Happy Friday everyone! Today I’m coming to you from the island of Lombok – only a hop skip and a jump west of Bali. Now, while I wish that I could have explored all over this beautiful and chilled out area, there was really only a single reason for me being here: to climb Mount Rinjani. I’ve included a preview of the 1st day of this trek below, but look for the journey in its entirety in the coming weeks!
I can’t really say why summiting an active volcano ended up being my numero uno item while on Lombok and honestly, doing something like this is completely unlike anything I would have done before. In fact, when I told people beforehand that this was something I had planned, they looked at me in one of two ways. Either, “Right, sure you are. Must be quite the ‘volcano’ then.” Or they would give a large smile with a look that said, “Good for you! It’ll be a real bummer when you fail to make it to the top, but at least you tried your hardest!”
So yeah, I was absolutely determined to make it to the top of Mount Rinjani, and I wasn’t deterred by the fact this would mean ascending 2,000+ meters up steep dusty mountains or through shin deep gravely sand. So I booked a 3 day/2 night trip and never looked back. Yikes.
Everything started out well enough, as most adventures do. The path was relatively flat, the vegetation vibrant, and the spirit of the group couldn’t have been higher. Above everything though, with its dull craggy peak poking through the clouds, loomed Mount Rinjani. We did our best not to look up and meet its ever-present gaze, but it was just about impossible to avoid. It didn’t matter how much ground we covered. It just sat there taunting us as if to say, “I’ll be seeing you soon enough.”
Before too long though, the mellow path that we had been enjoying began to steepen, completely disappearing into the clouds. It was also no longer a straight shot ahead, instead becoming a twisted and winding path of exhaustion. As if that wasn’t enough, all of the bright and beautiful terrain we had enjoyed slowly started to lose all color. Glancing up towards Mount Rinjani’s direction, we could feel its grip starting to tighten.
Just when the group was starting to fall into a good grove with this portion of the climb, the terrain once again transitioned. Still engulfed in clouds, the path got wider, dirtier, and uncomfortably steeper. The rocky and compacted ground we had been walking on became a thick layer of loose dirt that would kick up heavy dust anytime someone took a step. Clusters of tall scraggly trees were now almost completely bare and the grass had turned a sickly yellow.
The consistently thinning air could now be felt in full force. Every 20 steps or so I could feel my lungs gasping for oxygen only to get little relief from what they were pulling in. It was as if I was attempting to breath through a red and white striped bendy straw that had a small slit somewhere towards the middle. Again, Mount Rinjani looked down and continued to tighten its grip.
During a rest period right before the last leg of the day 1 trek, we sat there completely exhausted and drenched in dusty sweat. For the last few hours the group had just about fallen silent, prioritizing regulated breathing over all else. Being my subtle self, I just had to say something that had been burning in the back of my head for a good portion of the trek.
“Shit. And this is only the fist day…”
Everyone that was in earshot let out a faint chuckle and nodded. Yep, we still have 2 more action packed and blood draining days of this.
Not too much later, and after 8 total hours of hardcore hiking, we crested the final hill and saw our base camp for that night.
Tossing my backpack to the ground and collapsing right beside it, I sat there and just took in my surroundings. Yes, I knew we had only made it to the rim of Mount Rinjani so far. Yes, I knew we had to wake up at 2am the next morning to make our trip up to the summit before the sun arose to fry the group. And yes, this all scared the absolute shit out of me.
So I just sat there in complete silence, reflecting on the day and absorbing everything about that exact moment. It was all pretty amazing.
As the sun set and everyone began to head to their nice warm sleeping bags, I finally got up from my little cone of silence. Dusting myself off and stretching out my sore limbs, I said my goodnights to the crew and then began to head towards my tent. As I began to unzip the front flap, I couldn’t help but notice the large shadowy figure quietly looming overhead. It was Mount Rinjani. I stared at it for a good long while – analyzing, anticipating, trying to get some sort of read on it. But I got nothing in return. I crawled into my 0 degree rated sleeping bag and, before passing out from extreme exhaustion, I said something out loud that only the two of us could hear.
“Suck it Rinjani.”