The Mount Rinjani National Park AUthority has closed the Gunung Rinjani volcano to trekking, effective from 10 January 2014. All tourist gateways to Mount Rinjani - including Sembalun, Senaru, Torean, and Timbanuh - are now officially closed.

The Authority normally closes Lombok's famous tourist attraction to trekking around this time every year to protect tourist from risks caused by bad weather during the monsoon season.

Areas on the volcano are prone to landslides after heavy rains and the steep tracks become too slippery for  climbing. Lake Segara Anak often fills to over - capacity, endangering trekkers who cross the river on the edge of the lake, and landslides make the climb to and from the crater rim dangerous.

In addition, strong winds often make trekking perilous. Falling branches can block paths and winds can become so strong, they can literally blow a person off the ridge, particularly on the path to the summit of the volcano.

Lombok and Bali were hit by stroms bringing strong winds and torrential rains in late December, raising concerns for those still attempting to climb the volcano. For three days, it was impossible to reach the lake because of landslides.

Although weather conditions in Lombok are currently good, things can change very quickly on the mountain and those who ignore the rules risk their lives attempting to climb in the off-season.

Closing Mt. Rinjani each year is important to allow the mountain environment to regerenerate. It also allows the Park Authority to assess conditions on the trek and carry out repairs to public facilities along the trekking routes.

During this time, porters and trek guides living on communities around the mountain will also help to clean up rubbish left by trekkers on the mountain.

Head of the Mount Rinjani National Park (TNGR) Authority, Agus Budiono, said that during the closure, TNGR would work to improve trekking facilities, including installing handrails and direction signposts along the climbing paths both on the Senaru track in the north and the Sembalun track in the east.

The Mt. Rinjani trekking season will open again from 1 April 2014.

Source : The Lombok Guide, Magazine Version edition 159.

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