Rinjani mountain – Lombok, Indonesia

Apr 15, 2015

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Looking West, from Rinjani crater, we can, not only see the inner lake and volcano, but most of Lombok, the Gili Islands, and even Bali, on the horizon.

Apart from the Gili Islands, Rinjani mountain is probably the greatest attraction on Lombok Island. The climb, however, left me with mixed feelings, so I’ll explain why, in the following lines.

The beginning of the climb, shortly after Sembalun

There are two main itineraries to climb the mountain, and a few variants, depending on time and money spent. I believe, in normal circumstances, you’re able to do it on your own. You might not want to, specially if you plan to stay overnight, as you will need to carry all your gear and food, and it’s not an easy climb. If you’re a seasoned climber and are in good shape, it’s doable to make it in a single day.

Regular operators either start from Senaru Village, or from Sembalum. I started from this one, on a 3 day program.

Rinjani Basecamp, where we left hour baggage, and had the late breakfast / lunch.

It should have been less than 8 o’clock when I was picked up from my hotel, in Senggigi. It was about two hours on a minivan, until Senaru, where we were left on a homestay terrace, to get a late breakfast and, basically, wait. People with excess baggage were invited to leave it there.

When people were fed and ready, another van took us to Sembalun, which was another hour ride. I wondered why all this wait. It would had made more sense to me, going directly to Sembalun, have breakfast at the hotel and sleep a little longer. Apparently, things didn’t work that way.

About lunch time we started our climb. It was a mild, seven hour climb until the rim, where we camped. As I was carrying heavy photographic equipment, a porter was bringing my clothing bag (which was quite small, by the way). It is two hours until POS1, and soon the group split according to pace and stamina. You’d get overly tired if you’re forced to slow down, so better climb along with the ones in similar shape.

The group started to arrive maybe one hour before sunset. Some porters had already set up the tents, which was nice. The food (and my clothing), however, took nearly two hours to arrive. I was sweaty, freezing and, like most of my fellow climbers, starving.

It happened that one of the climbers, a Chinese chubby lady, had brought an extremely heavy backpack including (I found out later) a stringed musical instrument and an enormous pot of sambal (local chilly sauce). After maybe one hour, or so, she found it impossible to carry on – the porter had to carry this extra backpack and almost had to carry her also. That delayed all the operation.

We had a light dinner, it was already dark and tried to rest until 3:00 am, which was the departure time. I wanted to go earlier, as the tent was too cold to sleep, but staff was serving coffee and snacks and, eventually, they departed late.

I wasn’t able to reach the summit for sunrise and it was a steep 3 hour climb, with many people and loose, small rocks. Every now and then we had to take out our shoes and shake them to remove the volcanic sand. Some of our group members chose to stay in the camp.

Landscape, was astonishing. To one side, we could see Sumbawa, to the other, the 3 Gili Islands and the remaining of Lombok. Inside the crater was the lake and a small, red, active volcano. It was hard, but definitely worth it. Had I done myself, I’d start later, and climb straight to the summit. That pause for sleeping on the freezing cold tents was, for me, just a waste of time and energy.

Unfortunately, we didn’t have much time to enjoy the views, as we were supposed to go back to the camp around 9 something, for breakfast. We find some long tailed macaques along the way, but they weren’t aggressive. I wrongly assumed we’d have some hours to rest (or eventually sleep) under the morning sun. No: right after breakfast, we started our descent into the crater.

What was left of a marked path had long ago collapsed and we had to, literally, jump from one huge rock into another, for another 3 hours. The original plan, for this company, was to have lunch at the crater and then climb back, another 3 hours on a steep rocky path back to the rim, on the West side. Luckily, both our Chinese fellow and her guide were physically exhausted when we reached the crater. Besides, it rained.

The hot spring lagoons, a 15 min walk from the crater.

Plans were changed, and they decided to camp in the crater, allowing us the remaining of the afternoon to bathe on the hot spring lagoons, enjoy the views and rest.

The view from our camp site inside the crater.

On the following morning we did the ascent to the rim, had lunch on POS 2 (of Senaru trek) and arrive back to Senaru Village shortly after 2 pm. The 3 day climb was, after all, a one day climb with small bits of the other ones, and it would have been even shorter, if plans had not been changed.

Porter, cooking lunch at Sembalum POS 2, on the final day.

I can only say that putting inexperienced climbers on an 11h day climb, with over 3.500 metre combined gradient, on top of a sleepless night, isn’t just foolish: it’s utterly stupid! People pay to have fun, to relax and to enjoy the sights. Having them forcibly testing their strengths to the limits isn’t for me, the best choice. Besides, it is dangerous, as many are so extenuated that they lose focus.

The other part I didn’t enjoy, specially at the crater and some POS, was the amount of rubbish, plastic bags and even gas tanks left behind… To the point that we needed to be cautious on where to step, as we left out tents at night, for any reason. I remember that, as we descended to the crater, we lost our guide for an hour or so, due to differences in pace. The way to find the right track was to follow the one with most rubbish.

As a conclusion, Rinjani is a unique and beautiful mountain to climb and explore. Unfortunately, the experience has been ruined by littering and careless operation. I hope, for the sake of the environment and all involved, that this changes in a near future.

Watch the remaining pics in the following gallery:


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