Saturday, January 14, 2012

January 12, 12 - Mt Kenya:


Maybe I’m crazy, but I don’t think I remember anyone telling me how DIFFICULT this climb would be!!! The first three days were easy – four or five hours of hiking trails that were not very steep – altitude being the biggest issue. We camped at 10,000 feet the first night (the same altitude as the summit of Mt Baldy), 13,300 the second, and 14,100 the third. I opted out of taking any altitude sickness meds and luckily – had no issues other than the fact that it was difficult to breathe after running to the restroom or trying to get something out of the tent.
Up, up, up - day 2!

This mountain is wild. She doesn’t look that big at first sight… but she’s tricky. Her long, soft rolling hills at the base of the mountain fool you into thinking that the spear-like summit(s) might actually be easy to get to. Not true.
The summit as viewed from camp on night three (last camp before summit).

Our summit climb (technically day 4) started with a 2 am wake up call. By just after 3 were climbing – literally – straight up – at 15,000 ft. I don’t mind climbing early, I don’t mind climbing up, I don’t mind altitude, I don’t mind climbing in the dark, and I certainly don’t mind wearing a day pack – but combine all of the elements and you get a dizzy, tired, imbalanced version of me struggling for oxygen. I SUFFERED!

The last three miles of the climb were a scramble and were more difficult than anything I’ve ever done, I think partly because my legs were already spent from the first part of the morning’s climb, and partly because of the altitude – 16,000 ft. (I’m sure it has nothing to do with the fact that I hadn’t really trained to do anything like this. HA!)

The prize(s):

-       Climbing to the summit with a full moon literally lighting up the sky and the ground, helping us along the way.
-       The first signs of light about two hours into the climb, allowing us to see the lakes that surround the peaks that make up the several summits of Mt Kenya. 
First sign of light

-       The rise of the sun in all of her glory – watching the atmosphere adjust to her warmth and light. 

-       The feeling of strength of mind, spirit, body, and unity when we all reached the Lenana Point. 

-       The view of Africa from Kenya’s (almost) highest point. Seeing Kili looming in the distance. Taking it all in. Trying so hard to recognize every second for the gift that it is. 

 Coming off the mountain wasn’t too much easier than going up. The summit is literally so steep that they’ve installed cables to hold onto to. I loved the initial decent. It was a lot like repelling without a harness… Just hold on, lean back, and let gravity do the hard work. It was SO much fun. I giggled most of the way off the summit rocks, through the ice and the snow and down to the “Austrian Hut” – where the team gathered again for the long, long, steep, scree-infested decent (which I loved, but managed to fall four times…). 
Almost down- resting the feet.

Summit day was definitely the most difficult – 15 hours of hard climbing up, lack of oxygen, and then climbing down through the scree, what I would call a desert, the “vertical bog” and the forest – which we affectionately dubbed the “rain forest” seeing as it started raining as soon as we walked into it.

(The forest was AMAZING – really, a stunning way to end the day. I’ve never seen anything quite like it.)
We finished our time on Mt Kenya with a nice, slightly downhill, six-mile hike (spotting monkeys all along the way) to the entrance gate for Mt Kenya where we were greeted by 40 beautiful men singing and dancing in celebration of our success, champagne, beer, and laughter followed. 
Kind of a crap pic - but there are MONKEYS!!!

I’ve never met a mountain quite like Mt Kenya – but then, I’ve never been to a place quite like Kenya. The warmth and kindness of the people here is almost as striking as the fierceness of their mountain. Gratitude abounds. 
Celebratory drink treats at the gate!!!


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