The Low Down
Gunung Rinjani is Indonesia’s second highest volcano. Remember how I said I wanted to climb Mount Agung, after doing Batur? Well I decided to set my sights just a tad higher. I read this series of posts about the trek up Mount Rinjani, and was so inspired by the beautiful pictures that I changed plans. Also, I liked the idea of setting off on a multi day trek.
This is the first post in a two part series about hiking to the summit of Mount Rinjani.
Should You Do it?
As much as I was excited about the idea of reaching the summit of a mountain so much higher than anything I had ever done before, I was also nervous. Many of the tour agencies ‘forget’ to mention, as they’re trying to sell you Rinjani, that it is an extremely difficult hike. If you have little to no hiking experience, it’s probably not the best hike to start out on. We went through some moderately difficult scrambling sections, and I was relieved to have some climbing experience, which made things that much easier.
I read this blog post after completing the hike, but feel as if it also depicts a pretty accurate picture of what you could expect if deciding to hike Rinjani.
Luckily, I had a much more enjoyable experience! But this may also have been because I had been preparing myself mentally for the worst suffering of my life.
If you’re not discouraged already, great! Keep in mind that there are countless options for hiking Rinjani, so it’s important to find the option that’s best for you.
Costs for Rinjani can vary widely, and it is possible to barter a bit with the tour guide for a better price. I went around Gili Trawangan and asked a few different agencies, and the lowest price I could find was 1,400,000 rupiah (about $140 CAD). I then went back to my hostel (Up to You in Gili Trawangan) and met a local guy who said he could get me an even better price, at $120 CAD. I was a bit sketched out, as I didn’t know which tour outfitter he was with, but decided to take a chance after talking to him some more.
Best decision ever (not that I knew it at the time). Our guide, Morsan, was so friendly and helpful, and every meal I felt like I was eating like a queen!
Bottom line: look around a bit before deciding on a tour agency. Paying more for your tour doesn’t necessarily guarantee you a better tour or guide.
You can choose to start at Senaru (6oo masl) or Sembalu (1,100 masl). Depending on which one you choose, your total elevation gain will be either 3,126 m or 2,626 m.
If you start at Senaru and do the three day trek, as I did, the second day is spent going down the crater rim to the lake and hot springs, then coming back up again to the crater rim to camp. You then climb to the summit, starting at about 3 am, on the third and final day.
If you start at Sembalu, the summit is done on the morning of the second day, and you go to the hot springs after the summit! Which is a pretty nice way to congratulate your sore muscles.
Although I started at Senaru, my muscles were so sore on the second day that they needed some congratulating anyways.
I took this picture from one of the tour guides as it seemed to simplify so many of the questions I had about the hike.
Although starting from Senaru means you have a bit more to climb, the way down is much easier and less technical, which was a relief for my tired knees! Also, starting from Senaru means you do much of the climb up through heavy rain forest, protecting you from the hot sun during the day.
How Many Days?
The most popular option is the three day, two night trek. This gives you the time to not only hike to the summit, but also down the crater rim to the nearby hot springs and waterfall. It’s an absolutely gorgeous spot and was well worth it!
You could also take a four day, three night trek and use the extra time to just chill out by the lake and give your body some extra time to recover. May be a good option if you’ve got time to spare and just want to enjoy the area.
What to Bring
When you get to the summit, keep in mind that it is cold! I had brought a toque, a rain jacket, some wool socks to use as mitts, and a wool sweater and even then I was jumping around just to keep warm. I seriously regretted my decision not to bring my emergency survival blanket (which looks a bit like aluminum foil) as it would have been perfect for the top! I expect the temperature was around 5 degrees Celsius before the sun came up, making it very hard to take pictures and even harder to knit!
Also, a headlamp is close to essential when going up to the summit. If you don’t have one, you may be able to rent a flashlight from the tour agency, but it’s much easier going up with two free hands.
Double check with the tour agency what will be provided on the hike. For us, we got three good meals a day, some snacks (but not many), and water. But it is probably a good idea to come more prepared and bring some extra snacks with you as there may be times when you will get a bit hungry.
The morning we left for the summit, all we ate (it was 3 am when we left) was some tea with crackers. Needless to say I was starving by the time I reached the summit! Luckily I had packed a Toblerone chocolate bar specially for that occasion. Nothing better than some chocolate to motivate you to climb that mountain.
I had heard a bunch of different stories about what type of food to expect on the hike. Anything from inedible pancakes to plain rice and bread.
Our guide and porters turned out to be amazing chefs! Each meal was a new and delicious creation. We had banana pancakes for breakfast, vegetable noodle soup for lunch, and green curry with chicken for dinner. The portions were generous, and we even got our choice of hot tea or coffee to go with our meal! It felt like such a luxury compared to what I’m used to when backpacking in the mountains.
Thank the Guide and Porters
Out of everything that amazed me on the hike, it was the porters that amazed me most of all. Many of them go up in nothing more than flip flops, some of them even in bare feet! It’s impressive, and sad at the same time. Being a porter is definitely not an easy job. Our guide, who was in great shape, despite the smoking, worked as a porter for 8 full years before becoming a guide. Can you imagine? He told us that he climbed Rinjani once a week, meaning that after coming back to his hometown of Senaru he only gets about 3 days of recovery before having to go back up. In his twenty or so years of working on Rinjani, he’s gone up hundreds of times. I was happy to see that he had some good hiking shoes, but most of the porters simply can’t afford them.
So tip your porters, and tip them well! They deserve it more than anyone. And as much as you want to complain about how hard the hike is and how much you’re hurting, chances are, they have it much worse than you.
I wasn’t sure how much to tip, but I gave 50,000 rupiah ($5 CAD) to each of the porters, and 100,000 rupiah ($10 CAD) to our guide. Which is really nothing when you think of everything they’re doing for you. My trip up to Rinjani simply wouldn’t have been possible without them.
I think that anywhere from 10-20 % the amount of what you paid for your trek sounds reasonable, but use your judgement.
Climbing Mount Rinjani was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but it was so worth it! If you are someone who likes to push yourself and enjoys beautiful views, this trek is for you.
- Hiking to the Summit of Rinjani, Part II
- Hiking to the Summit of Mount Agung, Bali’s Highest Volcano
- Hiking to the Summit of Mount Batur, Bali’s Second Highest Volcano