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 summit, known as Gunung Gede, 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. There are two trekking options.
Batu – Gunung Butak – Return: Until now, Java Lava has climbed from Batu, with a camp below the summit, and returned by the same route to Batu. A camp on the mountain, just below the peak, in an open field known as Cemoro Kandang, is great for a final sprint to the summit, about 200 m, and views of distant peaks at sunset/ sunrise.
Batu – Gunung Butak – Kawi Traverse: A more interesting option would be to traverse the mountain from the Cemoro Kandang campsite via Gunung Kawi to the Chinese (Kawi) temples at Desa Pesarehan on the south-eastern side of the mountain (about 800 m, vertical descent about 1,870 m) taking the best part of a day. Guides from Desa Pesarehan would be hired for this section (as those from Batu do not know the route). Accommodation is available at the Kawi temples. No water between the Cemoro Kandang camp site and Kawi temple.
The Trek: Batu trail head is at Loket Panderman, Desa Tuyomerto (1,300 m), with a vertical ascent to the campsite of about 1,370 m (5-6 hours, 10 km). 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 ripped to pieces.
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 is reached at about 2,670 m. With excellent mountain water, it offers a great campsite in a grassy meadow although the grass is rather clumpy. There are two steep pitches: the first, after leaving the agricultural land to climb up onto the main summit ridge; and, the second, from Cemoro Kandang to the summit itself. The rest is pleasant trekking up a moderate gradient.
The summit, 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 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. The hillside is scattered with ancient grave sites. You may meet a ‘sadhu’ meditating on the mountain!
Suitability: fit, experienced climbers; not for families and children.
Program – Batu-Butak-Return
Day 1: flight to Malang; transport to Batu (about 3 hours), a mountain resort near Malang; Hotel Kartika Wijaya, a modernised Dutch-era hotel.
Day 2: early start; local transport to trail head. Water only available at Cemoro Kandang campsite. Set camp and climb summit at sunset.
Day 3: 04:00 start for sunrise from summit. Sunrise usually offers better views – clearer skies. Begin descent by 09:00 (about 4-5 hours). Depart hotel for Malang (allow at least 3-4 hours as traffic is heavy on Sunday); flight to Jakarta.
Program – Batu-Butak-Kawi
Day 3: meet guides from Kawi to bring the group down via this route. Allow a full day for the descent, vertical about 1,870 m. The Cemoro Kandang-Kawi leg is longer than the Batu-return leg.
Overnight at hotels near the Kawi temples. The road trip from the Kawi temples to Malang takes about an hour or two.
Day 4: A visit to the Kawi temples is a must. Not only do Chinese pray at these temples but also Javanese. The temples are renowned for bestowing power and wealth upon those who make offerings. Suharto, Indonesia’s second president, is reported to have prayed there.
An hour by road from the Kawi temples, at Blitar, is the grave of Soekarno, the first president of Indonesia. And, nearby is Candi Penataran, a 12th century Hindu temple complex that served as the main pilgrimage site during the Majapahit empire, with its highly ornate reliefs of birds and animals. Both are worth visiting for their historical / artistic significance.