Published: October 31st 2005October 21st 2005
Looking south-east from the tropical island of Gili Trawangan the Rinjani Volcano towers disturbingly, dominating Lombok. Clouds gather around it early each afternoon, shrouding the summit from view, thunderstorms rumble and flash distantly, forbidding trespass. The summit of Rinjani is a large crater, remnants of a prehistoric eruption that took the volcano down from heights of around 8,000m to today's 3,726m. Still impressive, and still very high. Nearly 3 times the height of Britain's highest peak. (Ben Nevis 1,343 m)
I'd asked everyone I'd met on Gili Trawangan about climbing the volcano. The few that wanted to climb it conveniently had other commitments. Maybe hanging out on a beach is not the best place to meet adventurers prepared to spend three days climbing a very wet and very high volcano. I went across to Lombok alone determined to get to the top some how. The village at the base of the volcano Senaru has no other real purpose except to act as a starting point for trekking. Most of the employment in the area is related to it; guides, porters, small hotels. On reaching Senaru, I asked at a small hotel about the volcano, was given a reasonable price for
Cooking up a feast
those hardworking very tough porters also cook.
everything, porters, a guide and all the equipment and food needed. I was told that they'd find a group going up and add me to that. Nine Belgian adventure holiday makers were to be my companions.
The trek began at 6am the next morning, at 7.30am the first few upward steps towards Rinjani's summit were taken, in sunshine and heat, starting out into the jungle. Trekking through the forest at 600m was fairly easy, progress interrupted by a few downpours and the porters cooking up a fried rice or noodle feast on small bonfires. The vegetation slowly changed, broad leaved tropical trees to start, gradually replaced by narrower leaved trees festooned with mosses and air plants, eventually these ended only pines scattered sparsely amongst the rocks and grasses. As the altitude increaseed the air became thinner, the going harder work, breathing and heart beat increasing, attempting to compensate for the lack of oxygen in each breath.
For most of the first day the path was easy to follow, it became trickier and a lot steeper at around 2000m, as we left the tree line and ascended the rim. With ten in our group plus 7 porters and a
Day one - morning
guide, inevitably we were spread out a little. Each porter carried around twenty-five kilos in baskets on bamboo poles, over one shoulder, going roughly twice our speed and wearing only flip flops (thongs) on their feet. Tough guys, they really earn their pay (unlike the parasitic touts of Sengiggi and Bangsal). The guide's job is to make sure everyone gets to the right points and inform the trekkers of interesting facts, such as “the lake in the crater is 230m deep”.
The crater rim is at 2600m, and was our first camping point. The whole camp was put together by the porters, who with practised hands had all the tents up and started cooking in about 20mins. The view down to the lake, the other side of the crater and the small volcano peak in the centre was obscured by the clouds and the dark. Rinjani volcano is still active, last erupted in 1994, smoke and steam leach out continuously.
On day two, we headed down to the lake shore, descending the inside of the crater, we visited a series of hot water pools and climbed back up to 2,600m on the opposite side for the second nights
Day one - Lunch time
camp. I spent the day chatting with the Belgians, who were all really nice, went to bed at 7pm and slept fitfully until 2am when the ascent for the summit started. We had to leave so early to ensure that we could make it to the top for 6am and sunrise.
2am is not a time for waking, a time for going to bed after a nice night in a bar. 3am is not a time for climbing, a time for being fast asleep in blissful slumber. 5am is not a time to be trudging up and slipping back a steep and never-ending scree slope, desperately hoping that the summit is just out of view in the clouds. One foot in front of the other until I reach the top. Glad to have a head torch.
But 6am was a perfect time to be sitting 3,726m up and waiting the final few minutes for sunrise. 6.15am a very weak sunrise, a lemon yellow disk rising slowly behind the cloud, providing no warmth, but an odd sort of satisfaction in having got to the top of Rinjani in time for sunrise.
6.30am - too cold! Started walking down
to the camp in order to find breakfast and warm up. Mountains on the equator are cold too.
The rest of the day was spent trekking mostly through grasslands in the rain. The small village we ended the trek in had a cold Bin Tang (Indonesian Beer) waiting for each of us, and a bus back to civilisation... well, Sengiggi. A few facts on Rinjani.
Best seasons to climb: dry (May-September) - can be dangerous when slippy.
Cost: between $80-160 (US) for the three day trek, depending on number in group.
See: John's Adventures
for more details, other operators also arrange tours, though many in Sengiggi or Trawangan are on commission only, getting to Senaru in order to arrange the trek will work out cheaper.
There are more photos below