Wow! What an experience it was.
In 2013 and 2014 I visited the Gili Islands, which are small magical islands in Indonesia, somewhere between Bali and Lombok. I remember each time looking in awe over at the large towering volcano on Lombok. With a cocktail in hand and some good tunes playing, I pondered and questioned if it was climbable. It looked insanely big and very steep.
A few months ago I had another girls trip planned to Bali. The idea was to spend 6 days lounging around a pool and drinking cocktails; after both of the girls couldn’t come I chose to do a little research into that intriguing monster mountain that had me in awe years before.
I contacted a few companies that offered guided hikes up there, I read some blogs and learned that it certainly wasn’t just a walk in the park. A few companies got back to me, but the one that got back to me promptly and professionally and that I had amazing reviews was Mr Sultans trekking company ‘Cakrawala Rinjani’ (it’s pronounced chak-ra-wa-la).
There are different routes and durations you can choose to do. I chose to do the 3 day 2 night hike which starts from Sembalun and finishes in Senaru. You can do it in reverse, or you can do a 1 night hike and go up and down the same side of the volcano. I wanted to see it all and from every angle possible, which is why I chose the 3D2N option.
I booked a short 20-minute flight from Bali to Lombok and was greeted at the airport with a private transfer that Mr Sultan had arranged for me to get to Senaru, this took about 3 hours. I had 1 night pre hike accommodation included at a hotel in Senaru. That night Mr Sultan briefed me on the hike, and what to expect along the way.
At 6am I woke, and packed my bag with the bare necessities. The rest of my personal items I was able to leave at reception whilst I was trekking. Breakfast was served and at 6:30 my guide (Denny) and my porter (Dul) arrived and introduced themselves. We all got a lift to Sembalun and signed in at the trekking office, the drive here was about 40 mins.
We hit the track at around 8am from Sembalun which was an altitude of 1156m. My guide Denny was great in telling me how long it would be each check point and what to expect in terms of gradient and durations. Dul, our porter powered up the hill to Pos 2 to commence on making lunch. Denny and I chatted about anything and everything, his English was fantastic. Once we got to Pos 2 (1300m) it was only around 9:30 and apparently lunch time. No other hikers had arrived yet, so I got first pick at which lunch hut I wanted and got to relax whilst Denny and Dul made lunch. Now let me tell you – the portions are enough to feed an entire army.
We got back on our feet again at around 11am, and headed UP. The track up is very dusty and very steep. I quite like up-hills, so I found it quite enjoyable. To the left I could see the summit, which didn’t look THAT far away, but definitely shouldn’t be underestimated. At Pos 3, I met a girl who told me that her and her friend couldn’t complete their trek and had to turn around half way up the summit. Hmm? How bad was this summit?
On the way up a big cloud came over, which was such a delight to hike in, the temperature dropped a few degrees. There isn’t a great deal of trees going up and you are exposed to the sun, even with the cloud coming over and sunscreen and a hat, I still got sunburnt.
We arrived into camp 1 at Sembalun Crater rim (2639m) at 2:30pm, the other groups started getting in around 3:30-4pm. Being solo meant that I didn’t have to stop and wait for everyone, we could just trek along at my own pace – which was very enjoyable. Denny and Dul set up my tent and not that I was hungry, they made me banana fritters for an afternoon snack. A few hours later I was fed another huge serving of food for dinner. Rest assured, you wont go hungry. I fell asleep at around 7pm after a hot tea.
My alarm started chiming merrily at 2am – YAY! It is summit day. There was a lot of commotion at the camp whilst everyone was getting their head lamps on and preparing for the climb. Guess what? Dul and Denny had some noodles waiting for me to help warm me up before the climb. These guys are legends, I tell ya! I couldn’t fault how caring they were.
I looked up and saw little lights from the headlamps of those who had already commenced climbing (footage in video below). It got my adrenalin running and Denny and I started our climb too. You don’t have to take your packs up to the summit as you end up back at the camp after summit. I didn’t quite realise how ridiculously steep it would be. The first part of the climb is very steep, dusty and there is no solid footing. It’s all loose gravel – literally 2 steps forward and 1 step back. My calves were on fire. Lot’s of people were already stopping for rests. Denny and I powered up the first bit, which took about 45 mins. After this there is a section for about 100m which Denny referred to as “flat”, this was far from the truth but I guess in comparison to what we had just embarked, then yes, I suppose “flat” could be a suitable adjective.
Denny told me we had to sit and rest for a bit. He knew what was ahead, I didn’t. After our 10-minute break we got up and as soon as we went around a little bend I looked up and saw little speckles of lights, which were from peoples headlamps. This really put into perspective how far we still had to go and how damn steep this mountain was. On the way up this section I swore countless times. There were times when I would take a step up and end up back in the same position I was just in, often I would end up more down the mountain. This was so frustrating. We kept plotting along and eventually summiting (3726m) at 5:30am, which was still dark.
It was so cold on top! We waited around until the sun had risen and then started our decent at 6:15am. Denny and I were the first to leave the summit. We basically were skiing down the mountain, that’s how loose the gravel was beneath us. I felt so sorry for those who were still climbing; the sun had risen so they could actually see how far they still had to go. There were a few people sitting down who had given up, I tried to give them little pep talks saying that the view was well worth the extra push, but they were done. People had already started to turn around and go down. Denny and I essentially ran down the mountain – and got back into camp at 7:30.
Second breakfast was banana pancakes. I briefly joked to Denny on the way down the mountain that I would need 2 coffees this morning, which is something he remembered and gave to me. I was entirely serious, but drank them 🙂
After breakfast we started our descent down into the lake (2026m). This was a very steep descent and I felt blisters forming. Probably shouldn’t have double socked because everything was too tight and rubbing. We got down to the lake at about 11am and lunch was made. I had the option of stopping at the hot springs, but I just wanted to get to the lunch spot on the lake and take my shoes off. We got a long break down here, I even went in the water for a bit. It’s cold!! But was soothing on my feet. I plastered up my blisters, but sadly it was too late, they were already there.
After lunch we had a very steep climb up into camp 2 Senaru Crater rim, we left at around 12:30 and got to the top (2641m) at 2:20. There are some sections on this climb where you will need to use your hands to climb up. The views behind are absolutely stunning; I used my view-gazing as an excuse for secretly needing a moment to die. Up at the top my camp was set up near 2 people I had met at the lunch area, so the rest of the evening was watching the sunset and star gazing. The views of the summit from this camp were stunning. It was hard to believe how far we had walked that day.
Denny and Dul made me up another feast – which was absolutely delicious! Followed up cups of tea!! What a way to finish such an amazing day.
Down! Down! Down!
It wasn’t overly steep, but the steps down were big and put lots of pressure on my blisters which I felt were going to burst at any moment. They were extremely painful, but thankfully Denny was there to encourage me on. Telling me it was only 40 mins to this point and half an hour to that point. Before I knew it, we at the gates and we could sign out. We stopped at a coffee plantation where Denny and Dul made me up one last feast. After this Mr Sultan met me in Senaru and arranged for a driver to drop me back at the airport.
What a climb!!! It was harder than I anticipated and shouldn’t be under-estimated. I couldn’t fault Cakrawala Rinjani, they went above and beyond. If you want any info about climbing Rinjani, contact these guys!!