All You Need To Know About Hiking Mount Kerinci (3,805m): Indonesia Highest Volcano!
Mount Kerinci (3,805 m) is the highest volcano in Indonesia and the highest mountain in Sumatra.
It is still an active volcano and is part of the Kerinci Seblat National Park, the largest national park in Sumatra Island, Indonesia and also home to the endangered species of Sumatran Tigers and Rhinoceros.
Luckily or unluckily, you don’t get to see Sumatran Tigers or Rhinos, that is the other side of the mountain where it is of course off-limits to casual hikers like us.
Having done many Indonesian mountains before this, Kerinci was not high on my priority list. I have heard that it wasn’t that pleasant a trek and didn’t have much scenery. It was mainly seen as “just a bragging rights” mountain. However, I decided to do it just to see if it was true as well as to bring a group there.
The trek itself is a strenuous 2D1N climb. The altitude gain is in fact, longer than I expected.
Be prepared for a raw experience and a muddy climb through the thick foliage of the jungle. It also gives you chance to look out for natural wildlife, like the Siamang Gibbons and their unique cries or songs.
Once out of the jungle, you will camp for 1 night before heading up for a sunrise push up the barren and rocky slope to the summit. It requires a bit of scrambling at times The summit push isn’t as tiring or strenuous as Rinjani or Semeru, but the weather is often more treacherous up there with strong winds.
At the top of Gunung Kerinci, if you happen to be the lucky on a clear weather, you will get a good view of the Indian ocean, Gunung Tujuh Lake in the distance, and possibly some lava boiling in the crater!
Following which, you will descend down the same way before getting a vehicle back to Kersik Tuo Village.
The hike is rewarding due to the toughness of the hike and the difference in altitude gain. However, one sad thing would be the rubbish situation in Kerinci. It really spoils the hike and leaves you really heartbroken when you look at the amount of waste around.
Having said that, Mount Kerinci (3,805m) can be done with little to no experience on the mountains, provided you follow the guide. One would need good physical fitness and be okay with muddy and wet conditions.
It is accessed from Padang to Kersik Tua and can be extended to include a visit to the Gunung Tujuh Lake, highest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia, or to the beautiful islands of Pasumpahan and Pulau Pagang for snorkelling!
To find out more about how to plan a trip there, you can read my other post on it.
Read on about my experience and see the pictures (detailed itinerary section) to get a greater sense of the trek!
If you wish for me to arrange your trip, do contact me at [email protected] / Website / Whatsapp +65 88531035 / +6597511216
>>Total elevation: ~2,040m
>>Walking distance: 17km (~8.5km 1 way)
>>Total trek time: ~19 hours
>>Day Temperature: ~20ºc – 25ºc
>>Lowest Temperature: ~5ºc – 10ºc
>>Trek Duration: 2D1N (advised)
>>Long Altitude Change
>>Same way up and down
There are technically 2 routes now. The standard or most common route is from Kersik Tuo. However, the government has recently announced that there is a new route from Solok Selatan, West Sumatra. I have never done that route so I can only give the route from Kersik Tuo which most people use.
|Kersik Tuo – Pintu Rimba (Starting Point)||1,764m||–||10 min|
|Pintu Rimba – Bangku Panjang (POS 1)||1,890m||1.5km||30 min|
|Bangku Pangjang – Batu Lumut (POS 2)||2,010m||0.6km||30 min|
|Batu Lumut – Pondok Panorama (POS 3)||2,225m||1km||45 min|
|Pondok Panorama – Shelter 1||2,500m||1.4km||1.5h|
|Shelter 1 – Shelter 2||3,056m||2 km||2.5h|
|Shelter 2 – Shelter 3 (POS 3)||3,300m||0.5km||1h|
|Shelter 3 – Kerinci Summit (Puncak Indrapura)||3,805m||1.25km||2.5-3h|
This was our rough itinerary. We took Air Asia, and took the 7.45am flight from Singapore to Padang, transiting in KL.
As for our return flight, we took the 4.10pm flight from Padang. This meant that we could sleep in after the hike and take the vehicle early morning. I know some people who took the 8am flight the next day. That meant that after you have finished hiking Kersik Tuo, you immediately take an overnight vehicle back to the airport and back to Singapore. I can imagine a high chance of cramping ha!
Morning/Afternoon: Flight from Singapore to Padang
Afternoon: Padang Airport – Kersik Tuo (~6-8h drive)
8am: Kersik Tuo – Startpoint (via vehicle, 10 mins)
12pm: Startpoint – Shelter 1, stop for lunch
4pm: Shelter 1 – Shelter 3, and camp for the night
3am: Start Summit Hike
6:30am: Descend Summit
8:30am: Shelter 3 for breakfast, pack up and descend
3:00pm: Exit to Kersik Tuo
Morning: Kersik Tuo – Padang Airport – Singapore
Detailed Itinerary/Trip Details
Day 1 (Singapore – Padang – Kersik Tuo)
The first day is fairly simple. We took an early morning flight from Singapore to Padang, Minangkabau International Airport. Our flight was 07:45 Singapore – 11:10 Padang and we had a straight forward transit in Kuala Lumpur Airport. Minangkabau Airport is quite a unique airport, because it is shaped like the homes of the Minang ethic people, like a bull’s horns.
The most ideal time to get the simcards is when you arrive from the airport because it is more troublesome to get along the way.
Once we reached, we got on the vehicle to Kersik Tuo. It was going to be a long journey, of around 6-8hs on the road. Our first stop was to get a bite.
The meal wasn’t the best, as the portions were quite small. However, the prices were definitely cheap (welcome to Indonesia!). Also, nothing beats having good old avocado juice at S$ 1.3. I always order without sugar because they tend to put too much of it into the drinks in Indonesia.
The driver asked if we wanted to visit a supermarket as well as a trekking shop to buy any hiking stuff if we needed (headlights etc). So just in case you forgot to get certain items, you can always buy them in Padang instead of bringing them over from Singapore. This includes your snacks too!
However, we had everything prepared already so we simply headed straight for Kersik Tuo.
There were some decent viewpoints along the way but we only stopped to stretch our legs, and buy food. We caught sight of some delightful fruits and snacks so we couldn’t resist. Also, nothing beats S$1 Magnum Ice-Cream =)
Kersik Tuo is quite a chill town, along the river. There were many homestays and other farms around the area.
We were quite tired by the time we reached, because it was around 7pm, but the rooms were nice and there was a huge dinner spread awaiting us. Fresh vegetables from the farm, fresh local fish and on top of it, home-made SAMBAL CHILLI! It was delicious except we didn’t have much appetite because we just spent the whole day in a vehicle!
We didn’t need a health check-up along the way, as compared to Semeru. I assumed that the agency will settle it!
We had a short briefing after dinner after the hike we were going to attempt tomorrow. I looked at the maps and the timings and I felt that some of it seems slightly off, but the general idea was there.
The only registration we needed to do was to provide our passport/copy of passport for the homestay and permit registration. This was because because all homestays in Kersik Tuo needs to be registered to the local office. After that, we returned to our roomtook some time to pack and prepare for tomorrow.
Day 2 (Kersik Tuo – Shelter 3)
Kersik Tuo -> Shelter 1 (Lunch Point)
Starting Point—-30 min—> Bangku Panjang —30 min—> Batu Lumut —45min—> Pondok Panorama –90 min–> Shelter 1
Kersik Tuo Village — Starting Point
There is nothing more Indonesian than Indo-mie, we had just that for breakfast with eggs!
Once we had our breakfast, we loaded up the vehicle and had to travel around 20 minutes. We passed by the local market and stopped by the registration point.
While waiting for them to process the registration for us, we walked around and absorbed the view of Kerinci. Many locals were just going about their day to day, attending to their farm around this fertile region. From here, you could see that the main economy wasn’t the mountain. It was mostly agriculture rather than tourism. There was a nice view of Kerinci while we were looking at the farmers harvesting the potatoes.
Once the registration was done, it was another 10 minutes to the start point. The start point is simply this ramshackle shed, with some wooden poles and trunks to form the seats and pillars. This wasn’t really the entrance, but the furthest the vehicle could go. So I’ll like to call this Kerinci’s “Starting Point”.
Now we could finally start hiking! Like most 2D1N hikes, the first day is split into 2 portions mainly. The hike to the lunch point, and from lunch point to the base camp.
There are mainly 3 rest points before lunch, however the rest points are situated quite closely to each other. It takes around 3 hours to get to the lunch point! Below I will try to show some pictures and the route to give you an idea about it.
Starting Point – Kerinci Entrance/Gate
From the starting point, it takes around 10-15 minutes of an easy gradual walk on farmland towards the entrance gate. There is an entrance gate like the one in Semeru as well as one with stone pillars, as though welcoming you into the official palace of the Kerinci Seblat National Park.
There is a clear sign showing the whole route and these signs are usually available at most of the POS or rest stops! This demarcates the start of the route, from here, we were finally hiking Mount Kerinci!
Kerinci Entrance – POS 1 Bangku Panjang
Once we entered the forest, it was quiet except for the sounds of Nature. It wasn’t really dark, but not bright enough to take good pictures because light couldn’t really filter through the dense foilage. The air was cooling and it was like hiking in a sleepy morning.
It was a 30 minutes easy pace hike before we reached POS 1, Bangku Panjang. There was no much space or place to rest, I don’t think anyone would want to put your bag down on the mud also. We took a short break, had some water before continuing.
POS 1 (Bangku Panjang) – POS 2 (Batu Lumut)
POS 1 to POS 2 is slightly steeper, and the foliage grows denser. There are more mud patches around so be careful to avoid them. We start to ascend further on tree roots, standard forest and jungle hike. It is very similar to a dense Malaysia hike.
One thing nice about this hike is really being in Nature. There was nobody else hiking with us, and we could hear the sounds of the insects and birds in the morning all the way.
At one point, the guide pointed to us Gibbons in the trees. We could only see the black silhouette from far, but it was extremely still and looked like a caveman painting from afar. Still pretty cool though!
It was another half hour to POS 2. Basically, if one were to follow the standard hiking process of walking 1 hour and stopping, the first rest hour should be at POS 2 Batu Lumut.
The interesting thing about the signs are that they are extremely graffitied. I guess nobody really cares about the distance because we have to walk it anyway. People are more interested in self-gratification and inscribing their names and slogans that will last for eternity on the signboard.
POS 2 (Batu Lumut) – POS 3 (Pondok Panorama)
POS 2 to POS 3 is very similar to what you have walked before, because it was another half hour walk. However, it is now more ascent than flat terrain.
I liked observing the various plants and moss in the forest, and the way the light played to highlight them. Well better off observing the plants than the mud!
At POS 3 Pondok Panorama, there was no panorama. However, the ground was dry and there was more space for us to sit around.
There were also quite a few inquisitive or perhaps shameless squirrels around. They made good entertainment as they swarmed over our bags and around us fearlessly looking for some nibbles. We met another 2 Malaysians along the way so we were all just playing with the squirrels while taking a break
POS 3 (Pondok Panorama) – Shelter 1 (Lunchpoint)
It got steeper from Pondok Panorama to Shelter 1. Finally some proper exercise. The terrain wasn’t any much different, just the steepness and duration. It took us around another hour to get to Shelter 1.
Shelter 1 wasn’t an impressive space for lunch. It was simply wider than the other rest points or POS areas. There was a small shelter, i guess which differentiated this area from the other POS points?
It really made me wonder what happens if it rained during our hike, it would have been absolutely miserable because there was really no way to avoid the rain except Shelter 1.
We had a nice packed lunch which we were given at the start of the hike. We finished it on top of the snacks we brought. It was a simple lunch, but extremely delicious due to the sambal chili provided! Sambal makes everything nicer.
I was slightly skeptical whether I should eat it in case I had a stomach-ache in the mountains, but I couldn’t resist it. I didn’t even have time to take a picture of the food because I just gobbled them up!
Shelter 1 (Lunchpoint) – Shelter 3 (Base Camp)
Shelter 1 —2.5h—> Shelter 2—1h—> Shelter 3 (Base Camp)
Shelter 1 – Shelter 2
From here onwards, the trek is more exciting and at the same time, more difficult. The hike to Shelter 1 should be considered as warm up.
From Shelter 1, the trail ascends up at a steep incline. The route felt harder, perhaps it was because we stopped for lunch for some time and our legs were heavy.
There were some fun parts where it felt like going through Alice in Wonderland, or going through a magical gate. The path was lined up with mossy rocks and enclosed by branches, twigs and leaves.
We needed to use our hands at some points as the steps can be quite far apart and the soil loose, slippery and muddy. Shelter 2 was the first instance of being out of the dense forest, and having a view of the area.
Shelter 2 – Shelter 3 (Base Camp)
Shelter 2 was a good rest point, because we finally had some wind and view of the area. Shelter 2 lies in the clearing once you emerge from the forest.
It is a small open space, with some hanging metal bars which hints at a shelter that got destroyed before. Looking at the ground, it wouldn’t be an ideal space for camping as it was sloping downwards, with a huge ditch in the middle. There wasn’t even much of a nice space to sit down and rest.
We rested there for some time, deciding to wait for the others to arrive before proceeding. “J” shoes and his sole actually came out, because it was an old hiking boots. I was extremely impressed and he managed to keep going, even on all the mud.
The trail from Shelter 2 to 3 was one of the harder portions of the hike. We entered the forest again, but this time it necessitated a lot of usage of hands and precise footwork.
There was a huge ditch/gap, or rockslide down the middle made it difficult to walk. We had to walk along the sides which were protected by some shrubs. These shrubs provided us with handholds and kept the soil compact. Basically they were our best friends!
**From here on, rubbish could be seen all along the trail. Plastic bags, sweet wrappers, maggi packets etc all lodged into the soil. It was quite disturbing to hike along the trail and see so much rubbish layered so deeply into the soil**
The trail was also extremely narrow and we needed to use our hands to either hold onto the roots or just the mud. There were some points where it felt like a dance, as I had to twist and turn my body to step on the correct spots and hold the right roots, because some of them were loose. It would be risky if you held onto the wrong ones and just fell. I felt bad for damaging the plants and Mother Nature but I had no choice as I really couldn’t see any other path.
It was quite fun at some points, especially when we were closer to Shelter 3 because we were out of the forest cover. It felt something like walking on the ridge-line and using your hands always make you feel like you’re rock climbing.
Shelter 3 (Base Camp)
I knew we were pretty close to Shelter 3 once we got out of the forest cover. The greenery started to change slightly, where I noticed the 3,000m shrubs. I don’t know what you call them, but I always notice them when I hike above 3,000m. They are these small green shrubs with nice flowers!
We could see Shelter 3 from a distance. Seeing the same metal bars, I knew it was “Shelter” point again. However, the wind was extremely strong.
Despite how the pictures looked, we were freezing because it felt like a tornado. We had trouble setting up our camp and thought that the wind would blow the camp again. The other Malaysian couple went to another point to find a more “sheltered” area, blocked from the wind to camp.
With all our breaks and rest points, we took a total of 7 hours to Shelter 3. We reached around 3pm, so there was ample time to just relax. I was just thinking luckily it didn’t rain! I can’t imagine going through the forest park knee deep in mud or something. The trail would have been so much harder if it rained, it was slippery enough without!
We had some time to enjoy the wind and sunset while waiting for our dinner. To be fair, this is the first time we could get to see any scenery, even though they were mostly blocked by clouds. It was quite cool to be camping and looking at the tiny villages and homes below our feet.
We looked up and could see the path to the summit. It was all rocks! The contrast was quite stark, between what we had hiked, and what we were going to hike. The view in front of us, was green, filled with shrubs, forest and moss. The view behind us, the summit of Kerinci, was this imposing brown and grey patch of soil and rocks.
The sad thing about the scenery around was the amount of rubbish thrown about carelessly. This was at 3,200m, yet the amount of rubbish was so conspicuous. It was as though for every camping, people just stacked their rubbish behind.
I was prepared for a cold sleepless night, with the never ending wind because there was nothing to block the wind for us. I kept thinking what would happened if the camp flew away, but the next moment I knew, it was morning and we were ready to start the hike.
Day 3 (Shelter 3 – Summit – Kersik Tuo)
Shelter 3 (Base Camp) – Kerinci Summit (Puncak Indrapura)
GPS: Shelter 3 – Summit
- Incline: ~30 Degrees incline
- Ascent: ~500m
- Distance: 1.25 km
- Average trek time: 3h
We wanted to have a good chance to see sunrise, so we set off pretty early. We woke up at around 3.30am and set off at 4am. At first, the guides wanted us to set off later, so I had to convince them otherwise. I could see why actually, they didn’t fancy being at the summit in the cold and darkness.
The trek in the dark started off fine, until it got really windy. The wind was like a tonardo, or a ferrari. Howling within a few seconds, then calm for 1 second, before getting up to speed within seconds. There were some points I got really scared because it was quite hard to move. I had to walk extremely carefully because there were some points where the wind was threatening to blow me off. We had to hide under the rocks for some brief respite.
As we were approaching the summit, the guide told us that it was too dangerous and windy on top. So we just huddled under a rock and waited for sunrise, while having some hot tea from my Thermos Flask. There was nothing but fog and like being in the eye of a tonardo. We sat there for practically an hour, as the sky turned from dark to light. That was our sunrise, being together under a small rock, getting buffeted by the wind, not speaking much and drinking some hot tea.
After sitting there for around an hour, “J” caught up to u. We could see him struggling in the distance. You can see it from the video below, lower your volume because the wind was extremely crazy!
Once we gathered, took some selfies, we thought it was time to just try for the summit. We had been sitting around for an hour and felt really sleepy.
There was a lot of inertia to continue, but it felt less scary now because it was bright now as compared to hiking in the darkness with the howling wind. The only constant was the incessant wind now. So we decided to move towards the summit before we had hypothermia or fell asleep there.
Kerinci Summit (Puncak Indrapura)
We were just 10 minutes from the summit. There was no view at the top except a white blanket of clouds, but at least there was the signage. We had to take a picture as “proof” that we were at the summit ha!
We were desperately holding on to the Singapore flag to prevent it from flying away. In fact, when “JK” took the sign with 1 hand, it almost flew off and if it hit somebody, we would most likely have been injured. That was how strong the wind was.
We didn’t stay long because there was no reason to. The irony was that as we made our way down, the clouds slowly started to part and gave us some semblance of views. We also saw another group of Singaporeans making their way up.
The last member of our team “AC” caught up to us as we were going down. So “J” and I decided to go together with him once again to the summit as we were not that far away! The good thing was that the sun was up and the clouds parted, so I had more opportunities to take more photos of the trail!
This time, we had much better views. The clouds when we reached the summit a 2nd time! Within 10 minutes of taking the photos, it was covered once again. It was telling us to descend!
On the way down, it was much better light and scenery. You could also see Gunung Tunjuh Lake in the far distance.
I started to think that maybe there was another reason why the guides didn’t want to be up there so early. Perhaps, Kerinci is a really foggy/windy mountain if you are too early, like the clouds part only after a certain time. Some mountains are just not that great at sunrise, and Kerinci might just be one of them.
The clouds kept flirting with us, coming into our life and leaving as quickly as snapping a picture. One moment there was an amazing open view, the next moment it was like descending in the misty mountains. There was a nice fleeting moment where there was a mini-rainbow in the clouds.
The fog was slightly scary descending. We were by ourselves and it was in this moment that I realised how dangerous the summit part can be. The whole area were made up of rocks and soft soil, and lines zigzagging through. There are many different ways of walking down (and up), and it would have been easy to get lost or gone down a steeper route. In fact, we walked past a memorial for people who have passed away. I heard it was because of a rock fall.
There was an uncanny story by “J”. On the way up, we got separated and he was ascending by himself in the darkness. As the wind was quite strong, he was hiding near a rock, but he didn’t know if he was going the right way. He was about to just screw it and head on (which was a dangerous option), when he heard a female voice.
He looked around but there was no one, so he decided to wait awhile more, and then the other guide and other group member caught up to him. I was telling him that if he headed in the darkness it could have been dangerous because of the strong wind and the route.
The crazy part was that, we found out that he was actually resting near the memorial area. Also, the memorial was for 3 people who died on Kerinci, and 1 of them was a lady! It was an uncanny coincidence, so think what you want of it, the fact is we were all safe!
Luckily I also had my GPS while descending. The paths were quite confusing it would have been easy to go down the wrong path and head off the mountain. I walked on for a moment and felt it was wrong, and referred to my GPS and turned to the right path. So please follow the guide, or have the GPS route pre installed!
The soil at some parts were quite soft and prone to crumbling, as well as there were loose rocks so it was quite easy to slip. As long as you descend slowly, it should be fine.
Once past the memorial, it was a bit more before we reached back to Shelter 3 and Base Camp.
We had a light breakfast, before descending all the way down. It was a long descent. I was quite worried about descending from Shelter 3 to Shelter 1, but surprisingly it was quite fast. We went past the Singaporean group who camped in between Shelter 1 and 2.
On hindsight, I still preferred Shelter 3 campsite. They had to hike an extra 1.5hour in the dark, from Shelter 2 to Shelter 3. Moreover, upon descending, it was even further to have breakfast or a rest point. The main benefit they had was the protection offered by the trees against the wind. Therefore, I think it wasn’t that cold at night.
We took a short break at Shelter 2, before descending all the way. Once I reached the starting point shed, I was too tired to move, so I started to dress down while waiting for “P” to arrive.
The rest were having some wholesome noodles and local coffee in the nearby shed while waiting for us.
Once we all gathered, we went back to Kersik Tuo by vehicle, washed up and had a sumptuous dinner and some drinks.
It started off with 1 beer, but ended with like 10 bottles or something! All in all, I was glad everyone made it and was safe!
We had a good night sleep instead of taking the overnight vehicle to catch the early flight. So we set off at 6am and we needed to be at the airport by 2pm. We stopped by to finally have some Padang Satay, and some Rawon (my favorite!). We were hoping for some nice views on the way back, but once again, the fog was haunting us.
We reached around 1.30pm, and I got nervous as there seemed like there was a jam at Padang Airport. I guess maybe that is the bad thing about leaving in the morning! Overnight will have less traffic for sure. On the way back, we were looking at the imposing view of Kerinci and it looked like a clear day!
Although we didn’t have much views for Kerinci, I was glad it didn’t rain at all for my hike. I can’t imagine how horrible it would be if it did!
Mount Kerinci, was exactly as I had expected it to be, basically it didn’t blow my mind nor change how it ranked in the mountains I would do.
However, the trail was actually harder than I had expected. The point from Shelter 1 to Shelter 3 needed some usage of hands, and one had to be careful for the trail to the summit.
Also, the rubbish situation was way worse than I had expected. Rubbish was all along the trail, embedded in the soil as though it was grass growing out of the soil from Shelter 1 onwards. It was a sorry site, and the campsite felt like a rubbish dumping point when you look around.
I really plead all hikers to take notice of this, to be considerate of the amount of supplies to bring up, to be really conscious in bringing all the trash down. Perhaps some of us could hire extra hands or porters to help bring down the trash, to do our part in preserving the environment.
There isn’t enough onus on the hikers or agencies to protect the mountain. I really hope this will have an improvement in the future.
Kerinci is a challenging experience, due to the muddy forest and long altitude gain. If it is your first time to the Indonesian mountains/gunungs, Kerinci can be quite a fascinating and demanding experience. If it rains, I can only imagine how much more horrible and dangerous the hike would be.
As for me, it is really more of a “bragging” rights hike that I have done the highest volcano in Indonesia. If I were to compare with other Indonesia hikes, there are definitely nicer, more scenic and interesting ones like Semeru, Merbabu etc. This is of course my own opinion.
On the other hand, Kerinci is not as commercial as the rest. There are a lot less people hiking Kerinci. Also, it can be done pretty cheaply and the organization and process of it is quite smooth. It is a straight-forward 4 days itinerary. To enjoy Kerinci, the mindset is more of appreciating the Nature, the variety of wildlife and diversity of flora and fauna over there.
If only it wasn’t invaded by so much rubbish!
If had reached the end and wish for me to arrange your trip, do contact me at [email protected] / Website / Whatsapp +65 88531035 / +6597511216.
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