Well, we made it! 42 years after firstly climbing Mt Kenya as an 18 year old, I returned with two very special friends of our son Paul. Rachael and Jo were brilliant companions on this 6 day adventure.
To see a selection of pictures go to Mt Kenya 2013
On day one we set off with our guides Peter and Caroline (and more porters than I’m willing to admit to!) from the Sirimon Park gate at 8,700ft (Sirimon is near Nanuyki on the north west side of Mt Kenya). We had an uneventful walk up through the forest to Old Moses Camp at 11,000ft , crossing the equator on the way.
Next day we continued up to our base for the next three nights – Shipton’s Camp (13,900ft) at the base of the main peaks. Sadly we were in cloud and rain all day so we didn’t get any views and we might have been on the equator but at well over 10,000ft it felt more like Scotland (it was cold as well as wet!); still, a closer look at the vegetation reminded us we were indeed in Africa!
After a cold night, day 3 dawned bright and clear with stunning views of the main peaks directly above us. Rachael was definitely feeling the effects of the altitude as we set off for an acclimatisation walk up to the Hausberg Col (15,100ft). Sadly she had to turn back half way up but Jo and Peter and I continued to the top by which time the mist had rolled in although we did get some views. On the way down the mist thickened and by the afternoon it was raining again, setting the pattern for the rest of then trek.
The afternoon was spent in the camp feeling very cold despite wearing everything we had. Fortunately Jo and Rachael enlivened the long hours of waiting with card games and oregame which kept us, and the porters, well amused!
Day Four was our summit day. We set off in the dark about 3.00am. It was well below freezing as we made our way up the steep slopes towards Pt Lenana (16,350ft) at a slow but steady pace under a brilliant, star studied sky.
Rachael was definitely feeling the effects of the altitude, but it was our no. 2 guide Caroline who had to turn back feeling unwell! So that left Peter and the three of us to carry on, aiming to reach the summit by sunrise. It felt like a long hard climb with several false summits, but we arrived breathless just as the sun was appearing above the horizon. It was an intense experience with all of us in a very emotional state! Rachael (I think) with relief at having made it, Jo because of Rachael, and me as I thought of Paul who would so have loved to do this trek and who was so much with us in our thoughts (and on the banner we had brought!).
The views were amazing, especially in the early morning light, with bright shafts of sunshine illuminating the main peak of Nelion just 5ooft higher than us, and Pt John below us.
Many photos later we headed back down, now with some concern about Rachael’s well being. It was an equally long descent despite now being in bright sunshine. As we got lower, Rachael’s condition worsened with bouts of mild delerium so that she needed a lot of encouragement and physical support, but 3 hours later we were back in camp for a very welcome breakfast! Rachael spent much of the day in bed with Jo reading Harry Potter to her whilst we kept an anxious and close eye on her condition. Altitude sickness with headaches, dizziness etc is one thing but pulmonary oedema is a much more serious condition and needs rapid evacuation. Happily she made a gradual recovery and by late afternoon we were confident she was on the mend! It was a long day with sunshine giving way to the usual cloud then rain!
Next day once again dawned bright and cold as we set off back down to Old Moses Camp. In many ways this was the best day as we enjoyed the views we had been denied on the way up and warm sunshine (despite the air temperature still being well below freezing and the ground very icy).
That evening at Old Moses we enjoyed a rather surreal and impromptu dance in the dark accompanied by music on our porters’ smart phones! As well as disco dancing we tried teaching them a Scottish jig – Strip the Willow – which all made for a very entertaining evening! We shared the camp that night with a religeous sect who decided to hold their own knees up – or rather sing along – at 2.00am in the room next to ours! Fortunately they were persuaded to stop!
On our final day we again enjoyed warm sunshine as we returned to the Park Gate to be greeted a couple of hours later by my wife Pip and daughter Rebekah who had flown out from the UK that night. Thus one adventure ended and another began, but that is another story!
The trek was not only successful in reaching the summit but is set to raise well over £4,000 in sponsorship for our charity Paul’s Fund (for more information and to make a donation go to Paul’s Fund) as well as raising awareness of the charity which is great and just as important!