Left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot again as I stepped through ice and snow. I concentrated on not falling off the cliff to the right, or at least what I thought was a cliff. With my small head torch in the pitch black of night I could not tell if the darkness to my left was a cliff or just a huge rock. My fingers hurt from the cold, despite the snow gloves I wore. My heart pounded against my chest and my breathing was heavy as I tried to obtain the little oxygen in the air. I was wearing two socks, thermal leggings under snow pants, two jackets and a hat yet I was still cold. I found it hard to believe that I was still in Kenya.
|Old Moses Lodge|
Before arriving to Kenya I never expected to be walking through snow shivering from the cold. On Wednesday I began my trek to the third highest peak of Mount Kenya at 4,985 meters (16,355 ft). My group loaded into a colorful matatu (small Kenyan bus/van) and headed down a dirt road to the Sirimon trail head. We had a quick lunch and walked 9km on a dirt/paved road to Old Moses Lodge at 3,400 metres (11,155 ft). Here we ate a hearty meal of fried fish, soup, rice and veggies. We turned into our sleeping bags in the room full of bunk beds.
|Fun with Lobelia telekii|
|Shipton's Camp with Mount Kenya in the Background|
We woke up on Friday for our acclimation hike. We headed up a trail to a ridge just below the tallest Mount Kenya peaks: Batian and Nelion. We watched as the clouds rolled into the valley on the other side of the ridge. Above us loomed the daunting rock faces of the two tallest peaks, which are only scalable with rock climbing equipment. We headed back for more fresh popcorn and card games. It began to snow as we sheltered in the small lodge making friends with the other hikers. We formed a small united nations as we sat and chatted with the Chilean, French, Italian, British, Canadian, and Kenyan climbers. We went to bed early knowing that the following day would be the most challenging.
|Enjoying the view for breakfast|
Our guide knocked on our door at 2:30 AM signalling it was time to get up and get ready to summit. We put on all our layers, turned on our headlights and started for the trail that would take us up to Peak Lenana. It was nice that we could not see more than 20 feet in front of us, it was less daunting not to see the looming mountain above us as we climbed. We concentrated on the trail under our feet stopping every hour for a short snack and pee break. We continued to climb as the earth began to brighten around us. Soon we realized how precarious the trail was. Shimmying around rock ledges, we began to scramble up boulders, climb ladders and tread through fresh snow. The peak came into view, the small Kenyan flag and wood signs marking the summit gave us a boost of energy to finish the long trail.
|Our team at the Peak|
We spent the night in luxorious bandas with a warm shower, a wood burning stove and a small dining room. The next morning we headed down a small dirt road in a old jeep to Chogoria Town. From here we were loaded into a matatu and then a taxi for a 9 hour drive back to Eldoret for some much needed rest.
|View of Gorges Valley from the trail|
Overall Mount Kenya was an amazing trek. Its a little known gem of Kenya. People on out trek who had hiked both Killimanjaro and Mount Kenya said that Mount Kenya was hands down a more beautiful and less touristy trek. Not to mention its almost 1/10 the price.
I would like to thank our guides, porters, and cooks from Equatorial Star Adventure Safaris who made this trip possible for a student friendly budget. Find them at www.equitorialstar.com
What to Pack:
1. Warm sleeping bag (rated to below freezing)
2. Small backpack to carry water, snacks, rain clothes, camera
3. Large backpack for the porter to carry your other equipment
4. Good waterproof hiking boots
5. Rain top and Pants or a parka
6. Thermal top and bottom
7. Fleece or light jacket
8. Warm parka or down jacket
9. Three wool socks and 1-2 sock liners
10. Hiking pants and one long sleeve and short sleeve top
11. Warm hat
12. Warm gloves - snow-gloves are the best for the top
13. Walking sticks if that's your thing
14. Snacks and two 1L water bottles
15. Powerpack for charging camera/phone (there is no power in the lodges)
17. Roll of toilet paper