CLIMBING MT. KENYA—EXPERIENCE

CLIMBING MT. KENYA—EXPERIENCE

Robert, the Guide excitedly received my phone call and we agreed on the plan, but this time it would be a little bit different. Summit at Sunrise for Point Lenana! I have heard epic stories about the sunrise on the Mountain but I had never experienced such and this was my opportunity not to miss the moment!

We set off on Saturday November 19 about midday from Old Moses Camp, trekking all the way to Shipton Camp for an overnight stay. 3km into our walk, it started to rain heavily  accompanied by hailstones, which is good, overcoming the strength of lightning. I quickly removed my raincoat and rain cover for the hiking bag. For the first time, I didn’t carry my rain poncho just when I really needed it. We increased our pace so that we could take cover at the 1st bridge across Ntoriri River where there is a shade. My shoes were rather wet at this juncture and my fingers were so cold notwithstanding we were both hungry.

We enjoyed our lunch 1km later, and a beautiful view of the landscape, what with birds that came sitting around our lunch table, whilst others perched on the branches close by. We shared the little we had that we had bought from Java House Nanyuki who graciously packed our lunch so well. We had instructed them we were going to the mountain, and it will be important that we don’t litter anywhere in the park to protect the environment. I was also carrying with me a hot water flask given by my colleague working for GEAPP  (Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet). He now terms the flask as – “Award-winning flask!” We took a few photos and layered up some more. Gaining both altitude and elevation for the remaining 10km was not a risk either of us wanted to take. The bog section was nasty, made worse by the rain that at one point, my right shoe got stuck and Robert had to help me out! This time the rains had stopped but the grounds were really wet! My pair of gloves, were wet and I substituted that with a pair of socks to save my mountain gloves for the following day.

Ahead of us, the views of Point Batian were a breathtaking beauty, all covered in snow! Further ahead, we could see Shiptons Camp. I was counting how much time it would take to arrive for we were making progress albeit rather slowly, so that I can get warmer in my clean pair of extra shoes and warmer pair of socks! And just when I thought about my sleep, it dawned on me that I did not remember to pack my hot water bottle for the night. You see, this is the moment if there is anything you did not pack from home, it calls for survival tactics as you’ve got to do with what you have. Robert hinted that with am empty bottle of soda – one can put hot water lasting a couple of hours inside a sleeping bag. I fervently prayed my feet get warm with that innovation!

Murage – The Caretaker at Shiptons Camp knows my names too well now that I have become very familiar on this route. He is always welcoming and a great host to many guests here. “Cate – you are back!” Murage said as he ushered me into the camp. I could count about 3 tents that had pitched outside and there is no way with this weather at 4,200m asl that I would be sleeping outside! Tonight, there was about 15 guests, different nationalities who were here for the night and all planning to summit at sunrise. We all had something in common! Mountaineering! I later learnt that the rain had also caught up with them just 5km to the Camp as they also got wet but now enjoying a good strong cuppa! You never go wrong with Kenyan tea. As soon as I settled down and layered well, I joined in the camaraderie. Dinner was served by 7pm. It was interesting to note how some guides couple up as porters or cooks. Robert is a good cook! Being a pescatarian, he made a really good vegetable stew with white rice. Pumpkin soup was my starter. Immediately after dinner and with my ‘hot water bottle’, I tucked into my sleeping bag. We all had a 2.45am wake-up call!

Sunday, November 20, 2022 will always linger in my mind for a long time! We set off at 3.10am. I didn’t want to eat anything, despite the fact that other guests had something. With our headlights on, the 3-hour trek was the longest we have ever done with Robert. The snow was really thick on our feet, visibility was okay, and it was just short-small steps all the way to the top! I imagined what it felt to summit Mt. Everest and if I would ever do it! This time from Old Moses Camp, I carried my own bag with enough supplies for 2 days. It felt a little bit heavy and I thought about the life of porters or sherpas if you will. Whenever am packing, everything is essential, but when I think of the weight, I narrow down to what is important and urgent only. My sleeping bag is about 900g and it takes up the space. 4 pairs of thick socks, 2 pairs of water resistant shoes, walking stick, food for 2 days, drinking water, insulated jacket, hat, pants, emergency blanket, penknife, headlight, kikoy, painkillers, energy bars, mini-first aid kit, etc and the list seems there is nothing that should not be packed!

At 6.10am, on a beautiful Sunday morning, we arrived Point Lenana! Yes, there was lots of snow everywhere, temperature drop as low as -10° C and the eerie silence was broken by the sound of exuberant hikers as we had shown confidence and optimism on the trek up! “Woo-hoo! We made it!” When a shy person smiles, it’s like the sun coming out!  I cannot describe this moment, being my 10th summit at Point Lenana. It was ecstatic! This was worth all the hours we took to get to the top and spending an hour here with other Mountaineers meant so much with joy written on our faces! We started our climb down about 7.15am for another 30mins descent back to Shiptons Camp for breakfast. Other guests were heading to both MacKinders Camp and/ Chogoria route. Using my heels to step down on snow as guided by Robert, meant we kept safe to avoid sliding down. I learn many things everyday with the Guide! 

At 9.00am after breakfast and having packed our bags, now lighter than the day before, we said bye to our fantastic host, Murage. Our goal was to arrive Old Moses Camp before 1pm fingers crossed there would be no rain along the way. One could not fathom that it was wet the previous night, the trek was absolutely dry however water flowing down to the rivers and a clear blue sky. We definitely met with a few guests who were heading towards Shiptons Camp and I told myself until the next time! I left Mt. Kenya yet again, feeling fulfilled rather than what one would say beleaguered by the summit experience, which is the reason like so many mountaineers I have met over time, I keep coming back! You want to climb Mount Kenya? Contact Robert the Guide on cell: +254 724 877 584 or +254 788 953 356 

Life Lessons Learnt Hiking Mt. Kenya

When I signed up to Mt.Kenya hike. My main goal was to get to the peak. Take some few pictures and say some wishes and gain some mileage for the day —as aim to clock my monthly mileage. Hiking Alongside three friends and other Mountain ultra-runners. The lessons I learnt came as a shock to me as no one prepared me. The highest Hill I have been to is Ngong Hills elevation 2,460 m and my first Mountain experience was Mt. Kenya back in August—which I did a mere 6Km out of the 16Km to Lenana Peak. As such I was eager to return back this time with the confidence that I would go beyond the 6km mark (Lunch place) and proceed to Lenana Peak.

The process was harrowing, mixed emotions and a lot of time in my hands to reflect on many questions. While I had thought this was just another fitness exercise to conquer one goal and tick my bucket-list. I learnt the following.

1. Strategy — hiking in the mountains requires fast and quick thinking. Sometimes it requires standing and looking at the resources around you to figure how to get from point A to B. First because it’s muddy, rocky, and swampy. You miss one step you either get an injury which you have to bear till you return to the base, or you fall and get wet, or your feet sink into the swamp as such— every move has to be weighed and calculated.

2. Resilience — for a very long time I turned down hiking adventures. One I regret most was in Norway. The thing is —you really need the passion and grit to hike. It’s a tiresome, gruel-some and demanding journey that needs you to be mentally ready. Your why has to be very strong otherwise giving up on the way can be quite easy and even the easier way out. As such, your capacity to stay when things are difficult is built through hiking. I learnt that challenging tasks can be done by focusing on small milestones. The bigger picture is what you see when walking from a distant and a motivator to keep you going!

3. Faith — I would be lying if I told you I did this on my own. I obviously relied on my faith and strong belief system. When things got unbearable and looked like I was not going to make it. I focused on my faith. It all began by me having faith that I could do it. I continued to convince myself that I could and even reminded myself of scriptures that affirmed my position like Joshua 1:9 in particular. 'Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.'

4. Coach — when we began our hike at the base. One of the Ultra runners who had organized the hike gave us some tips. Since this was a day hike and we needed to be back before 6pm. The only way we could get to the peak is if we did 20min per Km and got to Shiptons Camp (2km to Lenana) in 5hours time and descended back in less than 2 hours — to meet our goal. Throughout my journey I kept to the script. I could hear his voice echo in my head with these tips. It reminded me of my Swimming Coach in Uni —Coach Simon Munayi,. Coach Munayi had this thing of turning up when we were training, and he would shout your name if you were doing nonsense. The funny thing is at the end when the real competition came. It was my coach’s voice I would hear in my head as I competed. Find your coach the voice that speaks strongly and silences the rest. That’s what will keep you going.

5. Failure - be open to failSometimes we set very ambitious goals which we attain and sometimes we don’t. When you don’t attain your goals, try and understand why you didn’t and learn from it. While I set out to get to 16km aka peak of Lenana. I only got to 14km which was Shipton’s Camp. I could see Lenana very high and distant. My body, mind, spirit was worn out. I just couldn’t and time was not on my side. Decided to call it a day with the promise that I would return to finish the last 2km. I embraced my failure and realized I hadn’t prepared enough, and my body just told me I couldn’t by the headache, nausea and fatigue. Listen to your body!

6. Team — when we began hiking at 3km mark I was already thinking of returning, however the team I was with was so determined and they looked energetic—that I regained my energy walking with them. At some point on our return— I just lost the team and when we suddenly reconnected, they celebrated seeing us all together. I learnt that going to the top while a lonely and solitary journey. The team that supports you, walking alongside you determines how far you go. If you all resign and decide you can’t make it. Then none will get to their goal. So, find your tribe! That’s your team.

7. Practical Essentials— having the right gear for your hike is essential. The right shoes, tracks and even Waterproof jackets 🧥 Gore-Tex for that matter. There are many reviews online and shops locally where you can get affordable gear or grab when they have a sale.

8. Hiking in a Day – I would not advice hiking Mt. Kenya in a day if you have never done it. I happen to have grown in a high-altitude region and I adjust quickly to it. As such, if you want to enjoy Mt. Kenya do it in 5 days or 3 days.

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Geoffrey Nevine — IT Services and IT Consulting

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