Today was the day I was suppose to catch a ride with Lilli Molitor to the border of Namanga region, which splits Tanzania and Kenya apart. This is the area I ended my last walk. Our plan was to walk from the border to Nairobi via the A104 road but before we would leave our bags behind at my buddy Neil’s house. I met Neil the year before in Vilanculos, Mozambique during my journey. Once we met up with Neil he was prepping to climb Mt. Kenya with his friend Lucy, they had just an hour before they had to depart. They both asked if we’d be keen to join, after some back and forth talks with Lilli we decided to climb the mountain with them. That was probably the most last minute mountain climbing decision ever made. However the days ahead of us would tell us it was well worth it.
Our plans were rushed, luckily Lilli and I were already well equipped with proper gear. The challenge was to bring more or less warm clothes. We scurried to find food rations at the grocery stores as well as local markets for fruits and yogurt (though that did not last more than half a day). After getting all the food prep we met up with our guide for advanced payments. Neil used Mpesa money system to pay the guide (an easy form of mobile money transfer). The price was a steep pill to swallow but we did it anyway.
Finally on our way to the mountain we could see the peak of Mt. Kenya piercing through the clouds in the far distance. Day one was only a two and a half hour hike up a gentle slope that lead us to the first overnight rest stop called Old Moses Camp which sits 3300m above sea level. That day we all felt fine, a little cold and hungry but fine nevertheless. I prepared instant noodles on my stove cooker while Lucy and Neil prepared the main dish in the kitchen, luckily they overstocked on food because we were completely unprepared. The sky was crisp and cool with slight wind chills, a lot fresher than the air you breath in Nairobi. You could finally feel the atmosphere of the surrounding mountains. After our meals and taking a thousand photos we headed for bed, as the next day would be a long eight hour hike to the next base camp.
Day two was a cold, early morning, we had our planned breakfast and headed straight to the hills where we begin our one thousand meter ascend to the second camp. We covered eight hours of hiking that day with our backpacks on our backs. It was honestly a tiring and taxing experience, however, visually it was insanely breathtaking. The landscape varied with alien-like vegetation at every corner like the giant Senecio trees, lobelias and muppet plants. I felt like I was trekking on a new planet. I was faced with some daunting challenges, I’ve climbed a three thousand mountain six months ago in Malawi prior to climbing Mount Kenya and that was my first time ever climbing a mountain. My experience was lacking, however following a few simple rules like getting my breathing technique right and climbing with small steps can get you out of a lot of trouble. As we reached the next basecamp (Shiptons Camp) which stood at four thousand and one hundred meters we were fully exhausted. We wanted nothing more to do than just rest in the camp. That was the time I really began to feel the altitude. Neil was quite healthy and strong while the rest of use suffered from slight headaches. That night I suffered from a massive migraine while my body temperature ran dangerously below normal.
Day three we acclimatized, in order to do that we climbed seven hundred meters up from our basecamp and descended an hour after we reached the top. It was a relaxing day, we focused only on our health and acclimatization to the mountain.
The final climb began at 3:30AM with nothing but pitch black surrounding us, the air was crisp cold and the climb was incredibly slow paced, any faster and you would suffer from exhaustion or altitude sickness. It was an eerie-slow and quiet ascend, the landscape reminded me of the desolate environment on Mars. After what seemed like an eternity (four hours) we arrived at the peak of Point Lenana (4985m high). It was reaching minus degree temperatures and the wind was swirling at a furious pace. It was brutal, however the glory of making it to the top was all worth it. The view was beyond beautiful, something a great deal of people would never have the pleasures of experiencing. I had the energy and patience of taking only one or two photos while Neil and Lucy had brought their special onesie costumes to wear on the peak. The way was probably the most fun and dangerous. We basically slid and fell our way down the mountain, a one thousand meter descend. At the bottom we celebrated with a bottle of champagne for the four of us and drank to the success.
It was an absolute rush as well as one of the most challenging hikes I have ever been on. You are challenged mentally and physically. It’s been a few days since I’ve climbed mount Kenya and already i’m missing that environment. Challenging yourself is not about competing with others or yourself but it is a requirement in order to explore what this good earth has to offer us. I thrive to stay inquisitive, to learn something new each day and live each day as it comes.
Mario is an explorer currently embarking on a voyage to walk across Africa by foot.