Climbing Gunung Rinjani
The recommended way to climb Gunung Rinjani is the five-day trek that starts at Senaru and finishes at Sembalun Lawang. Other possibilities include a summit attempt from Sembalun, which sits higher on the slope and can be done as a gruelling two-day return hike.
Day One: Senaru Pos I to Pos III (Five to Six Hours)
At the southern end of Senaru is the Gunung Rinjani Park Office (Pos I, 601m), where you register and pay the park fee. Just beyond the post, you'll head right when the trail forks. The trail climbs steadily through scrubby farmland for about half an hour to the official entrance of Gunung Rinjani National Park. The wide trail climbs for another 2½ hours until you reach Pos II (1500m), where there's a shelter. Another 1½ hours' steady walk uphill brings you to Pos III (2000m), where there are two shelters in disrepair. Pos III is usually the place to camp at the end of the first day.
Day Two: Pos III to Danau Segara Anak & Aiq Kalak (Four Hours)
From Pos III, it takes about 1½ hours to reach the rim, Pelawangan I (2641m). Setting off very early promises a stunning sunrise. It's possible to camp at Pelawangan I, but 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 ('child of the Sea Lake'), one of the mountain lakes, and over to the hot springs, Aiq Kalak. The first hour is a very steep descent and involves a bit of bouldering. 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.
Day Three: Aiq Kalak 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. It then traverses the northern slope of the crater, and it's an easy one-hour walk along the grassy slopes before you hit a steep, unforgiving rise; 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. The trail forks here – straight on to Sembalun or along the rim to the campsite of Pelawangan II (2700m).
Day Four: Pelawangan II to Rinjani Summit (Five to Six Hours Return)
Gunung Rinjani's summit arcs above the campsite and looks deceptively close. You'll start the climb around 3am to reach it by sunrise. Depending on wind conditions, it may not be possible to attempt the summit at all, as the trail is along an exposed ridge.
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 steady walk uphill. After about an hour heading towards a false peak, the real summit of Rinjani (3726m) looms. The trail then becomes increasingly steeper. About 350m before the summit, the scree is composed of loose, fist-sized rocks. This section can take about an hour. The views from the top are truly magnificent. In total it takes around three hours to reach the summit, and two to return.
Day Five: Pelawangan II to Sembalun Lawang (Six to Seven Hours)
After negotiating the peak, it's possible to reach Sembalun the same day. It's a steep descent from the campsite to the village; you'll feel it in your knees. From the campsite, you head back along the crater rim. Shortly after the turn-off to Danau Segara Anak, there's a signposted right turn down to Pada Balong (also called Pos III, 1800m). The trail is easy to follow; it takes around two hours to reach Pada Balong shelter.
The trail then undulates towards the Sembalun Lawang savannah, via Tengengean (or Pos II, 1500m) shelter, beautifully situated in a river valley. It's another 30 minutes through long grass to lonely Pemantuan (or Pos I, 1300m), and two more hours along a dirt track to Sembalun Lawang.
There are a few possible variations to the standard five-day trek up Rinjani that starts at Senaru and finishes at Sembalun Lawang. These are as follows:
- Compress the last two days into one (racking up a hefty 11 to 12 hours on the trail). Note that this will mean you'll certainly still be on the rugged trail after dark.
- Start trekking from Sembalun Lawang (a guide is essential), from where it takes around seven hours to get to Pelawangan II. This is a much shorter walk to the summit than from Senaru, with a reduction in elevation gain if not hardship.
- Retrace your steps to Senaru after climbing to the summit, making a five-day circuit that includes another night at the hot springs.
- Another popular route, because the trail is well defined and (if you're experienced) can be trekked with only a porter, is a three-day trek from Senaru to the hot springs and back. The first night is spent at Pos III and the second at the hot springs. The return to Senaru on the final day takes eight to nine hours.
- For (almost) instant gratification (if you travel light and climb fast) you can reach the crater rim from Senaru in about six hours. You'll gain an altitude of approximately 2040m in 10km. Armed with a torch, some moonlight and a guide, set off at midnight to arrive for sunrise. The return takes about five hours.
Important facts to consider when planning your trek:
- The Gunung Rinjani trails and campsites are terribly trash-strewn. Some guides offer a 5% discount if you'll help pack trash out, and the park tries to enforce a no-litter policy but these efforts have been futile.
- On Indonesian holidays, 1000 people or more may try to make the trek.
- Portions of the trails are very hazardous, with loose gravel and precipitous falls.
- The treks are very strenuous. People who assume they are in good shape regularly become ill on the trail.
- It is an active volcano. Eruptions in 2016 stranded hundreds before they could escape down the mountain.
There are designated camping areas along the trails. Some are trash-strewn.
Guides and porters bring food for eating while on the trail.
Treks to the rim, lake and peak should not be taken lightly, and guides are mandatory. Climbing Rinjani during the wet season (January to April) is usually completely forbidden due to the risk of landslide. June to August is the only time you are (almost) guaranteed minimal rain or clouds. Be prepared with layers and a fleece because it can get cold at the rim (and near-freezing at the summit) at any time of year.
Roughly the same trek packages and prices are offered by all operators, though some outfitters have a 'luxury' option. Typical itineraries include:
- Crater Rim (Two days) An up-and-back to see the caldera lake view from Senaru.
- Rim & Lake Return (Four days) A return trip from either Senaru or Sembalun Lawang to the crater rim and then down into the caldera to the lake. Note that a three-day variation on this trip involves an exhausting and potentially dangerous 12-hour-plus marathon on the last day.
- Senaru–Rim–Lake–Sembalan Lawang (Five days) The classic trek takes in everything with little repetition and at a humane pace.
Trek prices get cheaper the larger the party. Costs (including food, equipment, guide, porters, park fee and transport back to Senaru) average US$100 per person per day, although this is generally negotiable. Any posted prices are just an opening gambit.
The easiest way to organise a trip is through your accommodation. You will also find numerous independent operators.
In Sembalun Lawang:
Agencies in Kuta, Senggigi and beyond can organise Rinjani treks, too, with return transport from the point of origin.
Guides & Porters
Trekking independently is simply not allowed, and deeply unwise. People have died on Rinjani, with or without guides, and only the most skilled climbers should consider themselves qualified to undertake such a journey.
Guides and porters operate on loosely fixed fees, which are included in whatever trekking package you purchase. Tips of 20,000Rp to 50,000Rp per day are sufficient and can be paid at the end of the trip.
Entrance Fee & Equipment
Entrance to Gunung Rinjani National Park is set by the government at 150,000Rp per day, although local authorities may collect a flat fee of 300,000Rp. Register and pay at the park offices near the trail heads in Senaru or Sembalun Lawang before your trek. Note that there are proposals to raise these fees even higher.
Sleeping bags and tents are essential and can be hired or included as part of a package. Decent footwear, warm clothing, wet-weather gear, gloves, cooking equipment and a torch are important (all can be hired if necessary). Expect to pay upwards of 100,000Rp a head per day for all your hired gear. Muscle balm (to ease aching legs) and a swimming costume (for the lake and hot springs) could also be packed. Discuss what to bring with your trekking organisation or guide.
Bring home your rubbish, including toilet tissue. Rinjani camps and trails are very litter-strewn.
Food & Supplies
Trek organisers usually arrange trekking food. Mataram is cheapest for supplies but many provisions are available in Senaru and Sembalun Lawang. Take more water than seems reasonable (dehydration can spur altitude sickness), extra batteries (as altitude can wreak havoc on those, as well) and a back-up lighter.