Gunung Kerinci (3,805 m) lies within the Kerinci-Seblat National Park in Sumatra and is the highest volcano in Indonesia. The border between West Sumatera and Jambi passes over its summit. It’s a extremely impressive mountain with an active crater that erupts occasionally spewing ash over the surrounding district. When viewed from the home stay at Kersik Tua, near the trail head, it is very picturesque rising above neatly kept tea plantations.
Despite its high altitude, the trail head starts at ca 2,000 m making for a ca 1,800 m climb that can be achieved easily in two days with one night camping on the mountain. Above the forest zone, the track to the summit becomes more strenuous scrambling up loose, friable scoria and small, eroded gullies.
Excellent hospitality is available at home stays at Kersik Tua (share limited rooms); easy access to the trail head; steady climb through the forest zone to camp sites; and, a sustained, strenuous climb to the summit.
Danau Gunung Tujuh (lake of seven peaks), so-named for the seven peaks surrounding this crater lake, is the highest lake in South-East Asia. Java Lava does not climb Tujuh for its peaks but to experience the beauty and tranquility of this lake nestling within these peaks. The trail head (ca 1,400 m) is about 10 km from Kersik Tua. The lake is at 1,922 m and makes for a very pleasant and memorable short trek, as an adjunct to climbing Kerinci.
Suitability: strong, fit, experienced climbers only.
The Trek: Gunung Kerinci and Danau Gunung Tujuh can both be climbed in two days if you are sufficiently fit and enthusiastic. But to do so, adequate time is needed after the descent of Kerinci to visit Tujuh on the second day.
A more relaxing program would be to allocate an additional day for Danua Tujuh. This would make for a much less rushed climb/descent of Kerinci and provide time for exploring the lake in a dugout canoe with local fishermen.
This program assumes a four-day trip with two days on Kerinci and Tujuh and two days pulang-pergi (to-from) Padang/Jakarta.
Day 1: Jambi – Sunggai Penuh (Wings); an hour or two by road to Kersik Tua (home stay) at the base of Kerinci.
Home stay with Pak Subandi; he ethnically Javanese as are most of the people who have worked the tea gardens from colonial times. Pak Subandi is a wealth of knowledge on the flora and fauna of the Kerinci-Seblat National Park.
Day 2: Very early start; cars to trailhead about 5 kms through tea gardens; meet guides/porters, sort porter packs, etc. Water on the mountain is unreliable; purchase water before the climb and divide between day and porter packs; available at Kersik Tua.
The climb through the forest zone is straight forward – the usual slog. There are two camp sites: the higher, ca 3,300 m, is exposed to the weather but has great views; the lower, a more protected site, ca 3,000 m, is preferred in the event of bad weather. The leader/guides will decide on where to camp.. The guides/porters have their own, well protected camp at the lower site.
Trekking time from the trail head to the higher camp is 5-6 hours. If the weather is good, it will not be too cold at the higher camp site. But if it rains, it can be miserable, even at the lower camp, with temperatures dropping to near zero C.
Evening Day 2/Morning Day 3: The summit ascent from the lower camp takes about three hours. Depending on your enthusiasm and fitness, you can either summit Kerinci on the accent day for the sunset, or start at around 03:00 the next day to take in the sunrise.
The peak is usually clouded by late afternoon; better to summit for dawn when skies are usually clear and spectacular views are possible across to the west coast, of Danau Tujuh, and many mountains beyond.
Care must be taken on the descent to not lose your way in the event of ‘white outs’ that are more likely to occur in the afternoon. There are few tail markers to indicate the route. This is another reason to climb the next morning rather than the previous evening.
Day 3: The Kerinci descent is by the same route. Cars will be waiting at the trail head to take you direct to Danau Gunung Tujuh (about 4-5 hour return trek). Restock with water and a nasi bungkus at Kersik Tua. If you are slow in descending Kerinci, it is unlikely that you will have time to climb Danau Gunung Tujuh.
Day 4: Road trip back to Sunggai Penuh and flights home.
Cinnamon (kayu manis) plantations grow in the hills in the region. If you see villagers harvesting kayu manis, buy some – always a welcome oleh-oleh (gift) to bring home.