Rinjani part 1: the world’s highest ash tray and dump

Near the end of our Himalayan trek, we started to ponder the next leg of our trip, Indonesia.

In preparing for the trip, we had heard a lot about Lombok, the island east of Bali. Our research suggested it was still unspoiled by tourism, unlike Bali, but still had the same caliber natural beauty and beaches.

Lombok also has the the second largest volcano in Indonesia, Mount Rinjani at 12,224 feet. Many travel bloggers refer to climbing Rinjani as “the most difficult thing I’ve ever done in my life.” This phrase was repeated consistently in pretty much any description we could research on the experience, but the view was supposed to be spectacular. We decided to postpone actually booking a climb until we got there, in case we changed our minds.At our last campsite in Ladakh, reeling from the effects of being at high altitude and 8 daily hours of trekking for a week, Jesse asked me, “do we really have to do rim-johnnie (sic)?” The prospect of more camping and climbing on exhausted legs, and the foreboding comments of previous climbers, made us unsure whether we could do it.

We decided to use Jesse’s favorite technique – not making any decision until the very last possible second. After a few days of civilized recovery in Singapore, we flew into Mataram and made our way to Rinjani Lodge, where we got a beautiful sunset glimpse of the peak (the curved point just to the right of the edge of the infinity pool). It didn’t look nearly as intimidating as the snow capped crags we had become used to seeing.A trekking agent came by the lodge to talk to us about the trek and inevitably we got swept up in summit fever and booked a 2 day, 1 night summit climb. We figured a shorter trek would be our compromise – quickly get up and out, then enjoy the beach. Early the next morning, we made our way with our guide, Adi, to our starting point, the village of Sembalan, where we met our three porters and started on our way.The first several hours were easy and nearly flat, but the sun was blazing hot, leading to a horrific sunburn on my neck, with resulting temperature dis-regulation for the rest of the day.

We got to the lunch spot, and were surprised by two things: First, the extremely fancy lunch we received (three courses, complete with pineapple cut into stars and tomato cut into a rose); and second, the insane amount of trash everywhere. Adi told us it was mostly the Indonesians who were responsible for the littering, as scores of them climb the volcano as a sort of pilgrimage. They would go without porters and travel very slowly, taking a week or more to climb to the top, leaving behind trash. A fair amount of the trash was cigarettes and kreteks, butts and packaging. The Indonesians, including our porters, love to smoke while hiking. We nicknamed Rinjani the world’s highest ashtray. Adi also said most other trekking companies didn’t care about the mountain, leaving trash, and that ours – Green Rinjani – was dedicated to cleaning up the slopes by planting trees and paying porters to bring down bags of trash with each climb. Regardless of responsibility, it seems almost like vandalism of this beautiful mountain, and it made us sad.

Overall, Rinjani was a different experience (Jesse calls it a disaster) compared to Kilimanjaro and Ladakh. There are a hundred climbers per day, more or less (who pay a fee), with virtually no outhouses and the government only cleans the litter once a year. Jesse says Indonesia should be ashamed.Beyond the trash issue, the hike was fine. An hour or so after lunch, the trail turned quite steep.We saw a few of these grey monkeys with furry mustaches.  They were a little skittish of us (Jesse’s look-alike beard didn’t put them at ease)…But they were lured by the trash.Our porters, who had been behind us, passed us close to the top – they were young and very strong. We tried picking up those barbell-esque baskets, and they were maybe half my weight. They also had to be gentle with their load as there were eggs and 2 baby trees to be planted at the top.As we got closer to the crater rim, we eyed the peak, and said that it really doesn’t look too difficult. Adi told us not to be fooled, and said there was always lots of crying on the way up.At the crater rim, an incongruous drink stand.And a line of tents. Luckily, since we got up there early at around 1pm, we got an ideal camping spot on a little ledge by ourselves.We took a nap, enjoying the spectacular view of the crater lake…Had a beautifully prepared dinner…And enjoyed sunset. The small peak visible in the distance is Mount Baturnon Bali.We hunkered down in our tent and tried to get some early sleep, as we had an early wake up call at 2:30am, to start the summit push.Return of the flesh pistons, up next.


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