After a cool friend’s real cool wedding party in Bali, we decided to climb Mt Rinjani in Lombok, Indonesia. Here’s our preliminary research on attempting to climb Rinjani.
“Details on how to get there: get to Lombok by ferry or bus.
Fast ferry (8am to 1.30pm) takes 2 hours and slow ferry (operates 24 hours) takes 4.5 hours. Port in Lambok is called Lembar. Takes about 4 hours to get to Senaru or Sembalun from Lembar by taxi.
Then there are two options to climb Rinjani:
- Senaru at an elevation of 600m close to Western side resort area Sengigi
- Sembalun Lawang (1150m) eastern side. Closer to summit (we chose this route)
From Senaru, it takes 6 hours to reach the crater rim.
From Sembalun Lawang, it takes 8 hours to the Plawangan II and 2638m via Posi 1/2/3. Stay at the campsite and leave at 3am for the summit”
And, here’s a photo blog of what transpired.
We decided to climb to Rinjani from Sembalun (1500m elevation) and return the same way. The very friendly owner at Rinjani guesthouse in Sembalun (where we stayed) told us that “this was not possible” and that it was normally a “one night two day” trip. He also told us that we had to have a guide. We hired a guide called Hasan for 400k (it became 650k later on when we told him at the crater rim that we wanted to summit). He told us that it would take us 8 hours to get to the rim and another 6 hours to get back. He had an athletic build and looked very friendly but didn’t really seem to believe or understand that we wanted to attempt to summit Rinjani in one day.
The bumpy ride to the start:
We paid 150k per person for the permit at the tourist guesthouse for the climb (we were told that they increased the price to 350k for visitors from the next day onwards) and then came a very bumpy 15-minute ride to the start of the trail.
Here’s a video:
Pos 1, Pos 2, Pos 3, Pos 4 … Base camp:
The start of the trail went through this green meadow which eventually lead to a little “hut” called “Pos 1”. It was not a hut where people could stay, more like a marker in the shape of a hut.
Hasan told us that it would take around 2 hours to reach Pos 1 but in reality it took only about 45 minutes. All the times quoted by the guide were “grandma” times, even at our walking pace.
The conversation Ollie had with Hasan at the start was classic:
Ollie: Hasan, is Rinjani’s someone’s name? What does it mean?
Hasan: Yes, it is someone’s name
Ollie: Really, who?
Ollie: (What a great answer!)
Reminds me of an old joke.
Teacher: Who can tell me what John Smith’s wife is called?
Student: Me, me!
Teacher: Great! What is it?
Student: Mrs. Smith
The trail was relatively easy until Pos 3 after which there was a pretty sharp incline all the way to the rim of the crater, aka the Base Camp. The Base Camp was literally a big row of tents flanked by big piles of garbage on either side. From the rim of the crater, we were suposed to see a spectacular backdrop of a volcanic lake but our view of the lake was instead replaced by white clouds. But, not ones to be perturbed by the uncontrollable forces of nature, we still imagined the lake in the backdrop and took ample selfies! After all, doesn’t beauty lie in the eyes of the beholder?
Base Camp to the Summit:
Our guide who quoted 7 hours to get to the Base Camp, i.e., the rim of the crater, was pleasantly surprised to find out that it only took us 3 hours to get there. We told him that we wanted to summit which is when he said that our “program” at 400k didn’t involve a guide service to the summit. 250k more did it! (Our 650k -guide fee for the three of us- plus 150k -each person at the tourist center for the “entry ticket”- was still way cheaper than the 2M it would have cost to do the boilerplate “one night two days” tour). And about that “one night two days” Rinjani tour, I don’t think the money would have been so much a dampening factor for me, instead staying at the Base Camp amidst the smell of garbage, pee and you-know-what would have flushed that idea!
Our guide said it would take 3.5 hours to get to the summit from the Base Camp. Judging from recent experience, we thought it would only take a fraction of that time as the summit was only 3kms away from the Base Camp. But, this time he was right – it took us 3 whole hours! Why? It was like walking on quicksand at 3500m above sea level! Ollie’s Oreo package suddenly popped because of the increase in altitude. Imagine climbing up slushy 20cm thick lose gravel and mud in thin air! It was like a bike spinning on its wheels in desert sand. Also, quite frequently, a little detour from the main trail lead to a “tour de feces” and a “tour de tissue”. Yup, dried human excrement is what I’m talking about! So, imagine you’re a fast guy trying to climb up Rinjani and you take a little shortcut by the side of the trail, lose your grip and fall face down in the mud. Now, normally that would be a-ok and even good fun BUT if that side of the trail had dried human feces on it then that wouldn’t too much fun, would it? Now, I am not saying that that happened to me… (Or am I?)
Anyway, amidst this discussion of human feces, garbage, quicksand and slushy terrain, I want to make it clear that this was still a very enjoyable experience! The views of the ridge, the dance of the clouds, the pyramid shaped volcano, the jagged terrain with distinctive volcanic features were all highlights of this experience. And, when the clouds suddenly cleared at the summit, that was the biggest highlight of them all! Anyway, so back to the story…
Our guide was much slower than us. Dom had some jet lagged moments where he slowed down and Ollie was using her poles like a cruising machine to get to the top. Not wanting to go astray on another “tour de feces”, I went steadily up the beaten path, one foot in front of another using Ollie as my metronome. I was also playing DJ and had Robin Schulz’s “Sugar” playing in the background. I also added my own vocals to it which I’m sure Dom and Ollie didn’t appreciate – although they were either too polite or too busy focusing on the climb to comment on my great voice. Speaking of which, I still don’t know what “sugar, how you get so fly” really means. I get “high” but “fly”?
Anyway, we plodded on and reached the summit, only to be welcome by more and more clouds. It also started drizzling. We took selfies holding a little sign that was on the summit which read “Ringani – 3726m”. We then high fived each other to celebrate our 3-hour walk through that quicksand like terrain. After that, Ollie started to walk down. Just as Dom and I were about to follow suite, the clouds started to clear. The sun then revealed its power and the majestic views no longer needed to be left to mere imagination. It was amazingly scenic – yet another wonder of Mother Nature.
Summit back down to Base Camp:
The descent was such a memorable experience. It really felt like we were skiing on fertile mud! The shoes took in several ladles full of volcanic soil as I leaned backwards, spun my legs around in a cycling motion and let gravity do the talking! What took 3 hours to go up, only took 40 minutes on the way down! That’s the power of momentum on that trail!
And, nature had its little surprise waiting for us at the rim. Those clouds that begged us to imagine the views from the rim on the way up, dispersed gracefully to reveal that stunning lake in the backdrop. Some of the clouds danced around and artistically lingered in the air adding to the serene setting. Beauty didn’t really have to be in the eyes of the beholder. It was literally everywhere! The lake and the setting was yet another wonder of nature!
Video of the descent:
Base Camp back to the guesthouse:
I enjoyed this so much! It was a fab trail run down (quite technical at times with rocks and tree roots) all the way to Pos 4. Our guide was definitely getting quite an unanticipated workout. After Pos 3, however, I managed to twist my ankle not once, not twice but thrice! Luckily, other than some swelling, it was okay enough to permit jogging to the finish!
After clocking something like 25km of distance and 2600m of accumulated elevation for the day, we reached the village where our pick up truck was waiting for us. At 6pm, we were back at the guesthouse.
All in all, it took about 11 hours for the trip to the top of Rinjani and back from Sembalun.
I know I say this about pretty much every hike or climb I’ve done but this was also awesome! Friendly people, great views, solid exercise, amazing scenery and awesome company!
I hope the tourist office does something about all the rubbish on the trail and that nature takes cares of all the human waste near the campsite!
My biggest advice to everyone attempting Rinjani, follow your nose, stay on the trail and enjoy Tour De Rinjani, not Tour De Feces. Yup, no shit. That’s the way to go my friend.