The final hour of Rinjani  is going up there as one of the toughest climbs I’ve done.

We organised our 2 day one night hike up before we left for Indonesia, the downside of being on a pretty tight schedule. The day before we started our hike we did another volcano in Bali, Mt. Batur, by Ubud. Getting up at 1:30am to get up to the summit for the sunrise was an easy stroll up really to 1717m. I snapped this pic before the clouds rolled over us and whited out the rest of the sunrise.

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We then had a busy day of checking out coffee and rice plantations before shooting down to the airport and flying to Lombok airport. I’d kind of assumed that Lombok was pretty small and that it would be a short drive to the town near where we were sleeping before getting up early to hike.

Turns out it was a four hour drive. The first two with our airbnb host, so we all stayed awake to make conversation, but the last 2 in the back of the trekking company’s van, so we all passed out in the back.

The next morning’s start was a bit later than we’d expected, 7:30, so the extra couple of hours sleep was great. We didn’t bring much proper trekking gear with us, having been informed that they’d have cold weather gear we could use. This turned out to be a collection of small, stained, definitely not cold proof jackets. Also turned us into the most hilarious looking hikers you can imagine. The jackets would only really be needed for the summit hike the following morning, so deep down into the bags they got stuffed.

We rode cramped on the back of an open pick-up truck to the national park office to receive our permits, before finally starting our hike.

Day one was a nice easy stroll, first through rolling fields before it got slightly steeper, but still nothing too challenging. We had a solid multi-national group hiking along with us who were good company and fun to get to know as we strolled through the day’s heat. Mercifully the cloud cover was pretty good for the steep section, otherwise it would have been quite a sweaty climb.

Night one was spent camping on the volcano’s crater rim with views out over the lake and ridge-line slowly appearing into the evening as the day’s clouds dispersed. The camp area was probably the most disappointing part of the hike. Mt. Rinjani is one of the most hiked volcanoes in Indonesia and everyone camps along the rim, unfortunately not everyone takes their rubbish with them and the place had the feel of a rubbish site. You could easily take breath-taking photos, but if you looked down around you you’d just see plastic strewn everywhere – it was quite sad really.

As soon as the sun vanished the temperature plummeted and we retreated inside the tents to play cards until we slept.

We got up in the darkness at 2am. I had my thermals on and multiple layers of clothing to keep me warm, my newly purchased head torch on to light the way. We had a simple snack of biscuits and tea before heading off to make the final 3 hour climb up to the summit.

The group stuck together for the first 90 minutes or so as we took on some fairly steep sections of loose, ash-like dirt that slipped down as you pushed on it for traction up. The volcano is still active, it had erupted just the previous week, shutting down flights from Australia for 2 days.

As the gradient got steeper, we started to go off at our own paces, with silence falling over people as they concentrated on pushing their way up. I was with Tom most of the way until the final torturous section where I pushed on alone.

The wind was battering head-on into us, the gradient at 45 degrees and every step forward sliding you back half of it. The wind chill factor brought the temperature to below zero and my gloveless hands were numb and hard to the point that any contact would cut them, so I tried to keep them in my pockets.

I’d try push for about 10 steps before taking a short break and mentally preparing myself to go again. This slowly got reduced down to as little as 3-4 steps before break time. All in pitch darkness other than my cheap headlight. It was much a mental battle as a physical one, with there being one point I had to question why exactly I was doing this.

I reached the summit at 5:15am much to my joy and got a quick pic with the sign before hunkering down into a sheltered spot and looking at the stars as I waited for the sun to start to peak, which wouldn’t be for another 45 minutes.

When the sun came up the views were beyond impressive. The volcano has another mini volcano in it’s crater, surrounded by a lake and mountainous ridge-line. As the sun rose, the shadow of Rinjani was cast across the clouds and the sea glimmered on one side other mountains dotting the landscape the other-way.

It was worth the pain.

The trek back down wasn’t the easiest. The dirt stayed soft all the way down and our Nikes were definitely not grippy enough – we all went down several times on our descent. When we finally got back down, I grabbed a cold beer and we waited for our transfers to take us South across the island to our airbnb – a short 4 hour drive.

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