The Final Chapter - Mt. Rinjani

Conquering Lombok's Epic Peak

Gunung Rinjani

(Part 3) 

Being on the summit of a mountain is an absolutely spectacular experience. There is absolutely no doubting that fact.

But, most seasoned hikers will know and agree, that with that summit euphoria comes the creeping thought of 'I have to hike back down'.

Don't let it kill your 12,224 ft. high! 

The summit fills with fellow celebrators quickly. The elated, and exuberant yet exhausted, energy is palpable.

Everyone spends quite a few minutes just standing at the top, catching their breath, and taking it all in before the photo-frenzy begins. And, everyone, is looking to get the quintessential kneeling-on-the-edge-of-a-mountain summit photo holding the Mt. Rinjani sign (that, in all honesty, should really read “I F---ING DID IT!”).

There are only a few signs up at the top for photo-ops, so you take your photo with it (or a few, the wind doesn't always work in our favor, does it?)  and pass it along to the next out-of-breath hiker. 

After your photo-op, you resume the 'I F---ING DID IT' mindset, and stand back again to look out on the world from up above.

Standing still for a few moments at the top you start to realize a few things. First being: You made it. Which will repeat over and over again in your mind. Summit-euphoria might be my drug of choice—there's no other feeling quite like it. Second being: It's cold. Third: It's windy. Fourth: Should've brought more tissues—for happy tears, for whipping-wind induced tears, for happens. And finally, fifth: It's time to go back down.


I promise you this: going down is not even half as taxing on the lungs as going up, but that doesn't mean it's going to be easy...or painless. (* Note * If you're someone who suffers from knee issues consider investing in a knee brace! The way down definitely takes its toll on the joints.)

Remember when I mentioned back in Part 2 that your walking stick will be your BFF? Going down you'll possibly love it even more than you did going up. Because, that giant endless volcanic ash dune of torture that was grueling to climb up makes for a seriously scramble-y hike (er, fall, tumble, slide) down.

There was much guess, testing, and revising happening as we tried to find the safest way to make our way down to flatter ground.

Fail #1: One foot in front of the other generally meant a tumble.

Fail #2: Stepping on boulders in an attempt to find a solid piece of ground generally led to said boulder rolling beneath your foot, sliding, and sending you down on your ass.

Success: Staking you stick into the ground, side stepping, and letting your first leg sliiiide down seemed to be the safest way to go.

Your walking stick will also came in handy when an unexpected slide occurs—trust, it will happen. And you'll be surprised by how much momentum you can gain, and how difficult it can be to catch yourself. Sliding into someone and causing a domino effect of epic proportions? Not ideal, especially on the side of a mountain. TL,DR: Invest in a solid pair of hiking sticks.


Out and back trails are generally not my favorite, I'm a loop kinda gal because I like the idea of seeing something new the whole way around. 

For this hike, the trek down from summit to camp sends you back the exact same way you came up. BUT, since the world was blanketed in 3AM darkness on our way up, it was like seeing everything for the first time. With the sun coming up overhead, the landscape all around us was lit up by that perfect early-morning light. 

Every so often, before you're off the ash portion of the hike, you'll likely have to pause to dump out the 1/2 pound of sand that's collected inside your boots. These pit-stops proved to be the best photo ops. 

Reaching more solid ground is pure bliss. Also pure bliss? Seeing the Crater Lake's crystal blue, almost turquoise waters, and it's steamy volcano.

These moments of awe make every second of agony—the struggled breathing, the blisters, the tumbles—so worth it.



The plan for today (day 2 of our 3 day hike) was to:
Wake up
Have a small breakfast
Hike to the summit
Hike back down to camp
Have a second BIG breakfast
Pack up & hike down to the lake and hot springs
Break for lunch
Hike to that night's camp
(An additional 7 hours of hiking, on top of what we'd already clocked to and from summit)

As we made our way to level ground, my thoughts honing in on that second BIG breakfast, Gerry let me know where his thoughts were going.

We were both feeling the pain, but managing well enough. Still, he wanted to discuss the option of potentially cutting the hike short, skipping the second night of camping, and heading back to Senaru. Our hike down to camp was long enough to give us time to really think about this.

Having come so far, the idea of "tapping out" sounded a lot like giving up. Though, truthfully, we'd already accomplished the hardest and most grueling portion of the hike—which is what we came here to do. Would we like to see the lake up close, and take a dip in a hot spring? Sure. Would we prefer to power through and hike all the way back out? Not sure.

We weighed the pros and cons. We thought about how our legs felt in the present moment, and thought about how they'd feel in the morning. We thought about our blisters, teetering on the edge of bursting in our shoes. We thought about sleeping in a tent. We thought about sleeping in a bed.

Ultimately, we decided that we'd make a final decision once we got back to camp and sat down for a few minutes.

We couldn't have possibly been blessed with a better day. The skies were perfectly blue, the temperature was comfortable, the rain that pounded on our backs yesterday showed no signs of returning. ...This weighed in on our decision making, too.

Inside our tent once more, we laid there taking in the view while we waited for breakfast. And we came to a concrete decision. 

We decided it was best for us to head back down rather than to continue on to the lake and hot springs. 

Despite the fact that we weren't continuing on to the lake, we still had the same amount of hiking time ahead of us to get back to the starting point for pick up. Approximately 7 hours. But, as Gerry would remind me (to keep me motivated) once we finish that 7 we're done. We won't have to wake up and hike again.

Our guide, Didi, was surprised by our decision, but happy to accommodate our request. We relaxed at camp for a bit longer, enjoyed the view of Crater Rim for as long as we could, had half of our breakfast stolen by monkeys—see above photo—and then packed up to move on.


Real reality: We had a few moments of "Oh my god, what were we thinking!?" as we made our way down.

What was a steep climb up yesterday was, today, a treacherous-on-the-knees climb down. My legs shook beneath me, and felt like jelly. Every movement was made so meticulously to avoid falling, and the concentration this took was equal parts dizzying and exhausting.

We wouldn't get the long break for lunch we'd had on the way up, but we were okay with pushing through. Didi, as always, kept us motivated along the way, and made sure that we made stops for snack and water breaks. And just break breaks—those were wildly important, and incredibly necessary.

Oddly enough, when we finally reached flat ground that's when my legs finally decided to give way. The minimal sleep was catching up to me, for sure. The ground beneath us was wet, and slippery, and my first tumble was anything but graceful—but it gave me the jolt of adrenaline I needed to stay awake.

Or so I thought.

Not even 15 minutes later everything ahead of me went white, and I was down again. That time, falling directly onto my stick, and cutting my knee open. I think my ego was more damaged than my body was—and I was impressed to find that my hiking stick took the full weight of my body and still didn't break. (Seriously, if you haven't clicked on the link yet to get yourself a set of these life-saving sticks, you should now ☺)

The rest of our hike out was pretty uneventful. No more falling, thankfully. We were tired. Many passersby pointed out to me that my knee was bleeding. We tried not to look like zombies as hopeful and excited hikers made their way in the opposite direction toward the Crater Rim. We wished them all well, wished them luck, wished them nothing but happy, happy trails.

And then we finally made it to the end. Or, really, back to the start.

And I passed out in the car within 4 minutes of my ass hitting the seat.

We arrived at our hotel in Senaru, showered, and tucked ourselves into bed at 4PM and didn't wake up until 9AM the next morning.

Our legs were so sore that we had to roll ourselves out of bed. Walking up and down stairs was a wince-inducing challenge, and we feared for our lives each time a hint of a Charley horse would creep into our calves.

We hobbled around our hotel the following morning, packed our things up again, and got ready to bid adieu to Senaru. We were headed to the beach paradise of Sengiggi. Side note: There is no better place to rest an aching body. (More on Sengiggi soon, promise!)

We decided we had, without question, made the right decision for us. Which was just a reminder that it's well worth it to listen to your body, do what's right for you, and trust your gut. Oh, and buy Black Diamond hiking sticks (not sponsored, just seriously love them).

Happy trails!


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