The #MtKenyaChallenge2017 started to take shape after Nathan and Kenton Hills, people start evaluating whether climbing Mt Kenya is something they want to pursue or let go, Elephant hill was what was going to tell you if your body was ready for a thrashing. I confirm the second time, after all I promised myself to take up on all challenges and take up all opportunities that pass my way this year. It is better to look back and say you tried something and it didn’t work out than think how you were too scared to even try, comfort zone is an ass…
The Mountain Gear Checklist is provided to all of us who were interested, and boy oh boy when I went to Nairobi Sportshouse it was costing a small fortune, my friend and colleague, Chris would joke I did not need to break a bank, I needed two banks to get all the gear! I created wishlists which I would cross out whenever I got cash. The beauty of Xtrym is they informed us where to get gear at affordable rates. For the frugal like me we were given Gikomba and Toi market options. We had a Gikomba date and I hopped in on the first call, last minute purchases have left me high and dry before and I would rather have enough time to weigh my options, I know you are seeing the planner in me STOP. In Gikomba we spent half day there and got much of our gear at 1/8 of the price, it was unbelievable. I got most of my gear and whatever remained was a few items that I could get from Chris of Tembo wear or Toi. Before I forget, if you do not know what to look for, Chris is your guy, he has everything you need under one roof.
Elephant hill stands at 3600m above sea level and this was what would tell you if you were ready or not for the #MtKenyaChallenge2017. Here is where you would get to dance with altitude sickness, the stories we were told were just scary. So we needed to have atleast our shoes and rainproof gear ready for this one.
The meeting time was 5.30am so I assumed we would leave at 6.00am in the morning as always, as my boss always says assumption makes an ass of you and me haha. I assumed bad. I had stayed up until 2 am which was not an excuse so when I leave the house at that 5.30 I get a call 15 minutes later from Duncan asking me where I am, I tell him Muthaiga he says I should have been there at 5.30am, utawachwa Kel tu. I laugh a nervous laugh because I have been stranded several times but on different and unrelated occasions. Anyway I make it 5 minutes to six on the nick of time just as the bus was about to leave. I board and find my seat next to Brian the Magician (I will explain this on a later post). As we talk he realizes I got late because I cannot leave the house without breakfast, he remembers he had packed his and shares his juice, free food fam fee food we don’t say no to free food, the coffee in my stomach has not settled and I add on that juice on top…
I fall asleep on our way to elephant hill, so to this day I cannot for the life of me tell you what direction it was. We arrive at the foot of the hill at around 8am, we had been given a target to make sure we summit the hill by 2pm. I have been praying hard for no rain for inasmuch I have the gear I do not find the idea of walking around drenched in mud very enticing.
The hill looks like an elephant and we are told that it is located on the migratory path for elephants and other wild animals and they had passed through about a week before we got there. We start at the rainforest which is pretty easy to walk through, next we go to bamboo where the steep climb begins. Geography classes come alive as we go alive as we cover more distance going up. We had been told that if we could not be able to make it to the point of despair by noon we would have to come back. The thought alone of not being able to finish was painful so I huffed and puffed panting like an overloaded donkey on that hill. The Flora changes beautifully the higher you go, I am in total awe and every so often I would stop look around and take it all in. It felt like therapy.
Altitude sickness starts to hit at around 3300m asl Ivy gets affected and Dedan help out with her bags, we struggle slowly and finally we make to the summit of elephant hill, 3600m asl. It is 1.30pm and we take many pictures smiling which make Duncan mad, he feels we have cheated, the gods of favorable weather seem to be on our side and he wonders how, he wants a repeat, repeat HA! Never ever! Ask Floyd Mayweather if he would accept a repeat with Manny Pacquiao after he beat him… Not going to happen.
We have our lunch snacks and begin our descend, the toes bear the brunt of steep hill, they keep bumping the front of the shoe you just want to sit remove the shoes and throw them away. I mean there were high school girls who we meet going up barefoot!!! Others were wearing bata ngomas. How do they manage that with those?!!! I have nothing but much respect for them.
When we get to the edge of the bamboo Ivy realizes she has dropped her phone. We stop and James our guide asks if we can go and start looking for it. I am beat but if she says yes we are going. She thinks for a moment and thinks through the hustle and decides it is too much work it can stay. Miriam offers her a phone until she gets hers as long as we don’t have to go back up. That is how gruesome the climb was. Luckily we meet Tsuma who works at KWS and he assures us that we would get it, since the hill is well secured. With that assurance we continue our way down. Many a times Olive and I would wonder if we were on the right path because we never seemed to be getting back to the bus. After many many minutes maybe hours we got to the bus. Someone called Tsuma and told us that the schoolgirls we had met going up barefoot had found Ivy’s phone, what better news than that?
We begin our journey back to Nairobi, I sleep most of the way, I hope I was not farting in my sleep, we had been told burping and farting help you alleviate altitude sickness, so you should not hold it in. We get to Nairobi some minutes to Seven, it was a good day. Third preparatory hike, check, the #MtKenyaChallenge2017 continued…
Also published on Medium.