Climbing Mount Kenya

Climbing Mount Kenya

In March 2011 I was persuaded (or should I say tricked!) into joining the group of people climbing Mount Kenya over New Year to raise money for The Barut Development Centre build. What was pitched as a challenging yet exciting 4-day hike to see the first sunrise of 2012 on top of a mountain turned out to be one of the toughest experiences of my life. The climb recruited 10 volunteers and we flew to Nairobi in groups on the 27th December. It would take us just over 3 days to reach the summit on the 1st January 2012.On Day 1 our group kitted up and gently eased into the trek.

It took us an afternoon to get to our first camp led by our guides and soon to be best friends Mark and Simon. One of the team managed to get blisters within minutes but found a willing porter to swap boots with her for the small price of a bag of lollipops. Dinner was a pleasant surprise who expects a three course meal on the side of a mountain? There was even a little entertainment from our neighbouring monkeys who seemed just as curious about us as we were about them. One even tried to come into the hut but was quickly apprehended by a group member and got his poor monkey hand shut in the door we all laughed when he ran away kissing his hand. It all appeared too good to be true until we checked out the ëtoiletsí - sheds covering the holes in the ground. Everyone had to visit them but some had more successful trips than others. We spent the night in bunk beds huddled together to keep warm and trying to resist the urge to pee!Day 2 we were up early as today involved the most
amount of walking. It was boggy in places but team morale was high and we kept each other going by singing Hakuna Matata. Like the songs our energy ran out and the second half of the day was a struggle.

It seemed like we would never reach the camp and we had rather a lot of unscheduled stops. We eventually arrived at Mackinder Camp and had tea and Kenyan donuts. Most of us had to lie down for a nap before dinner and a lot of tablets were passed around as the altitude headaches really kicked in. After dinner most of the gang headed to bed but a few of us stayed up to play cards. We taught Mark our guide to play ëGo Fishí until we could barely keep our eyes open and crawled into our sleeping bags.We didnít have to get up quite as early on day 3 (New Years Eve) as it was to be the shortest but steepest part of the climb. It was steeper than we had expected and sometimes the ground just slipped from beneath your feet. The air got thinner and thinner until we were all panting even when stationary. The group was spread out across the mountain side and it was hard to encourage each other when we were all struggling so much. Each time we reached what we thought was the top we
discovered it just kept going and there was more climbing to be done. I admired our guidesí patience with us as we were like small children in the back of a car asking ëhow much longer ëtil we get there? I was not so impressed with the answer we received as they almost always said it was ëonly half an hour moreí and we were still asking two hours later!

We arrived at Top Hut ate and napped then one of the guides mentioned about walking a bit further up the mountain before dinner to help with the altitude sickness when we came back down to the hut. Snuggled up inside my sleeping bag I remember hoping that the walk was optional unfortunately it was not. We begrudgingly put our walking boots back on and followed the group out into the snow. The half an hour walk was actually quite pleasant and it felt a lot better than being inside the stuffy cabin. A few of the girls made snow angels and some of us slid down the snowy slopes on our bums. Back at the hut the guides briefed us about what was going to happen in the morning. We went to bed to attempt to get some sleep before our 4am start but most of us just tossed in our bunks too nauseous to sleep.

The final day and we ate our light breakfast of tea and biscuits in silence but the atmosphere was heavy with exhaustion and anticipation. The sickest of our group voiced their fears of being too ill to make it to the top but every member of our group left the hut at 4.30am. It was pitch black and even those of us with head torches could only see the feet of the person in front of us. This part of the climb was the most technically difficult we had to climb over icy rocks and use awkwardly positioned ropes to keep ourselves on the path. I could barely feel my feet and progress was slow. Occasionally we had to stop for someone to heave over the side of the track. The sunlight was approaching fast and although we all agreed that it didnít matter if we missed the sunrise as long as we made it to the top I was secretly hoping we would finish the challenge as we had intended from the start. The final climb involved pulling ourselves up on a precarious looking ladder and as I
reached the top I could see the first rays of sunshine breaking the horizon.

As the group came up one by one everyone had a tear in their eye. It is hard to put into words what I felt standing watching the sun come up and even as I write this I am welling up reliving the experience. It was an overwhelming mixture of relief exhaustion achievement and pride. I was standing on top of the world and it felt like the greatest achievement of my life. We took a few photos so we had the evidence that we had made it but the elation couldnít hold off the altitude sickness for too long and knowing how far we had to go to the bottom we were keen to get off the mountain that had been torturing us for the last 3 days. It wasnít until we got home and Holly gave us the overwhelming news that our joint fundraising efforts had actually paid for a whole classroom to be built within the The Barut Development Centre.

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climbing mount kenya