Two months ago I tackled Gunung Sibayak — an active volcano in North Sumatra, Indonesia, with three new friends. The visuals, eerie landscape, and risky down climb were part of an adventure that I’ll never forget.

As an added bonus, I was kept awake all night before the climb by earthquakes rattling my bungalow. I guess that’s what happens when you sleep between Gunung Sinabung and Gunung Sibayak, two of Sumatra’s busiest volcanoes!

I just wrote up a nice four-page feature of the trek for this month’s edition of Leisure Travel Magazine in Southeast Asia.

Since I’m too lazy to rewrite everything again, here’s the magazine PDF where you can read about the adventure: Climbing Gunung Sibayak. (10MB – takes a minute to load.)

or if you don’t want to read my dribble, enjoy these photos!

Update: By the way, a few years later I returned to Sumatra to climb Gunung Marapi — a bigger, stinkier volcano than Sibayak, even!

Silhouette in the clouds while climbing Gunung Sibayak

We were literally climbing in the clouds. Low visibility made finding — and not falling off of — the trail a little tricky sometimes.

Smoking Gunung Sibayak Caldera

The stinking caldera vent on top of Gunung Sibayak.

Gunung Sibayak Sumatra Trail
The trail leading to the volcano. We were practically the only trekkers for most of the way.

Two men climbing a volcano in Sumatra
Mike (England) and Sebastian (Germany) scramble up to the volcano rim.

Sumatra Volcano and trail
The views of the Karo Highlands were amazing before we got up into the clouds. The jungle down there was/is major Karo and Batak headhunter territory.

Volcano caldera Gas and steam venting

Not what I expected at all: gases were literally just coming out of the ground around us. No cute, defined hole to relieve the pressure like on other volcanoes. We stank like sulfur for more than a week afterward.

Berestagi Cabbage Monument
What to do after climbing Gunung Sibayak? Well, Berastagi was quite an exciting town. You could always hang around this giant cabbage monument — the only highlight in town.

Berestagi Mama Clinic
And finally, if you get hurt on the volcano, this is where you end up: At Dead on Arrival Mama’s clinic. Hmmmm….

The rest of the Berastagi, Gunung Sibayak, and Sumatra photos can be found here.

  • Active volcano climbed: check.
  • Head still attached to my torso after Batak encounter: check.
  • Life still good: check.