Climbing Mount Rinjani: from hell to heaven and back again
Climbing Mount Rinjani: it started with a dream
Climbing Mount Rinjani in Indonesia had been a dream of mine for years. Back in 2011 during our six week hiking trip in New Zealand, Martijn and I ran into another couple on the Tongariro Northern Circuit, who showed us pictures of their Rinjani trek. Until then I’d never heard of Mount Rinjani before, but the pictures they showed me looked awesome and immediately I knew that I was going to do that one day, too. They did however mention that it was by far the most difficult and challenging trek they had ever did, but I wanted to do it regardless. Up until this summer I never really got around to traveling to Indonesia. The closest I came to climbing Mount Rinjani was figuring out if I could do it during a one-week vacation in the winter but I soon enough learned that it would be rainy season then and there for not an option. So the whole idea kind of faded off my radar until I decided to head to Bali last September.
Climbing Mount Rinjani: the preparation
Before traveling to Indonesia I read quite a few blogs about climbing Mount Rinjani, which was also going to by my first trek by myself ever. This may sound rather sad but it’s not really, it’s just all of the alpine overnight hikes I did were always with Martijn and this would be the first one by myself. It’s not that I can’t do that since I have done plenty of solo day hikes, however for rather difficult overnight hikes I always like to have a buddy around so you can keep each other motivated, both mentally and physically. Since I’m from The Netherlands you cannot really practice climbing a volcano here, but during my Pacific Northwest Roadtrip I did quite a few nice solo hikes and in Alaska I hiked up to the amazing Harding Icefield once again. I also hiked a section of the Westerwald Steig in Germany and visited the gym 3-4 times a week during the month before my departure for Indonesia. While on Bali I climbed Mount Batur, described by Lonely Planet as rather easy. I didn’t really think it was a piece of cake however but opinions may vary on that one. When in Gili Air I hiked around the island almost every day and in Senggigi on Lombok I hiked for miles in the heat in my flip flops. It seemed like a decent preparation to me …
Climbing Mount Rinjani: procrastination my trip
And then I was in Bali. I did Mount Batur and thought it was much harder than expected. It was not the most strenuous hike ever but somehow I just couldn’t do it. Better said, I did it, but I had a horribly hard time. Maybe it was due to the fact I almost didn’t sleep the night before (I was picked up at 01.30 am and since I was afraid I’d oversleep, I did not sleep at all) or the extreme heat in Bali that my body is just not used to, but I thought climbing Mount Batur was a lot harder than I expected. And this only has a 700 meter altitude gain whereas Mount Rinjani has 2.500. Not being able to climb Mount Batur in good physical health gave me a mental breakdown and I can be quite sensitive to those kind of things. I started doubting whether climbing Mount Rinjani would be for me at all or whether it was just not something I’d be able to do. When a friend from Holland messaged me ‘have you booked your Rinjani trek yet?’ I realized I was procrastinating. I had seen plenty of opportunities to book my tour and since rainy season was on its way, I’d better do it sooner than later. On Gili Air I caught a bronchitis and that was basically the end of my self confidence.
Climbing Mount Rinjani: making the decision
Once on Gili Air I knew that when I’d head back to Bali, I would not get the opportunity to climb Mount Rinjani again. Gili Air is located right around the corner of Lombok, where Mount Rinjani is located. And so a mental battle inside my head began. To go or not to go … To go or not to go … To go or not to go … To go or not to go … The weak side of me just wanted to hang out at the beach, right inside my comfort zone. The strong Anto eventually gave herself a kick in the butt and decided to head over to Lombok. I’d wanted to do this for many years so I jumped on the boat to Lombok and inquired around about the best company to book the Rinjani climb with. From various people I was recommended to go with Rinjani Trekking Club and so I decided to book with them. I went for their 3 day / 2 night package and decided to rest well before I was about to climb Mount Rinjani.
Climbing Mount Rinjani: from hell to heaven and back again
And then the day arrived. I’m being picked up from my hotel in Senggigi at 05.00 am. My backpack is filled with all I need to bring, my batteries are charged and I’m ready to go. My group has three people in it, me and two super fit Germans: Renate and Ulrich. During the first part of the climb I can keep up with them but after about two thirds on the way up I decide to leave them and walk my own pace. I’m not here to follow others after all. That day I climb some 1.500 meters in about six hours of hiking. Once on the rim the whole crater is covered in clouds. The sun peeks through the clouds every now and then, but mostly is cold and grey. I tell my guide, a tiny man at the age of 47 and who has been guiding on volcanoes for more than 20 years about my dream to climb Mount Rinjani. ‘Don’t worry miss, you can do this. I see your step, you are strong!’ Tired but satisfied I crawl into my sleeping bag for the night.
‘HELLO, GOOD MORNING!’ The voice of my guide awakes me at 01.49 am the next morning. Today is THE day. I feel happy and confident and even managed to sleep for a couple of hours. I know the climb to the top will be a tough one and that there’s a significant chance I may not make it to the top. I put my warmest gear on, adjust my headlight and start the climb. The first hour of climbing Mount Rinjani is very steep up, almost vertical. The Germans have another swift pace this early morning and soon enough I decide I can’t and don’t want to keep up with them. I’m going to do this on my own. Our guide decides they can go up themselves and that he will stick with me. During the first part of the hike it’s pitch dark and all I can see are my own feet and sometimes those of the person walking in front of me. Sometimes I pass someone, but most of the time others pass me. The second hour is more flat but the third hour is straight up again. After three hours I’m done. It’s freezing, hearing my own breath drives me insane and basically I’m just exhausted. The wind is blowing the snot right out of my nose and my hands are incredibly cold. Remind me again why the man in the office said I wouldn’t need gloves? I see a bunch of rocks and crawl behind them to get out of the wind. I’ve made it up to 3.300 meters and know that the hardest part is still ahead. The notorious ‘two steps up, one step down’, also know as a really steep climb on loose volcanic sand which makes you sink back down with every step up. Here one wrong step can be fatal because there is a giant gap of nothing on both sides of the trail. Well, it’s not really a trail, rather just a way up.
I want to quit but then again I don’t. Giving up is just not an option, I’m just an hour away from my dream. But man, an hour can last forever. I know I won’t make it to the top before sunrise anymore but I can’t be bothered too much. Just making it up will already be good enough at this point. All it’s about right now is surviving and crawling up. Crawling yes, because by this time I just cannot walk anymore. After about 45 minutes I get the summit of Mount Rinjani in sight but I’m done, I just cannot do it anymore. Every two steps up I have to rest and make me sink one step down again. It’s insanity, this trail, that’s for sure! The summit doesn’t seem to get any closer and I tell myself to do ten steps up and then rest. I know it sounds bizarre but at that point, I just could not do any more. Just before the summit the first hikers have started their descent. ‘Come on, you can do it, almost there!’ Their encouraging words don’t really mean anything to me, I’m just trying to survive. My hands have gone completely numb, my face is covered in snot and I can’t breathe properly anymore.
The last meters are done stumbling. One step at a time and slower than ever before I make my way to the summit. I can already see my guide as well as Renate and Ulrich. Eventually I reach the summit of Mount Rinjani some four hours after my departure from the rim. A big emotion explodes inside of me and I loose control over my breathing. Crying and breathing at the same time does not work and somehow the oxygen does not reach my lungs and I start to panic. Eventually I regain my breath and sit down and stare into the distance. I’m above the clouds and a few tears appear in my eyes. Hi daddy, I’m 3.726 meters closer to you now!
Then it’s time for taking some pics on the summit. I’m still incredibly cold but the feeling of euphoria makes the cold go away, at least for now. A big smile appears on my face once I hold the sign Puncak Rinjani in my hands. I just did it! I’m in heaven. All I see around me are clouds and blue sky. The sun has risen above the horizon and I start a conversation for the guy stumbling right ahead of me on my way to the top. He also turns out to be Dutch and he tells me that the rest of his group has already quit half way up. I take a picture of him with a cigarette in his mouth and his hoodie saying ‘nothing is impossible.’
Then it’s time to leave the summit and head back down again. The descend is not an easy one and two hours later I’m back at the rim. Here I sit down, have a second breakfast and close my eyes for a little while. My legs are in pain because I just climbed another 1.200 meters up and down again in some six hours. Not much later Renate wakes me up: ‘Anto we have to go!’ Ah right, I’m supposed to hike another six hours today. At that moment, I would never have imagined that this was only the real start of a trek that would be hell. More on that in a next blog!
Planning your Lombok trip:
– Check out the best airfares to Indonesia on Skyscanner.
– Find the best Senggigi hotels here.
– Order your copy of Lonely Planet Bali & Lombok or Lonely Planet Indonesia to start planning your next adventure straight away.
Want to read more for now? You may also enjoy these posts:
– The best hotels in Ubud, Bali
– Why NOW is the right time to travel to Sidemen on Bali
– The uncomfortable truth of climbing Villarrica volcano in Chile
– 11 Things I learned about myself in Indonesia
– About Kuta Lombok, a blog by Mostly Amelie
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Thanks for sharing!
I’m new to your blog, but I really have to read more of your stuff. You gave me such a good story on how you made it to the top 🙂
Thanks Sonja, happy to hear you enjoyed reading this. And you’re more than welcome back any time!
I trekked Rinjani years back so I definitely enjoyed your post. It brought me back to the time I had to do the grueling hike up the summit but it’s all worth it with the views!
Yes that’s so true … hard work pays off!
i am herman, a guide from rinjani.
i want to say thank you very much for your informations about Trekking Rinjani activity.
that is very helpul for guests who want to make a plan to hike Mt.Rinjani in the next future.
You are welcome!
Rinjani Trekking Specialist
a very long journey to discover the beauty of rinjani mountain, a very useful article for every traveler who wants to discover the meaning of every journey that is taken, and make your life more beneficial to others.
hi anto, when i read this I felt what you felt exactly the same when I climbed Rinjani back in 2015. on the way to the summit i thought that I almost died and wanted to quit, but someone hold my hand and said, “It’s closer than you think.” I made it anyway.
Thanks for sharing! Happy to hear you made it 🙂
Hi Antonette, I’ve been doing some readings about Mt Rinjani for January and I really enjoyed your post. Thank you for sharing. I learnt that January is not the best season to do the climb but I am still considering to do it this year, maybe summer time. I am happy to find your blog.
Thanks, happy to hear that. Double check if the Mount Rinjani trek is open though, from what I heard it’s currently closed because of earthquake damage. Not sure until when though …
The track to Rinjani is getting more and more difficult, bro, after a fairly large earthquake in Lombok 2018, several trekking routes, especially from the lake to the Senaru Crater, were damaged and you need to be careful when climbing because rocks often fall until now.