Mount Kenya is the second highest mountain in Africa. Trekkers are starting to take notice of this beautiful glacial peak. An ancient dormant volcano, Mount Kenya plays host to dense bamboo and rainforest on its lower slopes and rare Afro-Alpine moorland and plant-life at higher elevations. Alongside the climbers’ twin peaks of Batian (5199m) and Nelion (5,188m) lies the no less dramatic trekkers peak at Lenana (4,985m). The trek up Mount Kenya demands a degree of fitness and altitude smarts, but it rewards all the way to the peak.
Hodari Boys Club was able to organize a trip to Mount Kenya with some boys on 18th to 20th July 2021. Set for a three day adventure none of us will ever forget, new friendships were formed as we trailed motivating each other over the chilly conditions of the beautiful landscape of Mount Kenya. With astonishing help from Peter Mbugua and his companion Jackson Mwai with Brian, Peter and Austine as the tutors, we were all able to reach the Lenana peak but not with ease. It was a tough climb but we were tougher with an aim from the first day.
It was a calm morning that Sunday 18th, and we we’re preparing and packing our large bags in the Strathmore School bus. We started off by a short prayer in the chapel and then sitting in the back of the bus on our way from Nairobi to the mountain village called Naromoru . While Brian and Peter were re-arranging some of our bags, others were in a deep sleep. We were instructed by Austine who checked our luggage thoroughly. Good shoes: check. Enough water bottles: check. Warm jacket, gloves and hat: check. We were then assigned our duties.
We continued for another hour to Mount Kenya over long and windy dusty gravel roads, straight through the dense forest up the foot of the mountain. Along the way, we picked up the last two of our fellowship; our cheerful porters who we learnt that they were the loyal duo who helped Hodari club ascent the mountain since “our old-man Bob Odero” climbed with them.
Arriving at the gate, we were warned by the rangers against littering on the mountain. Further, in the distance, we walked sharing stories, taking photos, what an evening that was. After a 3 hour walked we were at our first resting point for the night. Soon after we arrived at out cabins at Met-Station, we attended Holy Mass celebrated by Fr. Nguru. It happened to be his birthday, and afterwards, during the get together during dinner, we sang for him and for Nick Njiru whose birthday had just passed. The next morning we woke up early, a lucky few related how they saw animals in the middle of the night. The ready for our ascent. We munched down a hearty breakfast and took off to the colossal snowy peaks of Mount Kenya.
This was the longest day, since we covered the most distance to hike to our second campsite. The journey would take us through a wide variety of ever-changing landscapes. Dry grasslands, lush forests and eventually, dark scorched fields. It was almost like walking on the burned surface of a foreign planet. The scenery became more and more dramatic as we ventured on. Some parts with increased gradients. We made some stops. The elevation quickly caught up with us, making it harder to breathe. While we were struggling with every step, feeling as if we could collapse any minute now, our porter and guides happily skipped past us. When we finally arrived at Teleki River, we were all amazed by the clean water and filled our bottles.
Surprisingly enough, after the long hike and climb, we were not hungry at all: a clear consequence of altitude sickness. Although we felt fine (except for a lingering headache), everything seemed to cost us a lot of energy. We finally arrived at our camp at Mackinders. After our early dinner, we crawled into our shared room and it started getting extremely cold. We put on all the clothes we had with us (thermal underwear, shirt, sweater, jacket, hat and gloves), but it still felt chilly sleeping.
The alarm clock abruptly wakes us from our light snooze around 2:30 AM. The stars were bright and our tent and water bottles were frozen solid. Despite feeling quite uncomfortable at this hour of the day, we were very excited and had positive vibes to get to the summit and see the sunrise. We put on our headlamps and followed Peter Mbugua, one of our experienced guide’s footsteps into the dark night. Arranged in a straight line. I remember Peter being behind me as he has vision issues. Eat your carrots next time pal.
The first two hours upwards were quite tough but were going fine. But then the slopes got steeper and more difficult by the minute. Walking in silence, in the freezing cold, in the middle of the night we suddenly got that inevitable feeling of ‘why am I doing this again?’.
Every step became harder and the track seemed never-ending. Austine at this point, wasn’t off much help either, as every time we asked him how much farther we had to go, he responded with: ‘‘almost there’’. We stepped on, slowly but steadily, and the icy winds became very harsh on our face, hands and bodies.
We recall it was around 6:00 AM.
This last part was, well… brutal. Co-climbers encouraged each other to go on for the last few meters and assisted them to the top. This gave us hope. In the dawn of the morning, we think we saw a flag. That must be the summit, or is it? Is it even a flag? The exhaustion and altitude sickness had certainly made us go insane.
The last part was very steep and incredibly tough. We climbed a frozen ladder. Then, suddenly, we were there. We couldn’t believe that we were actually standing on the summit of Mount Kenya! And as if it was a sign from above, the sun started to rise over this unforgettable place and revealed all that was dark before: dozens of scattered mountain lakes, a huge glacier and the giant 5.199 peak of Mount Kenya right next to us.
We were wasted, from physical exhaustion, relief and of all the other emotions we experienced on this epic journey. Totally broken, but also grateful that we could experience this special moment, together. We took some pictures with watery eyes by the famous sign at 4.985 meters Lenana Summit. Truly a once in a lifetime experience!
All of us made it, safely. Such experiences, make us realize how supporting each other goes a long way. While we sat there in silence, staring at the rising sun over the horizon, it was time to go down again. The long way back! Descending to the gate of the park.
It was still a very tough journey back. The loose gravel on the steep slope (read: jelly legs) make it difficult to keep a grip. So we slipped down, clamping on big rocks and stones until the landscape finally became less rocky and walkable again. We won’t lie: walking almost 18 kilometers down was hard. Really, really hard. At our last stop we held a mass, and surely that 1 hour rest we got there made our legs the weakest they ever were.
It was fun trailing the boggy marshy moorland with the clouds passing us, the valley-ish part where we looked at Teleki River but in those 3 days the fun came alongside with the hard-work we put. We will never forget this incredible experience. I, on behalf of my other friends would like to thank Peter Mbugua, Jackson Mwai, Fr. Nguru, Austine Brian and Peter for making this possible.
Article by: Mark Angwenyi