My LONG OVERDUE (2yrs!) blog post from my 2010 trip to Kenya.
I am sitting in my cold house in London, staring at a blank screen with my essay title staring back.. I'm running out of ways to procrastinate, and looking through old Facebook photo albums brings me to the ULTIMATE procrastination technique.. The 'really-desperate-to-not-write-an-essay-on-J.S.Mill-so-I'll-write-a-blog-on-a-2-year-old-event-instead' technique! I kept a diary of my travels, so here's the typed transcript!
March 16th 2010-Day 1
Starting altitude: 2650m
Finishing altitude: 3300m
Distance walked: 9km
Woke up at 7am after a nervous, pre-mountain climbing sleep and Milly, Hattie (my climbing comrades/ascending amigos/hiking homies) and I started our toughest climb yet - the climb out of bed.. Our hotel breakfast consisted of pancakes, scrambled eggs, bacon, "toasted toast", and a cup of tea to wash down my anti-malarial pill. We were then fetched by our mountain guide, Benson, who we were very dubious about meeting - but we were pleased to see that he was kitted in walking boots and a GoreTex, not flip-flops and a football shirt.. Encouraging! He walked us to Barclays bank where we would be withdrawing our cash (sketchy??) to pay for our trip. This was quite an ordeal for me as my NatWest card wasn't accepted, nor was my Mum's card, so I ended up having to borrow the 39,000 shillings (around £333) from Milly, who luckily had a bank that didn't block her access for trying to withdraw more than £50 in a foreign country.... Anyway, easily sorted with a few expensive phone calls home, and we're off!
Quick dash back to the hotel to pick up the rented down feather GoreTex jackets, something I never expected to be wearing in equatorial Kenya, and we hoped in the car and drove 50 minutes to the foot of the beast - Siramon Gate, Mount Kenya National Park, 2650ft above sea level. There, we were met by our four accompanying porters/chefs (sounds v. glamorous, but it's pretty impossible to hike up with a packed lunch and all your layers on your back!).
Our ascent started at 11.45am, and for the first 2km of our journey we followed a dirt road which leads up to the Old Moses Camp. Also following the path was a blue-bummed Baboon who walked infront of us for about 1.5km - very Kenyan! The walk up the the camp was very interesting; starting in a lush green towering forest, we walked with the apes avoiding big vines growing across the path and dodged Elephant dung, which this time, we did not make into paper. The scenery changed about the same time as our monkey-mate disappeared into the bushes. The trees became gradually scarse, and the flora and fauna developed into massive prickly bushes sprouting fluorescent pink flowers, and looked like something from King Kong. We stopped for a brief lunch of tomatoes, ham sandwiches, Lucozade, bananas and homemade guacamole.. Average Kenyan lunch, no? We continued walking, and arrived at the camp to immediately change into warmer clothes. My 'uniform' for the past 10 weeks had been a t-shirt and short.. Layers? What are layers?!
The porters had made it to the camp a little bit before us, so we arrive to a hot cup of tea, some biscuits and... POPCORN!!! My favourite food presented to me after a steep hike up a mountain - glorious. There was another group staying in the camp as well, and too my delight, they were Canadians! They were on their way back down from a disappointing attempted ascent - they weren't able to reach the summit as the visibility was too poor - it was snowing heavily! We ate a tasty dinner of soup and fish which quickly got cold as a result of the bitter breeze creeping through the door of the metal shack. We hurried into bed at 8pm, and I woke up regretting my choice to climb this mountain when I had to check I still had my fingers, toes and nose..
March 17th 2010-Day 2
Starting altitude: 3300m
Finishing altitude: 4200m
Distance walked: 14km
At higher altitude, you can lose your appetite, so we were told to eat as much as possible.. Not a problem! Had a big, energy filled breakfast, and left the camp at 7.30am. One of the Canadians gave me a pair of 'Vancouver 2010' red mittens before she left - a sentimental gesture which I would later GREATLY appreciate when the temperature dropped again. From the camp we walked up a gradual incline at a nice pace, taking energy tablet and chocolate breaks along the way. Getting to the top of a very steep slope, we were greeted by the breathtaking view of the clouded 3 snow-capped peaks above a enormous glacial U-shaped valley. We took a 15 minute break here, and watched the clouds move away to reveal the mother of all mountains.. Holy mother were they ferocious! We dipped down into the valled to walk along a path surrounded by the weirdest, alien-like flora and fauna I've ever seen. We got neared the end of the valley floor, and started to see our next camp on the horizon. At this point, I could feel the effects of the altitude kicking in in headache form, so dosed up on Asprin with lunch. Making it to Shipton's camp around 2pm, we enjoyed the last few hours of the sun before it was swallowed up by the mountain.
Our guide told us that there was a possibility that we might make our ascent to the summit later that night to catch the spectacular 7am sunrise, but that we would probably leave it until the following day because the visibility would be better. We would instead spend the next day going on short walks around the camp to acclimatise ourselves in preparation for the summit. After lying on the ground to soak up the sun for a while, we ate and went to bed.
March 18th 2010-Day 3
Starting altitude: 4200m
Summit altitude: 4985m
So apparently we're going to go ahead with our sunrise summit - we were woken up at 2.30am with clear, but uncertain conditions. It was so cold that I put on literally every layer I'd packed - seven layers. (yes that's me in yellow)..
Walking with flashlights, we started our climb up Africa's 2nd highest mountain! The temperature quickly dropped as we got higher, we started seeing snow on the ground and my water bottle had transformed into a block of ice. I soon found it harder to breath, and it was difficult to concentrate on the path as I was focusing so intensely on regulating my breathing. I tried to distract myself from irregular weezing, and loosing track of real-life, we rounded a corner and saw the most amazing pink sunrise over the clouds. A few more meters of scramble later, and we reached the top, grabbing the summit sign together. Four thousand nine hundred and eighty five meters on top of the world!! It was around -15'c + wind chill at the top, so after a few photos and "ooohs" and "ahhhhs", we climbed down to a sheltered spot to "ooh" and "aah" some more. Kenya's phone network 'Safaricom' prides itself on "signal everywhere - even on Mount Kenya".. SO TRUE. I called a bewildered ma n pa at 5am GMT, and did the whole "we made it to the top... could see mt. Kilimanjaro... so amazing" spiel..
Descent took 1hr45mins. Down to hot choco. Played with weird Rock Hyraxes. Ate. Wrote in diary. Bed at 7.30pm. SWEET.
And the rest is history!! I'm sure my mum is the only one who will read this, but it's nice to finally - and in too much detail - get it down on paper!