Gunung Lawu is a dormant volcano standing exactly on the border of central and east Java up to the heigth of 3265m. Despite the high altitude it’s one of the easiest volcanoes to climb in Java and is consider as the sacred site for the rituals performed there by javanese rulers and the historical myths connected with the mountain. Several hinduistic temples can be found on the slopes which were built just before conversion of region to Islam – Candi Sukuh and Candi Cetho. There are also many important graveyards scattered around, including Astana Giribangun – president Suharto’s mausoleum and Mangkunegaran palace – small Duchy.
Tawangmangu is great point to look for accomodation before the hike and this is also where we stayed. To get to Tawangmangu you can take a bus from Solo – terminal Tirtonadi (around 90 minutes and 15 000rp). Tawangmangu is small village about 10km away from Lawu basecamp with many accomodation options.
There is also beautiful waterfall with big amount of cheeky monkeys and peaceful green areas just 15 minutes of walk from city center. Definitely worth of visit. Usual rule of 15 000rp / 150 000rp of entrance fee for locals / foreigners is applied, but after we just mentioned that we are students from Yogya, they issued us local tickets without further questions.
Getting to the basecamp of Lawu
From Tawangmangu are going regular buses to Cemoro Sewu, which will cost you 10 000rp per person. Just tell the driver that you want to go climbing Lawu and he will drop you off at the basecamp.
But if you want to tackle the summit during the night for sunrise as we did, this option is not available anymore. Also there are no taxis or GoJek. The best option is to arrange a ride in your hotel. We agreed on the car to wait for us at 22.30 in our hotel for the price of 100 000rp for a car load. As it was 4 of us, this seemed like a good deal. When the night was coming suddenly the price of ride rose to 150 000rp – usual practise of riping off the bule tourists in Indonesia. But we standed for the deal we agreed on before and with serious face refused to go for anything above it. In the end they accepted our offer and the ride was again for 100 000rp. Still pretty good deal for 10km long ride.
There are 2 possible trails for climbing Lawu just 800m apart to reach the summit from the south side. First one more on the west Cemoro Kandang is longer (around 12km), but not that steep with many zig-zags which makes the ascend much easier. That’s the one we choose and is described in the next chapter. Second one Cemoro Sewu is only 8km long, but obviously much steeper. The path is paved all the way up with rails which is good choice in wet season, but generally less pleasant.
There is one more trail from the west starting at Cetho temple, which is longest (16km) and most demanding. But locals say its most rewarding of all, with no people and best views. It’s also least marked.
Ascent – climbing Lawu
The driver brings us just before 23pm to the Cemoro Kandang basecamp of Lawu at 1800m and with the chilly night temperature we watch the clear sky. Its gonna be cold night higher up. There are few guys rounding the small fire next to the gate meassuring us while we approach them. The registration takes no more than 10 minutes and to our surprise the fee is same for locals and foreigners here – 15 000rp. Writting down at least one of the passport details, asking few questions to test our readiness and we are good to go. It’s 23.15 and we start climbing Lawu.
The trail is well marked from the beginning with gentle elevation through the forest. For a short period we have to fight we some puddles in the narrow path, but nothing serious. During the rain it might be quite unpleasant. We reach Pos1 at 0.08. There is small shelter and a lot of garbage.
The hike continues in same manner, only random logs and branches over the trail complicates the ascend. We reach Pos2 at 0.52.
From here the forest canopy totally dissapears and the moon lits the landscape. Its very magical. After few turns we starts to see the cities below us and far away also the horizon of Merapi and Merbabu. Pos Bayangan with small shelter appears at 1.34.
After a while the trail starts to fork many times and we can choose either steep path straight up or the zig-zag curving around. As we are not in the rush we go most of the time with pleasant zig-zag. Pos3 is reached at 2.43 and we sit down for small snack, but in less than 15 minutes the cold starts to get to us and we have to continue otherwise we would freeze there.
The trails is similar till Pos4, but with views opening more and more. Its beautiful scenery with the moon almost at it’s full. We are at Pos4 hut at 4.10. As we have only 100 altitude meters till the top we decide we should wait here a bit because reaching the summit still during the night might be dangerously cold. The “hut” is just small concrete building and temperature is bit higher inside, but the amount of trash is awful there, so we sit in front of the building. We put all our clothes on and tuck to each other to preserve our body heat. It’s just few degress above zero.
At 4.45 we gather our things and continues. But the trail suddenly goes down and up and down again down. We starts to go quicker as we realize 45 minutes might be not enough to catch the sunrise on the top. The sky changes and turns orange. Last few minutes we really need to push ourselves to see the sunrise on the top. With our hearts pounding we reach the top exactly at 5.40 when the sun touches the horizon for the first time at 3265m.
Once again the show is magnificent, only this time we share it with another 30-40 indonesians, which gives bit crowded feel. It’s Sunday morning, so we cannot expect anything else. Still it feels amazing and we are grateful for sun to relieve us from the dark struggle of the night. In the far distance we guess to see volcanoes of Bromo-Tengger-Semeru national park.
For locals we are maybe bigger entertainment than the sunrise, so we distribute obligatory photographs and start our descend.
Despite our body tells us its time to rest we have to continue and with the vision of the bed in our head we are slowly descending the same way we walked up. It is possible to do circle and go down with Cemoro Sewu path, but we decide we want to see the views during the light. It takes another 4 very demanding hours to get down, but we succesfully manage and at 10.30 we reach the basecamp where we started to hike almost 12 hours back.
We are totally exhausted and it’s difficult to deal with the locals trying to rip us off again, persuading us that there is no bus and we have to take car for 100 000rp. In the end we go straight to minibus driver and make deal with him for 60 000rp for whole load. Usual price is 10 000rp per person, but you have to wait till the bus is full. That was our experience of climbing Lawu.
To be aware of when climbing Lawu
- The path is well marked and easy to follow, but you should be reasonable fit, especially if you tend to make a hike up and down without sleepover.
- If you climbing Lawu during the night, headlight is must. Also be carefull of branches over the road as you might miss them looking under your feet.
- Don’t underestimate the cold weather and take enough of warm clothes. When the sun goes down, the temperature might get very close to zero. Good hiking shoes are highly recommended.
- Please don’t leave the garbage on the trail and always carry everything down with you. It is very sad to see so much trash around.
- Despite the hike is very easy to follow its always good to have gps device with you. Even smarthpone with gps will do. Just download free Locus map app, trails from wikiloc and follow. The one for Lawu is here with both trails of Cemoro Kandang and Cemoro Sewu.
- Lawu is peak over 3000m and if you are caught there in bad weather the hike might turn very nasty. Always check weather forecast here before climbing Lawu and consult gunungbagging before the hike.
Enjoy the hike!