Trekking Rinjani Day 2: The longest day

This entry is part of my Rinjani Trek Journal. Click here see my pre-trip planning FAQ and Day 1 report.

Sembalun Crater Rim – Summit – Segara Anak – Senaru Crater Rim (16.5km)

The day began at 0200 hrs – reveille, breakfast with bread and tea, a trip to the toilet and we began our crawl up the summit.

Our trek began ominously: people were coming down, legs cramped, breathing hard, apparently having given up at the first rise. As we began, Dede took the lead; Pahe made up the rear.

The 1000+ metres of elevation can be broken down into three clear sections:

  • A steep initial slope flanked with trees and rocks, strewn with hard gravel and sand
  • A stretch of flat but narrow ground along a ridge, for easy walking
  • A tough slope to the summit, steep with nothing but volcanic sand

The first slope was a killer. In the cold morning, forced to follow in a line with other climbers, we took almost an hour to finish this part. We did a lot of grappling. Because of my height, I had to throw myself over rocks and take steps bigger than my height.

We took several water and snack breaks, but we were on schedule for hitting the summit before sunrise (at around 0615 hrs).

By the flat stretch, our group had split into three: Dede and Tapas ahead, us and Maraj following, and everyone else behind. The combined suffering made me very talkative. Soon we were being paced by a Finnish guy who had lost his group and a bunch of Malaysians.

The flat stretch is easy. However, there’s a drop-off on both sides, and a slip could’ve sent us down the mountain.

When the gradient increased, we knew we were heading into the toughest part of the entire trek.

The difficult climb on Rinjani
The killer final 1 km up to Puncak Rinjani (the summit)

I’m not joking – the final push is tough. All the stories I heard were true. Take three steps up, sink and fall back two. Add the wind, the ash flying down into my face from other climbers and the gradient (at least 45 degrees), and we were exhausted within minutes.

Hiking poles give some grip, but not much. My nose began to run. Joseph fell back to rest. We had to rest every 10 minutes, out of breath.

This was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. There were many moments when I wanted to give up.

But there was no way down. So I paced Jiahao, keeping him in sight.

I reached some rocks near the summit, and decided to clamber over than around them. And stumbled onto the summit just as dawn was breaking.

Later, I learnt I was the third to reach the summit – after Tapas and Jiahao. Everyone behind me missed the sunrise.

It was terribly cold. Still, the view was great: Gili Islands like pancakes, and the pyramid-shaped bulge of Mount Agung in Bali above the clouds and the dark mass below that was the crater. Dede distributed snacks. We broke out our cold weather gear. I was shaking so much I could take photos properly.

Puncak Rinjani
Just in time for the sunrise
Crater lake panorama
Rinjani’s crater lake & Gunung Barujari in its full glory (plus Joseph’s head)
By the edge
Sitting by the edge, with Gunung Agung in Bali in the distance

And then, after 30 minutes, we made our way down. It took us about 2 hours to get down, stopping to take awesome perching-by-the-ledge photos of the crater lake. When we reached our camp at the crater rim, we were told we needed to wait for everyone to return. So we had lunch, repacked and talked in front the best view in the world.

Down and up again 

I’ve mentioned before that you’re only as fast as the slowest member in your group. The summit climb took a lot of out from us. The last our group arrived back at 1100 hrs with Pahe – two hours behind schedule.

There was some discussion among the guides and porters about cutting our trip short by just going down the crater lake then returning to Sembalun Lawang (skipping the other side of the rim). This was made complicated because Maraj and Tapas had a flight to Bali to catch on day three. I understand it’s also very risky to be climbing the sides of the crater rim in the dark.

(This is where I realised the unassuming porters had a lot of say in the trip. The guides knew we were fit enough to go down and up before sunset, but neither were willing to make a decision without asking the porters. When the porters said ok, the guides stuck to the original itinerary).

We broke camp under 30 minutes, and the ‘helicopter group’ of Maraj, Tapas, Dede and us set out. We made some hard-won progress down the rocky path from the rim to the lake. We all fell at least twice due to the huge amount of scree.

It took us two hours to reach the crater lake. We did a detour to some hot springs and had lunch across from Gunung Barujari, the little cone within the lake.

By the Lake
Trekking along the water’s edge at Segara Anak Lake

The trek up to the Senaru Crater rim took another 2 hours. This stretch isn’t as difficult as the summit, but the terrain is treacherous. Narrow paths filled with rocks and sharp climbs. There are railings which have long rusted and are loose. Following Dede’s pace, we passed several groups (including some Singaporeans), and made it to the rim at sunset.

We settled in for a restful night, with our heads sore from watching the stars.

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