Having lived in Colorado for the last 5 years, I have certainly done my fair share of mountain summits. What you realize after doing these repeatedly is that they all offer something unique. The views, peaks, challenges and terrain differentiate as much as the lengths and weather. Recently, we climbed to the top of Mount Rinjani on the north end of Lombok in Indonesia. We wanted to talk about that 2 day 1 night journey. (NOTE: at the time that this was written the 3 day 2 night trek to the summit to the summit, was not available due to the earthquake from 2018)
One great aspect of this was the simplicity in planning it. There are plenty of trekking companies to choose from in the area and from what we could see, they all offered relatively similar packages and pricing. We found our booking with Blue Mountain Village to be well thought out and enjoyable. At this time, it is only possible to summit by doing the 2/1 package. Our cost for for this was just under 3 million Indonesian Rupiah (roughly $210 USD). This included a ride from anywhere on the island (as well as a ride back to wherever you need after the hike) to the accommodations, 1 night at the home stay, 1 guide, 2 porters carrying all the food and camping gear, national park entrance fee, and of course all your meals for the trek.
Day 1 is a 6am wake up to get a bite to eat at the home stay, finalize your packing and drive to the trailhead, about an hour. We began hiking around 8:30am. What we did not read about prior was that day 1 would be mostly a battle with the heavy heat and humidity. For more than half of the first day, which is roughly 10 kilometers, you are walking in an open prairie type of landscape with limited cover from the sun. Prepare for that with proper sun protection.
Along the way the national park service has set up “position posts.” This worked well for us as we typically like to segment our hikes like this anyway. These are mostly just man made resting areas with shade. Position 2 is where you will stop for a while and have your lunch prepared by the porters who remarkably hike much faster than you with much more gear (and in flip flops!!). We were pleasantly surprised at the quality of the food throughout the trip. There is definitely more than enough to eat in order to keep your energy up for the duration of the trek. We would recommend to not over do it, because the heat with a full stomach could lead to some unpleasantness on the trails.
After lunch is when the trail starts to climb and you get your legs working as you ascend quickly to the crater rim, which is also your campsite for the night. This is a pretty strenuous climb so be prepared to take some breaks and stay hydrated. Hopefully, the afternoon clouds will roll in to help with the heat and give your skin a break from the sun. Our team was the first to arrive that day and we got there a little before 3pm.
The rim area is very cool to hang out at and enjoy the last couple hours of sunlight. When we first arrived we could not see the lake within the crater due to cloud cover, but as the air cooled and the sun dipped lower the clouds cleared and the lake revealed itself along with a 2nd smaller volcano that is growing within the main crater. One thing that should be mentioned is the monkeys at the campsite. They are ever present, hungry and aggressively going for your food and packs. In our time there we saw one take a bag of rice, a bottle of seasoning sauce and a cup of tea! Our porters and guide prepared another great dinner for us and we ate it while watching sunset over the western part of the island. The first day ended with us lying in our tent with our heads poking out looking for shooting stars and enjoying some cooler temperatures (roughly 10 Celsius or 42 Fahrenheit).
There is an option to make the trek to the crater rim the max you will go. We chose to wake up at 2am on day 2 and make the 3 hour journey to the summit for sunrise. We woke up to hot tea or coffee from the ever working porters and shook off the cobwebs from such an early morning. This is a day that tested us physically and mentally. Because of the 2018 earthquake, much of the original trail is no longer available. The landslides created by the shaking loosened the gravel making the steep climb all the more difficult due to lack of footing and the tendency to slip with each step.
As you know if you have done any mountain summits, when you approach the peak the grade steepens and this is tough on its own with the added altitude. Add to that equation the frustration of slipping and knowing that you will have to take just that many more steps and it becomes a mental trick to stay focused on the goal! We tend to break things down to help us get passed these doubts. By telling yourself that you can do just 20, 10, 5 more steps eventually that adds up and you reach the top. Another added motivation is seeing the morning light appear in the eastern sky and pushing to get to the summit before the sun makes its first appearance. I am happy to say the Lianne and I were the first to the top that day and enjoyed a gorgeous sunrise in relative solitude.
After making the rounds with photos, congratulating fellow trekkers as they summit and enjoying the panoramic views of the entire island (this was unique in that we had never been to a place where we could see the ocean in the full 360 degrees surrounding us) we began the descent. For most of the way from the summit to the crater, you can use the loose gravel that was so frustrating on the way up as a way to slide back down on your feet. Almost skiing in parts. This leads to a few stops to clear out your shoes, but makes it easier on the knees and actually pretty fun.
Back at the campsite, the porters will have a pancake breakfast awaiting and more coffee and tea. After about an hour there, you begin the journey back down to the trailhead. Having limited sleep and a pretty strenuous climb from early in the morning, the legs are weak. We took a gradual pace on the way down and again watched in awe as our porters flew passed us in order to beat us to position 2 and prepare lunch for us.
After lunch it is another 2 hours to get to the trailhead. This is mostly done on much more level ground and a bit easier on the exhausted legs. At this time, we think most people are anxious to be off their feet and finding a shower. We did the hike in late September and it was very dry. This lead to much dust all over us our clothes and our packs. Just accept that you will be dirty, stinky and sweaty. That next shower will be a great time to reflect on what you just accomplished!
We happen to love the mental and physical toll that these sorts of treks put on us and know it is not for everyone. Thinking about it more, it seems as though every time we do something like this the payoff of the views, the health benefits and the overcoming of doubts is what makes it so rewarding. We highly recommend anyone in the Lombok or Bali area take a few days and do this journey. Let us know if you have any more questions, we are happy to assist however we can.