West Sumatra, Gunung Talang

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

West Sumatra, Gunung Talang




Mount Talang is one of the most accessible volcanoes in Sumatra, lying just 3 hours drive from Padang. It is also one of the most interesting – the mountain is full of birdlife and monkeys, the views from the higher slopes are unbeatable and since the violent eruptions of April 2005 the summit area is still covered with burnt trees. Thankfully, Talang has quietened down recently so it is a popular weekend hike for students from across West Sumatra. It’s a straighforward, short hike which can be accomplished in a weekend trip from elsewhere in the archipelago.

The trail starts in an area called Bukit Sileh – more specifically from a village called Batu Bajanjang. Unless you or your driver knows the area you will almost certainly have to get out and ask because there are very few signposts beyond Solok. It is a very pleasant starting point for two reasons – the mountain looks much more imposing from this side than from tea plantation on the main road between Padang and Gunung Kerinci and additionally the starting point is at over 1350m above sea level . From the village, a bumpy, rocky farm track leads up the hillside to farm villages and plantations. Do make sure to ask locals about the activity of the volcano before deciding to camp on the higher slopes – better still, if you have time, visit the Volcanology office in the area. The trail to the volcano leads up through the farmland before reaching a ridge full of vegetation which you will reach after about 30 minutes. Look out for monkeys here – it seems to be teeming with them.

The trail then enters denser forest which is a welcome respite from the heat of the sun. The trail is very pleasant – not well-used enough to become too muddy or full of litter. After an hour of flatter walking the trail increases in steepness and the vegetation lessens. You should be able to catch a glimpse of Danau Dibawah to your left. Look out for birdlife here – compared to most Javan mountains this peak is literally full of creatures. Before long you will see a small plume of smoke rising from the hillside – a sulphur fumarole (2,355m) worth having a closer look at. In another 20 minutes is a small area (2,475m) large enough to accommodate one large tent or two small tents. A few boulders are scattered across the hillside here and the views to Singkarak lake and the Bukitinggi mountains of Singgalang, Marapi and Sago are tremendous. One of the large boulders overlooking the lakes has a metal volcanology marker on it.

From the small camp area it’s less than 30 minutes to the true summit – surrounded by volcanic crevices, craters, burnt trees and volcanology monitoring equipment. Altogether, allow between 4 and 5 hours to reach the summit from Bukit Sileh. The views from the top are amazing – down to the three lakes of Danau Dibawah, Danau Diatas and the smaller Danau Talang (a crater lake) and in the early morning you should see Gunung Kerinci – Indonesia’s tallest volcano and Sumatra’s highest mountain – as a beautiful cone behind Danau Diatas. It is especially beautiful at dawn and very much recommended to fit photographers as it’s a really photogenic summit area. Old, dry craters lie below, some local Edelweiss grows between the burnt trees and the Indian ocean is clearly visible. In June 2011, volcanic activity at the summit was very low but given that 25,000 local residents were evacuated in 2005 it is of course crucial to be very cautious indeed. For larger camping parties, one of the dry sandy crater below the true summit ridge would make a reasonable place to camp, but only in times of very, very low activity.

Allow three hours to descend the same way.

Bagging information by Daniel Quinn (June 2011)

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