47: Indonesia > West Sumatra > Climbing Mount Marapi

Mt Marapi, at 2891m (9485′), is Sumatra’s most active volcano. Located in the Bukittingi plain in West Sumatra, it dominates the landscape together with dormant Mt Singgalang at 2877m (9439′). In the last 200 years, Marapi has erupted more than 50 times with many fatalities, the latest in 2004. 

Mt Marapi is the ‘+’ in the centre of the image below, just 20km southeast of Bukittinggi.

Mt Marapi is the '+' in centre of map, 20km southeast of Bukittinggi

Serene morning view of Marapi from our hotel room in Bukittinggi. Looks harmless enough from here. 🙂

Morning view of Marapi from Bukittinggi hotel

And glancing to the right on our room balcony, we see Mt Singgalang, a dormant volcano at 2877 metres. Very photogenic hill.


Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Today we are climbing Mt Marapi. We should have started the ascent at midnight last night in time for sunrise on the peak, but the unseasonal heavy rain put paid to that plan. So instead, we find ourselves starting the 7km trek at 7.40am.

Start of trail, at 7.40am

The trail starts at a telecom tower, and we walk along a narrow metal road serving the vegetable plots which extend all the way to the edge of the forest.


Along the way our bunch bump into a guy and his trusty rickety Vespa.

Man on a Vespa

Note the telecom tower at centre-left, the spot where the van from the Bukittinggi hotel left us to start our journey. We are now at 1500 metres above sea level.

Vegies' plots

We pass fertile land …

Fertile dark volcanic soil

… with its rich, dark volcanic soil which can grow virtually anything, …


… such as this very healthy chilli.


Nafis with assistant guide Ansor as the last person, who makes sure nobody gets left behind as the group moves.

About 1500m

A place to stock up drinking water. From here, freshwater is not easily available. But we each carry a 1.5-litre bottle of mineral water which should be sufficient for this day trek.

A place to collect fresh water

We are now in the jungle trail proper.

Trail proper has started

First obstacle – a footbridge of loose bamboo stems across a deep stream. Being wet and slippery, crossing it is a bit tricky.

Bamboo footbridge across deep stream, loose and slippery

Guide Fahmi makes us a bamboo pole each. Extremely useful when trekking as a 3rd foot, especially when the ground is slippery, wet and soggy after last night’s rains.

Guide Fahmi makes hiking poles for us

Aina and Nafis happy with their poles, while Shafiq awaits his.

An hour on, still in good spirit

White flowers of wild ginger plant.

Wild ginger flower

Mountaineers and their poles, still in good spirit 2 hours into the trek. This bamboo species is ideal since it’s light and tough, but elastic.

Would-be mountaineers

We huff and puff, and there seem to be periodic clearings which are ideal to catch our breath. We also take the opportunity to check for pacat or leeches. When the ground is wet, they are most active.

Resting at a clearing

The walk up the slope is mainly over slippery surface roots, and the occasional rocks.

Trail still relatively easy here

The rare bit where the trail is level and smooth, but pacat everywhere.

Trail getting narrower

Apart from the occasional signs showing the way to the top …


… there are also the odd ones reminding us of God. I’m always at the back of the line, taking pics and videos, so Ansor has to make sure I’m not left behind. 🙂

Asst Guide Ansor looks at a note to remember God

Base of a tree trunk surrounded by thick moss.

Lichens around a tree trunk

At 1700m, another rest, and guide Fahmi tells a joke or two. He has a huge backpack of supplies and gear.

Another stop

Aina and Nukman. Note the still-clean gloves.


Photo opportunity everywhere, especially for Nafis.

Yet another rest ... Nukman, Shafiq and Nafis

First serious jungle-trekking for Aina, and she’s worried about the dirty gloves and pants.

Aina worried about dirty gloves

Another rest at 1800m and suddenly we are free of leeches. Too cold for them, I presume.

At 1800m, and suddenly no more leeches

We start spotting wild berries. Edible but a tad sour.

Wild berry, edible but sour

More climbing through the slippery surface roots at 1900m, and Aina takes a breather.

Aina takes a breather

Parts of the ground are black volcanic rocks now. Not as slippery as the roots.

Getting tougher

This is now typical of the trail as it gets steeper. Makes climbing Mt Kinabalu seem like a walk in the park – see our gallery HERE.


Another rest at 2000m, and 5 hrs into the trek. We are progressing slowly.

2000m and 5 hrs later

A curious ‘tunnel’ through the undergrowths and roots. This tunnel was gouged out by running water.

A tunnel

Look at the debris above the tunnel. The walls are made of earth, and is just wide enough for a person to pass.

My turn to do the tunnel

As we cleared the tunnel, it drizzles, and out come our waterproof-wear. We are at 2300m, and I start to have a slight headache at the back of the head – altitude sickness due to lack of oxygen. The ground is basically black rock now, and no more tall trees.

At 2300m and a drizzle

As the rain clouds move away, we have our first view of the magnificent valley below. And if there are no clouds there, we should have a great sight of Mt Singgalang, a dormant volcano just 14m shorter than Marapi.

Dormant volcano Singgalang, 100m metre shorter than Marapi, across the valley

The valley is the Marapi-Singgalang ‘saddle’ which is about 1150m above sea level. To the extreme right of the valley, we can see the town of Bukittinggi, our base.


Beautiful upper montane blooms.

Upper montane flowers

Pitcher plants too, different to the species I saw on Kinabalu. This one is large, elongated, and green.

Pitcher plants

Nafis gingerly scales a steep rock face.


But soon everybody is on the other side, except me!


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