Conquering Mount Rinjani

On the top of Andrew’s “must do” list on our journey through South-East Asia, is a hike to the peak of a volcano.  With Indonesia being home to some of the most spectacular volcanic hikes, it seems like the perfect place to check this off the list.  With three days of on and off rain in Ubud, Bali, climbing Mount Agung Bali’s highest peak is out of the question.  That leaves us Mount Rinjani on the island of Lombok, with a 3 day 2 night journey to the peak of the volcano.

I have done several day hikes in the beautiful Rocky Mountains in British Columbia, but with 3 days of hiking ahead I’m not sure what I’ve gotten myself into.  We do have porters and a guide who will be doing most of the heavy lifting, so I figure, how bad could it be? These guys are in flip-flops chain smoking to the top, carrying 30 lbs of weight on their backs.  I have never been so wrong.

Mount Rinjani, Indonesia
Still smiling at the end of day one

If you do not absolutely love hiking, and have not attempted a several day summit before, than this is not the hike for you.  Turn back while you still can.  Most of the people, we found out later, opt for the 2 day, 1 night version of this trip, which takes in a spectacular view of the crater lake and peak of the mountain, and then turn back.  Many more who book the 2 night, 3 day option turn back after the first day, realizing they have gotten in over their heads.

The first day isn’t too bad. It’s an early start with a 5 am pick up with a two hour drive to your launching point.  From there you grab some breakfast, meet up with your porter and guide and get hiking.  The journey is broken up into 4 rest stops, each a few kilometres apart, with a 500 meter altitude gain between them.  Day 1 takes you from 600 meters to 2000 plus meters at a beautiful campsite overlooking the crater lake and smaller volcano below.  As the sun sets, the temperature plummets, and before you know it, you will wish for some of that heat that you complained about all day to return.  Even with all the hiking and camping I have done in Canada, I have never been this cold.  It was all we could do to shiver in our tents and pray for sleep to get us through until morning.

Camping on Mount Rinjani
Campsite Day 1

Day 2 is where things really start to fall apart.  Here you hike down over 600 meters to the lake and hot springs below down an extremely steep incline.  The hot springs were amazing, and the only chance on this trip to clean up at all, but it only meant that we had to hike all the way back up again, and over to the other side of the mountain.  The second night isn’t as cold as the first as I  still have feeling in my fingers and toes.

Mountain Rinjani Hotsprings
Relaxing in the Hotsprings

Day 3 – attempting the summit.  If you are attempting the summit on your last day, your journey begins at 2 am in the morning.  By this point in the trip,

I knew I was barely holding it together and decided to opt out of the summit attempt, with 6 hours of hiking ahead of me to get back to town.  Andrew and our other hiking mate, Philipp, were the only two to make it to the top to catch sunrise.  I guess I didn’t have to feel so bad after all.  The 6 hour hike down the other side of the mountain would have been a moderate hike, if only my legs weren’t on fire and burning with every step that I took.  It was all I could do to slowly put one foot in front of the other to keep going.  With the help of Andrew carrying my day bag and the guide practically dragging me down the mountain, we finally made it back in one piece.  An hour later by car and we are back where we started.

Mount Rinjani Sunrise
Sunrise at the summit

Overall, the views were spectacular, and we were blessed with good weather.  If the forecast says rain, do not attempt this hike.  The meals that the porters prepared were excellent, given that they were cooking up in the middle of nowhere with limited supplies.  And while I am proud to say I have completed a 3 day hike, I will not be repeating this journey any time in the near future.

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