"It was a ridiculous idea"

Anne Olds | Wild Women On Top Member | Member of the Mt. Rinjani Wild Adventure team

I joined Wild Women just over 12 months ago, primarily to boost my fitness in the outdoors (sweaty, overcrowded gyms are just not my scene). Initially, my goal was to attend a couple of sessions per week, but before I knew it, I had been swept up in the Wild Women mentality. I was signed up to Coastrek and then…. I was on the summit of Rinjani.

The Rinjani trek appealed to me because it was only a few days of trekking. I liked the idea of climbing a mountain, the temperature wasn’t too extreme and of course, the rest and recreation component on the gorgeous Gilli Islands was a persuading factor. 

I felt happy with my choice. I trained well, cut back on wine and emptied the trekking stores around town. All was good, until about a fortnight before departure. We were on a family holiday in Adelaide. I had hit a downward turn. Struggling with a string of minor physical setbacks and a couple of heavy colds, I began questioning the wisdom of my decision to climb an active volcano, nearly 4000 metres high on my virgin trek.

Could I really transition from Coastrekker to mountain woman? Would I hold everyone up? And how on earth would I sleep in a little tent, on a mat, on the side of a volcano for three nights. 

Given I had not slept in a tent since childhood, the whole adventure was so far out of my comfort zone, it felt like a ridiculous idea. My husband, however, encouraged me and pointed out that since our spare room could now host a Kathmandu convention, I really should go!

So off I went.

We flew into Lombok and had a couple of nights getting to know one another in a lovely resort. Chatting, it felt good to know I wasn’t the only slightly worried one in the team. I will never forget that first sight of the mountain summit, standing way above the clouds, I could feel my tummy squirm, excitement, fear and dread mixing uncontrollably. We climbed all day, gently ascending the lush, vegetated slopes, but of course, as the hours went by, the gradient became steeper and more difficult.

As we approached our camp, my trepidation about the following morning’s summit really kicked into overdrive. Already exhausted from a 12 hour day, and with no radox bath, familiar bed or glass of wine, I was again, full of doubt about my ability and the task ahead.

It was 1.30 AM when we began trailing our wonderful guides in single file, headlights on, and walking poles going full pelt. Up and up we trekked, into the darkness, towards a summit we couldn’t see.

We started off together, but were soon spread out according to our fitness levels. Jacq, our superb coach, and our lovely local guide, Joann, stayed with me as I fell behind, encouraging me. These two women, plus the encouragement from our group, gave me the strength to push through my physical and mental barriers. To hear my companions calling, and to see them waving back down, spurred me on.

I made it!

To describe the feeling as unbelievable does it an injustice. It was a mixture of exhaustion and exhilaration. An utterly extraordinary moment middle-aged aged woman from Sydney, to be on the top of a volcano as the sun came up, the cloud cover way down below, with a magnificent group of like-minded women.

The next couple of days were a mixture of sheer joy and more hard trekking. Highlights of the descent included a refreshing swim in a mountain lake, where we could actually see Rinjani’s red glow, and a glorious hour luxuriating in the hot water of a volcanic spring. Our final camp within the forest featured screeching monkeys, jumping from tree to tree above us. We sat around a huge campfire in a circle, with all the porters and guides, who sang to us. They then waited expectantly for a response. As stated in the Wild Women rules… “Expect the Unexpected”… I certainly never expected to find myself taking centre stage, channelling Julie Andrews as I belted out “Climb Every Mountain”.

I’m still smiling too, as I think of the youngsters we passed the next day, as we were heading down the mountain. “Respect, ladies…”, they said to us as we passed by.

One thing is for sure… even when I’ve been on future treks with Wild Women, my memories of Mount Rinjani will remain. A life changing challenge – an experience I will treasure for the rest of my days. 

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