To the locals, Semeru is known as Gunung Mahameru or the “Great Mountain,” which in the local dialect refers to the powerful Hindu god Siwa the Destroyer. Considering Semeru’s highly active state the name is apt.
Located in Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park, Mount Semeru tends to be overshadowed by its famous stablemate, purely I suspect because it takes a little more effort to summit. But given that it’s the highest mountain in Java at 3,676m and one of Indonesia’s most active volcanoes trekking to the summit of Semeru is a worthy undertaking and perfect for anyone who is up for the challenge.
Reaching the summit is a 2-4 day adventure depending on how fast you want to make the trek. Either way, the starting point is Ranu Pani village at 2,100m elevation. The route starts out along a narrow forest trail. It’s easy to follow as there are concrete markers and green shelters spaced about 1 hour apart. After about 4 hours hiking the beautiful Ranu Kumbolo mountain lake is reached. There’s excellent camping around the shoreline or you can opt for a couple of hikers huts on the far side of the lake.
If you’re on a tighter schedule, have lunch here then push on another 3 hours to Kalimati camp. This part of the trek crosses the grassy Oro-Oro Ombo savannah and provides great views of the surrounding peaks and the Semeru peak. Kalimati is a popular overnight camping area that has a single hut and the last water resupply point of the trek.
Arcopodo base camp (2,912m) is another 2km further on. This section of the trail winds a casual uphill course through pine forest but the camp itself has a reasonably flat area for tents. Arcopodo is where you need to be if you’re planning to be on Semeru in time for sunrise. If you’re fit you can certainly make it there in a single day but a popular option is to spend the first night at Ranu Kumbolo Lake and the second night at Arcopodo.
It takes 3 hours of fairly strenuous hiking to reach the summit from Arcopodo. With 764m of elevation to gain it’s very steep. The tree line ends around 3,100m mark and the views from this point are sublime, looking right across Mount Bromo to its famous viewing point Gunung Pananjakan. The views only get better on the summit, looking right across the Java rooftop. On a clear day, you can see Mount Arjuna far off to the northwest, Mount Kawi to the west and Mount Argapura away to the east.
The descent to Arcopodo is far quicker and easier. It only takes an hour to negotiate the scree-slide back down. Summiting and trekking back to Ranu Pani can be done in a single, long day but hiking on the high from the summit experience and the promise of a hot shower waiting for you at Ranu Pani will help the kilometres pass more easily.
To get to the village of Ranu Pani either hire a vehicle from Malang to Tumpang village (about 45min) or take the public bus from Arjosari bus terminal in Malang. The mountainside road from Tumpang to Ranu Pani is not much more than a goat track so you’ll need to rent a jeep for the 1.5 hour trip which will set you back 575.000-600.000Rp. If you’re on a budget you might be able to catch a ride on the so-called “vegetable truck” which runs up and down the mountain irregularly, but at only 25.000Rp per person, it might be worth waiting around for.
Ranu Pani has a number of guesthouses providing basic but comfortable accommodation and a handful of restaurants. You’ll need to bring your own camping gear and food for the trek and plenty of warm clothing as the nights can be freezing. You’ll also need to obtain a permit and pay an entrance fee at the registration office on arrival. There are usually guides and porters hanging around the office touting for business so you won’t have any trouble finding one.