After accomplishing some single-day hikes over the past few years, we decided to take our outdoor experience to the next level. Cero Chato in Costa Rica, Tongariro in New Zealand, Imlil Toubkal in Morocco… Those treks were all great fun, but our wanderings never took us beyond 2.300 m. So why the heck, not get a few meters higher and clamber up the 3.726m high summit of Mount Rinjani in Lombok, Indonesia?
My Mount Rinjani Summit Climb
Being a bit under time pressure, we opted without hesitation for the 2 days – 1 night Rinjani Summit experience and booked the tour, after some research on the net, with Galangijo. Little did we know at the time of the booking that this was the most demanding route with an incline of 50% at times.
So the title of this post says it all, here’s the logbook of our Mount Rinjani trek:
DAY 1, 5.00 AM
We woke after a short night in Senaru at the beautiful Pondok Senaru Cottages. The monkeys got us out of bed at dawn sharp with their tumultuous frolicking on the roof of our cabin. As we drew the blinds, an overwhelming and lush scenery unfolded in front of us. We thought that it must be a good omen!
DAY 1 – 7.30 AM
After a hearty breakfast we were driven on the back of a pick-up van to Sembalun, where we had to register and pay the entrance fee. The fees are paid at the Rinjani Trek Center and cost 150.000 Rp per person.
DAY 1 – 8.00 AM
At last, we cheerfully set off, making our way through the savannah grasslands and fields towards the towering volcano.
The first part of Day 1 involved an easy hike through the high meadows with minor uphill sections. During this part of the walk we met a merry procession of other globetrotters from all around the world. Just like them, we were happily chatting our way up without any glimmer of what was coming next.
DAY 1 – 11.30 PM
We had a hefty lunch, prepared on the spot by our guide and porters, which was punctuated by my hysterical dodging of hissing, very toothy monkeys.
On treks I surprise myself repeatedly wishing, I was a guy (well, obviously for that particular reason). I really don’t want to make a fuss about it, but as I was looking down the huge hole were presumably the toilet had once stood, I would have loved if that wish had come true just this one time!
DAY 1, 12.30 PM
Eventually we broke camp and beat our path up to the crater rim.
This part of the trek was a total turnaround. The grassland disappeared and gave way to hazardous terrain and tough uphill. The happy trekkers we met before, became sporadic encounters during breath catching breaks and the desire for a lively chat was almost non-existent. The only thing close to a conversation at that time, was the silent swearing monologue in my head.
DAY 1, 3.00 PM
Hey, in the end we made it! We reached the crater rim all exhausted, drenched in sweat and caked with a thick layer of brown dust.
I have to admit that our uphill journey was a tad tainted by moments of doubts, which occasionally slipped toward despair, but on arrival at the rim I reassured myself: This trek surely couldn’t get any harder. Our guide, all smiles, congratulated us on the ascent and said that this minor uphill had warmed us up for the most difficult part of the trek tomorrow!
While we were clambering towards the rim, our tent had miraculously put itself together and was already waiting for us. Immediately I got inside, so I could wash off some of the dirt and change into clean, warmer clothes. This was the moment I silently capitulated: I had forgotten my towel and soap at the hotel.
DAY 1, 4.00 PM
Back in the open air and wrapped up in fleece, we discovered the crater rim. As the clouds separated, we got our first true glimpse of Mount Rinjani’s summit. That was also the first time we experienced second thoughts about the whole undertaking. Humble and respectful we sat with the other hikers, slurping our hot tea and staring wide-eyed at the peak towering over us!
The view of the Crater Lake, Segara Anak, was just mind-blowing. With every minute closer to sunset, the landscape took on a different shade of blue and slowly shifted to more purple tones.
In front of our tent, one photo session took place after the other and we were cheering joyously every time new people arrived at the camp… the euphoria of the moment, I guess!
DAY 1, 6.00 PM
Another hefty meal was served… like the others a very tasty mix of eggs, rice, chicken, fruit, chocolate bars and tea. I got the feeling they were really worried we lacked the strength and wouldn’t make it to the top the next day!
DAY 1, 7.00 PM
I was very tired and tried to go for a snooze, but I eventually dozed off 3 hours later. Nights at the crater rim are cold, short and uncomfortable. But to hell with it all, we were on a fabulous adventure!
DAY 2, 1.30 AM
We woke up with a minor commotion. The ruffling and shuffling outside the tent was followed by a gentle “Hellooo?” from our guide. It was time to wake up and plunge into the darkness of the night: the summit was waiting for us.
DAY 2, 2,15 AM
After our breakfast, an unexpected bowl of instant noodle soup, we turned on our frontal torches and tried to somehow progress on the ashen ground, silently following each other in a perfect obedient line. I wasn’t entirely awake yet and felt that the day before had been a demanding one for my legs.
DAY 2, 3.00 AM
Finally I was wide awake, standing at a height of 3.000 meters with the steep abyss on both sides, clutching to surrounding rocks for comfort and trying to catch my breath. Did I mention that I’m terrified of heights?
Our guide decided I wouldn’t make it to the summit in time for the sunrise (although we still had more than 2 hours until dawn). So he sent my husband up there alone, reassuring him he would take good care of me and continue climbing with me at slower rhythm.
I didn’t understand why he thought I couldn’t make it, since we were among the first batch of trekkers to reach the last section of the ascent.
DAY 2, 3.30 AM
I was still with my guide. We hadn’t moved in 30 minutes and other hikers were passing us by. My guide told me he was suffering from altitude sickness and that he couldn’t move on. He installed himself comfortably with the other guides (all of them bizarrely suffering of altitude sickness) and lit a cigarette.
DAY 2, 3.35 AM
I set off without my guide… I couldn’t miss the summit by all means.
DAY 2, 5.30 AM
During the past 2 hours, I’d had made my way through the rocky gravel. At some times I felt stiff and petrified due to the precipice next to me and at other times I experienced a momentum of self-motivation. But quite honestly, I would have felt safer if I hadn’t been alone. Progression was extremely slow and sometimes non-existent. For every big step I made ahead, I almost slid back down the same distance. Volcanic ashes and rocks are clearly not the best surface, for when you are in a hurry!
My ascent was cadenced by very short periods of movement that took a lot of energy from me, followed by breaks of a few minutes. In my defense, I have to say that I’m a sporty person, I run a lot and on a daily basis, I was just not used to the thin air at altitude!
Passersby were really helpful; they encouraged me and sometimes took me under their wings for a section of the climb.
DAY 2, 6.00 AM
The sun came out eventually! It flooded the dark surroundings with warm, golden light. What a sweet relief!
I was sitting 70 meters under the summit with a bunch of Indonesian guys. After filming the sunrise and joyously commenting the moment, we soon fell silent. The warm colours of the sun painted the landscape in various shades of red. Slowly a whole new landscape unfolded in front of us: a lunar like scene with a magnificent vista on the Crater Lake from up above and Gunung Baru puffing cosily away.
We were all sitting there, taking in every second of this spectacular outlook in a total silence packed with hope and unspoken wishes. This truly was the most beautiful scenery I’d ever seen. In the distance you could see Bali and the tall Mount Batur. On the other side were the Gili Islands calmly floating in the sea. A picture perfect moment!
I felt serene and very proud of myself that I’d made it to the top of Lombok, despite being afraid of heights and on my own. It had taken some strength of spirit to come that far.
Then again, I also discovered the full extend of our slog up and realised with a churn in my stomach that I had to make it down the exact same way.
DAY 2, 10.30 AM
We made it back to the camp. I met my husband shortly after the sunrise on our perilous way down. He was not very amused by our guide’s attitude who came to meet us as we were halfway down (apparently not suffering from altitude sickness anymore). As we were approaching the camp, I slipped and fell hard on my buttocks… I survived with a big fat bruise, but didn’t know it was the first of many falls to come.
Before heading down to Sembalun, we had breakfast AGAIN… needless to say, we were not hungry at all.
DAY 2, 4.00 PM
The way down was the worst! From the crater rim to Sembalun was in fact the hardest part of the trek.
The exhaustion due to our summit climb in the morning and the constant and very steep downhill were just tiring. I fell down quite often, until I finally resigned myself to slide down the dizzying hills on my backside, closely followed by our very concerned guide. We also wished all hikers on their way up lots of courage and good luck (they were so unaware of what was awaiting them).
The last 3 km were an ordeal. Our muscles were sore, our knee joints afire and our feet were crippled with blisters.
We arrived at Sembalun around 4.00 pm. Tears of joy filled my eyes when I got the first glimpse of our driver! Honestly, I’m not kidding here! From there on, I have a blurry memory of our drive back to Senaru. At some point the driver told me he really, really liked me… I was too tired to answer anything at all, so he gave up his flirtatious attempts quite quickly.
We ended our day at Senggigi beach, with a Balinese massage and a well deserved cocktail, silently watching and with a hint of relief the sun set on this exhausting day!
The majority of the pictures of this post were taken by my husband, who was less exhausted and had a steadier hand to catch the full beauty of the surroundings.