DISCLAIMER – Mount Rinjani was struck by huge earthquakes in August 2018 causing landslides which shut down the mountain. Please check government websites for updates. The walking routes also close every year in the wet season (January-March).
When we booked our trip to Lombok, Dan was adamant we should climb the country’s second highest mountain (/active volcano).
Walk in the park, sign me right up. So when Christmas rolled round we got all the gear and we started going on weekly “hikes”. Nothing could have prepared us for the trek up Rinjani and as an FYI, people on Trip Advisor lie on this one. Even according to experienced trekkers we chatted to, this isn’t easy.
So here’s how we survived and what we experienced…
Day One – pre-climb
As a disclaimer, everything we write about in this post relates to Green Rinjani, the trekking company we chose. 100% go with this company, we heard some horror stories about other companies but we had the best possible experience with Green. They even carry a sapling tree
We were picked up from Bangsal harbour, with someone from Green waiting for us as the boat pulled in. We chucked our bags in the back of the pickup and started the hour and a half drive to the Green Rinjani offices in Senaru. They brought us a snack of fried bananas and chocolate (and cheese… it worked) and a drink.
Our sign-in and briefing was the point the reality of what we were doing started to kick in. Cue minor panic.
We then headed over to the (one week old) new Green Rinjani hotel. As we were the first to arrive we got a balcony view overlooking the valley, rainforests and the mountain, looming in the distance. We’re pretty sure we were the first to stay in our room, the plastic covers were still on all the remotes. It’s a stunning hotel and has been built with the views in mind. All our meals were included, from the snack when we arrived, lunch and dinner that followed to the breakfast the next morning before we left.
We arrived at the hotel at about 1pm so we had all afternoon to play with, one of the guides at the hotel offered to take us on a guided walk around the two local waterfalls, Tiu Kelep and the larger Sendang Gile. These are well worth a visit and only take a couple of hours to get there and back. You can check them out in more detail here.
We had food, packed our bags for the trek and set the early alarm for the next morning. If you’re struggling with what you should pack, here’s what we took with links for you to buy too…
- Day pack – see Gab’s here and Dan’s here
- Good hiking boots – Gabs and Dans
- Good walking socks
Day Two (climb to the top)
- Thermal leggings
- Gym leggings
- Base layer
- Mid layer jacket – Gabs and Dans
- Jumpers/Coat/Waterproof jacket
- Beanie hat
In the day-pack
- Baby wipes!
- Antibac hand-wash
- Bug spray and bite cream (if you’re trekking in summer)
- Water bladder (we took two litres)
- Head torch (a must)
- Protein bars
Everything else (sleeping bag, mat, even pillows) were supplied by Green Rinjani.
Day Two – the climb begins
We started the day at
For the first couple of hours we were high spirited, with a “this isn’t so hard” spring in our step. Lunch rolled round at about 10:30 and we wolfed down all three courses (honestly Green Rinjani is wonderful) and we were ready to carry on. We also planted our little saplings at the lunch spot. I like to think our two little trees are doing ok up there. Then we set off again.
This is where (sorry mom) sh*t got real.
We were then on a practically vertical climb up the mountain for hours. It’s a varied (but still vertical) climb over dirt, dust and tree roots. The paths all but disappear after lunch then you have to trust the well trodden routes of hundreds of thousands of trekkers before you.
This is also where a decent guide really matters (that and the climb to the top). Our guy, Katot was awesome. He was really funny, down to earth and explained how last year he climbed Rinjani 62 times. 62. We barely made it up and down in 30 hours and this guy does it up to three times a week. He was also telling us how he has a five year old, his wife and his mother to care for so he has to keep going up and down. The guy’s a hero.
We reached the crater lake at about 3pm, shattered and covered head to toe in dust. If there’s anything you take away from this blog post if you’re going to climb Rinj – take baby wipes. Take as many as you can and dish them out to the poor sods that didn’t bring any! Just make sure you take them away with you and don’t contribute to the rubbish piling up on the mountain. Or look for a more eco-friendly idea like packing flannels, just remember there is a limited water supply.
The crater rim itself is an awesome viewing point with the sun setting over the crater lake and all the glowing tents overlooking it. It gets even better as the sun fully sets, as there’s no light pollution the sky is literally painted with stars. We’ve never seen anything like it, we saw Jupiter, Venus and loads of shooting stars.
The amazing porters had cooked us up an incredible green curry served with a beer at 2641m high. After the meal, we headed off to the tent to fall asleep for about 8pm.
Day Three – the summit (and a four hour struggle)
Okay, cue major panic. It’s 1:30am, pitch black and we’re pretty sure our tent is about to be blown away. We have to pee in a hole and then start the four-hour climb under the moon to the top. Oh, and one of our head torches has decided to give up the ghost.
No drama, Katot gives us his and literally goes blind up the mountain while dragging our sorry state behind him. Here’s how we (somehow) made it to the top…
We didn’t find it was “two steps up, one step down” like people on Trip Advisor said. We found it was more of a constant struggle and every so often you fall flat on your face/hands and knees. The climb to the summit is broken into four parts; barely awake climb number one, the (false sense of security) ridge, the “medium hard” part (that’s actually really hard) and then the impossible crawl to the top.
We feel like we’re being really cynical about this and we’re sure people breeze to the top and then read posts like ours like “pssh, pansies”, but we found it a tad hard.
Most of day two is on a couple of metres wide path, on sand with a sheer drop on the side… in the dark. As the sky started to turn orange we had 30 minutes left to climb and we’ve never been so broken, tired and close to falling asleep on a vertical slope.
The views at the top are incredible and worth every hour of climbing, especially being there to watch the sunrise. We look like the walking dead in all our photos but here’s the proof…
Heading back down the mountain was pretty brutal on our knees and, yet again, our guide had to help us down quite a bit but we were so grateful to be heading down and the call of a cold shower was pulling us to the bottom. Katot also timed our entire trip down perfectly. Once we’d had our photos taken he told us it was best to head down as soon as we could as leaving it until later meant more people and more dust all the way down. We barely saw anyone on our descent, ex
As a bit of motivation, all the porters climb all the way to the crater rim in flip-flops with all the food, water, cooking equipment, tents, sleeping gear etc. if they can carry all of that up there and back down then you can do it in your North Face boots and hiking gear!
We showered up at the Green offices and had a chat to some younger guys that were heading out the next day.
Green then drove us four hours down to Sekotong as part of our package (seriously couldn’t believe how much was included), where we checked into a lush hotel to recover and explore the secret Gilis.
What else do you need to know?
You don’t have to just do 2D1N, you can opt for a longer package. With some of the longer ones, you walk down to the crater rim lake and have a chance to recover and swim there. If we’d had more time in Indonesia we would have chosen this.
We paid slightly more for a private tour (admittedly without knowing it) which was $80USD more each. I think because we struggled so much this was really handy for us. Our guide was so helpful and helped carry our bags when we were struggling (luckily on different days). If you’re going to breeze up the mountain then go in a group, if you’re feeling a bit more apprehensive/you’ve never done anything like this then maybe go with a private guide.
We also had two porters accompany us up the mountain. It’s customary for you to tip around 300,000 rupiah each and whatever you see fit for your guide. Just remember to have the cash ready before your climb and usually tip right at the end of the trip.
Again, we can’t stress enough how awesome Green Rinjani was – please check them out here!
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