Photographs from the summit of Mt Rinjani were breathtaking. After viewing the spectacular images from a desktop, I instantly put hiking Mt. Rinjani on my bucket list. A photograph has never been enough for me, as this world is too vast, too beautiful to only see these wonders from someone else's perspective. I want to see them with my own eyes, embrace the struggles and triumphs that lead you to that moment, that moment of pure joy. The feeling of accomplishment. The moment you realize “ I did it.” Those are the moments I want to experience for myself, I don't want to live someone else's adventure. I want to make my own. A few months later, I found myself booking a ticket to Bali to summit the second highest volcano in Indonesia, in search of one of those moments.
Mount Rinjani is an active volcano that stands at 3,726m (12,224 feet) and is situated in Lombok Indonesia, a prefecture just off of Bali. It's latest eruption was in September, 2016. It is a restricted hike, so you need to hire a guide in order to hike it. After some online research and decided to go with a 2 day/1 night summit hike, which I found out later, is not common. The most popular trek is the 3 day/2 night hike, most hikers who choose to trek 2day/1night reach their final destination at the Crater Rim, which sits at 2,639m. My 2day/1night trek was to consist of a long, steep climb to the Crater Rim, with an estimated hiking time of 6-8 hours. Proceeding to the summit in the middle of the night for sunrise, then hiking down to Sembalun shortly after. There are two different routes one can take when trekking Mt. Rinjani. You can choose to start from the town of Serau or the town of Sembalun. Given the time frame I had allotted to finish the hike I choose to start from Sembalun, since I had every intention to summit. After all, I hadn't flown across the world to see the views from the Crater Rim.
When booking, I was advised that I would probably be hiking solo, with one guide and one porter. Which put me on edge almost instantly. To the point where I actually debated whether or not it would be safe for me to hike alone. I had already been in Indonesia for over a week and had been receiving a lot of unwanted and unappreciated male attention, and hiking alone had me question my safety as a solo female hiker. But then I realized, this is who I am. I am a hiker. I am an adventurer. I take calculated risks in order to fulfill my passions. If I had chosen to opt out of the hike due to those risks, I knew I would leave Indonesia disappointed and heart broken. Feeling unaccomplished. With my hiking knife and pepper-spray packed, I gathered up the rest of my gear and got ready to make the trek. To my surprise, when I arrived in Lombok that morning, I was advised that three more individuals would be joining me on the trek, and my anxiety was gone. Two males from Sweden and one male from Germany would be hiking with me initially. They were trekking for 3 days/2 nights, so I would be completing the trek individually, and hiking down from the Crater Rim with a porter the following morning. With our bellies full of banana pancakes, the four of us hopped into the back of a pickup truck and ventured to our starting point of Sembulan, at an altitude of 900 metres. The four of us bonded instantly, in no time we were cracking jokes and documenting our journey through photographs. We were certain, our group of four couldn't get any better. We were wrong.
After meeting our guide we headed out, on what we were sure would be an epic adventure.The first portion of the hike was relatively flat, but highly exposed with very little shade or tree cover. There was no reprieve from the heat. At 32 degrees Celsius and a humidity index of 90%, a reprieve from the heat would have be welcomed. The incline remained gradual for the next hour until we stopped at POS 2 for lunch, which is situated at 1500 meters. At this point we learned that we would be adding five more individuals to our already amazing group of four. We were nine solo Trekkers, all on completely different journeys, from different countries, despite our differences we all had the same goal in mind. To summit Mt. Rinjani. It is rare to find one person that you're instantly connect with, let alone nine. Very quickly we learned that some of the best friendships were unexpected. After lunch the trail got substantially steeper, and required more agility and navigational skills. Our next stop would be the Crater Rim, just a mere 1200 meters of elevation to gain until we reached the halfway point. As the altitude increased, so did the grade of the trail. With every step the trail seemed to get steeper, and our feet started to slip due to the sand consistency of the trail.The fog started to set in shortly after lunch and stayed until we reached the Crater Rim, the views were almost non-existent during the climb as a result. We continued to place one foot in front of the other, breathing deeply, our legs were burning, however our spirits remained high. Together, motivating each other we pushed through to the Crater Rim just before sunset, crushing the 6-8 hour hiking time frame and completing it in 4. Making jokes that for the for the first time in my life, “ I was twerking.” Thank-you hiking for providing my naturally rhythm-less body the chance to experience muscle fatigue to the point of twerking… When we got the crater, it was completely sunken in. Dense fog was blocking the supposedly breathtaking views, views that make the climb, the muscle fatigue worth it. Disappointed, we all huddled into a single two-person tent. Nine grown adults laughing, singing and dancing to music despite feeling robbed of the views from the Crater Rim. Maybe it was the fact that our spirits were high, or the positive nature of our group but the haze started to lift. Sunlight started to pierce through the clouds creating a beautiful, magical and dramatic sunset over the caldera and crater laker. As a group we watched the sun fade on Mount Rinjani, anticipating what we would be conquering in a few short hours. Sitting at just over 2600 meters, we still had a long way to go before reaching our final elevation of 3726 meters.
With a few hours of rest under our belts 0200 am was upon us, meaning only one thing, it was time to make our trek to the summit. My stomach was feeling unsettled. Unsure if it was from the different food, physical exertion, lack of sleep or a combination. Our guide provided us with cinnamon sugared crackers, an Indonesian staple, to provide some energy for our summit expedition. In hopes they would settle my stomach, I wasn't that fortunate. Feeling determined to summit, I popped a gravol, some pepto-bismol, gave myself a pep talk and got ready for the challenge ahead. Breathing in the crisp night air with our headlamps and the stars as the only glimmer of light, the nine of us set out to embark on the final ascent. The trail was steep, our headlamps were barely illuminating where we needed to place our feet, carefully dodging tree roots we climbed up the loose gravel to lead us to the ridge walk. The ridge walk provided a refuge for our sore, aching muscles and our laboured breathing. The trail along the ridge was well maintained, with a gradual incline. At this point in our trek, a gradual incline was welcomed, a physical and mental break. I looked down at my watch, the altitude read 3350 meters. I remember thinking “2,450 meters of elevation gained, 400 meters to go- we've got this!” My confidence quickly faded, the previous terrain we had all complained about earlier was easy in comparison. The loose gravel terrain had turned into volcanic sand, and the grade of the trail had increased significantly. Looking upwards was daunting, the incline seemed unattainable. With every two steps up, you slid down one. I decided to focus on the single light beam that was guiding my footsteps. Placing one foot in front of the other. The sounds of laboured breathing engulfed the trail. People were giving up, sobbing out of frustration and exhaustion. I kept trekking. Even with sore muscles, stomach upset and exhaustion setting in, my spirits were still high. I was pursuing my passion, embracing the hardship and was surrounded by eight amazing individuals. We motivated and encouraged each other. After an hour of climbing through sand, the skies started to lighten as we rounded the final corner. The sand hardened under our feet, the summit was within eyesight. Our perspiration and perseverance had paid off. With anticipation of what the views would be like at the peak a few feet ahead, we trekked forward. It was a moment of overwhelming accomplishment.The majestic views were a silent testament to our hard work, for pushing through the uncomfortable. Our tight knit community of nine, congratulated each other, and celebrated each other's success. Together we watched the sunrise from 3,726 meters, in awe of the beauty that surrounded us.
It was an adventure that embraced growth, differences and nationalism. We struggled together. We learned together. We encouraged one another. We celebrated, and together we marvelled at the beauty from 3726 metres. Together, a group that started off as strangers 24 hours earlier, conquered Mt. Rinjani. The rest of the group continued on their journey to the crater lake and I headed down the volcano, solo - off to my next adventure!