Asia Above the Frey

Gunung Rinjani Volcano: Lombok, Indonesia

Oct 4, 2001
Outside Magazine

Climbing Lombok's Gunung Rinjani offers the feel of a true expedition without the months of slogging through snow. Here you'll negotiate nothing more harrowing than thick mahogany and teak forests filled with creeping roots, impudent monkeys, and a cacophony of woodpeckers, yellow-crested cockatoos, and red-cheeked parrots. Maps and trails are fickle, so it's better to travel with a guide and porter. Not only will they deepen your cultural experience, but their sprightly maneuvers in flip-flops—while shouldering inhuman loads on bamboo poles—will prod your flagging resolve on the steepest sections.

At 12,224 feet, Rinjani stretches its shoulders nearly to the island's edge but doesn't require technical skill; both the Balinese and Sasaks frequently make pilgrimages here (especially during the full moon). The more demanding route to the top makes a good first ascent for iron-willed beginners while offering experienced mountaineers all the usual elements: a predawn traverse over an exposed ridge, a heartbreaking false summit, and the daunting final push.
The three-to-five-day climb is best done before the rains begin in November, in an open loop of roughly 25 miles between the villages of Senaru and Sembulan Lawang. Views of Indonesia's archipelago are matched by the stunning sight of the volcano's interior. A crescent lake surrounds a miniature volcano-within-a-volcano (Rinjani erupted harmlessly in 1994), and at its edge, a cathartic hot spring joins a cool freshwater stream. After the climb, you can recuperate on Lombok's quiet beaches or make the quick trip to Bali for some old-fashioned pampering at a high-end resort.

Accommodations in Senaru are homestays (pseudo hotels); youth hosts can arrange guides, porters, and transportation for about $50 per person. Try Rinjani Homestay, Pondok Senaru, or Bale Banyan Senaru (each about $5 per night). Neither village has telephones; make your arrangements with Perama Travel in Senggigi at 011.62.0370.693007.

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