Traveljunkieindonesia.com – Towering over the entire northern part of the island, the mighty Rinjani volcano is of immense cultural (and climatic) importance for Lombok’s people, while climbing the peak is one of Indonesia’s most exhilarating experiences. The great cone, which reaches 3726m, and its upper slopes were declared a national park in 1997.
Gunung Rinjani is the highest mountain in Lombok and the second highest in Indonesia. Its caldera contains a cobalt crescentshaped lake, Danau Segara Anak (Child of the Sea), which is about 6km across at its widest point. The crater has a series of natural hot springs known as Air Kalak, whose waters locals take to blend with herbs to make medicinal treatments, particularly for skin diseases. The lake is 600m below the crater rim, and rising from its waters is a minor, newer cone, Gunung Baru (or Gunung Barujari), which only emerged a couple of hundred years ago. This ominously grey, highly active scarred peak erupted as recently as October 2004.
The most popular ways to climb Gunung Rinjani are the four or five-day hiking expeditions that start at Senaru and finish at Sembalun Lawang, or a strenuous dash from Senaru to the crater rim and back. Independent hiking is not recommended at any time, due to safety and security concerns, but a guide is essential from the hot springs to Sembalun Lawang, as the path is indistinct. It’s often not possible to climb Rinjani during the rainy season, particularly after heavy rainfall, when the trail around the lake is very dangerous due to the hazard of falling rocks.
Senaru to Pos III (4½ to five hours). At the southern end of the village is the RTC (Pos I, 601m), where you register and pay the park fee. Just beyond the post the trail forks – continue straight ahead on the right fork. The trail climbs steadily through scrubby farmland for about half an hour to the sign at the entrance to Gunung Rinjani National Park. The wide trail climbs for another 2½ hours until you reach Pos II (1500m), where there’s a shelter. Water can be found 100m down the slope from the trail, but it should be treated or boiled.
Another 1½ hours’ steady walk uphill brings you to Pos III (2000m), where there are another two shelters in disrepair. Water is 100m off the trail to the right but sometimes evaporates in the dry season. Pos III is the usual place to camp at the end of the first day.
Pos III to Segara Anak & Hot Springs (four hours). From Pos III, it takes about 1½ hours to reach the rim, Pelawangan I, at an altitude of 2641m. Set off very early for the stunning sunrise. It’s possible to camp at Pelawangan I, but there are drawbacks: level sites are limited, there’s no water and it can be very blustery.
It takes about two hours to descend to Danau Segara Anak and around to the hot springs (Air Kalak). The first hour is a very steep descent and involves low-grade rock climbing in parts. From the bottom of the crater wall it’s an easy 30-minute walk across undulating terrain around the lake’s edge. There are several places to camp, but most locals prefer to be near the hot springs to soak their weary bodies and recuperate. There are also some caves nearby, which are interesting but not used for shelter. The nicest camp sites are at the lake’s edge, and fresh water can be gathered from a spring near the hot springs. Some hikers spend two nights or even more at the lake, but most who are returning to Senaru from here head back the next day. The climb back up the rim is certainly taxing – allow at least three hours and start early to make it back to Senaru in one day. Allow five hours from the rim down to Senaru. Instead of retracing your steps, the best option is to complete the Rinjani trek by continuing to Sembalun Lawang and arranging transport back to Senaru.
Hot Springs to Pelawangan II (three to four hours). The trail starts beside the last shelter at the hot springs and heads away from the lake for about 100m before veering right. The route traverses the northern slope of the crater, and it’s an easy one-hour walk along the grassy slopes. It’s then a steep and constant climb; from the lake it takes about three hours to reach the crater rim (2639m). At the rim, a sign points the way back to Danau Segara Anak. Water can be found down the slope near the sign. The trail forks here – go straight on to Lawang or continue along the rim to the camp site of Pelawangan II (2700m); it’s only about 10 minutes more to the camp site, which is on a bare ridge.
Pelawangan II to Rinjani Summit (five to six hours return). Gunung Rinjani stretches in an arc above the camp site at Pelawangan II and looks deceptively close. Start the climb at 3am in order to reach the summit in time for sunrise and before the clouds roll in.
It takes about 45 minutes to clamber up a steep, slippery and indistinct trail to the ridge that leads to Rinjani. Once on the ridge, it’s a relatively easy walk uphill. After about an hour heading towards what looks like the peak, the real summit of Rinjani looms behind and towers above you.
The trail then gets steeper and steeper. About 350m before the summit, the scree is composed of loose, fist-sized rocks – it’s easier to scramble on all fours. This section can take about an hour. The views from the top are truly magnificent on a clear day. The descent is much easier, but again, take it easy on the scree. In total it takes three hours or more to reach the summit, and two to get back down.
Pelawangan II to Sembalun Lawang (five to six hours). After negotiating the peak, it’s possible to reach Lawang the same day. After a two-hour descent, it’s a long and hot three-hour walk back to the village. Head off early to avoid as much of the heat of the day as possible and make sure you have plenty of water. From the camp site, head back along the ridge-crest trail. A couple of hundred metres past the turnoff to Danau Segara Anak is a signposted right turn leading down a subsidiary ridge to Pada Balong and Sembalun Lawang. Once on the trail, it’s easy to follow. It takes around two hours to reach the bottom.
At the bottom of the ridge (where you’ll find Pada Balong shelter; 1800m), the trail levels out and crosses undulating to flat grassland all the way to Sembalun Lawang. After about an hour you will hit Tengengean shelter (1500m); it’s then another 30 minutes to Pemantuan shelter (1300m). Early in the season long grass obscures the trail until about 30 minutes beyond Pemantuan. The trail crosses many bridges; at the final bridge, just before it climbs uphill to
a lone tree, the trail seems to fork; take the right fork and climb the rise. From here, the trail follows the flank of Rinjani before swinging around to Lawang at the end. A guide is essential for this part of the trip.
Happy Green Travels!