Climbing Rinjani


Do you know !, Rinjani has been nominated to UNESCO for World Geo park Status and in 2005 and 2008 was a finalist for the Tourism for Tomorrow Awards from the World Travel Tourism council (WTTC). Located on the north of the island, Mt Rinjani soars 3726m above sea level and is the second highest volcano in Indonesia, annually attracting thousands of trekkers and climbers to Lombok. The volcano is a world-class tourism destination and has been nominated for a number of international awards, as well as being submitted to UNESCO for World Geo park status. In 2004, Rinjani won the World Legacy Award from Conservation International and Traveller (2004), and in 2005 and 2008, was a finalist for Tourism for Tomorrow Awards from the World Travel Tourism Council (WTTC).
Particularly from July to September (during the European summer holidays and Lombok's "high season"), visitors from around the world come to Lombok to climb Gunung Rinjani; either to its awe-inspiring crater lake,  or to the demanding summit with its panoramic views across the waters to Gunung Agung, Bali's famous sister volcano; (gunung is Bahasa Indonesia for "mountain"). The two volcanoes create a visual connection for people living on Lombok and, historically and culturally, Gungun Rinjani has important significance to Lombok's native Sasaks and the Balinese, being considered a "Home of the Gods".
Pilgrimages are often made to the mountain, and many people visit the volcano to pray, and bathe in the pools and hot springs, which are believed to have healing powers. Each year, around the full moon in October or November, a sacred pilgrimage called "Mulang Pekelem" takes place, when gold, silver and other gifts are thrown into the lake near the summit as offerings to the Gods. A Hindu ceremony, said to date from the 18th century, during Pekelem pilgrims make offerings and pray for the safety and prosperity of the island and its people. The huge caldera near the top of the volcano is around 4 km wide and is almost filled by a beautiful lake, Danau Segara Anak (Child of the Sea Lake). The lake is around 230m deep and contains plentiful fish, as well as being home to birds and other wildlife.
A smaller volcanic cone, Gunung Baru Jari, was formed a couple of hundred years ago and juts from the crater's interior at the edge of the lake. It's been estimated that the force needed to create the new cone and the lake would have been equal to around 300 Hiroshima type atomic bombs. In early 2009 and again in 2010, Baru Jari came to life and for several months was spewing hot rocks and volcanic ash into the air. Being within the original caldera, it posed no serious risk to the rest of the island. The lake, which surrounds the smaller cone, and the summit of the volcano were closed to trekking, although those who still climbed to the shoulders of the mountain were afforded awesome views of a small volcano in action.
At present, the activity has settled down and the volcano is open for trekking. The lava flows from the eruptions have reformed the base of the Baru jari cone and changed the shape of the lake. There are a number of caves, small waterfalls and hot springs located around the volcano, most importantly Aik Kalak on the northeast of the crater, where the volcanically heated waters are said to cure illnesses, particularly skin diseases.
Senaru is the usual starting point for climbing Gunung Rinjani. Other options, for a slightly shorter router to the summit, are Sembalun Lawang and Sembalun Bumbung to the northeast. Both are rustic mountain villages, with basic home-stays available and experienced tour centres that can organise your trek. The Rinjani Trek in Senaru, originally funded by the New Zealand government, has set up a series of programmes that involve the local communities and guides, for climbing the volcano and for trekking in the National Park - ensuring better management and safety for trekkers. When climbing, use an authorised guide, deal with a reputable trekking operator and carry as few valuables as possible with you. There are a variety of different options for climbing Gunung Rinjani. Two day, one night treks are the shortest available, taking visitors to the crater rim, to view the wide crater and the emerald green lake within. However the most popular is the three day, two night trek which allows trekkers to climb down to the  shores of the lake and enjoy a soak in the hot springs. It takes three to four days to reach the summit of the volcano. At the very top, the jagged wind-razed peak is barren, covered in shale and loose volcanic rock, which makes climbing a frustrating dance of two steps forward and one slide back.
Climbers say the panoramic view at the top is worth every minute of the cursing and swearing, with 360 degrees of awesome scenery stretching from Bali to Sumbawa and beyond. Trekking on the volcano is not for everyone. A certain level of fitness is needed and climbing to the summit is particularly strenuous. Time Magazine described climbing Rinjani as "difficult, treacherous and extremely worthwhile". Altitudes of over 2700m are reached in all these treks and, even on the equator, night time temperatures can be very cold, with strong winds and occasional rain.
The best time to climb Gunung Rinjani is in the dry season from around April to October, or before the rainy season starts. The sunny days and cooler temperatures make this time of the year the most comfortable for climbing, and enable the clearest views of the stunning scenery both on and around the mountain.