Indonesia’s Mount Rinjani: my toughest volcano-climb yet – pt. 1.

Hi folks!

Though, as you know, I love my volcanoes, I’ve only investigated Indonesian ones just the once – at New Year 2018: my second further from the center experience (the first came two years earlier – New Year 2016: Kilimanjaro (Tanzania); the third – New Year 2019: Ecuador). Yet Indonesia boasts more volcanoes active since the year 1800 (and since 1950) than anywhere else in the world. Clearly I had some Indonesian-volcanism catch-up too do…

But it’s not just the great many volcanoes in Indonesia that are the attraction. There are also plenty of business prospects there (which we’re actively pursuing) + a great many historical objects + a great many beautiful natural must-sees: not just catch-up needed, but ASAP-catch-up at that!…

And that ASAP catch-up came in the form of a trek up to the top of the active volcano Mount Rinjani.

First – brief backgrounder:

  • Mount Rinjani is situated on the small Indonesian island of Lombok.
  • It’s one of the most beautiful and meditative-contemplative (for the viewer) volcanoes I’ve ever seen with my own two eyes – including from its highest peak:

  • It’s a biggie (relatively): its peak is 3726 meters above sea-level (which is just below Mount Fuji), and the diameter of its caldera is between 5.5 and eight kilometers!

  • There’s a large lake in the caldera, with the cone of a new volcano pushing up through it.
  • It’s the toughest volcano to climb I’ve ever known – and I’ve known a few! But more about that later…
  • Lombok, btw: let me guess – you’ve never heard of it? Well, that might be because it’s fourth in the pecking order in terms of size of Indonesian islands; the first three – Sumatra, Java (of coffee fame) and Bali are of course well-known; poor No. 4 – oof (gotta feel sorry for the remaining 17,000+ lesser isles:).

Ooh – that was brief, wasn’t it? Need more data? Check the Wikipedia link. See, I just can’t wait to get on to the tasty bits – like this (sneak preview from the top during a sunrise!)! ->

And here’s a sunset from the base camp:

No Photoshop folks – these colors are for real! ->

And here’s the scene at daybreak:

…By day ->

You know me – I like to take a helicopter where I can when it comes to volcano-ing; but here – no helicopter service (and I didn’t bring mine with us:)! Accordingly, it was – another! – long and winding trek up!…

But the long trek was worth it in the end – when we made it to the very top (where there happens to be… a convenience store!) ->

Just perfect for meditating, contemplating, taking stock, etc. )…

A lake – which is hot! – and a just-as-hot waterfall! ->

But did we dare take a full-periodic-table-dip? All will be told later on!…

Wild… somethings! ->

Now. Why were we here, of all places, and right after my Kenyan safari? I think I’ve mentioned this earlier, so here – briefly: we had a new press event I was speaking at in nearby Bali, and all work and no play makes Eugene a dull boy, so I simply added a volcano climb to the trip!

We flew via Doha and Bali:

At Bali’s Denpasar Airport we were amazed by this here grandiose construction we could hardly not notice on the horizon:

Turns out it’s the Hindu Garuda Wisnu Kencana statue, and it’s a whopping 122 meters tall!

A grandiose gateway you walk through to get to the bus to get you to the plane (and look what’s there on the horizon right in the middle)! ->

We happened to arrive on August 17, which happens to be Proclamation of Indonesian Independence Day, which meant traffic jams (not just from traffic but pedestrians all over the road too!). Boo.

Check this: it’s normally… a traffic circle (roundabout). Today it’s like a packed stadium! ->

… Wish we were on mopeds: they zip through the crowds in no time at all! ->

Advice: don’t drive a car in Indonesia on Independence Day.

We finally make it to our destination that evening, before setting off on our trek the following day. Here’s our hotel room: our last civilized overnight stay for the next four (very hot) days. Later things weren’t just uncivilized and uncomfortable but real tough. But more on that later…

That evening – we peered over at where we’d be heading the next day ->

Indonesia in August – it’s hot: around 30°С practically all the time. Ideally, we’d be up at 3am to avoid at least some of the day’s heat, but, alas, that doesn’t work around here. In the end we headed out at a tardy 8am, but had to pass a medical check-up first = more delays.

Yes – that is a large garlic statue! ->

Here we are at the volcano’s territory gates, raring to go!…

On the map, the walk up the volcano looked like a walk in the park! ->

The going started off rather easy – despite the intense heat and humidity. We were dropped off (out of a car) at 1150 meters, and had to make ~2650 that day: no short distance along the vertical, but the path was good, so the going was good. Oh, and we were large-rucksack-free: each of us (6 pax) had a porter each doing all the heavy lifting…

Shelter from the sun in a forest made the going that bit easier…

…Another open stretch:

Perhaps surprisingly, more irritating than the heat and humidity were the mopeds racing past us all the time carrying tourists’ kit: specifically, their noise, exhaust smell, plus all the dust they kicked up; grrr.

Our first stop “POS” (point of stop):

Next, not long after POS-1 – POS-2, where we stopped for lunch:

Mercifully, the mopeds are only allowed passage up to this point; from here the porters have to go by foot:

After lunch, some beautiful views, while the going only got all the more intense – what with the gradient increase (volcanoes are like that:) ->

Clouds – not normally something I’m happy to see half-way up a mountain or volcano, but today was an exception: it kept the sun’s rays at bay:

POS-3. More spartan than the first two:

Convenience store! ->


From here on in up, the slope was steep, and underfoot there was often loose rubble – and pesky tree stumps. Breather-stops became all the more frequent…

Here’s our route:

Here we are at the base camp (on the edge of the volcano’s crater) – where we stayed the first night:

Quite busy up here:

Backpacks off:

Here’s AI with one of our guides, who goes by the name of “One”! I think you can guess who’s who ) ->

That evening at the base camp we saw a sensational sunset:

The views all around – fantastic:

A wind blew up and all these white clouds started to… dance! ->

Like this:

The dancing carried on past nightfall! ->

The following morning – that’s… at 2am! – we were to be heading up there ->

From the base camp, one might think that the peak up there is the peak of Rinjani itself – but it isn’t. No, today, ahead lay a kilometer rise in altitude – without a footpath. It was going to be tough…

And it was tough; actually, it was the toughest volcano climb I’ve ever known – and I’ve known quite a few. But you wouldn’t think it were tough after reading all about it beforehand. Everywhere on the internet you’re told how easy it is. Accordingly, I went in sneakers – not trekking boots, plus I took with me not the fittest of fellow travelers – since, after all, it was “going to be easy”. So I was expecting good paths practically all the way – not steep slopes covered in rubble!

My two treks up Mount Fuji were tough; my clamber up Atsonupuri in the Kurils was too. But all three of those were single-day affairs. This was 3.5 days – and mostly tough all the way. Still, we made it – miraculously without injury, just lots of aching muscles.

No matter the difficulty – still OMG-beautiful all around:

The caldera at dawn, with a smaller volcano in the background (on Bali) ->

This is the advertised “path”! ->

What made things worse was the fact we were already 3000+ meters above sea-level, so we had to take it easy since there was so little oxygen. But we couldn’t go too slow either as the rubble would fall away under our feet (between a rocks and a hard rocks!). You have to take around 20 quickish steps, then pause to catch your breath, and the cycle starts over. NIGHTMARE.

Still, like I say, we did finally make it. Here’s AI up at the top, understandably relieved and in good spirits:

Some other trekkers managed to get a mobile signal; once they did there was no ungluing them from their screens:

Signs litter the peak to be used for in selfies – but I didn’t bother with one…

The side-crater – also a beaut:

In fact – everything around here: simply fantastic! ->

More side-craters ->

And over there – the base camp where our tents were already up:

Here’s the hellish ridge we rubble-struggled up! ->

Bali’s volcanoes:

We still had the opposing wall to come ->

And they reckon all that can be done in three days? Maybe by athletes. Not office plankton!

The super sunsets helped take the edges off our over-exertion:

Here’s AI again – still smiling ) ->

Midori Kuma also here, albeit mini-me Midori:

One last look at the spectacular views…

…Including of the cone of the new volcano in the caldera:

…Which was smoking:

And then we were heading down to the base camp…

Part two – coming soon!…

The rest of the pics from Rinjani are here.

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