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Hiking Mount Rinjani

Mount Rinjani in Lombok, Indonesia has been on Jordan’s bucket list for nearly 10 years. It was one of the top destinations on his mind when he was planning his post-graduate trip, however Peru and the Inca Trail won out in the end. Since then he’s been wanting to tackle the 3,726m active volcano, and when Bali came up as a potential ‘central’ location for a family vacation it was a perfect opportunity to hope an island over to finally take on the challenge.

Mount Rinjani is the second highest volcano in Indonesia and dominates the landscape in the small island of Lombok. The mountain and its satellites form the Mount Rinjani National Park and while it may be possible to gain permission to hike to the summit without a guide, it is suggested that you hire a local guiding company. Jordan and I have always enjoyed hiking independently so hiring a guide this time was going to be a first for us.

Mount Rinjani

Despite Mount Rinjani being known for it’s beautiful landscapes and challenging terrain, it also has a poor reputation for being littered with garbage and human waste. Far from the pristine environment we have been used to in New Zealand I began researching to find a guiding company that respected the environment and had positive reviews online.

Trip Advisor lead me to find Rudy Trekker, a local company based in Senaru Village who offer a range of trekking packages from the 2 day, 1 night trek (that we chose) to a 4 day hike if you’ve got the time to spend. Our journey began when Jordan and I arrived in Bali and made a quick flight over to Lombok. Rudy’s driver picked us up to the airport and drove us 3 hours to their brand new head quarters where we met up with Jordan parents, Jeanette and Russell, his sister Hillary and her friend Kate. It had been over a year since I’d seen Jordan’s family so it was a nice welcome to be reunited with them when we arrived at midnight after a long day of travel.

Rudy Trekker

Morning came quickly and we were downstairs for a quick breakfast before packing our bags for the trek. Included in the service was a local porter (per person) who would carry the tenting equipment, food and supplies for our trip. It felt a bit weird having someone else carry our gear, but understanding it was a huge source of employment for the area I knew the importance those wages were to the locals.

The drive to the start of the track was about 45mins from base camp and wound through the narrow, busy streets filled with scooters and young children playing. In the distance the mountain peered through the shroud of clouds, providing some foreshadowing for the weather to come. With the forecast not looking great for the next 24hrs, we packed our rain gear and hoped for the best.

Mount Rinjani

The first few hours of the trek were a gentle climb through farm fields, before entering a small patch of rainforest just before our first break. It was at the rest stops you really saw the garbage issue, with piles of old trash covering the ground near the shelters. It was difficult to understand how someone could just toss their garbage without considering the long term consequences on the environment.

After about 3.5 hours we reached our lunch stop just as the rain began to pour. This was the first moment we were VERY happy to have chosen Rudy Trekker – the porters had walked ahead and secured a premium spot under the shelter, setting up chairs and a tarp for us to put our bags on. Not everyone was as lucky though and many spent their lunch getting soaked in the rain.

Mount Rinjani

Rudy Trekker

One thing I had read in many reviews of other trekking companies was the lack of food. Anyone who knows me understands how much I love food and how I can get pretty ‘hangry’ if I don’t have enough to eat. Well, that was no problem here! Our guide Sup and the porters cooked up an incredible meal of roasted chicken, rice, veggies, fried egg, prawn crackers and lentil bites. My fears of starving on this trip quickly vanished as I devoured the meal that was far better than what Jordan and I usually enjoy on our treks. While we sipped a cup of hot lemon tea, we finished off our meal with a platter of fresh cut pineapple, oranges and apples! Yum!

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Thinking we had luck on our side, the rain had stopped just before we got back on the track. That luck quickly faded when the skies opened up and the down pour began. Since the temperatures were still quite hot, the best option was to thrown on the poncho they provided to keep our clothes and packs as dry as possible. However the heat that our bodies generated as the climb intensified meant it created a ton of condensation underneath the poncho – either way we were getting wet!

The next few hours were pretty tough on the spirits as the rain continued, making the muddy track quite slippery. On more than a few occasion I nearly went head over feet, but managed to keep my balance enough to stay upwards. As our pace slowed with the terrain intensifying, the strong porters began to pass us carrying the 60kg+ baskets and wearing sandals! I have no idea how they managed to maneuver their way up the track in that footwear but it was impressive to say the least.

Mount Rinjani

Mount Rinjani

As we neared the crater rim, we got a small glimpse of the summit in the distance. The ridgeline looked quite narrow and steep, yet deceiving not that far away. I hoped the rain would subside to allow our early morning summit. The group that morning were unable to go due to the wind and rain, so we feared our fate would be the same.

Pushing through the last few challenging sections to the top, we finally got a glimpse of the inside crater before the clouds moved in again. Only a few hundred meters now to our base camp we were never so happy to see our tents already setup and completely dry – I could have kissed the porters!

Rudy Trekker

A sea of tents lined the narrow ridgeline that overlooked the crater lake below. I was surprised by the number of people that were on the trek, and with the additional porters supporting, it made for a busy area. Apparently it’s even busier in the middle of summer!

As the rain returned, we took shelter and were confined to our tents for the next few hours while we removed our wet clothes and began to warm up for the night. The spacious ~3 person tents were setup with a comfortable thick mattress, sleeping bag and little pillow. It was a welcomed oasis after a long day of hiking. Yet again the porters cooked up an amazing meal of chicken and vegetable curry with rice accompanied by a hot cup of lemon tea – my new favorite hot drink! Just before the sun set we had a break in the rain and were able to emerge from our tents to take in the view and use the strong winds to dry out our ponchos!

Rudy Trekker
Again the garbage situation at camp was pretty bad in some areas. Rudy Trekker pride themselves on being an environmentally responsible business and that was evident by the crew ensuring all garbage was bagged for removal and even went around the campsite picking up garbage other companies had left behind. Despite their efforts, that still barely made a dent in the years of accumulated food packaging.

With sun down at 6:30pm we climbed back into our tents for an early night. After a long 7 hour day of climbing and an early start ahead of us I crashed as soon as I hit the pillow praying for good weather the next day.

Mount Rinjani

I’m not sure whether it was the nerves, or excitement, but we all seemed to wake up just after 1am without the help of an alarm clock. We ate a quick breakfast of fried bananas with chocolate and were ready to go with our head lamps on as we went single file passing the sea of tents in the dark. Not every group was intending to summit that morning, so we quietly tip toes passed the tents as we made our way towards the ridge.

The first section proved to be the most difficult, as we navigated our way up the steep black volcanic section with the help of our guide Sup. Up ahead we could see a few headlamps making their way and a sea of more coming up behind us. Once we were through the really steep section we traversed along the ridgeline and began the steady climb through the scree. It was so dark I couldn’t see anything beyond the small patch my headlamp lit up but I could tell we were on a narrow ridge no more than a few meters wide.

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Thankful the rain had stayed away, it was the wind that proved to be a challenge. Using one pole to brace myself from being blown off the ridge, I used the other to propel myself up the mountain as I concentrated on Sup’s feet ahead of me. After nearly 3 hours we stopped to take shelter and grab a TimTam for some added energy. I can see why many people don’t make it to the summit as this was a pretty full on experience running on little sleep and tired legs. Poor Hillary struggled to stay warm as the wind cut through her layers of clothes. With her spirits low, she nearly called it quits, but with the help of a family group hug to warm her up and the inspiring words from our guide Sup – ‘Never try, never know’ – she soldiered on. With just over an hour left to the summit we were determined to get to the top.

Just before sunrise we reached the summit and were one of the first groups to arrive. We quickly snagged a great vantage point at the top as we waited for sunrise. Unfortunately the clouds never parted on the one side but we were able to get a small clearing of the crater lake below.

Mount Rinjani

Mount Rinjani

Inside the massive crater lake, Segara Anak, called the Child of the Sea, sits a newly formed cone, Gunung Baru, or New Mountain, that has been formed by recent eruptions within the caldera. A natural hot pool inside the crater is a popular destination for folks on multi-night treks – something I wish we had the time for!

In the distance we could see the Gili Islands where Jordan’s family had just spent the last few days, and the volcano Mount Agung on Bali peeked out above the clouds. The colours inside the crater were also incredible – vibrant and rich with minerals. As the crowds moved in, the summit began to get busy, and with the wind still beating down on us we decided to start our decent after enjoying about an hour of peaceful summit views. Little did we know the walk back down to base camp would be the most spectacular of our journey as we finally were rewarded with the views that had been shrouded in darkness on our ascent.

Mount Rinjani

Mount Rinjani

Similar to our adventures down Mount Tarawera, the loose terrain provided an expedited route to scree ski our way down the ridgeline. With steep drops of either side though we were now aware of the exposure we had been oblivious to in the dark. Looking back up at the summit we had just tackled the colours were incredibly vibrant as the mix of red, black, green and yellow painted a stunning canvas on the mountain.

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As we got closer to the crater edge, you could see smoke emitting from the volcano inside the caldera. It reminded me a of a mini Mount Ngauruhoe (Mt Doom) along the Tongariro Crossing in New Zealand that we tackled the year before when Jordan’s parents were visiting. Jordan always talks with pride telling people that his parents, now in their 60s come volcano hiking with us. I hope we maintain an active lifestyle into retirement as well!

Mount Rinjani

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The fact that it was smoking showed the volcano is still quite active. Our guide Sup was up on the mountain the last time it erupted in 2010. Ash spewed from the mountain, rising up to 2 km into the atmosphere, while lava flowed into the caldera lake raising it’s temperature to 35 degrees. Although it didn’t threaten any of the nearby villages, access to the mountain was closed for a period of time. I can’t imagine what it would have been like to be on that mountain that day!

On the other side we could see the sea of tents lining the ridgeline just above the clouds. It was an amazing vantage point to see how many people were on the mountain with us.

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The walk down towards base camp was easy compared to the way up but still took about 2 hours as we stopped for many photos along the way. We arrived back at camp just after 9am and were greeted by a small pack of monkeys that were feeding on the trash around the campsites. It was sad to see they clearly understood that humans = food as they had no issues getting up close while they rummaged for some scraps.

Mount Rinjani monkey

After a long morning, we devoured the Rinjani burgers and fries the porters had cooked up upon our return. With a few allergies in our group, the crew were very accommodating in providing gluten free and dairy free options. With the skies clearing up we had a pretty great view while we enjoyed our hard earned breakfast.

If you notice in the photo below, that’s Jeanette being a bit of a ham and giving us a wave from our luxurious toilet tent. Another item I had read a lot about during my research was the lack of proper facilities for such a busy mountain trek. Our guys did their best and dug a deep hole and provided a private tent for us to use as our toilet. Not exactly the most glamorous part of our trip, but it was much better than nothing! It wasn’t surprising how quickly that can get out of control without the proper management and Jordan found this out the hard way when he went exploring to snap some photos from a better vantage point on a hill and ended up discovering ‘poo mountain.’

Mount Rinjani

After breakfast we packed up our belongings while the porters disassembled camp and we made our way back down the steep embankment. Thankful the rain had at least temporarily held off, I can imagine I would have been on my butt most of the way if it had been wet!

The next few hours the weather just couldn’t make up it’s mind. Initially some clouds rolled in providing a mysterious mist but was broken up by breaks of sun that gave us the views we had missed on the way up in the rain. Just before we returned to our lunch spot, the skies let loose and rain again poured down on us. Hoping we would make it back without getting wet, our luck ran out again as we quickened our pace towards shelter. Unfortunately this time we were a bit later than other groups, but our guys quickly did their best to make us a shelter and we enjoyed another delicious meal – Rinjani spaghetti!

Mount Rinjani

The last 3 hours were an easy walk back through the fields as the weather gave us a break again. The entire way back down the mountain, I was amazed to watch our guides picking up litter along the track, filling a few bags of garbage by the end. This is why if you plan on coming to Lombok to tackle Mount Rinjani I highly recommend choosing Rudy Trekker. Yes they are slightly more expensive (not by much) than the cheaper guides, but believe me it is worth for so many reasons. They provide the best quality of service, have a strong environmental conscious and will leave you feeling happy you paid that extra to ensure the guides and porters are paid fairly (in addition to a good tip). And after hiking nearly 20 of the last 30 hours, the celebratory beers at base camp he provides are the icing on the cake! Perfect ending to an awesome family adventure – we’re so lucky that Jordan’s family is always up for tackling these adventures with us 🙂

    Comments ( 22 )

  • Dave

    Hiking is a privilege, hiking with your elders is a privilege doubled. I was in Arthur’s Pass over the weekend with a group of watercolour painters. Sunday was a picture perfect day so I did the short but steeply stepped walk to the devils punch bowl falls, my companion was Ralph, a ninety year old! We passed a woman half his age who turned back for fear she wouldn’t be able to get back out.
    On such a beautiful day It was wonderful to so many young families of all nationalities using the track on their way through Arthur’s Pass.

    • Hi Dave!
      Yes we’ve very lucky Jordan’s parents are up for our adventures too!
      Sounds like you had a great weekend! We’ve missed Devil’s Punch bowl when we passed through there so it’s on our list when we return again!
      Jenna

  • You guys! I am so happy you had a good time, bummer about the rain, but it sounds like you enjoyed it. Pretty tough hike! Reading your post brought me back to the mountain and reminded me of how great of an accomplishment it is to summit it. It’s almost best not being able to see the summit on the way up haha. Let’s catch up again!

    Anna

  • Brandon

    Seeing that it’s an active volcano, is it safe to hike up Mt. Rinjani?

    • Hi Brandon
      There’s always a risk when you’re dealing with an active volcano but many people hike it every day. Our guide was on the mountain when it last erupted and no one was hurt, but it’s difficult to predict mother nature so always a risk.
      Jenna

  • Poo mountain = truth!

    Glad you enjoyed it 🙂 I would love to organize a trip to clean up all that garbage!

  • kristian pedersen

    Hej Jenna and Jordan

    Boy, this was a nice read! I am going to Bali myself in about three weeks and will be staying there for a week. I have been quite troubled though since I have always wanted to trek a volcano and Rinjani looks like the most interesting in the area. However I did not know if I had the time for the Rinjani trek as it will take a couple of days with the trek and the transport. You though, have incentivized me to do it 🙂
    I just want to ask you – Did you book your tour with Rudy Trekker beforehand or when you were on location? And the 2 day trek was not too rushed?
    Oh, and on a side-note. What is your general advice on pre-booking? As I will be both kayaking and doing the Franz Josef Glacier Hike but I do not know whether to book ahead or not.
    Fingers crossed for better weather 🙂

    Best Regards
    Kristian

    • Hi Kristin!
      Yes we booked in advance with Rudy Trekker. There are other companies that are more last minute, but I really would recommend booking with him. The 2 day was really intense – we hiked 20hrs in 30hrs but it is doable (as you’ve read). The 3rd day would get you down to the crater and into the hot pools which would be really cool but just depends on how much time you have.
      As for pre-booking in NZ – it depends on what activity and what time of year. I would call in advance and ask about availability and they can usually advise. If you’re not in the peak season of Dec-Feb you’re usually ok to just play it day by day, but areas like Queenstown are busy nearly all year round. The glaciers can be pretty busy too I know as they’re a pretty typical tourist spot so might want to look at booking ahead.
      Hope that helped!

      Jenna

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  • Man Lyu

    Hello, I am so glad to read your hiking trip, which would be very helpful, as my fiancé and I are going there this summer (June/July) for hiking. Now everything seems to have a better clue now, thank you! Anyway, may I ask when you visited this mountain? I looked it up on the internet, it would be dry season during our time period of visit, but still curious that if it is to rain. Thank you again for your sharing and look forward to hearing from you!

    Andreas/Man

    • Hi Andreas/Man!
      We were here in April 2015 and it did rain some, but if its the dry season then you might have less chance of rain.
      Highly recommend Rudy Trekker as a guide!
      Best of luck!
      Jenna

      • Man Lyu

        Thank you so much for your quick reply! I read most of the information on their homepage, we will definitely consider Rudy Trekker for our hiking trip to Rinjani.
        Also, we’d like to know how you solved the problem regarding face washing and teeth brushing in the morning and at night. Because some chemical materials contained in the lotions/paste might be considered harmful to the environment sometimes. Anyway, many thanks again for sharing and answering me.

        Look forward to hearing from you again! 🙂

        • Hi Man!
          I always bring ‘baby wipes’ or face wash clothes for cleaning as they don’t require any water and you just carry them out with your rubbish. As for brushing our teeth, we just try to limit how much we use on the brush while on the trip so we limit how much we have to spit out. Hope that helps!
          Jenna

  • Hello we all from rinjani community are so glad to read your hiking trip, which would be very helpful next trekkers.
    Thanks for the great post about mount rinjani trekking

  • I did the 4d/3n with Jou trekking. We spent the first night in a guest house near waterfalls Jou was a very friendly guide who speaks excellent English. With the help of porters, he prepared to us very delicious and copious meals.

    The trekking was one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done because it was the first time I went to the summit of a mountain. The ascent to the summit is the most difficult part since the ground is sandy and stony and when you make two steps forward, you go one step back (better to have hiking sticks). I went slowly, and Jou (the guide) went with me on my rhythm (other members of the group were more experienced than me, so they went up quicker), and waited for me sometimes. I forgot to bring a jacket with me so I had to go to the summit with a sleeping bag on my shoulders and it was freezing, so don’t forget to take warm clothes with you!
    It was very hard to get to the summit, but at the end, the view was amazing and breathtaking, and worth the effort.

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