Reading “Into Thin Air” by Jon Krakauer piqued my curiosity about mountain climbing. A few years later, though it is in no way comparable to climbing Everest in Krakauer’s book, I finally went on my first-ever mountain climb!
We trekked to the Crater Rim of Mount Rinjani in Lombok, Indonesia as part of a 2D1N trip. Below you will find a detailed log of my trip – what to expect, how the trek was, and what you need to pack and prepare for the trip.
1. Getting to Mount Rinjani
Mount Rinjani is an active volcano located on a small island in Indonesia called Lombok. The easiest way to reach the mountain is to fly directly to Lombok International Airport (Airport Code: LOP) and then taking a long drive to the foot of Mount Rinjani. This drive takes about 2.5 – 3 hours, going through Mataram and circling half the island before finally getting to Rinjani. It features long windy roads on cliffs with tons of wild monkeys on the side of the road.
If you can’t fly directly to Lombok, the best way is to transit through Jakarta or fly into Bali and take a boat or short flight out to Lombok. However, this would take more travel time and you might have to stay extra overnight in Bali or Jakarta.
2. When is the best time to trek Mount Rinjani?
Mount Rinjani Hiking trails are closed from 1 January to 31 March every year due to monsoon season, which tends to bring heavy rain and renders the trails dangerous. I did my trek at the end of April when the weather was great! There was no rain and the sun was not too hot either.
3. Can I climb Mount Rinjani without a guide?
Officially, no. You aren’t supposed to climb Mount Rinjani without a certified guide. I know some people would attempt to circumvent this, but I personally don’t recommend it. It’s one of the few ways locals are making a living, especially after a difficult few years they’ve been facing – in 2018, Lombok was hit by a large earthquake which damaged the area greatly and dwindled tourism down to a fraction of what it used to be. Then, obviously in 2020 the pandemic hit them hard too.
4. Deciding on the Trek Route: Should I start from Senaru or Sembalun?
How do you choose between Senaru and Sembalun? This was the first question I had in mind while planning the trip, and I couldn’t seem to find any good answer for.
It’s actually very simple – if you only have three days to spare, you can only go for a 2D1N trip and you have to choose between Sembalun and Senaru since they are located on different sides of the mountain. So here are the pro and cons:
- If you want to summit in the 2D1N trip, then you should be going via Sembalun, which features an easier climb (mostly flat) through the grasslands to the base of the summit. The downside is that you would be walking under the sun the entire time. Your trek would cover Sembalun > Summit > back down to Sembalun.
- If you are absolutely sure you WILL NOT attempt to summit in 2D1N, you should go through Senaru, and your trek would then cover Senaru > Crater Rim > back down to Senaru. The hike will take you through a steeper, non-stop climb through the rainforest, and a fairly difficult rocky climb in the last leg. But it’s a more beautiful and shaded route than Sembalun. You cannot reach the summit in two days if you go through Senaru though.
However, if you have time to do a 3D2N trip – and this is what most people choose, then you don’t have to worry about choosing as you would be hitting both sides anyway. The popular route is to go from Sembalun > Summit > Crater Rim > Senaru. However, if you have the option to choose and are still wondering whether to start from Sembalun or Senaru for the 3D2N trip, it comes down to when you want to summit. If you want to summit earlier in the trip, then choose Sembalun. If not, then choose Senaru.
5. How Difficult is Climbing Mount Rinjani?
Mount Rinjani, the second-highest volcano in Indonesia, is notoriously challenging to climb. The one concern I had in mind was whether I was fit enough to climb Mount Rinjani. Having done the trek myself, I think the crater rim trek is still doable for a person with an average fitness level.
Here is a background on my own fitness level – I would never say I am a super fit person but I’m not totally sedentary either. I’m usually able to complete a 5 to 10K run and I had been doing the Barre Method (which consists of cardio and strength training) twice a week for about six months prior to the climb. I think this gave me just enough strength to complete the trip with no assistance from others aside from directional guidance from Kecap.
It was not by any means an easy climb but most of the struggle for me was actually a mental struggle. I had never done a long climb before and I didn’t know what to expect. Think about it this way – a half marathon is definitely taxing, but it still ends in three hours or less. Climbing Mount Rinjani takes 2-3 times as long and you get progressively exhausted with each stop. Thankfully Kecap and my teammates were very encouraging and this was what kept me going all the way to the top.
Keep in mind that you also have to bring your own bag which usually means an extra 5-10kg of weight depending on how good of a packer you are. And this can feel very very heavy when you are tired!
Which brings me to my next point.
6. What should I bring to the Rinjani trek? The Rinjani Packing List
Some points to note: This trip happened at the end of April when the weather was great (no rain) and I was able to pack very lightly. Also, it was a 2D1N trip and we did not summit. If you plan to summit or plan on going on a longer trip then you need to adjust accordingly by bringing more layers, a thicker jacket, etc.
The Essential, Must-have Gears
- A good backpack is a must, so you don’t hurt your back. I used a 35L North Face backpack with a lumbar pad and support. With all the items listed below the bag weighed around 6kg. Add two 1.5L water bottles and it ended up being about 7-8kg.
- Hiking Shoes – I used my 3-year-old running shoes, which is a Nike Lunarglide, and I could have done with more tread. It got slippery in some parts of the trail and I actually fell flat on my butt TWICE. Since this trek, I’ve gotten myself a pair of trusty hiking boots Columbia Newton Ridge Plus II, which I used for my New Zealand trip and I highly recommend!
- Walking Pole / Stick – This is important, do NOT underestimate the power of a walking stick. I’ve never thought about using it before but now I know I would not have lasted without the walking stick. It only costs $20 on average and really comes in handy for balance and support. You could also check if your guide is able to supply you with a pair.
- Socks – Well-fitting socks are so essential. I wore a thicker pair of socks from Adidas that did not slip around inside my shoes, so it does not cause blisters later on. Make sure yours fits well too!
- Clothes for the climb – It’s going to be hot and humid so I recommend wearing something thin. I wore a loose tank top, a light sports bra, and leggings. Any additional layers got too hot during the climb.
- Clothes for night/sleeping time – I packed a fleece pajama similar to this and a basic cotton shirt to sleep in.
- A very light, water-resistant jacket to fend off the cold mist once you’ve reached higher altitude. You have to remember that Rinjani is located in Indonesia, which a tropical country not far below the equator and this means it will be humid and hot. I recommend not to bring a thick jacket. You can just bring a thinner jacket and layer as needed. I used Uniqlo Light Pocketable Parka and found them sufficient for the climb.
- An extra jacket for nighttime. My roommate Jessica kindly lent me her Denali North Face Jacket, which is an excellent fleece jacket. It might actually be too warm for the Crater Rim though. I get cold easily but I was able to sleep with just this jacket and a thin cotton t-shirt underneath.
- A spare set of clothes for the next day. For me, this just meant another set of cotton shirt, leggings, and sports bra.
- Small towel to use throughout the climb because you will sweat.
- Extra socks in case your previous day’s socks got wet.
- Fresh underwear, because of course, you need them.
- Flip flops to change into once you are at the campsite if you can’t be bothered to lace up your shoes each time you get out of your tent. This also came in handy for our Lombok waterfall side quest! I just brought along my go-to pair of slim Havaianas.
- Sun Block with SPF50. You will be high up on the mountain where the sun will be extra strong, so you need to protect your skin especially your face. My favorite face sunblock is this water-based sun lotion by Innisfree.
- Insect Repellent. I didn’t have problems with insects, but this is always good just in case.
- Hand Sanitizer Wipe. There will be no running water once you get up there so being diligent about hygiene is important.
- Biodegradable Wet tissue for wiping hands and cleaning your body. There are no shower facilities either so this is your only way of cleaning yourself!
- Biodegradable toilet paper aka Camper’s Toilet Paper for your toilet business. Our tour did provide toilet paper but it was not biodegradable.
- Medicine like Aspirin and Activated Charcoal in case of food poisoning – also good to have when traveling around South East Asia in general.
- Plaster / Band Aids for any small wounds or to protect your toes from blistering.