I am rustled out of my flattened sleeping bag from a fitful few hours of sleep at 2 a.m. with a headlight beaming into the neon yellow tent that reflects blindingly: time to go, Ms. Haley. Whether it was nerves or sickness, I barely consumed the chicken curry placed in front of me from the night before and am feeling nauseous.
We are slogging our way up the final 2 kilometers of Mount Rinjani, and bobbing headlamps flow along the trail: I can see the incline mapped out by lights, and I don’t want it. This final push for the ascent would be manageable if it were scree and boulder fields, but seeing as we are climbing a volcano, the ash sucks my Salomon trail runners under the surface, and they get heavy with gravel. One step forward, two steps back, this is how we will reach the summit.
I had accounted for the mileage and the incline, but not for the blinding dust that seeped into my lungs. It is 2:30 in the morning, but I'm wearing sunglasses to protect my eyes and have my Buff pulled up over my nose. We are socked into a cloud that hovers over the peak and seeps its way through my Marmot rain jacket and into my skin. My guide, Edi, and I huddle behind a sandstone formation at the top as we wait for a particularly vicious gust to pass. I am cold and tired. We will not see the view when we reach the top, Edi bluntly informs me. Do you want to continue on?
Gunning Rinjani is the second largest volcano in Indonesia, and it is a popular but remote climb. It requires either a flight into the Lombok International Airport followed by a two and a half hour drive through the forest to Sembalun or Senaru, or a boat from Bali and the Gili Islands, and an hour and a half ride up to the villages. Rinjani National Park requires that all tourists climb the route in groups along with a guide and that porters carry food and supplies. The first mile and a half of rolling grasslands, with the summit looming ahead, are deceptively easy until the lunch spot. Dozens of groups huddle around cooking stoves and trekkers suck down noodles in spicy broth. Porters and trekkers hang around the edges exchanging cigarettes and sharing lighters.