Day 3 - Summit Climb
Four of us (HS, Jos, Chen and I) attempted the summit climb while the other two (Lee and Chua) remained behind at the rim. We set off at around 230 am. To protect ourselves from the cold and wind, we put on three layers of clothings (long john, pullover and windbreaker) and gloves. We had some toast and hot chocolate to build up some calories before the climb. In pitch darkness, our visions was limited to a relatively small area illuminated by our headlights. From far, the headlights of climbing parties in front of us formed a dotted lines of spotlights along the mountain slope. The scene was like a religious pilgrimage climb up some holy mountain.
I knew that the summit climb was going to be a tough one. But i was expecting to feel the real difficulties only at the last few hundreds metres climb where the terrian was extremely sandy and steep and the air is much thinner. Unexpectedly, i started to feel overcome by the terrain within an hour into the climb. The ground was very loose and sandy. For every two steps i took, i would slide back one or two steps. Even though I was aided by my hiking stick, my forward gain was still very slow and marginal. I was overtaken by several hiking groups behind me. I was very exhausted and utterly demoralised by my slow progress. I almost gave up if not for Chen and SH who encouraged me all the way till the “first checkpoint” (not sure whether this was the official checkpoint but from here onwards the trail flatten out till the first view point just before the last few hundred metres steep climb to the summit).
Till now, i still don’t know the root case of my early physical exhaustion. Physical wise, i was actually quite well prepared. It could be a combination of poor foot grip (my vibram soles were quite wore out), lacked of quality sleep, unaccustomed to early climb etc. But i am very glad that at least i made it to the first view point – at around 530 am.
The trail between the “first checkpoint” and the first viewpoint was along a narrow ridge with deep ravines on the right side and steep down slope on the left side (facing the direction of climb). The ridge can be quite treacherous as the falling edge of the trail is not easily discernible in darkness. Due to my physical exhaustion, i was walking like a zombie along the ridge- a very dangerous act. It was only after daybreak when i came down via the same route that i could clearly see the treachery of the trail.
Chen and I stopped at the first view point. Abdul stayed behind with us while SH and Jos carried on with the summit climb. It was very cold over at the first view point and we had to cuddle behind some big boulders to shield ourselves from the wind. We waited for about 15 mins for sunrise. As the sun rose over the horizon, the surrounding mountains, lake, rim and clouds beneath us slowly came into sight. It was really magical; from darkness to one of the most enchanting sight on earth. We waited for the atmosphere to be warmed up enough by the sun before turning back to our campsite. Trekking down had its own challenges as well. The volcanic soil which was very loose and soft caused us to sink ankle deep into it. Unless you are wearing army boots or really high cut shoes, a lot of sands, stones and rocks will get into your shoes easily. Some sections were also very slippery (due to shifting sands). You could easily slip off and fall flat on your back if you are not careful. The Caucasians seem to be better adept in going downhill than us. Some of them could run down or slide down the slope without falling off. They were like doing snow skidding on sand. We reached back around 8 am.
I did not reach the summit. But for completeness, i shall recount Jos and SH summit climb experiences here. Below is an extract from SH’s blog (http://adventurevacationtrip.com)
“Another two of us dropped out of the climb and Abdul stayed with them, not before giving blessings to the 2 remaining stoics. So with strained muscles, a numbed face and a running nose, we pushed on. We moved at individual pace. It’s yourself and the mountain. Your mind tells you to give up and there is no glory about climbing such a mountain. It’s not Everest. But your heart tells you to continue. As the debate went on in your mind, you stepped closer to the summit.
There was a sense of deja vu. In some ways, the hike was similar to Mt. Kinabalu. Yet, in other ways, such as the soft deep sand that slides you back 1 step for every 2 steps you take makes it different.
The last 300m was particularly tough. It’s like walking on marshmallows inclined at 45 degrees. The diminishing oxygen supply ensures that you are constantly out of breathe. What great fun you might think.
After what seemed like an hour, maybe it’s really an hour, I passed a narrow ridge to the very top of Indonesia’s second tallest volcanco – Mt. Rinjani.
Euphoria experienced at 6am. The sun had not made its appearance yet”
Interestingly, Jos was the last person to reach the summit on that day. While he was struggling to conquer the last 100 m of the climb, he saw the “last” man coming down from the summit (by right he was the official last man of the day). Jos reached the summit at 730 am. There was no one down there to take photo for him, so he had to resort to take his own photo. The result – an over sized head against not much of a background. Jos started the descent at 750 am and reached back camp site around 11am – almost 9 hrs of continuous trekking. I was really impressed by Jos’s show of perseverance and courage; reaching the summit and returning back alone.