To reach Marapi, first take a bus to Bukittinggi, which is easy to get to from any of Sumatra's major cities. From the center of Bukittinggi, you should change two mini-buses, one to the bus terminal in the southeast of the city, and then another to Koto Baru village, paying 3000 and 8000 IDR respectively. The trailhead is situated a few km outside the village and a hired motorbike, of which you will find plenty all along the village's main road, will get you there in under 15 minuets for 10000IDR.
Note: Also helpful, is to ask the bus driver "Kachil ik Marapi" or "the trail to Marapi".
Reaching by own means, you take from Bukittinggi the main road leading south towards Padang. Once in Koto Baru, after some 12 km, you take a left (-0.391779 100.402122), some few meters after the first mosque you'll encounter in the village, and an immediate right. You keep driving through plantations and up the low slopes for a few km till the end of the road, where a small registration office and the trailhead (-0.393803 100.412964) are.
Microwave Station Variation
This is the shortest of the two variations of the standard route. From the Jalan Tantawi turn-off at the highway (see the getting there section), walk the paved road east for 100 meters, at which location there is a junction. Take the road heading right (southeast). Walk this road for 3.5 kms (2 miles) until reaching a microwave station. Turn left at the building and locate the trail. At first, this well-used trail heads east, then north, and then east again, and passes several homes and gardens before reaching an old road at about 1480 meters (8450 feet). Soon after that, you will pass a spring on the left side of the trail, and then cross a gully on a bamboo bridge. If you need to, stock up on water here (it must be purified) - There may be more water-sources to be found higher up on the mountain, but they are not 100% reliable. Shortly after crossing the stream, you will reach an open area that has a few food stands catering to hikers and which are open on the weekends. The open area is the end of the old road. From there on a well-used, obvious trail heads steeply up the mountain in a straight east line. At ca 2400 amsl, it exits the forest and keeps ascending straight east through rocky/sandy volcanic terrain till it comes onto the plateau. The trail then passes by several active craters before reaching Puncak Merpati, the highest summit of the crater complex (2757 amsl). You should time so as to reach the summit by dawn, so to wonder the sunrise and have the best chances for clear weather and the opportunity to enjoy the spectacular views from the summit.
From the Jalan Tantawi turn-off at the highway (see the getting there section), walk the paced road east for 100 meters, at which location, there is a junction. Turn left here and walk the road to the village of Butupalano. From there, follow the old road east through the plantation. The route joins the microwave station route at the springs mentioned above, just before the stream crossing and the food stalls. This is a longer and less direct route.
Either route takes one very long day, or two shorter days to reach the summit.
To reach Puncak Garuda, the highest point of the mountain altogether, you should allow an extra full day starting from the crater complex. The peak may easily be seen lying within the forested extension of the mountain to the north-east. It is very rarely visited by anybody and there is no trail leading there. You should open your own, a machete being indispensable.
No guide is required, nor for any reason useful. A small fee of 10000 IDR is to be paid at the registration office by the trailhead. That fee might tentatively be augmented for foreigners. They asked me for 40000 IDR in the beginning, but after I told them that I'd rather pay 10, they show no objection.
When To Climb
Sumatra is wet year round, and there is little temperature varience throughout the year. Typically, February and March are the driest months, and September through December, the wettest, but be prepared for heavy rains at any time of year.
There are campsites on the mountain, as well as guest houses in Kotabaru.
Much of this information is from my climbing partner, Mike Kelsey who wrote the highly recommended Climbers and Hikers Guide to the Worlds Mountains
. Mike climbed this mountain in August 1999.
SP member Zaleha
was the original submitter and provided some of the photos.