Gunung Butak (2,869 m) lies north-west of Malang in East Java. It is a little known peak, even for the locals, probably because it is simply a high point on the rim of an ancient, collapsed, dormant crater. The mountain can be climbed from three directions: Batu from the east, Kawi from the south-east (see Butak-Kawi Traverse below), and Sirah Kencong from the west. Java Lava has climbed Butak from Batu on several occasions. The peak offers spectacular views of mountains, weather permitting, to the west – Kelud, Liman and Lawu, and to the east – Arjuna, Semeru, and maybe Bromo, Argopuro and Raung.
Serious trekkers could do the climb in one day (as Java Lava last did in 1997). But it is more enjoyable to spend two days on the mountain with a camp below the summit to see the distant peaks to the east and west at sunset and/or sunrise.
The Batu trail head is at Desa Tuyomerto (1,300 m). The vertical ascent from the trail head to the summit is about 1,570 m, about 5-6 hours, 10 kms. Initially, the track passes through vegetable and rumput gaja (a grass for feeding dairy cattle, the main enterprise in this village). Gunung Panderman, from a Dutch name, Van der Man, (maybe 1,500 m) lies immediately behind Batu and is passed en route. Much of the tropical forest thereafter has been cut or burnt – uninspiring trekking. Shin-high undergrowth covers much of the lower section of the track; knee-high gaiters and/or long trousers are advised to avoid having your shins ripped red and raw.
Cemara forest, common to mountains of East Java, is reached at around 2,100 m and is pleasant trekking. A grassy meadow, known as Cemoro Kandang aka Alun-Alun (open field) is reached at about 2,670 m. With excellent mountain water, it offers a great campsite in a grassy meadow although the grass is very clumpy. There are two steep pitches: the first, after leaving the agricultural land to climb up onto the main ridge to the summit; and, the second, from Cemoro Kandang to the summit itself. The rest is pleasant trekking up a moderate gradient.
The peak, known locally as Gunung Gede, is reached by a short, steep climb up the ancient crater wall of about 200 m; allow an hour or so from the camp. The summit is marked by a large cement pillar. In good conditions, great views of mountains to both the east and west are possible.
Suitability: reasonably fit, experienced climbers; not recommended for families and children.
Indicative Program: (details of a scheduled trip will be provided in a Circular to be sent to those who express interest in joining.)
Batu is a popular mountain resort near Malang. Java Lava stays at Hotel Kartika Wijaya, a modernized Dutch-era hotel. The ascent/descend is by the same route.
Day 1 (Friday): afternoon flight to Surabaya; transport to Batu (about 3 hours).
Day 2 (Saturday): early start; local transport to trail head at Desa Tuyomerto; sort guides/porters and packs. Water available at Cemoro Kandang campsite. Set camp and climb summit for sunset.
Day 3 (Sunday): 04:00 start for sunrise from summit. Sunrise usually offers better views than sunset – clearer skies. Begin descent by 09:00 (about 4-5 hours). Depart hotel for Surabaya (allow at least 4 hours as traffic is heavier on Sunday); flight to Jakarta.
Gunung Butak – Kawi Traverse
A more interesting but strenuous option would be to traverse the mountain from Batu, via Cemoro Kandang and Gunung Kawi, to the Chinese temples at Desa Pesarehan (Kawi temples) on the south-eastern side of the mountain complex. Java Lava has not done this traverse; a reccy would be required before taking a group on this route. The information below is from a guide at the Kawi temples in December 2015.
The traverse should begin at Batu for two reasons: the Batu trail head is at 1,300 m cf the ‘Kawi temples’ trail head at 800 m; and, the Cemoro Kandang-Kawi leg is longer than the Batu-Cemoro Kandang leg. In fact, the Kawi guide informed that if one were to ascend from the ‘Kawi temples’ side, an additional camp on the mountain would be necessary in a field known as Savana 1.
The Butak summit is known locally, from the Kawi side, as Gunung Sembilan. The only reliable source of water on this traverse is at Cemoro Kandang.
The Batu guides do not know the Cemoro Kandang-Kawi temples trail. It would be necessary therefore to arrange for a guide from Kawi to meet at Cemoro Kandang for the descent to Kawi. The Batu guides should join for the descent to Kawi to learn the route.
The road trip from the Kawi temples to Malang takes about one hour and from Malang back to Batu another hour or so. There is simple accommodation and some larger hotels at the Kawi temples.
A visit to the Kawi temples is a must. Not only Chinese pray at these temples but also Javanese. The temples are renowned for bestowing power and wealth upon those who make offerings there. Suharto, Indonesia’s second president, is reported to have prayed there.
Another hour by road from the Kawi temples, at Blitar, is the grave of Soekarno, the first president of Indonesia. And, nearby is Penataran, a 12th century Hindu temple complex that served as the main pilgrimage site during the Majapahit empire, with its many highly ornate reliefs of birds and animals.
Suitability Butak – Kawi Traverse: for an initial exploratory trek, strong, fit experienced climbers only.