Jun 112012

Day 1 of trekking Gunung Rinjani was our longest day: 8 hours of uphill.  We started hiking with a duo from Australia who were really nice, Mel and Brad.  Brad’s a serious mountaineer though—he’s done Everest(!) and had done Gunung Rinjani in 2005.  He told us Gunung Rinjani is actually a pretty serious trek (uh oh) and that a few years ago, 10 students died during the trek from hypothermia on the summit.  Yikes.   We had already sent home our warm weather gear, but luckily we borrowed some heavy jackets from John’s Adventures (it gets down to the high 30s at the summit).  We woke up at 6am to a beautiful sunrise over the ocean and off we went.

Sun Rising From the Ocean

Day 1 they dropped us off at Sembalun village to start the trek and you walk through these grassy plains up the slope of the volcano.  It was really beautiful but incredibly hot with no shade relief!

Hiking Through the Hot Grassy Plains

But pretty soon we got into the cloud cover and then it was like night and day.  It rained for a little bit and then was cool and misty until we reached the crater rim.

Once You Get Into the Clouds, It's a Different World

Reaching the crater rim, you were rewarded with a breathtaking view once the clouds cleared.  These huge cloud formations were rolling in through the valley in the east towards the lake.  Everyone was sitting on the ridge enjoying the view and also the sun after a chilly hike up.

Our Reward At The Top

While our guide and porters set up camp, we took advantage of the moon rising in the bright blue sky and did a photo shoot. =)

Some Dancing

Air Guitar


Needless to say, we had a lot of fun thinking of what poses to do next!  Sunset came on the crater rim and we got an amazing sunset looking towards the ocean.  You can even see Mount Agung rising up from Bali.

Gorgeous Colors

Right after the sun went down, we had roaring ripping winds on the crater rim.  It was insane!  We were really glad we had the heavy jackets but it was still cold.  But we kept thinking, okay it’s cold, but not as cold as Nepal, we’ll be okay.  All night our tent would loudly shake in the wind so we didn’t get much sleep.  By morning, half our tent was collapsed and at one point in the night, Mike had to go outside to fix the part that had collapsed on me.  The wind was that strong!  We were supposed to wake up at 2:30am to do the 3 hour hike to the summit, but our guide advised us against it as it was so windy.  We quickly agreed and tried to go back to sleep.  I remember waking up thinking wow, that was the worst night of sleep I’ve ever had.  Imagine you can only sleep for 20 min at a time before you’re woken up by the loud tent and you’re sleeping on a hard ground and sticky from the 8 hour uphill hike.  Yep!  No shower for 4 days of hiking!  To make matters worse, I was getting sick with a head cold.  Good thing Day 2 is only 3 hours of hiking…

Our Semi-Collapsed Tent

Apr 262012

Summit day!!!  So much anticipation had built up for this, that we were too excited to feel tired when the alarm went off at 3:30am.  Breakfast at 4am, then we headed out at 4:30am.  The reason you head out so early is starting around 9 or 10am, there are such high winds at the pass that it makes it difficult to hike. We banded together with a Dutch couple, Ingrid and Sjoerd, and Katherine (American from Menlo Park who was living in Jordan and on her way to MIT Sloan) and Sabina (from Germany) so we could have a sizeable group going up to look after each other.  Ingrid and Sjoerd were doing the trek independently, carrying their own packs—impressive! With our head lamps on, we headed out on the snowy path.  We have to ascend 1,000 m/3,280 ft to get to Thorung La pass which is the widest mountain pass in the world.  It’s never a great idea to ascend this many feet at this altitude but as long as you acclimate and sleep at a lower altitude, you should be okay (we will descend 2,000 m/6,561 ft down the other side).

Headlamps On, Ready to Go at 4:30am

15 minutes in, Sabina starts feeling ill and can’t keep going, so we were forced to split up.  Katherine and Sabina stayed with their guides and porters and Mike and I moved on with Min, Ingrid and Sjoerd.  The path was completely covered with snow and we were thankful we got the Gore-Tex Merrels even though it was quite slippery on the bottom.  Watching the sunrise over the mountains was pretty amazing and we were grateful for some warmth as well.  We were extremely lucky it wasn’t snowing and the sky was clear.  We heard from people that the day before was snowy and cloudy and the views weren’t that good.


Pink Sunrise Glow On Peak

The sun was rising just as we hit High Camp, so it was bright snow hiking from here on out.

Gradual Sun Reflecting Off Peaks

Halfway between High Camp and the pass, there is another tea house so you can rest but we felt pretty good so we kept going.

Snow Covered Trail By Teahouse

Bright Peaks

We finally get to the pass!  Made it 4.5 hours from Thorung Phedi.  The crazy high winds started about 5-10 minutes before we got to the pass so we definitely got a lashing.  The snow would just come rushing at you in small pellets and sting your face.  We were practically running inside the tea house at the top since the winds were so intense.  We had a cup of tea in the teahouse and then rushed outside to take our obligatory pass photo at 5417 m/17,749 ft before running down the back of the mountain.

We Made It! Windy and Snowy Thorung La

Once you cross the pass, it’s pretty steep downhill and still covered in snow, so we were slipping and sliding our way down.  There were definitely a few icy patches where I went down.

What’s amazing is the landscape is totally different on the other side and once you get down past the snow line, you’re in a desert land.  Since you’re descending 2,000 m in about 3 hours, it’s pretty tough on the knees.  3 hours took us to the base of the mountain and then we had another hour to walk to Muktinath village.  So in total, it was an 8.5 hour day of intense hiking.

Desert Descent Down the Mountain

 Read about Days 13-17

 April 26, 2012  Posted by at 2:06 pm Annapurna, Nepal Tagged with: , , , , , ,  7 Responses »