South Sulawesi, Gunung Moncong Lompobatang

Written by on July 16, 2012 in Sulawesi Mountains with 0 Comments

South Sulawesi, Gunung Moncong Lompobatang


his Ribu is the second most prominent peak in Sulawesi (after Rantemario). It was first climbed in 1840 by James Brooke, an Englishman who later became Raja of Sarawak. It must have been a major expedition to reach the summit in those days but now it is a popular and frequently climbed mountain that could even theoretically be done as a long day hike.

The mountain range actually consists of two major mountains – Lompobatang (2,874m, also spelt with two ‘t’s) and the more northerly and slightly lower Bawakaraeng (2,830m). Because of the proximity of the mountains to the bustling city of Makassar both peaks are climbed by student hikers almost every weekend. Some of the really adventurous hikers actually climb both in one trip, although this requires a minimum of four days and usually five. According the local legends, Lompobatang has female characteristics and Bawakaraeng has male characteristics, the latter being more cruel than the former in terms of how many hikers have perished on its slopes.

There are two main access routes to the range. The southern approach which is used for Lompobatang starts from Lembang Bu’ne village near Malakaji to the southwest of the mountain. The other approach is from Lembanna near the popular hill resort town of Malino which lies to the north of the mountain and is used by hikers wishing to climb Bawakaraeng. Since Malino is only 2 hours from Makassar it is considerably more popular than Lompobatang but both mountains are fabulous in their own right and if you have sufficient time a traverse of the range would provide a truly memorable experience.

The starting points for both mountains are relatively high up yet both treks are substantial and involve some occasionally tricky terrain. It is rare – though not impossible – for hikers to climb and descend either mountain in a single day. For example, Lompobatang would require 10 or 11 hours from reasonably strong hikers for a return trip. The following is a report for Lompobatang, the higher mountain of the two – and therefore the Ribu.

To reach Malakaji from Makassar, follow the main road south to Jeneponto. From Jeneponto take a left turn onto a narrower road which twists and turns for 40km up through villages to the south west of the mountain. Finally you will reach Malakaji, which is the last place to buy supplies of any note. This hilly area of South Sulawesi is well-known for passion fruit (markisa). It is a further 8km up to Lembang Bu’ne where you turn up a stone track for a further 3 or 4 km to reach the Parambintolo basecamp (1,610m). Most ordinary cars can manage this no problem but it is rather bumpy.

From the basecamp, follow the stony track up the hill for a couple of hundred metres before following a small path down to the left behind a village house. The path leads to a couple of stone walls separating farm fields and these can be ascended easily. There are some arrows pointing the way, so you shouldn’t have much difficulty finding the way during daylight hours. Soon you will have reached a sign by a river, which is Pos 1 (1,681m). This is the most reliable source of water before Pos 9 so fill your bottles here if you need to. From Pos 1 it takes about 30 minutes along a rather overgrown trail to Pos 2 (1,821m) which is by a small mountain stream. After Pos 2, the trail enters dense forest and the views become much more limited. It takes about 30 minutes to reach Pos 3 (2,018m) and a further 30 minutes to Pos 4 (2,251m) which is a nice opening large enough for 2 or 3 tents. It can get very windy here though so be warned. The density of the trees lessens from this point on and allow views of distant ridges. Pos 5 (2,373) is the best place to camp within the forest, with enough space for 4 or 5 tents.

Beyond Pos 5 is an area inhabited by ‘babi hutan’ (wild pigs) and although you are likely to hear some if you camp here you will probably not see them. Pos 6 (2,531m) is the last forest post and the trail gets progressively more interesting and challenging from this point on. Pos 7 (2,679m) is a minor peak in its own right and in clear weather you should be able to see the fabulous narrow ridges ahead coated in low bushes and occasional Edelweiss. Many of the low growing trees are covered in a moss that is boiled by local people for the treatment of asthma. Directly after Pos 7, the trail descends quite steeply before climbing again to Pos 8 (2,727m). This ‘land bridge’ section between Pos 7 and 8 is rather dangerous at times and requires you to use your hands, especially in inclement weather when the rocks could be slippery. The views in fine weather are stunning. Finally you will reach Pos 9 (2,754m) which is a huge boulder with some overhang offering some shelter. This is also the best camping area on this side of the mountain because, although there is only enough space for 4 or 5 tents, the views are tremendous and it is less than 30 minutes from here to the trig pillar otherwise known as Pos 10 (2,874m). There is also a water source 200 metres downhill.

The section between Pos 9 and 10 is in places the most technical and dangerous. You need to be reasonably good at rock scrambling. The trail leads up to the right of the huge boulder and then onto a very narrow ridge. One section of the ridge is blocked with a rock formation that you must take extra care clambering over.

The true peak (2,874 metres above sea level) of the mountain range is crowned with a triangulation pillar, a boulder with names written into it by previous hikers and a small antenna compound. This is the usual destination of most hikers who enjoy the view, take some photos by the pillar and slowly begin the return journey to Lembang Bu’ne. But a further kilometre north lies Puncak Kohbang / Ko’bang which is the alleged site of the tomb of the King of Gowa. It is a place of pilgrimage for local people and indeed the whole mountain range is highly spiritually significant – there are numerous mystical stories and superstitious advice connected to the area. Puncak Kohbang is actually 2,870m – just 4 metres below the true summit – and is a grand viewpoint down to the valley between Lompobatang and Bawakaraeng.

For hikers wishing to cross (lintas) the entire range, the trail beyond Puncak Kohbang leads down into Lembah Karisma (Charisma Valley, named after the Makassar hiking group that opened the route in 1987). At this point the terrain becomes very steep and difficult, taking about 7 hours to reach the valley (2,236m, Pos 15). Most hiking groups spend one night in the valley where there is ample space to camp and also water sources. From this point, the Pos numbers descend from 15 back to Pos 1 near the trailhead for Bawakaraeng at Lembanna. After having spent a night in Charisma Valley, the following day hikers start the ascent up to the peak of Gunung Bawakaraeng – apparently this requires the best part of a day too. Reports from hiking clubs who have completed this trip say that there are rocks on this section of the expedition that contain metal that can render compasses useless. There is also a tricky rock section where only one person can pass through at a time. After a third night on the mountain range, in the large field near Bawakaraeng summit, they slowly descend to Lembanna and take public transport or ojeks back to Malino and then home to Makassar.

Bagging information provided by Daniel Quinn


Getting there

For Lompobatang, follow the main road south of Makassar towards Talakar and on to Jeneponto where you take a left turn for the 40km to Malakaji. From Malakaji it is about 12 kilometres to the basecamp at Lembang Bu’ne (4 hours total from Makassar). For Gunung Bawakaraeng, simply follow the signs from Makassar to Malino (2 hours). Accommodation

Plenty of options in Makassar. For hikers climbing Bawakaraeng there are several hotels in Malino. Permits

Not required at present – take a photocopy of your passport photo page just incase. Water sources

For the hike to Lompobatang, water is available at Pos 1, 2 and near Pos 9.

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