage and sense of adventure. The rocky route starts after the campsite, continuing on until the Pasar Bubrah post at 2,500 meters above sea level. Going further is not recommended due to high risks.

Merapi’s peak is formed by sand and rock, which are forced out from the earth when the mountain erupts. In its 2010 eruption, the Yogyakarta area was covered by volcanic ash. The eruption also resulted in the loss of its highest peak- Garuda.

“The sand along the route to the summit is worse than Slamet’s. You’ll take deep steps. The cliff is cracked, causing me to fear that I could fall” said Sopyan Muhammad, who has also taken the 2M trip.

“I got to the top, but only on its crater rim. Our porter didn’t have the courage to bring us anywhere near the remnants of the Garuda peak,” he added.

Photos by JP/Raras Cahyafitri

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