Went to Lombok specifically to climb Mt Rinjani in May within 3 weeks of coming up with the idea. We made sure we arrived the day before the trek and had an extra days rest in Lombok after we came back down. We booked through the internet and took a chance since we were told that we only had to pay on arrival in Lombok after we have been picked up. It turned out to be a lovely surprise as everything was well coordinated. There were 3 of us and we had 1 guide and 3 porters. We had an extra porter at USD11.00 per day to carry our excess stuff.
As it goes, however you plan, something is bound not to go as planned. Flight into Lombok from Surabaya was delayed and we arrived just past midnight, which gave us only a few hours of sleep. try to get into Lombok at least a day before so that you get enough rest.
It was a 6 am start from Senggigi beach area where we were put up. Senggigi beach area is around 15-20 minutes from the airport, which makes it very convenient. It was a 3 hour drive to our starting point in Semabalun Lawang. There are 2 main routes, one from here and the other from Senaru. We were recomended to start off at Sembalun since our main aim was to do the summit of Rinjani. If one started from Senaru, it would take a couple of days before you make the final ascent. Whereas from Sembalun, you can go to the summit the very next morning while you are still fresh.
Our van ride to Sembalun was in itself fascinating. It was Sunday and at 6 am in the morning, the whole town area as we left Senggigi was full of youngsters walking and jogging, some barefooted. Apparently, this was a social thing on Sundays. Thereafter we passed paddy fields and villageswhere many still rely on horse carts for transportation.
The start of the trek is at the Sembalun Lawang village and our travel agent had sorted out particulars and registered with the Centre. Off we went, initially past houses, then through garlic and onion fields (garlic and onions are their main crop apparently), then it was through some patches of tropical woods. Thereafter, it was rolling hills and tall grassland and old volcanic flow rivers. The most notable thing was that there was almost nobody except us and our guides and the porters. We later learnt that there were only 18 people (llike us) that day doing the trek from Sembalun.
There will lots of maps and guides on the internet telling you that it would take about 7 - 7 1/2 hours from the village to reach the campsite (Plawangan 2) at the crater rim. Well, beware. I don't think they include the lunch break and photo stops. There are 3 stops along the way on the first days trek before you reach your destination for the day. The porters (also our cooks) surged ahead and had the fire ready and meal cooking before we arrived at the third hut before the serious upward trek for the day.
The last bit after the third hut was the challenging part. The whole climb in fact needs no technical climbing skills - just endurance and lots of determination.
At the campsite on the rim, tents were set up before we arrived and the porters started pumping the airbeds. The toilet was a hole dug in the ground with a makeshift boxed cloth enclosure.
One could see the crater lake from this pre-summit camp site. After our meal, it was off to bed early to wake up for a 2.30 start the next day.
We were woken up at 2 am and tea and biscuits were promptly made available to us. The final ascent can be divided into 3 parts and a headlamp is essential. During the first part, it was a steep climb and at some points, hands were needed to pull yourself up. However, nothing too serious. After about an hour came the easy bit of walking up gradually along the rim for another hour. Before the trip, I was a bit concerned because of a fear of heights. There are some narrow ridges but safe enough not to bother me. It was quite a safe trek.
The last bit was the toughest. save your last ounce of energy for this bit. We were told that you can take up to 3 steps to achieve one step at times. You won't really know until you try! We are in our mid forties but otherwise in ok condition. Yet, it did take quite a bit out of us. This bit is where many give up.
If you do not get up to the summit before the sun starts to rise, ttake a look to your right and you will see the crater lake and the famous shadow of Rinjani. We took a longer time because of photo stops. This last bit is made out of loose sand and stones.
The view from the summit was glorious. I know, most summits of mountains are spectacular when you look down. Rinjani is spectacular in its own way. The Rinjani shadow, the sight of Mt Agung in Bali, the sight of the entire crater lake and within it, the multicoloured new volcano of Gunung Baru (meaning 'new' mounttain). Our guide then promptly took out our snacks of apples and oranges for us.
Photos, photos and lots of photos and it was time to go down. It takes about 2 1/2 hours to get back down to the pre summit camp site. Basically it was sliding down most of the way and you wouldn't want to walk behind as the front man and the wind kicks up the dust all over you.
Back at camp, breakfast in the form of fruit a platter and triple decker sandwiches and tea was ready. Book with an agent and everything runs clockwork. The guide and porters were friendly and knew exactly what and when to do things.
We stayed another day at the pre summit camp and went down the same way to Sembalun. We were told that the trek down to the crater lake is also worth doing but we left that for the next trip.
Tips: Bring a headlamp and an extra set of dry clothing for the nights. Tempretures can go down to zero as it did on the second night with strong winds. It felt as if someone was trying to pull off our tents. The sleeping bags did not help - still had to a few layers of clothing with thermals (maybe its because I am from the tropics). August is the high season but it is also the hottest. It can get a bit too hot on the trek at lower levels. Sunblock is essential since there are many exposed unsheltered stretches, especially at the grasslands; Wind proof clothing is also essential. Strong footwear is essential although the porters wear only slippers. Stay warm and take your time.
It was a glorious trek. Quite safe if you take the necessary precautions and take no risks. We were told by our guide that there are many who have died of exposure and even blown off the ridges at/near the summit. You will appreciate why when you are actually there. But again, it is safe. Your guide will see to that.
If at all there is only one thing to do in Lombok, this sure beats lazing around in the beaches. Do it!