Climbing Mount Rinjani: 8 Simple Things My Friend Did Not Tell Me

If you have read my earlier post Climbing Mount Rinjani: A Test Of Will, you would notice I curse and swore at the gravity of the summit up Mount Rinjani. Laughing off my poor attempts of denouncing him, the friend who encouraged me to climb Mount Rinjani protested that had he told me how tough it was, I might have changed my mind. Well, yes, but please manage my expectations better next time!

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Mount Rinjani (3,726m), Lombok, Indonesia

Now my climbing buddy Pow and I have been on treks, lots of them and really awesome ones too. But our collective experience did not prepare us sufficiently for the Mount Rinjani summit attack. So here’s the 8 things my friend should have told me before I went:

1.     When someone tells you climbing Mount Rinjani is a “little tough”, multiply that by ten times. Do not underestimate the days you spend trekking out to base camp at Plawangan Sembalun and the lack of proper sleep before you are woken up at 1.00am or 2.00am on summit day to start climbing again. You will be starting out from a position of fatigue and in darkness, and the ascent will be gruelling. Do also pack some energy bars and isotonic drinks, as you are more than likely to have skipped your breakfast snack at that wee hour.

2.     Yes, it can get very cold (2C) at the campsite and at the summit. It ain’t the tropics when you’re that high. Some trekkers head out as early as 1.00am to make sure they catch the sunrise. They would only be met by the freezing cold winds at the summit if they arrive too early. Make sure you bring proper fleece and woolen activewear to layer up. If possible, wear a windproof jacket and gloves. You can shed your layers as you climb and descent. Your guide will usually be prepared to carry them for you.

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The struggle is real.

3.    Try to bring two trekking poles or sticks. They will be of great assistance as you attempt to manage the loose rocks on steep slopes. They are also great for leaning on when you are tired. The struggle is real.

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Almost there!

4.     Wear proper shoes with grip. You may want to wear mid-to-high calf ones with long hiking socks to prevent pebbles, rocks and dirt from getting in. I wore only my low-cut Salomon Speedcross with long hiking socks. I survived but uncomfortably at times.

5.    Go with the flow on your descent. The more you try to slow yourself down on the decline, the more pressure you place on your knees. I found that “skiing” down helps even if it kicks up a lot of dirt and dust.

6.    Bring a face mask. So what if you look like some precious princess or very unsociable, they will help keep your face warm and the dirt out. And whilst you’re at it, don’t forget to pack sunscreen too, as the sun will be at its height on your way down.

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Don’t let the monkeys taunt you too!

7.     Go with a reputable trekking company who actually cares about the environment and the cleanliness of campsites, and abides by the “what you take in, you take out” rule. I went with Adi Trekker, whose porters and guide proved excellent at their work, keeping very much to themselves and caring-sharing when necessary, not to mention the great cooking which was the envy of other campers dubbing our tents the “gourmet camp”. We all need a little bit of love after all that hard work!

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Just a simple burger with fries and sliced fruits on the side. Nasi goreng coming up!

8.      Bring a positive mindset as you climb. It will be your greatest ally. A lot of climbers turn back to the camp due to altitude sickness or injuries, as should be done. I faced neither of these, and still the mountain taunted me to retreat many times. Rinjani will test your endurance, but mostly your will.

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Colourful Rinjani National Park