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Published: January 29th 2009
Given that Mount Kenya lies only 10 miles from the equator, it is somewhat surprising that its jagged peaks are littered with glaciers. At 5199m it was once Africa’s highest point, that is until Kilimanjaro erupted onto the scene. Despite what it lacks in height, it is still considered by some to provide a more challenging, rewarding (and indisputably cheaper) alternative to the more popular choice of climbing Kilimanjaro. The highest two peaks of Mount Kenya, are only accessible to those with technical climbing equipment and expertise. Fortunately, the third highest peak, Point Lenana (4985m) has no such requirements and is the goal of most mortals, ourselves included.
Our intention was to make our way to one of the towns which provide a gateway to the mountain and organise permits and the required support from there. However, as is the way of the world, within literally minutes of stepping off the bus from Kampala in Nakuru, we were approached by someone offering to organise everything for us. As he seemed to be offering a good deal and was sure to save us time and hassle, we took him up on his offer. He quickly organised a complete package to commence
the next day, which included everything necessary for us to climb and descend the mountain, via different routes, in four days, .
We spent one night in Nanyuki at the base of the mountain, in a better hotel than we have become accustomed to (due to it being included in the package) and very much enjoyed our first hot shower of 2009! The next morning we met our entourage, which consisted of a guide, a cook and a porter and then we drove to the trailhead. The first day’s trekking was a fairly gentle introduction and consisted of about 2.5 hours of walking up a gradual slope to the first camp, which was at 3300m. Not surprisingly at this altitude, walking was considerably harder than it would it have normally been and despite being so close to the equator, the temperature can‘t have been much above freezing at night.
Originally we had intended to camp each night during the trek, as we have all our own camping gear with us. However, given the temperatures, each night we gladly accepted the offer to sleep in the relative warmth of bunk-houses at no extra cost. We’ll never know if our
porter realised that he carried our tent up and down the mountain needlessly!
The next day was significantly more challenging and involved something like 5 hours of trekking, to what was effectively our "Base Camp", at 4200m. At first it was hard work, climbing in and out of a number of valleys. Things then became a little easier as we climbed gradually along the main valley of the mountain. As the altitude increased the scenery changed, with moorland giving way to dramatic rock formations and an almost desert-like landscape covered with giant succulent plants.
After very little sleep, due to the altitude and the sense of anticipation, we got up at 2:30am in order to make the final ascent, guided by the light of the moon and our head-torches. We were told that there are three reasons for doing it so early. Firstly, you get to be at the summit for sunrise, secondly the scree is frozen together and hence easier to grip and finally, in the dark you can’t see how far it is to the top!
The final climb was challenging to say the least and involved a good amount of clawing at the frozen
ground with our numb hands in order to get traction. After to a short pause in a sheltered spot, to avoid peaking too early, we summitted in perfect time for sunrise. On reaching the top we were left gasping not only for oxygen, but also superlatives, as the views seemed to go on forever. We could even make out the distinctive peak of Kilimanjaro some 200 miles away, more-or-less the equivalent of being able to see from Manchester to London! Sadly photography was slightly hampered by a lack of feeling in either hand and the cold wind meant our stay at the summit was fleeting, although highly memorable. It wasn’t until three hours of steep decent and defrosting that we had a well deserved breakfast. After another 6 hours we made it to our final camp, at 3000m, where we had a much improved nights sleep.
Our final day involved a gentle walk out, in a few a hours and a transfer back to Nairobi. The only notable event was an encounter with a herd of buffalos. It’s one thing seeing these aggressive lumps of muscle from the safety of a safari van, quite another when walking! Fortunately, our
support crew seemed to know what to do, and earned their tips, with a good amount of shouting, clapping and (presumably) well judged stone throwing. Under this onslaught the herd soon ambled safely out of our way and into the undergrowth.
As any good athlete will tell you, recovery is all important. Therefore, on returning to Nairobi we set about consuming as much protein as possible, at the famous Carnivore restaurant, apparently twice voted in the top 50 in the world. This place does exactly what says on the tin and is definitely not the realm of the vegetarian. Meats of all manner are barbecued over a pit of fire on giant swords and served to you until you lower the flag on your table as a sign of defeat!
Tot: 2.645s; Tpl: 0.063s; cc: 22; qc: 102; dbt: 0.0801s; 2; m:saturn w:www (126.96.36.199); sld: 1;
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