The Perilous Summit of Mount Rinjani – Part 1

From 600m to 3726m in less than 48 hours. It was going to be one of the most challenging feats I had ever encountered. Welcome to Mount Rinjani, Indonesia!

As I sat at the bar talking to a random guy in Gili Trawangan about trekking around the area and told him that I was going to hike Mount Rinjani he enlightens me that it is one hell of a tough trek. Forget the Annapurna Circuit and Everest Basecamp in Nepal, forget the tallest mountain in the region Kinabalu, Rinjani is way tougher. It is purely brutal. And so I started quaking in my pants worried about whether or not this is actually achievable. But the money was paid up and we were leaving in the morning so I was going to give it a decent go.

7am we headed down to the boat docks to try and find our boat. Confused about where we were supposed to be going, we eventually found our travel agent, Andy and he has shuffled us onto the local boat over to Bangsal. I sat at the end of the boat with my friend on one side and a local man asleep on my other shoulder for some unknown reason and we sailed on. As the only white people on the boat we were an easy spot for the men down the beach calling to us “Danni and Beccy!! Danni and Beccy!!” They helped us into a horse drawn carriage where we were taken to our breakfast point for our first meal of the day.

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Off down the road in our horse drawn cart

From here it was two hours in a car driving to Senaru to begin the hike. We madly threw things into our bag so that we could get started with our porter as the rest of the group we were with had already begun walking two hours before us.

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The entrance gate to the Mount Rinjani trek

As I started up the hill, it was brutally hot and quite steep. I remember thinking to myself in that first hour, if this is what the easy part is like, then kill me now because I will never make it. I was ready to throw in the towel, but at the same time I figured my body would become accustomed to it eventually and all I had to do was keep walking and to push through it. During the second hour I was really starting to feel the effects of not having had enough to eat before I started to hike and I am saying to my porter who doesn’t speak English the only thing I remembered in Indonesian from my market visit that I knew he had. “Pisang? Pisang? Terima Kasih!?” I said to him and he shook his head at me knowingly and pulled out a couple of bananas for me to eat. I sighed relief and kept walking.

Further relief came in the form of the torrential downpour of the wet season that could be trusted to begin at approximately 1pm every day. As the rain started teaming down, the trail became a river bed to walk up and the weather cooled down to the point where walking at this incline became more manageable for me. On the downside, my boots and a lot of what I owned had gotten wet, but that was bound to happen at some point anyway.

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One of the rest spots on the way up

Along the way we stopped at the rest points Pos I and Pos II and met some really cool people who imparted advice and gave us left over cookies that were to be pivotal to my quest later. Eventually we made it to the lunch spot and the rest of our group and munched down on some well needed and deserved noodles. And then it was time to continue. At the lunch spot we’re at 1500m above sea level. We started at 600m, we were camping at approximately 2400m, so we were about half way up in the incline stakes. And so the plodding, one foot after another kept on, and I kept on even though I was well further back from the group than the others due to my breathing limitations.

Eventually we made it to the camping place for the first night. The porters had set up our tents in a line across the hill and we all got our drenched clothes off and attempted to get warm. My bag had gotten wet around the sides of my pack cover and my pyjamas had gotten wet also so I took to sleeping in a pair of rain pants…. funny I know considering I probably should have worn them in the rain. Dinner was quickly scoffed down and everybody retired to bed exhausted after a massive first day.

 

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Tents in a line along the hill

The next day was to offer a bit of relief in the form of downhill, for which I was excited. We were told that it was to be a pretty hairy ordeal though with very slippery and steep rock faces. We weren’t to be disappointed.

The day started with a 200m climb straight up from our camping spot to the crater rim where we glimpsed our first view over the incredible crater lake with Gunung Baru in the centre chuffing hot smoke.

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My first glimpse of Gunung Baru in the centre of the Mount Rinjani crater lake

From here it was down into the crater to the edge of the lake over the aforementioned steep and rocky track before arriving at the bottom. I took my shoes off and had a bit of a paddle in the lake to cool down the feet before we moved on to our lunch spot and on to swimming in the hot springs. The hot springs were the most amazingly warm hot bath at that time ever and a Godsend for sore muscles. We sat in and among the hot waterfalls and relaxed for half an hour while lunch cooked and then it was time to eat.

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The glorious hot springs, amazing for tired and sore muscles

The saddest part about this whole area is the amount of trash lying around. The locals seem to have very little regard for the nature and very little understanding of the effects of pollution. It had drawn in a whole bunch of monkeys and flies around the area that were pests in trying to get at your food. One monkey waited until I wasn’t looking, came right up beside me and stole the chicken bone that I had set beside me when I was done with it. Another of the monkeys approached me while I had a chicken bone and was getting ready to charge me. I screamed and yelled at it, waving my arms about the place letting him know who’s boss for showing his teeth at me and charging at me. It is such a shame that it is getting this way. There is nothing that saddens me more than watching these monkeys ferret through left over plastic bags for food in a place that looks like a rubbish dump.

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Monkey contemplating taking my lunch

And so from here we continued. Another brutal climb up sheer rock face for the next three hours to reach our camping spot for the evening. And while it was difficult, the rain held off just enough so that we could get there without too much swimming uphill into gushing water as we had heard happened to others doing this trek before us.

We set up camp, we ate dinner, we prepared. Tomorrow was the big one. The summit. We were sitting at 2600m above sea level at the base camp for the summit. A gruelling 1100m ascent in 3 and a half hours that is to be climbed over volcanic ash and scree. We were to be up at 2am to start the climb by 2:30am to get there for sunrise.

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The final supper before summit, with amazing view to accompany

For my summit climb and to see if I made it to the top, catch us next week!

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2 thoughts on “The Perilous Summit of Mount Rinjani – Part 1”

    1. Hi Chris, provided that you don’t have issues with the altitude on Everest it is much easier. The walk is on a very slight incline for a lot of it. Rinjani is straight up and a way tougher hike. That said I completed Rinjani and got evacuated from Basecamp because I got pneumonia. Stay warm, monitor your health, have plenty of garlic soup and at least 4 litres of fluid a day. Good luck! 🙂

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