Climbing Rinjani

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First published 28th October, 2012

Trekking to the summit of Gunung Rinjani, Indonesia's second tallest volcano, is no small feat. But those who are in shape and looking for a change of pace from relaxing on the country's idyllic beaches will be treated to some truly fabulous views, other-worldly landscapes, and sore muscles for days afterward.


Gunung Rinjani National Park sits impressively on the northeastern end of Lombok, one major island east of Bali. Rinjani has been something of a trekking mecca for many years, and while business is certainly more steady now than it may have been a decade ago, the park is still massive enough that crowds are kept fairly thin.


Early days, easy going.
Early days, easy going.

The park itself boasts what seems to be an unlimited number of breathtaking vistas, fascinating ecological features, and some of the most difficult climbs any trekker could ask for.

Either side of Rinjani's massive crater lie sweeping golden grasslands and dense tropical rainforest, with the awe-inspiring crater lake poised in the middle of 360 degrees of volcanic alpine (topographical oxymoron?) beauty.

Rising from the eastern edge of the crater lake (Segara Anak) is a newer, active volcano cone, and behind it the impressive Rinjani summit, towering 3,726 metres above the nearby sea.


Crater lake - swim anyone?
Crater lake - swim anyone?

Within the crater, just a short walk from the lake, is a series of hot springs, deep enough to swim in and said by locals to have healing powers. Rinjani is a veritable trekkers playground, and the type of place that can never quite be adequately described with words or pictures; you have to witness it firsthand to truly appreciate its rugged magnificence.

All this and more is reachable only by foot, and even then only by the truly determined foot. The hikes are extremely demanding, and will test even the fittest of travellers. Ascending to one of the two crater rims is always the first order of business, and many will feel as if they've had enough by the time they reach camp the first night, but the real adventurers will have just one goal in mind: The Summit.


Hot spring distractions.
Hot spring distractions.

The hike to the Rinjani's summit is a gruelling three hours from the crater rim, going up through dusty, sandy slopes, to the rocky gravel rim path that leads up the side of the mountain to the summit.

The final 300 metres however is the most challenging section of the entire mountain, a steep incline of rocks and gravel that finds you sliding back a step for every two you take. The summit climb was easily the most strenuous and difficult activity I've ever undertaken while travelling, and perhaps simply one of the most physically taxing things I've ever forced myself to do; each time you look up to the summit you feel you're no closer than you were the previous 30 times you looked up.


What are you doing here?
What are you doing here?

But while the hike is not for the faint of heart or the weak of will, those who push through the pain are rewarded with awe-inspiring sunrise views of the crater and all its features, Sumbawa to the east, the Gilis to the northwest, and, on especially clear days, you can even make out Bali's Gunung Agung. I thought I might die getting there, but the reward at the top was worth every step.

While a Rinjani trek can be the highlight of any trip to Indonesia, it should not be taken lightly. Those who are inexperienced at trekking or out of shape may find that they've bit off much more than they can chew, and will end up regretting their decision to make the journey. Merry-makers who came to Lombok for a tropical paradise getaway and packed their bags accordingly should realise that temperatures on the mountain plummet well below those on the nearby beaches, and lots of warm layers and solid footwear are an absolute must.


Camp 1 - Lux not.
Camp 1 - Lux not.

Certainly, parents with children should seriously consider finding a babysitter before bringing their kids along, unless you've raised your children like mountain goats and they are well adapted to steep, cold, rocky terrain.

The trek is best undertaken in dry season from April through to November, and the park is usually closed to visitors in January and February.

Organising a Rinjani trek is easily done from anywhere on Lombok, and even Bali. Package trips can be arranged through many Bali travel agents, while the most direct tours can be booked from Padang Bai. As a word of caution, however, we have heard negative reviews of the quality of tours booked from Bali, and would advise getting a bit closer to the mountain before booking your tour. On the Gilis and Lombok itself, nearly every shop keeper and their dog will ask you to book a trek with them.


It's a long way to the top...
It's a long way to the top...

For those who want to go straight to the source, Senaru and Sembulan are the closest to the action, and essentially all tours pass through one or the other en route to the mountain. You may get a reduced price on your tour by booking in one of the two towns, but the cost and hassle of transport getting there may make it not worth the effort. Regardless of where you start, a guide and porters are a must, as tourists are not allowed access to the mountain without them.

Packages range from tours that spend only one night on the mountain through to treks that can last up to a week. Typically, most people book a three-day/two-night trek, which allows enough time (if only just... ) to reach the summit and see the most common sights along the way. However, if you have the time, a four- or five-day trek will allow you to get the most enjoyment out of the mountain without spending every minute of every day walking, eating or sleeping.


The view from the top.
The view from the top.

Prices vary from organiser to organiser, though the cheapest prices we saw were surprisingly those on offer at the generic tourist shops/restaurants. Standard three-day/two-night treks run at about 1,200,000 rupiah on Lombok, and around 1,500,000 if booked on Gili Trawangan –- though prices vary and discounts can be found if booking for several people. Because these tours are booked by third parties and then passed on to the operator, the quality of the experience can be variable, with few limits put on group size and sometimes questionable equipment. Though we did meet a backpacker who had nothing but good things to say about his Gili T-booked trek, not everyone has been so lucky.

Some may prefer to go with one of the more reputable companies, which was what I opted for. Specifically, I'd heard good things about the Rinjani Trekking Club in Senggigi, so I checked them out. Though their prices are higher, they maintain that the difference is justified through their service, both on and off the mountain. Once on the trek, my guide told me that they compensate their employees more responsibly than other operators, and they cap the number at a maximum of six people per group so they are manageable for porters and guides and the experiences are more intimate for guests. Three-day/two-night treks run right around $200, though you can pay more for a few added luxuries. Other reputed but pricey options include John's Adventure and Lombok Rinjani Trek Organisation.


Made it!
Made it!

When it comes down to making a choice, the sights are all the same and the trails just as steep no matter who takes you, so it mostly comes down to personal budget and expectations. The generic operators are the best choice for the budget-first crowd; however, those who are willing to spend a bit more to ensure their experience turns out as-advertised and the locals involved are treated well by their employer should try to book through the more reputable operators themselves.

Climbing Gunung Rinjani will present a challenge to even the most experienced, well-equipped trekker. However, if you've come to Indonesia looking for some exercise and an unforgettable experience, this trip might be the perfect thing -– do make sure you reserve some time for recovery afterward on one of Lombok or Bali's pristine beaches.


About the author:
Ian Dollinger first crossed paths with Travelfish in Chiang Mai. Since then he has ridden Vietnam, surfed Indonesia and climbed a volcano along with plenty of other stuff he didn't tell us about! You can follow Ian's travels at The More I See The Less I Know.


Read 15 comment(s)

  • To hike this mountain, is it suitable to hike during Jan?

    Posted by farah on 29th October, 2012

  • Wow this brings back so many memories! It was also one of the most challenging things I have ever done (the Summit) but definitely one of the highlights of my life! Big call, I know, but it was such a special journey, and the view from the top, looking down into the crater - spectacular! Cheers for the mention :)

    Posted by Sarah Somewhere on 29th October, 2012

  • Quite often I see this statement about the fitness level required to be able to climb Mt. Rinjani.... Well how bad is. I like to believe I am reasonably fit but I have not climbed the Everest yet..So can I do this. Well I jog 10 kms in 1hour 5 mins juz to measure fitness, Is this good enough.

    Posted by Thomas Varghese on 30th October, 2012

  • if you are an active person who enjoys exercise on an occasional/frequent basis, and have the strength of will (or masochistic impulse...)to keep going when goings get tough, then you will survive rinjani, and will be thankful you went for it. The trek has a reputation for being difficult for a reason -- but still, loads of people do it every day.
    Just remember: The more time you give yourself on the mountain, the more time you'll have along the way for rest and recuperation. If you're coming from Sembulan, try to arrange an itinerary that involves spending the evening after you Summit camping by the lake/hotsprings -- it's the perfect location to recover from a long day's trek. This will likely require spending at least 4 days on your trek, which would be my recommendation.

    Posted by ian on 30th October, 2012

  • Es fantástico tu blog, yo tengo otro de viajes se llama "El LoBo BoBo", te invito a conocerlo en: http://piniella2.blogspot.com Saludos viajeros.

    Fantastic blog, I have another travel blog, it calls "The BoBo Wolf". I invite you to know in: http://piniella2.blogspot.com Congratulations!

    Posted by Paco Piniella on 3rd November, 2012

  • Thanks for the trip; provides some food for thought.

    Posted by Kurtz on 7th November, 2012

  • I climbed it about 15 years ago. It was hard but not that hard. Thomas if you run regularly I'm sure you'll manage.

    I had three problems not related to strenuousness:

    1) The guesthouse who arranged it didn't pack enough water for us and so we ran out on the evening before the descent and were very fortunate to bump into a guide from a previous trip half way down who gave us a bottle as we were dying by then! The flip-flop wearing porters only drink half a litre or so a day so they really underestimated what we needed.
    2) The walk into the crater lake and back up to the rim is quite tough, even more so when I missed the sign and ended up rather precariously on a ledge above a vertical drop. I've been left with a fear of heights after that!
    3) Rather silly, but it took an hour for us to find the hot spring as we were told it was a 15 minute walk from the bottom. After walking 15 minutes in all directions, it turned out to be about two minutes from where we'd started. Very nice to swim in but there were non-porters who seemed to be hanging around for either a chance to perve or take our bags.

    Posted by Tennouji on 11th November, 2012

  • I love climbing this second highest mountain in Indonesia. Not only the mountain, the people and the cultural in Lombok, where the Rinjani placed, are the other interesting things to discover.

    Posted by Anto on 4th March, 2013

  • Thanks for the info and the great pics.....I'm climbing Rinjani in 4 July ('13) and I'm sort of looking forward to it:)

    Happy trails

    Sean
    Perth

    Posted by Sean on 21st May, 2013

  • Hello,

    Thanks for the comments and recommendations;

    Looking at trekking Rinjani early August.

    Looking at a few tour companies at the moment;

    1) Rinjani Trekking Club Senaru
    2) Johns Adventure
    3) Rudy Trekker

    Can anyone recommend one of these?

    Jules :-)

    Posted by Jules on 10th June, 2013

  • Hey Jules:)

    We are climbing it with Johns in 2 weeks time. Chose them after a great deal of consideration and we are doing it as a group of three. We were not keen on doing it in a larger group with varying levels of fitness. We only have to rely on ourselves.
    From what we have gathered, I think that any of the three that you have mentioned are a good bet with plenty of good reviews.
    We are doing the 4/3 trip, as we think that the extra day will give us time to really enjoy the experience .
    I have no doubt that you have done plenty of reading, but from what we have read, we are treating the mountain with a great deal of respect.

    Stay warm

    I'll let you know how we go :)

    Sean
    Perth

    Posted by Sean on 11th June, 2013

  • Hello Sean,

    Thankyou for the information.

    Yes, please do let me know how you go. I too feel the 3 companies I have selected would not disappoint.

    Good Choice. I am also looking at the 4/3 trek as I want to take the time to appreciate the location and enjoy the adventure.

    Enjoy the trek and take it easy. Remember, "One step at a time"

    Jules
    Perth too :-)

    Posted by Jules on 13th June, 2013

  • Hey Jules

    Made it to the top, but it was a particularly difficult undertaking, to say the least:)
    Ok, after seeing everyone's experiences on the mountains, I would recommend John's as your guide company. Organized, efficient and caring. Fantastic food, plenty of supplies, fantastic guides and an overall good feeling about the whole experience.
    We saw other groups with guides that got left behind, not enough water, poorly organized and in some cases, downright dangerous.
    From what I saw though, the other companies that you mentioned were on the money as well.... You get what you pay for, keep this in mind at all times.
    If you want some more info or a chat about the climb, my email is lasverysean5@gmail.com

    PS The summit is a blast:)

    Posted by sean Lavery on 29th July, 2013

  • Hello Sean,

    I am glad you made it to the summit :-)

    I tried sending you an email although it bounced back.?

    My email is astern@live.com.au

    I also climbed Rinjani, opted out of climbing the summit due to being unwell and terrible blisters!!

    The scenery was magnificent.

    The hike was pretty tough most of the way particulay coming down in my worn down sandles (no tread). I slipped on my backside more times than my first time skiing earlier this year!! You had to laugh, I even got some nice bruises to go with it.

    Gili Islands a must and I loved Lonmok. People were terrrific and the weather superb.

    I went with Rinjani Trekking Comp. I have done 4 mountains before with various organizations. Rinjani Trekking Comp. pretty average. No first aid kit in site and when one of the girls twisted her ankle pretty bad coming down the guide asked me to give her a band aid!!!??

    Anyway all good and if you want a challenge amidst the most beautiful surroundings, MT Rinjani is a must!!

    Jules :-)

    Posted by Jules on 23rd August, 2013

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