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The most powerful volcanic blast since humans learned to write (1257 eruption).

In 1257 a large volcanic eruption caused an untold amount of gases being pumped into the atmosphere. It took a year for the gases to encircle the globe causing a global reduction in temperatures. The year 1258 was recorded as the year of the “Little Ice Age”. Recent research from analyzing sulphur deposits the world over, including Greenland indicated that they all came from the same source. For awhile there was speculation on which mountain caused such a massive erpution, impacting global weather patterns.

The Mountain

Mount Rinjani is the second largest volcano in Indonesia. It is located in the island of Lombok and stands at 3,726m. Rinjani is a very popular trekking mountain and there are many agencies that take you to the summit. It is also a sacred mountain to the Sasak People and the Hindus. There are yearly pilgrimages and prayers conducted on the crater lake to offer sacrifices to the gods. The top of the mountain is a crater that is about 6km by 8.4km caldera. The crater is huge with a lake called Segara Anak (Child of the sea) that is greenish blue. Within the crater is a smaller volcano that is more active and frequently erupts. There are hot springs near the lake where tourists go to take a dip.

The Plan

Rinjani was one of the few that i had shortlisted before i did the Kerinci Climb. So, once back, i was keen to go ahead with Rinjani. I had contacted several agencies and selected one of them based on the usual criteria for responsiveness, language and comfort level.

I was to do the trek from 25th May 2013 to 28th May 2013. A total of 3 days away from home. I had done sufficient research considering that there was a lot of material on the internet with regards to Rinjani. So, 3 days was just ok as i was not interested in any other sight seeing activity.

Due to work commitments, i did not focus too much on the exercise. This was completely wrong. I tried to maintain the same regime as i did for Kerinci with jogging/sprinting 3 times a week. But Rinjani requires a lot more.

The Climb

25th May

I boarded the afternoon flight to Lombok from Changi International Airport and after a 2 hour travel and a 1 hour timezone adjustment, landed in Mataram, the main city of Lombok at 6.30pm. Once again, upon arrival, i got my Visa On Arrival and was soon out. The trekking agency was waiting outside with a placard. After the greetings, we got into the jeep took an hour’s drive to the village near the mountain called Senaru. You could actually see the mountain on the way but since it was dark i could not see anything. Normally, people will stay at Sengigi, a larger town along the coastline with a beautiful beach and a lot of places to sight see. However, Sengigi is quite far from the mountain. You would have to drive for more than an hour to get to the mountain. I wanted to stay closer, so i choose Senaru. At Senaru, i was put up in a small resort of sorts with cottages made out of wood. It was a nice and quite place surrounded by lush greenery and with a beautiful view of the Rinjani mountain.The summit of Rinjani was covered in clouds so i could not see her full beauty.

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The guide had come down to introduce himself and we had dinner together at a restaurant owned my the agency’s boss. After dinner, i went back to my cottage and slept.

26th May

I was woken up around 6am and had breakfast at the cafe. The guide was at the cafe and we talked about the mountain. After getting ready, a 4×4 came to pick us up. I met the porters who also doubled up as cooks. It was 7am by the time we were on the way. The ride to the starting point of the trek was about 1 hour and went through a very forested area. The roads were quite well maintained.

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At the starting point, the guide registered us at a small office. There were quite a few groups going up the mountain and so, we had to wait for a while before we got our registrations done.

The trek is to last about 5-6 hours and ends at the Sembulan Crater Rim. There are several resting points on the way where we can rest. There is a lot of traffic with people going up and down the mountains. You get to meet a lot of friendly locals who chit chat along the way and even share their food and drinks once you get talking with them.

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The whole trek can be broken down into 2 phases. The first phase is a simple trek along fields and through a forested area. There is very little vertical height gained here as we make our way through to the mountain. This is because we are not yet at the mountain but trekking towards it. The surrounding scenery is absolutely breathtaking with the vast fields and the clouds covering them.

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The second phase is a steep climb through forested area. The pathway is quite well defined and unlike Kerinci, it is not so muddy. You will be required to do some slight scrambling but that is nothing compared to the summit attempt that is yet to come.

We stopped at one of the resting points to have lunch. The rest point of our lunch was pretty packed with people from other groups. There was a nice group of school children from Singapore doing their outdoor activities here.

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The cook really showed his skills with a sumptuous meal prepared with fresh vegetables. Had a blast of a time eating.We had Pumpkin soup for starters followed by piping hot noodles, fruits and finally hot coffee.

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After a nice meal, you would hope that the terrain continued like what it was all the time. However, after the meal the climb becomes much steeper with a lot more angle to the the climb. All that good food becomes a burden because climbing on a heavy stomach is really not what i would like to do and it slows you down.

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The view becomes more beautiful as you go higher with the vast plains and the distant villages that you can clearly see, once the fog lifts ofcourse.

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We reached the Sembulan Crater Rim (2,639m) at around 5pm and our guides, who had gone ahead of us had setup the tents. The place was not well maintained with a lot of rubbish strewn all over the place. There was quite a crowd there with a lot of colourful tents and a buzz of activity. Some of them were there for the summit while the others were more interested in going to the crater lake.

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From my tent i could see the crater lake. The crater itself was a vast expanse. I imagined what an explosion it would have been to have formed a crater this size. The sheer volume of rocks, ash and toxic fumes ejected into the atmosphere would surely would have caused a global event that resulted in the “Little Ice Age”.

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On the other side was a view of the village.  On a clear day, you could actually see the path that you had walked through to get to the camp.

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After a wonderful meal cooked by the guide and porter, i was ready to go to bed. The plan was to get up at 2am in the morning and make our way for the summit. It was going to be a tough day ahead. Luckily, unlike Kerinci, i did not suffer any form of altitude sickness. I was feeling good yet nervous. I had read from other websites and also met up with people who had done Rinjani and they mentioned the toughness of its summit climb. With those thoughts swirling in my mind, i went into my tent to sleep. But sleep was a bit hard to find.

27th May

The whole night was spent twisting and turning in my tent. Finally i could hear voices from the guide’s tent. I knew it was time to get ready and leave. Soon enough the guide came over to wake me up and was surprised to find me already awake and sitting up in the tent.

Once again i refused to eat anything heavy. Instead, i settled for some biscuits, two bananas and some coffee. Soon we were on our way. I could see the line of headlamps ahead of me. Many already on a 30 minute head start. We left the camp at around 2pm. The guide expected that we would reach the summit by 6am. But he didn’t know how slow i would be.

The initial part of the climb was very steep. The climb leads to the crater rim, from where you need to walk along the rim to reach the summit. The starting was filled with loose fine-grained sand and trees. Climbing was quite tough with a lot of slipping. Once we reached the crater rim, we rested for a short while and then continued on our way.

The the gradual walk along the rim gave way to a loose gravel based climb. Like Kerinci, the ground is made of rocks and loose gravel making the climb extremely hard. Also, since we were climbing along the rim, we were completely exposed to the strong winds blowing without any cover. The only cover were the occasional large rocks that were on the way where we could huddle. But since there were so many of us going up the mountain, it was very hard to find and comfort from huddling together as they were occupied most of the time.

I had become very slow and the guide kept egging me on to go. I had to stop so many times to rest. As we reached the summit, there was a sudden formation of clouds which made visibility very difficult. We could not see anything past 20m ahead. Yet we kept climbing.The sky was already blue by now and we could see the lake and the pathway up the summit. However, we couldn’t see the summit at all. It was completely covered.

After what appeared to be ages, the guide mentioned that we were just another few minutes away from the summit. By this time i was almost on my knees crawling. The thought of giving up and going back down was getting stronger and his words did not seem to have any impact on me. I just kept putting one foot in front of another without looking up.

Finally we experienced a sudden flatness to the climb. At this point the guide shouted “Summit. We are at Puncak Rinjani”. Puncak meaning summit. I could hardly believe it. I sat there for a short while looking around and seeing nothing. I had taken nearly 5 hours to climb to the summit. For a fit person, it should have taken only 3 hours or so.

I was too tired and spent to even smile for any photo. We took photos on the summit but there was nothing but a complete whiteout. I would have spent about a  minute or two on the summit but i simply refused to budge from the spot where i dropped. I was tired, feeling extremely nauseous with a splitting headache and the cold wind was becoming unbearable. So, i indicated that i wanted to go down immediately.

The trip down was much faster with more sliding along the gravel. As we went down, the sun was much higher and there was this sense of warmth but the wind was still cold and strong. Several times we turned back to look at the summit and yet it was still covered in the clouds.

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After awhile i felt better with the headache and nausea gone. But still it was very cold i was shivering in my bones. I managed to start taking some photos of the surrounding. On the right hand side is the crater with the lake and the smaller volcano that is emitting smoke.

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On the right hand side is the vast plains through which we had trekked the previous day. It was quiet fascinating to see the terrain through which you had trekked from above.

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We could also see Mount Agung at 3,031m in the island of Bali which is right beside Lombok.

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Upon reaching the camp at around 11am, we had a nice lunch and then started packing our bags to go down. The trek down was pretty fast and by 3pm we were back at the starting point. The trek was slower at the start due to the steepness but in the plains we really picked up speed and the going was a lot easier. We did not stop at any of the rest points.

The 4×4 was already waiting for us as the guide had called the driver while we were on the way down. After another hour’s drive, we were back at the cafe where we unloaded our bags and had some snacks and coffee. I was to sleep over at a hotel booked at Sengigi. Sengigi was about 1 hours drive from the village but with traffic it takes about 2 to 2.5 hours. So, at around 5pm, i packed my bags and jumped onto the 4×4. By 7.30pm, i had reached our hotel and i checked in. The guide was also with me and he wanted to visit his family in Sengigi, so, he dropped me off at the hotel.

Once at the hotel, i had a shower and took a stroll along the road. Since it was already late, i had a quite dinner in the hotel with no mood to venture out. Having had no sleep the previous night and with a torturous climb, i was totally exhausted. I went back to the hotel and fell asleep.

28th May

The next morning, i had gotten ready and there was a vehicle that picked me up and drove me to the airport. This was prearranged by the trek agency and everything went smoothly. Soon enough i was on the plane back to Singapore. Not much of eventful day. I was glad to be home. Although i had reached the summit, i was not too happy due to the lack of fitness. I knew i had to put in more effort in my exercise regime if i wanted to climb more. The summit was purely out of will power and that cannot sustain for long… on higher mountains.

Reflections

  1. Rinjani is one tough climb. It is not for the faint of heart. You need a lot of stamina and hell more of determination to reach the summit.
  2. It can be extremely cold on the ridge as you are completely exposed to the elements. So, make sure that you have warm clothing.
  3. Exercise is absolutely important.
  4. Prepare for altitude sickness. It can hit you just when you are about to summit making all that effort worthless. So, do take precautions.
  5. The weather on the summit is totally unpredictable. Since Rinjani stands out and is huge, it has its own weather patterns.