Mt. Kenya is the highest mountain in Kenya and the second highest in Africa. It has three peaks namely Batian,Nelion and Point Lenana in that order.
Mount Kenya National Park receives an estimated 16,000 visitors per year. Apart from hiking and mountaineering which are the most popular activities at the park,game viewing,camping and bird watching is also common with both local and international visitors.
Hiking Mount Kenya is not easy and can not be taken on without preparation. You just do not wake up and decide you want to hike Mt.Kenya. It takes months of training and preparation.
A careful consideration has to be made when choosing a tour company for the important 5 day hike that might be a matter of life and death if not planned by an experienced tour planner.
I booked my hike with Xtrym Adventures back in January 2017 for the April hike. There has to be at least four mandatory preparation hikes,all adequately spaced out within the four months. It is during these hikes that you get to experiment with your new gear so you don’t get disappointed with improper gear and the discomfort that comes with new shoes and gear.
The cost of the hike was charged as follows;
- Citizens-Ksh 27,000
- Residents with work permits-Ksh 30,000
- Non Residents-Ksh 25,000 plus KWS park fees of USD 260.
The above cost does not cover tips for the guides, cooks and porters. It also doesn’t cover for the prep hikes. While budgeting, it is also important to set aside enough money for buying hiking gear which costs an arm and a leg. The easiest way out is renting. Duncan of Xtrym adventure hooked us up with Chris Tembo who rents out mountain gear at the best rate in town.
With more than sixteen organized group trips to Mt.Kenya and countless others to Mt.Meru and Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Ruwenzori at the border of Congo and Rwanda plus a host of many other mountains, Xtrym adventures was the most suitable candidate for the job.
The last prep hike was at Ngong Hills, which is approximately twenty two kilometers from Nairobi city centre. It was during that hike that we got to meet the entire team(popularly referred to Team Xtrym Adventures Mt.Kenya Easter 2017 Edition) and have a final pre-departure meeting. From the onset, a whatsapp group was put in place for ease and convenience of communication.
It takes a total of five days to hike Mount Kenya starting from Sirimon gate and finish at the Chogoria gate.
We set off on Thursday 13th April and finished on the 17th of April 2017 as follows.
We departed from Nairobi at around 6:00 am. Everyone else kept time apart from me. It was a bit embarassing to hop into the bus and everyone is settled waiting for you.
There was anxiety in the air. I was scared too. The horror stories, altitude sickness and trekking for an estimated 80km in total wasn’t something to look forward to. We made two quick stops for breakfast and the other one in Nanyuki at the Equator.
Shortly after leaving Nanyuki, Duncan made it so clear that if there was anyone who wasn’t so sure about the hike, then Nanyuki would be the best place to turn back…There was a piercing silence there after. Stuff suddenly got real.
Arrival at Mt.Kenya National Park…
We arrived at Sirimon gate at around half past midday. When we got there, it was straight to business, off loading the bus, taking lunch, introduction to the porters, guides and cooks. So for the twenty five of us, there were twenty five porters . Your porter is in charge of your main bag.
After a brief introduction, the porters and the cooks left quickly with our luggage for the first camp.
With the lighter day bags, a nine kilometer tarmacked stretch to Old Moses camp,a full tummy and a not so hot sun wasn’t a bad idea after all.
Sunset at the mountain was magical! However, as soon as the sun sets the weather drastically changes and temperatures drop sharply.
We arrived at Old Moses camp at dusk. The camp sits at 3,300m high. It is basic, dunk beds, benches, two washrooms and a tiny common sitting area. The frigid cold at night was out of this world. Popcorn, biscuits and hot black tea came in handy! Remember, showering is not an option during the first four days and your core business is walking.
The cooks did remarkably well with the food. Their consistency with quality and variety and serving meals on time gave me something to look forward to at the end of each day.
The day started at around 6:00am. Sunrise was spectacular and the peaks could be seen from the camp. I wondered why we needed so many days to finish this hike. I mean the peaks were just there.
Breakfast was quick, so was the stretching/workout session. However, all was not well with me. My chances of summiting began getting slimmer because of a stiff neck from the previous night. So painful was my neck that the thought of going back home crossed my mind. There were strict instructions not to take any form of medication and the pain balms and ointments were not working. Tough times.
Plan of the day was to walk to Shipton camp which is at 4,200m high. The hike was an estimated 17km and was to take any where between 6-8 hours.
We crossed Likii valley and Mackinders valley.The crystal clear rivers, streams and plants I got to see for the first time. This was the first time in my life I drank directly from a river.
The never ending slopes were a mix of steep and gentle. The pain in my neck was growing and having my day bag on my back made it even worse as the pain radiated to the back of my head and my shoulders. I missed every laughter and joke. This was the time I started questioning the choices I make in life.
I was there physically but at home emotionally. However that did not stop me from taking photos of the enchanting landscape and the obviously tired but cheerful friends.
Wabbie,Judy and the magician.
By the time we were stopping for lunch at Likii river, I was so beat and out. A quick estimated had me thinking of wherethe energy to finish the other half of the hike was going to come from. If we were to cover 17km, and we were halfway it only meant we had about 9km to go. I couldn’t eat. Everyone was so supportive and I remember Robert removing stuff from my bag to make it lighter. A quick nap as over lunch, painkillers and a hot water bottle did the magic.Somehow.
The long walk after lunch wasn’t as bad because of the diminishing pain. The scenery, plants endemic to Mt.Kenya, cute mountain rodents and the now very conspicuous peaks made it more exciting.
The long after lunch walk to shipton was quiet and uneventful. Vegetation was beginning to thin out as we started the rocky terrain. The higher we kept going the colder it became and got worse when the sun went down. Day two was tough.
When we got to the camp, there wasn’t as much excitement as the first night. This was the same night we were supposed to summit. We had four hours to freshen up, eat, overdress , sleep and get ready to summit.
I was not ready. I was scared and weak.
Day 3.(Summit Night)
No sooner had I closed my eyes and zipped up my sleeping bag than I had the wake up call. How now?
I grudgingly woke up, packed my bags then went for tea. The temperatures outside must have been minus a thousand degrees! My hands were freezing despite the two layers of my sub zero gloves.
On the summit day, the hike is meant to start at exactly 2:00am especially if it is a big group like ours. There were some delays but we eventually set off. Biting cold, lack of enough sleep, a throbbing head and a weak body was the story of my life.
The unspoken rule of hiking has it that the weakest hikers lead the pack. The first one hour of trying to get to 4,985m at sunrise from 4,200m was just ok. My body was pulling me back in as much as my mind was all made up for summiting. The breaks became too frequent and the rest of the team slowly but surely widened the gap with permission.
We were left lagging behind with Racheal; who had a bad case of altitude sickness that only got worse the higher we climbed. The only way she was to helped was to get to Lake Harris then start heading down to the next camp. On the other had, I was so weak with a slight headache. I could not even lift my own legs.
If there was that one time I felt so helpless in my entire life was summit day. Thank God for Habbakuk aka Haba Haba who helped with my day bag, held me by the arm and practically walked with me. Bless his soul. Duncan was there for moral support and entertainment and watched over Rachael together with Ken. He even labeled us ‘Team Machozi’.
The ascend was the toughest part of the entire hike. Steep rocky slopes with some eroded sharp edges and loose gravel and feeble legs.
The intention was to get to the peak at sunrise but that proved impossible because even the leading pack was moving with difficulties.
Sweat, tears, doubt and a possibility of not making it the summit was frustrating. The only thing I wanted was to get to lake Harris then figure out my next move.
The next hour was very quiet. Soon after we were at Lake Harris.
At this point, Duncan had to release Habakuk and Ken. I wanted them to go summit as well.
The leading lot was about 45 mins away, I thought I could make it to go up with Habbakuk and Ken, but I was so weak.
Point Lenana was so near yet so far.
They say nothing is impossible to a willing heart. I removed two layers of my clothes, drank water; lots of it, took sultanas and an energy bar then sat for a while. I felt a bit energetic and decided to follow the rest of the guys. However, there was a problem. There was no way I was going up alone. The options I had were to wait for the other guys to come down after two hours then request one of our guides to go with me or to go down with Duncan and Rachael. Sitting next to the very cold breeze of Lake Harris for two hours at such high altitude was a recipe for a slow death. I did not want to die slowly.
The more time we took to reach to a decision the more Rachael worsened. The only solution was to go with Duncan and Rachael without summiting. Well, there went another ‘machozi’ moment.
As I absorbed what just happened and what was about to happen,something miraculous happen,a hiker and his guide showed up from Shipton and Duncan requested them to tag me along to meet my group.
No sooner had Duncan disappered than the guide told me they were in a rush and they needed to rush. Wow. Anyway, I released them but decided to take a step at a time to the top.No going back.
Check out part two of this series and find out whether I summited on not.