How I conquered the active volcano – Mount Rinjani

The sound of my alarm woke me at 1am. I woke reluctantly, watching through bleary eyes as the guides went around the tents, checking that we were awake before passing us our breakfast of bread spread thickly with marmalade and steaming cups of ginger tea. We gratefully gulped down the homemade ginger tea as it was bitterly cold, even when we were clad in layers of our thickest clothing. They made really good makeshift heat packs. We were looking forward to the summit climb, but not how cold it will be.

Once done with breakfast, we hurried to get ready for the much anticipated summit climb, putting on our gloves, cold-insulating layers and grabbing our trusty trekking poles. The guide then gathered us, checking if we were prepared and if we had our headlamps on. It was time for the hike. In the dark, we ascended the active volcano, our paths lit only with the light from our headlamps and from the moon. We could see how far and high we had to go, as the well-worn trail was dotted with lights from the headlamps of other trekkers ahead of us, much like fireflies lighting up the way. We were all determined to conquer Mount Rinjani.

For about an hour or so, we continued to trek at a comfortable pace up the steep slope, before the guide called for a break. We sat down on dusty volcanic rocks to catch our breath and passed one another water to drink. I looked up at the summit. There was still a long way to go and we had barely reached a quarter of the entire trek up. After a few minutes, we got back on track and carried on. I could feel the air becoming thinner and the climb getting steeper. It was still pitch black so the only thing beautiful we could see was the night sky, which was dotted with stars.

About an hour from the summit, I could see the sun peeking at us from the east. By that time, every step felt like a struggle. The insanely steep slope really challenged our physique and mental strength. For every three steps we clambered up, we slid two steps down after. It felt like we made no progress, due to the extremely loose volcanic ash and rocks. My calf muscles screamed with the strain and my lungs hurt from the lack of oxygen, forcing me to take numerous breaks before I could take another step. My motivation to push on quickly diminished, and I started having second thoughts on actually making the summit as I realised the sun had risen and we missed the sunrise.

However, many kind trekkers kept encouraging me as they passed by. “You can do it, bro!” they cheered me on. Hearing that, I persevered through the near zero degree weather. Finally, after what seemed like forever, we reached the summit and were richly rewarded with a stunning bird’s eye view of the mountains and crater lake. Standing there taking in the breathtaking scenery, all the regrets that ran through my head while I was ascending vaporised into nothing. We took turns holding the metal plate that said “Mt. Rinjani 3726m”, taking pictures against the beautiful landscape.

This trek was nothing short of amazing. From the indescribable view at the summit to the dazzling night sky full of stars, this is the best way to be immersed in nature. Utmost thanks to the guides and porters who were the real heroes, doing the same trek in slippers, for checking on us and ensuring our safety and comfort the entire time. This is most certainly a once in a lifetime experience.

I went on this climb with 12 other students from the Outdoor Adventure Club in NTU. We go on hiking trips four times a year and countries we’ve been to include Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand. To find out more about our club, click here.