Sunset from camp on Mount Rinjani

Trekking Rinjani Day 2: Turned Back By the Elements


Rinjani Trekking Map

It was a night filled with dread. Wind ripped at our tent, whistled through the trees and howled like a freight train. Dirt and volcanic ash swirled around in the tent. I wiped a finger across my face and realized I had a layer of grime on my face. I couldn’t sleep, worrying about waking up at 1am and hiking through the dark, the wind and up the steep slopes to the to summit of Mt. Rinjani.

[Note: This is Part 2 of a 3 part series of our hike up Mt. Rinjani. To read part 1, click here]

When the 1am wake up call to hike to the summit arrived, I decided to stay in the tent. I’m a grown up; I do what I want. When I woke up that morning and saw Dave who had just returned from the hike, I was very glad that I didn’t go. I’d never seen anyone so completely exhausted.

“That was the single most difficult thing I’ve ever done in my life,” whispered Dave. He was shattered, demoralized. “It was like walking in a sand box, uphill, into a hurricane,” he said. He was having difficulty breathing from inhaling so much volcanic ash and his camera wasn’t working correctly since it was clogged with sand. Ellen was in the tent, comatose.

Dave and Ellen didn’t quite make it to the top. They saw a hiker nearly get blown off the mountain on a narrow ridge. Not only would he have died, they said, but the body never would have been recovered. At seeing this, they retreated.

Trekking to Rinjani LakeAs we were eating breakfast, Sarah returned. “That was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life!” the cheeriness in her voice belied her words. She took off her shoe held it upside down and as if by magic a never ending stream of sand poured out. Then she cleaned herself off with 70 wet wipes, looking showered and clean afterwards.

As the hikers returned some were glad they went, others like Dave and Ellen wished they’d have stayed in their tents. But one thing they all agreed on: they wouldn’t have done it in the light. Hiking up the knife edges in the dark and the howling wind, they didn’t know how precarious it was. One misstep would have led to death in spots and they were glad they couldn’t see or they may have turned back sooner.

After hearing everyone’s accounts, I was very happy that I was sleeping in my tent while they were all suffering. I felt no regrets.

After breakfast, we hiked down switchbacks to the cerulean lake. This time, there was shade and we were going downhill, so I wasn’t sweating freely. It was a stunning section of trail, with changing views of a deep gorge and the crater lake. At one point we came to an overlook and Dave said, “So we get to the lake and then follow that trail down the valley, right?”

“No,” Kristi and I said in unison. “We hike up those cliffs on the other side and stay the night on the crater rim.” We pointed off in the distance to a seemingly sheer wall of rock rising majestically into the sky.

“Whhhhyyyyyyyy?” Dave said with a sad whimper and a pout on his face.

Hot Springs on Rinjani

Hot Springs near the crater lake on Rinjani

After a couple of hours we made it to the beautiful lake and took a soak in the hot springs. Initially, I was horrified when we saw an area covered with litter, garbage, make shift huts and a scattering of locals doing laundry. But we hiked down stream a bit and came to a beautiful hot spring pool fed by a waterfall and enjoyed it all to ourselves. I washed away a day and a half of sweat, dirt, grime, sun screen, suffering and tears. It was pure bliss.

At this time we noticed something a bit alarming: the trail we’d just descended and the entire side of the mountain where we camped the night before was suddenly smoking, engulfed in a forest fire. Our guide seemed completely unbothered by it, but as we watched the fire grow and spread up the mountain, we were concerned. It was the end of the dry season and Lombok was a tinderbox. We were somewhat concerned for ourselves, but more concerned for any hikers on the trail. We were worried for Jakarta who might still be hiking down the mountain. We also assumed Jakarta might have started the fire after discarding one of his many cigarettes.

We ate lunch at the lake and watched a few local fishermen casting lines as smoke filled the caldera. We started to encounter hikers who were turned back by the flames. “The entire trail is on fire,” said one guy. “The flames were three meters high!”

After a long rest at the lake, we hiked up the side of steep volcanic cone, up the cliffs that made Dave say whhhhyyyyyyyy? This turned out to be my favorite section. The trail was very steep and required some scrambling. I had to use my hands, feet and brain to get up many sections of trail. But, it was in the shade of tall pine trees and the afternoon clouds had rolled in. For the first time in Indonesia I wasn’t sweating profusely.

Atop the crater we enjoyed the best views of the hike although they were marred by the smoke. Unfortunately, it wasn’t possible to camp on the crater edge due to expected high winds. I was sad about this, and thought that maybe I’d hike back up to the spot for sunrise. A few hours later, I’d understand why camping on the rim would have been a terrible idea.

Rinjani trekking trail.

Kristi shows off after making it up a steep section of the trail on the 2nd part of day two.

Rinjani Crater

Rinjani Crater view obscured by the smoke from a wildfire.


Trekking Rinjani Day 1: A Day of Suffering

Trekking Rinjani Day 2: Turned Back By the Elements (You just read this one)

Trekking Rinjani Day 3: Beaches and Bingtang

Trekking Rinjani Tips and Advice



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Currently living in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. I travel, write, take photos, and stalk street cats. ~

31 thoughts on “Trekking Rinjani Day 2: Turned Back By the Elements”

  1. Such a good read… enjoyed reading this part 🙂

    Yea, sometimes being lazy also helps 🙂

    I could see from these images and your words, how hard this trekking could be …

    The first impression from part one was a relatively easy trek though 🙂

    • I am glad that people can tell how hard it is. Maybe I will inspire more people to stay on the beach 🙂 As hard as it was, it was great fun!

      • I like hiking and never misses a chance to explore the western ghat range in South India.
        But till now, I haven’t got a chance to really test the high mountains of Himalaya.
        Hope, I’ll do it this year 🙂

      • We did a hike near Munnar through tea plantations and up to the top of a peak. It was breathtaking. I love that area.

        We haven’t decided where to go this year, but as I said in another comment with you, we are thinking of Nepal and India again. I really want to go to the Himalayas, but it also looks cold and challenging!

  2. I’ll bet the hot springs were a wonderful way to ease some of the muscle aches from the climb. Do the locals you saw live up there or do they trek their laundry up for washing? Either way – no thanks.

    • Laura, Good question about the locals. They don’t live up there, but I am not sure why they were going up there for various reasons. I do know the lake is sacred – although you may not notice this due to the litter. On a positive not though, we did meet many local kids who were part of a group picking up and carrying out litter.

  3. I know this sounds weird, but after reading this I actually miss Rinjani. The day we went to the summit I only went two third of the way to the top while James managed to go all the way up. We were lucky the wind befriended us that day, and I really enjoyed the quietude of the place where I sat while watching small dots scrambling over the seemingly precarious trail — the hikers seen from afar. Then after James returned from the summit he said “it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life.” It seems like everyone says that.

    Then we went down to the lake, had lunch by the lake, and went up the steep trail on the other side of the crater rim. Simply put, it was a brutal! Yet now I even can’t believe myself for thinking that I actually miss Rinjani and the adventure.

    Such a shame for the strong wind and bush fire when you were there!

    • Bama, I can see why you look back nostalgically at it. Although we suffered, it was fun and and the views were spectacular. The best part is coming in part 3 – getting a shower and beer afterwards was a major reward.

  4. What an exciting account of this hike. Really enjoyed reading this – don’t think I could have done the hike so thanks for taking me there. Look forward to the next instalment.

  5. You brought me right back there, Jeff! I could totally relate to Dan… after the summit ascent, going down to the crater lake and all the way back up to the other side was a painful experience. I ended up getting a massive blister on my foot that day. Bama and I missed out on the hot springs – we wanted to give ourselves more time to get to the second campsite.

    We were so, so lucky with the wind. It had dropped to zero that morning so we didn’t have to worry about flying ash or getting blown off the mountain. When we awoke the next day at Senaru Rim it was howling and whipping around our tent – I thought about all the unlucky people who were trying to summit in time for sunrise. You and Kristi made a wise decision.

    • James,

      Some people pitched their tents right on the craters edge on day 2, but I am positive that they had to move in the night. The wind was really howling. Your photos from the summit are stunning. I am a little sad that we didn’t make it, but I’d have been miserable.

  6. Jeff, was that a handrail in that bouldering shot? Above you mentioned maybe going to the Himalayas. In Nepal, from the burg of Pokara, you can find guides and porters and take any number of treks. Like the 15 miles to Everest base camp. Or a circuit of the Annapurnas. Or…there’s a lake where you can rent a boat, view the summits from a distance, and not hike at all.

    • Yes, there were some handrails but they were usually loose or had already fallen down. I made sure never to touch them.

      Trekking in Nepal is high on my list for this year’s travels. That one might take some convincing of my wife though because at least in Indonesia there was warm weather and beaches to escape to after the treks 🙂

      • Roger that. But if you were there, say a couple billion years ago, that whole area would have been beach. Tell Kristi you can relax in Pokara. It’s a lazy little town, warm, and the jumping off point for many treks.

  7. Girl Gone Expat says:

    For some strange reason reading your posts makes me want to do the hike! Crazy right? But – I would definitely make the same choice as you and sleep through the night instead of getting up 1am to catch the sunrise. I am not a happy camper if I don’t get my sleep:) Did I understand you correctly – do people go up there do do laundry in the hot springs? Seems like quite a walk for doing you laundry…? 🙂

    • For whatever reason, we are sometimes compelled to climb mountains so I can understand your desire to do it. It is fun at the time but even more fun looking back!

      Yes, there were people of up there at the springs and I think they were doing laundry and stuff. There was some tarps and makeshift huts there. The mountain is sacred and a pilgrimage site, plus there were people fishing up there, so there was a variety of activities. Also, the springs are not as hard to get to as the crater rim.

  8. Pingback: Trekking Rinjani Day 3: Beaches and Bintang | Planet Bell

  9. I made the exact same decision as you when my hubby and I hiked up Kota Kinabalu in Borneo. After spending the night soaking wet and freezing, there was no way, I was getting up to hike to the peak in the darkness. Hubby went, but got turned back before he reached the summit. Boy, am I glad, I didn’t go. Sometimes it pays to just say NO. 😉

    • Shelley, that is a total score for you. There is nothing better than skipping something only to find out that everyone else was miserable! 🙂

  10. Pingback: Trekking Rinjani Tips and Advice | Planet Bell

  11. Always a Foreigner says:

    Wow! I can’t get over the view from the crater, even obscured by the forest fire. That is really crazy that you were on the volcano when the fire happened. About to read part 3 and looking forward to seeing how the journey ends.

    • Rinjani is really incredible. The enormity and beauty of the crater really must be seen to appreciate. I’d like to do it again with better weather!

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