Gunung Sumbing is smack bang in the centre of central Java and right next door to the almost equally tall Gunung Sindoro. If you’re coming to hike Sumbing then you may as well extend for a day and climb Sindoro swell. Likewise if you plan to climb Sindoro first. Both mountains are incredibly different so if you have the time and energy then you should certainly try to climb them both.
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I climbed Sumbing at the end of June 2019 so I’ll detail my account below.
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I actually started my journey to Sumbing from Solo, some 100kms away by road and a 3 hour motorbike ride. If you aren’t coming from Solo or Yogjakarta the other option would be to come from Semarang. I’ve never been to Semarang so I can’t comment on that city but on the map it seems to be the closest large city to Sumbing.
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I left Solo around lunch time and made the 3 hour trip over to the Kledung Pass. This is the high point right between the 2 mountains. The pass can get busy and by the looks of it, it is a tourist centre in its own right, albeit a run down one. There is only one hotel in the whole area and that is the Dieng Kledung Pass Hotel.
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I decided to stay here for 2 nights and climb Sumbing first, as it has the longest trail, and then Sindoro the day after. Both can be combined to leave at around 1 or 2am from the hotel or to climb in the day if you don’t mind missing sunrise. A decent level of fitness is needed otherwise you’d struggle doing 2 back to back hikes of 12-14km and plus 1400m on each one. 
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The 3 hour ride that google told me it would be actually ended up being 4 hours and I arrived at the Dieng Kledung Pass Hotel at 4pm. There are no other options in town, apart from the basecamps but they are more like a huge room where you would pulll out your mat and sleeping and sleeping bag to get some rest, so this was it. The next closest hotels are around a 20-30 minute ride down the hill to the towns either side of the pass. The Dieng Kledung Pass Hotel is really your only option if you don’t want to travel too far and be right near the starting points. Sumbing trail head is a 5 minute ride and Sindoro around a 10 minute ride from the hotel. 
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I chose to Climb Sumbing first because it had the longest trail and I wanted to climb Sindoro and then head directly back to Solo that day. For that to happen I would have to climb the longest one first and the shortest 2nd. This is a good approach because Sumbing is a lot more difficult than Sindoro. The trail is a lot harder and the gain is 2000m compared to 1400m.
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I booked into the Dieng Kledung Pass Hotel and the price for one night was 360k rupiah, which in my opinion is a little steep for what you get. I would say that the price should be 250k max, but as they are the only hotel on the pass I guess that they can charge whatever they like.
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The hotel is quite run down and looks like it hasn’t had any work done for at least 20 years. Indonesia is a very interesting country and the more that I travel it the more I see similarities. Once you’re outside of the major tourist areas, or resorts areas then you see the same style of hotels popping up. Cibodas, at the base of Gunung Gede is the same with its old school hotels going for an astronomical rate. The staff are very friendly though and if you haven’t arranged a guide, or need a guide then hey can help you out with the whole process. I will note here that it is not necessary to take a guide and you will not be pressured one bit to take a guide so its up to you. The path is very easy on Sumbing and Sindoro and there are already many people on the mountain. So if you are worried about safety then be reassured that many people hike this mountain and you will not be alone. 
After I checked into the hotel I took a ride up the hill to find the start of the hiking trail for Sindoro. A great app to use is maps.me which has most hiking trails in the world, you’ll just need to download the area of the map that you want to see more detail of. I found that start using maps.me and rode the scooter up the hill. I discovered that the first 3km and 500m up is actually a stone path and at the basecamp you can hire a driver to take you from the basecamp all the way to Pos 1 for 25k rupiah. I didn’t ride my scooter all the way to Pos 1 as it was way too steep so I turned back and went to get food before turning in for the night.
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I had my dinner and was in bed by 6pm. It must be noted that in Java the sun sets at 530 so it is already dark by 6pm. I set my alarm for 1am so I could try to make the summit by sunrise.

Start of the hike

The alarm set the next day at 1am and by 1.15 I was out the door and riding up the hill towards the start of the hike. There wasn’t really anywhere for me to park my bike along the stoney part of the trail so I decided that it was safer to park the bike at the basecamp where you register for the hike. I really didn’t expect anyone to be there as it was 1am but there were 3 people outside all around a fire getting warm. I pulled in to park and then they came over and made me register.
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This was the first mountain, apart from Semeru, that I have had to register for. Semeru was 210k per day for a foreigner to enter so I wasn’t sure what Sumbing would be for the entry fee. The guys saw that I had a small trail running backpack on and asked me if I was trail running. Most people would camp on the mountain and spend 2 days but as trail running in Indonesia has grown in popularity all the guys as the basecamps know all about it. I said yes as they have a checklist of gear that they run through with you to make sure you are carrying. Over the years this has become more strict but they just read out the gear and you say yes or no. As with trail running you physically can’t carry all the gear they read out they are chilled with you not having it and don’t actually check anyways.

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After around 15 minutes of filling out the necessary paperwork we were almost done. For safety you are meant to leave an ID with them so that if you aren’t back by the time you say then they will send someone to look for you. This is quite good I think and worth it if you are worried about anything happening on the trail. It goes without saying that whenever you go into the hills alone you should always let someone know where you are going and when you plan to be back. If you haven’t heard of 127 hours you should watch it because it’s a great example of why you should let someone know where you are going. I didn’t have my passport copy so they let me just leave the motorcycles registration paper as collateral. The guy I rented off had my passport copy so if anything went wrong and I didn’t return then they would know who I was.
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I also always send my wife the location of where I park the bike and when I plan to be back so if I’m not then she can raise the alarm if anything goes wrong.

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Once all the paper work was done it was down to the payment. I was expecting the worst but when they told me it was 20k rupiah I couldn’t believe it. That was the local price so I paid it and was on my way. What I totally forgot was that I could take a motor bike taxi to Pos 1 so I walked up, wasting 50 minutes and 500m up of energy.
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I reached Pos 1 just after 2am and not a soul was around. The air was cold but I was warm from walking uphill so I was only wearing shorts and a t-shirt.    The first 3km to Pos 1 is a stone track and I would highly recommend getting the motorbike taxi to this point. From there the trail really changes into a proper trail and a motorbike couldn’t go any further. As I was hiking at the end of June the trail was very dusty and very slippery. It seems that there is rain here just not this time of year and I would hate to think what it would be like climbing in the wet season. The trail must turn into a mud river.
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Pos 2 is a further 20-30 minutes along and this is just a small area where you can rest and take it easy. When I was coming down they were setting up their shops for the day for the hikers who frequent the mountain. It’s after Pos 2 that things started to get quite hard. The trail between 2300m and 2500m is totally washed out from the rains but very very dusty. It is also very steep and there have been some ropes installed to help hikers get up this part. I was carrying a small bag and would hate to think what it would be like carrying a 15 or 20kg pack up here. I would recommend really grippy shoes like trail runners and new hiking boots where the tread hasn’t worn down that much. Poles are also a great help here because you can dig them in and use them to leverage your weight to get up the slippery part.
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Once the slippery section is done you’ll reach the main camp on the mountain and be around half way in time and distance. This is where the path comes out of the trees and the views really open up. There is also a split path here where the “old path” and ’new path’ join. The new path goes all the way to the village so if you didn’t want to take the motorbike taxi and walk 3 extra km the new path is the one. I was tired coming down so I went back down the “old path” and then took a motorbike taxi from Pos 1 to the basecamp for 25k.
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At the main camp is where I saw the most people and they were just starting to get out of their tents and start the hike as I was walking through. Sumbing isn’t really as popular as Merbabu and Semeru so there was hardly anyone there in comparison. I was feeling hungry so just after the camp I stopped and had some food for about 15 minutes before continuing on. When you stop it gets really cold so I try not to stop for too long. There was no wind either making the ascent really pleasant.
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I walked with some Indonesians after this point, chatting and taking it easy. They would stop and I’d carry on and catch the next group and do it all again. The trail follows the rocky ridge all the way to the summit and its impossible to get lost, even in the dark. At around 4am I was really starting to struggle. This hike was very long, 2000m up, and I wasn’t really that used to it. I was still quite a way from the summit but when it’s dark you don’t really know where you are and you certainly can’t see the top so I just carried on.

 

Summit

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At 5am the sky started to become light and I could finally see the top. I reached the summit at 515am and looked over into the crater. I had read that the true summit was not actually the first point that you come to and I looked to the right and there stood the true summit. I knew I would have to go there because you certainly couldn’t say you went to the real summit if you only went to the rim.

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There is a small trail that branches off just 20m below the rim so I took the trail and it leads all the way to the base of the true summit. If you try to reach the summit by going along the rim there are big drops and it’s quite unsafe. If you go down a little and find the big path and head right then you will get there much safer. At the base of the main peak is where you need to climb up some rocks but this is quite straightforward. After that its a short walk up the dry and dusty trail to “Puncak Rajawali” the highest point of Sumbing. It took me 20 minutes from the rim to Rajawali and I arrived just 5 minutes before the sun same over the horizon. I looked over to the rim and could see the group that I had passed early on the rim of the volcano.

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The sun came over the horizon and the Indonesian flag flapped proudly in the breeze. It was amazing and the views from the summit were absolutely incredible. It had taken me just over 4 hours from the basecamp to the true summit. I spent around 15 minutes on the summit before heading down again. I reached the rim just below the summit and saw 3 hikers in the crater walking up the steep slope. It was still early and I knew I had to go in there to check it out. The crater is very grassy and there is evidence that people have camped there in the past. There are some fumaroles letting off sulphur gas so it would be wise not to camp here if there was a lot of activity in the crater. I walked down and had a quick chat with the other hikers, they had camped in the crater but around to the east side away from the sulphur plumes. I said goodbye and kept heading down to check out the sulphur plumes. It’s always amazing to see the volcanoes from the inside. Every one is different and they all have their own uniqueness about them.
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I stayed long enough to explore a little and headed back up the trail. From the crater you don’t have to go back to the main summit area but you can head straight to the rim. I’ll link my GPS track here so you can check it out.

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I reached the rim again and decided that it was time to go down and get some rest after such a long night hiking up the mountain. The way down was very rocky and great care was taken on the descent. I passed around 20 hikers going down and some asked for selfies along the way, which as always I said yes to the requests. You sometimes feel like a famous rockstar in Indonesia with the amount of selfie requests a foreigner gets.
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I took the exact same trail back down and the hardest part was the section between 2500m and 2300m again. Very steep and very slippery going down. Poles here will help greatly.
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I was back at Pos 1 by 8am, around 1.5 hours from the summit to Pos 1. By this stage hikers were starting to make their way up the mountain and there were already some motorbike taxis waiting around at Pos 1. I quickly got a ride and the young guy free wheeled it all the way from Pos 1 down to the basecamp. This section is insanely steel and it was a wild ride down, if you crashed here it wouldn’t be pretty at all.
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Once at the basecamp I got my registration papers back off the guys there who had looked after my bike and got all the volcanic sand out of my shoes. You’d be surprised how filthy and dirty you get from all the dust on the mountain, it’s quite something. I rode the 5 minutes back to the Dieng Kledung Pass Hotel, showered up and got into bed for some much needed rest, I was done.
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Logistics for the trip

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How to get there

I started my trip from Solo and rode to the Keldung Pass from there. The trip is 100kms and around 3.5 hours riding time on the scooter. There are a number of different ways that you can go but I chose to take the highway as I had already gone the mountain rode when I climbed Merbabu. If you have time you can take the road between Merapi and Merbabu. Its very beautiful but longer than the direct route. If you want to rent a scooter from Solo contact Arya Trans motor rental by clicking here. I paid 90k per day to rent an almost brand new motorbike and it is very safe and powerful for going up the hills.
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For the exact starting point of the hike click here.
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If you wanted to take the public transport to the Keldung Pass there are buses that go along the route and will drop you off at the pass. This may require some Indonesian language skills as not many people speak English outside of the tourist areas. A motorbike is certainly the best way to go.
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Where to Stay

I stayed at the Dieng Keldung Pass Hotel and it can be booked using booking.comI didn’t book using the website, I just arrived at 4.30pm and payed for the room when I got there. I did check on booking.com before I arrived and it was the exact same price. Sometimes the walk in rate is higher than the online rate so if that is the case most places will just let you book online and then you can wait in the reception for the booking to go through. This usually takes less than a minute or 2 and you’ll get the better rate.  
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The Dieng Keldung Pass Hotel is the only hotel on the pass, apart from the basecamp which isn’t really a hotel. So you’re kind of screwed in that regard. The hotel is worth it though because the location is right in the centre of Sindoro and Sumbing. Rooms start at 360k for a night, which is a lot but as it is the only hotel and the location is great so its worth it in the end. Breakfast is also included. 
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How long is the hike

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My GPS calculated it at 14km return and 2000m elevation gain. You can cut 3km and 500m up off this by taking the motorbike taxi from the basecamp to Pos 1. I’d highly recommend that if you were going to hike the mountain because the elevation gain is already significant. From Pos 1 allow around 4 hours of comfortable hiking to make the summit and then 2 down should be sufficient. There is the rule that you half the time it takes you to get up and that’s your down time, it doesn’t work every time but it works here. Check the GPS track here. 
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There is no need at all to camp on this mountain as it isn’t that long and it can be done as a sunrise hike or even a daytime hike if you wanted to. Sometimes the clouds come in in the afternoon making visibility almost nothing so a lot of people choose to hike at night and reach the summit in time for sunrise. 

 

 

Gear to take 

  • Small backpack
  • 3l water
  • Breakfast/snacks
  • Hiking Poles
  • Good shoes or boots
  • Jacket
  • Camera

 Do you plan to hike Sumbing? Let me know in the comments how you get on.

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