Central Java, Gunung Merapi

Written by on July 14, 2012 in Java Mountains with 0 Comments

Central Java, Gunung Merapi

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Mount Merapi erupts and destroys the surrounding area, include Kaligendol river in this site

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Effect Merapi Eruption November 2010
Ash rain only, Damage Salak trees

Mount Merapi, Gunung Merapi (literally Fire Mountain in Indonesian/Javanese), is an active stratovolcano located on the border between Central Java and Yogyakarta, Indonesia. It is the most active volcano in Indonesia and has erupted regularly since 1548. It is located approximately 28 kilometres (17 mi) north of Yogyakarta city, and thousands of people live on the flanks of the volcano, with villages as high as 1,700 metres (5,600 ft) above sea level.

The name Merapi could be loosely translated as ‘Mountain of Fire’. The etymology of the name came from Meru-Api; from the Javanese combined words; Meru means “mountain” refer to mythical mountain of Gods in Hinduism, and api means “fire”. Smoke can be seen emerging from the mountaintop at least 300 days a year, and several eruptions have caused fatalities. Hot gas from a large explosion killed 27 people on 22 November in 1994, mostly in the town of Muntilan, west of the volcano. Another large eruption occurred in 2006, shortly before the Yogyakarta earthquake. In light of the hazards that Merapi poses to populated areas, it has been designated as one of the Decade Volcanoes.

On 25 October 2010 the Indonesian government raised the alert for Mount Merapi to its highest level and warned villagers in threatened areas to move to safer ground. People living within a 20 km (12 mi) zone were told to evacuate. Officials said about 500 volcanic earthquakes had been recorded on the mountain over the weekend of 23–24 October, and that the magma had risen to about 1 kilometre (3,300 ft) below the surface due to the seismic activity. On the afternoon of 25 October 2010 Mount Merapi erupted lava from its southern and southeastern slopes.

The mountain was still erupting on 30 November 2010 however due to lowered eruptive activity on 3 December 2010 the official alert status was reduced to level 3. The volcano is now 2930 metres high[, 38 metres lower than before the 2010 eruptions.

This Ribu is the most active volcano in Indonesia. Its name literally means mountain of fire and it is one of the world’s 16 Decade Volcanoes. It can therefore be very dangerous indeed. There was a major eruption in 2006 but nothing on the scale of what happened in October and November 2010 when a series of devastating eruptions killed over 300 people across a radius of almost 20km from the crater. Among the dead was Merapi’s gatekeeper, Mbah Maridjan, and the volcano was on a high level of alert for several months afterwards. Thankfully Merapi is relatively quiet again (October 2011) so the trail is once again open for hiking.

Many tour organizations offer treks up Merapi – for the best prices, check out the agents on Yogyakarta’s Jalan Sosrowidjian or proceed directly to New Selo. There are two routes to the summit area – from New Selo in the north and from Kaliurang in the south. Kaliurang is only a short drive from the city of Yogyakarta but people are banned from using this route due to it being too dangerous. Instead, the Merapi ‘basecamp’ is in New Selo. Most hikers start at midnight, or just after, in order to reach the summit area for first light. This is because Merapi generally emits more gases as the day goes on so early morning is the safest time to visit. Although there are one or two spots on the trail where it is possible to pitch a tent, there is a large campsite area, Pasar Bubrah (‘dismissed market’) at about 2,675m beneath the summit cone which has one or two monuments and some very large boulders with graffiti. This is an ideal place to have a couple of hours rest just before dawn although it is basically a huge boulder field with no grass whatsoever.

After arriving in Yogyakarta it is rather easy to find transport to the mountain village of Selo from where the actual climb to Gunung Merapi starts. A taxi can be chartered for about Rp 250,000. It is highly advisable to arrange for your taxi to pick you up the following day as it can be rather difficult to organize transportation in the mountain village of Selo. To cover the 80km from the Airport to Selo will take between two to three hours depending on the traffic.

When arriving at Selo (1,500m) drive directly to the turn off towards “NEW SELO” which is the starting point for the hike. The basecamp is before the end of the road on the left and if it’s late in the evening you will probably see other hikers preparing their backpacks about to set off . ‘Accommodation’ – if you need it – is simple but spacious and as in all rural areas in Indonesia very basic with few comforts. Here your own sleeping bag will guarantee a comfortable short early evening nap in the fresh cool mountain air. Guides can also be found here.

From the basecamp, follow the road up the hill for 20 minutes to the large NEW SELO sign next to a few warungs. This place is a very popular viewpoint for local tourists, because you can enjoy terrific views of Gunung Merbabu across the mountain pass as well as over Selo and the surrounding fertile farming area. For the first 30 minutes after the sign the track follows rather steeply through large plantations with a steep drop to your left. This small path can be very dusty during the dry season, but still offers plenty of grip on the way up.

By the time the last fields are left behind, you are close to 2,000 metres and gradually the forest trees get smaller and farther in between, and with it the surroundings offer terrific views back down the trail. As the woods get less dense the path starts to gradually get more and more rocky. Once you pass the national park sign it will take approximately 45 minutes of good hard uphill going to reach Pos 1 (2,150m) that is enclosed and protected by large boulders, and offers welcome protection from the often very strong winds.

If you are lucky to have a full moon and a clear sky then the crystal clear mountain night will unveil for you an unbelievably scenic spectacle with surreal shapes of more volcanoes both near and far, set in soft velvety clouds allowing the peaks to reach the star spotted skies. After a comfortable 30 to 40 minutes the top of the next ridge is reached. The many memorial plates (2,400m) are a reminder that the utmost of care must be taken when getting to the top of this very active volcano.

From here the path actually leads downhill for a short 300-400 metres before ascending steeply to a large new memorial monument (2011). From here it is a five minute stroll to the middle of a huge boulder field known as Pasar Bubrah which is often full of tents at weekends. There are some lare rocks which can be used for shelter against the wind but it is a rather exposed area and camping might be more comfortable – and warmer – lower down the trail. On the right you should be able to see the twin cones of Sumbing and Sindoro. On the left is a minor yet shapely peak which is the beginning of an alternative route back down the east side of the mountain which brings hikers out at Deles village. Most people start the final section of the climb up the volcanic cone itself at first light. It is important to remember that you should avoid being on the summit before sunrise, as on the top the shelter is non-existent and the freezing cold winds can cool your over heated body in minutes down to very dangerous levels.

From Pasar Bubrah the steep rocky cone of Merapi is clearly visible above you and it takes a difficult 45 minutes of slipping over scree – and avoiding large rocks sent down by the person in front of you! – to reach the actual crater rim. It’s a very tiring section of the trail and it’s not uncommon to see people giving up halfway. Inevitably, your shoes will also fill up with small stones and volcanic sand. As you get higher, the view becomes more and more splendid. To the left (east) you should be able to see the large mountain of Lawu towering above the clouds in the distance.

Eventually you will reach an area where you can feel that the ground gets a lot warmer and in a few areas you will pass several vents where piping hot volcanic steam is blowing out from the mountain. From this area it will take you only about 15 minutes to get to the eerie crater rim. The final 100 metres unveil an unbelievable mountain world of scree and huge shards of volcanic rock created in the enormous 2010 eruptions.The smell of sulphur can be overwhelming.

Prior to 2006, the highest point of Merapi was a huge shard of rock called Puncak Garuda. After the 2006 eruption, the highest point of the volcano was part of a new lava dome and impossible – or at least incredibly dangerous – to reach. However, the devastating eruptions in October and November 2010 led the a great change in the shape of the summit area. There is no longer a lava dome, but rather a huge new crater. Anyone who climbs again now will be amazed at the change since previous visits. The rim (2,905m) offers tremendous views down into the 200 metre-deep and 500 metre-wide crater. Because of the amount of sulphur gas in the air which blows over the rim itself it is unlikely that you will be able to gaze southwards towards the city of Yogya itself. However, the vertical crater walls and brand new twisted crater rim are fascinating in their own right. Needless to say, extreme care needs to be taken on the rim because it is a very dangerous place quite regardless of the volcanic activity. A circuit of the rim is utterly impossible but from the place at which the rim is reach hikers can walk perhaps ten or twenty metres, both left and right. If you take a left, you can climb up to a flat section of the rim which arguably offers the finest views on the rim. A few hikers venture here in the early morning sunlight to take photos of one of the world’s most destructive volcanoes. For those intent on reaching the true summit, which is ‘baggable’ once again, it lies to the right and is a tricky and rather unsafe place to visit. For confident scramblers it is just five minutes of using all fours to clamber up to the tiny top. For anyone else, it is a considerable risk so you really ought to think twice about trying it.

According to GPS equipment, the true summit is 2,930 metres high – that’s 38 metres lower than prior to the 2010 eruptions. More interestingly, the actual summit location has moved significantly – it is now about 40 metres to the NNW when compared to how it was before. The views from the true summit are not much better than from the lower parts of the northern rim except that the twin giants of Sumbing and Sindoro can be seen. As can be expected, the scary summit has a very, very temporary feel to it – more like a horror film set about to be demolished than an enduring natural landmark!

After enjoying the surreal and utterly unusual landscape and beautiful views, it will take you a comfortable 3 and a half hours to get back to the large New Selo signs, which which time the warungs should be open for business and farmers should be out and about tending to their land.

Bagging information provided by Heinz von Holzen and Daniel Quinn (updated October 2011)

Practicalities

Getting there

Public transport from Yogya would take a long time. It is better to hire a taxi or go with a tour guide from Yogya. Accommodation

There is basic accommodation in Selo but most people choose to stay in Yogya where there are hundreds of hotels and climb the mountain at night in time for dawn. Permits

Register at New Selo basecamp for just Rp1,500 (Oct 2011) – take a photocopy of your passport photo page just incase. Water sources

Not available. Take enough supplies with you.

Country: Indonesia

Subregion Name: Java (Indonesia)

Volcano Number: 0603-25=

Volcano Type: Stratovolcano

Volcano Status: Historical

Last Known Eruption: 2011

Summit Elevation: 2968 m 9,737 feet

Latitude: 7.542°S 7°32’30″S

Longitude: 110.442°E 110°26’30″E

Merapi, one of Indonesia’s most active volcanoes, lies in one of the world’s most densely populated areas and dominates the landscape immediately north of the major city of Yogyakarta. Merapi is the youngest and southernmost of a volcanic chain extending NNW to Ungaran volcano. Growth of Old Merapi volcano beginning during the Pleistocene ended with major edifice collapse perhaps about 2000 years ago, leaving a large arcuate scarp cutting the eroded older Batulawang volcano. Subsequently growth of the steep-sided Young Merapi edifice, its upper part unvegetated due to frequent eruptive activity, began SW of the earlier collapse scarp. Pyroclastic flows and lahars accompanying growth and collapse of the steep-sided active summit lava dome have devastated cultivated lands on the volcano’s western-to-southern flanks and caused many fatalities during historical time. The volcano is the object of extensive monitoring efforts by the Merapi Volcano Observatory.

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