There are two moments of supreme exultation when I trek up a mountain: the first when I realize that I have made it above the tree line, and the second when I get a first glimpse of the summit from the trail. No matter how many mountains I climb, the former is exhilarating; to see the carpet of white clouds wafting below me, a testament to how far I came to make it that far, is a wonderful feeling. The problem with the latter is that my joy quickly turns to despair since - in the state I am usually in close to the top - it appears that the summit is drifting farther away, with no end in sight. My Rinjani climb comprised all three of those sentiments, but the feeling of never making it to the top was compounded by the fact that I was shredding my feet to bits as I was trekking, and each step brought a searing pain to my heels and toes.
After months and months of wearing flip flops, my feet have changed markedly. I would venture that I can fit a whole baby toe in the new space between my first and second toes, and that my feet have flattened out considerably. As a result, the boots that used to fit me perfectly in February 2008 are too small and - as I've learnt - not something I ought to hike in. As stubborn as I am, and having already made it several kilometres up before my feet starting to die a slow, painful death, I decided to keep going. As a result, I am currently in Australia nursing bandaged heels and dinosaur toes - but I did make it to the top!
The climb was beautiful, and I did most of it alone. Since I tore my ankle apart last year, I've struggled to climb at the speeds I used to, and so I've taken to going at my own (usually snail-like) pace to minimize the impact on my tendons. In this case, my ego took a beating when I was lapped by a chain-smoking porter in flip-flops - twice. Notwithstanding my pride, solitary climbing usually means that I can easily lose myself in my surroundings and the sound of my breath as I trek up the mountain, and Rinjani was no exception. It is worth mentioning, however, that Allen (an Irishman) and Germain (a Frenchman) both took the time to wait for me at each rest stop, which I appreciated, especially since neither of them were in my trekking group. Thanks guys!
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