#MtKenyaChallenge2017 Day 2: It’s about 3.00 am, the wind has become gentler but it is still whistling through the cracks, a snore here another one there, the room is also a bit warmer than a few hours ago. I jolt up because I hear people talking outside the Banda, I open one eye thinking, “could I have overslept?”, being a night owl rather than an early bird waking up is something I struggle like my friend keeps telling me “sleep is the cousin of death” then death is…. I digress. I check and see Ken is soundly asleep and tuck back in my sleeping bag and wonder what is Olive doing up this early? Even if I had a bathroom break I could not see myself leaving that bag. It’s good there were voices because in paranormal activity I saw there are sleepwalkers haha. I fall back into deep sleep as quickly as I jolted. Five minutes later, at 6.00am Olive comes round tugging our sleeping bags, clearly we had an natural alarm clock. I start my morning debate, “Kel wake up, no just sleep for two more minutes it will make your day better” Then Peterson, our lead guide walks in and shouts “alright everybody wake up!”, “Aye aye Captain!” I shout in my head and jump up. I dress in a flash the #MtKenyaChallenge2017 is on! And head out to see if I can catch the sunrise, my nostrils feel cold and wet with the hairs stiff I cannot help but keep rubbing it every minute. Tanya comes out and says, wow we should warm up! And goes to get Robert. We do burpees and on the 50th I’m done, I’m beat I go inside to have breakfast and leave them going on.
After breakfast Duncan checks our heart rates and notes them down. “Did you warm up?” he would ask, seems the altitude had some relation with increased heart rate which would mean you would need close monitoring.
We fill up our water bags and go for a proper warm up as a group. Remember what I said about day one? That same warm up is what we did. We set off to Shiptons camp. The vegetation now has changed from forests to bushes with tiny leaves. The valleys of Mt Kenya become bare for us to gawk at. What I loved the most was the fact that you needed not look up to see clouds, they were on your level…
My knees started acting up and even the knee support was not helping and was actually becoming uncomfortable. In the morning I had forgotten to apply some ointment I’d been given and since I’d been warned about using it under sunlight I had to wait till I got some form of cover. My strategy to beat this was to join Charles our guide at the back to sweep. I loved how he was easy and patient even with the slow pace than most hikers. About midday the vegetation again changes to these funny looking plants. Clearly the higher you go survival belongs to those who can utilise minimum oxygen as possible and go on, man, animal and plant alike.
During the last stop over just before lunch I am so beat I am wondering what in heaven I was thinking. And whenever you’d ask how far before the other camp? Ni pale tu, tukifika kwa tambarare na mawe utaona Shipton. Charles was not just a guide, he was a coach, he knew how to work on your will to ensure you would self motivate until you reached your goal, summitting, the patience and little white lies to get us going, this man was God sent. The area having plenty rocks on the corners I made peace with myself and stopped counting and so did everybody else. Speaking of rocks, Robert had this knack to find the hardest piece of rock and perch on it like an eagle, I would reach where he was look at the rock and just pass height is still an acquired taste for me. Miriam, Habba and Olive would be like, let me try this as well.
We find our catering team has prepared lunch in the middle of nowhere. I am famished, I jump on that pasta with relish especially since I didn’t know when we would get to tambarare. There clouds start caressing the mountain, they would come up the valleys like a blanket and cover everything. The chill would be immediate when the sun rays got swallowed. Robert advises I take opportunity of the cloud cover and apply the ointment which I do, get a few twitches here and there and then it feels way better than before. Tanya had come with this portable solar panel charger and I had given her my phone, now it is almost full and since the sun had started playing hide and seek I switched it off after all there were two calls that I needed to make at the summit after that I would be good.
We resume our trek in search of the infamous tambarare we really needed to get to Shiptons and rest…
Just a few hundred metres Yvonne starts to retch but nothing is coming out. She is crying hard tears rolling down her cheeks, her cries remind me of Muliro wanje the song. Duncan is at that moment looking for enough, something that would make her throw up quickly. Olive, Abraham, Ivy and I stand there stupefied for a minute, I don’t know what was in everybody else’s minds but I was wondering “are we all going to shed tears at some point? What if someone takes a picture of me crying? How will I be able to explain that to my children and children’s children? That it is okay, sometimes as a man you need to cry? But then wouldn’t that dilute the stories of blood, sweat and tears? Surely if this is what happens there has to be a way to not let it happen through all means possible.” Duncan urges us to go on because if the sun went down, we would bear the brunt of the mountain’s chill. Sometimes I would feel like we were the opposites of vampires, always running away from the night.
There is an animal that starts making cackling sound like a chicken in the bushes. We asks what they are and are told they are hyraxes, they look like fat big moles… (See them in my days photos). We catch two who are mating (how do they even do it in this cold? The weather on this mountain is enough to give you a permanent ED) and making a racket about it, hello hyrax, can’t you do your business in peace? Then one come to the path and just stares at us, with this weird gaze, you couldn’t really decide whether it was curiosity, awe or aggression behind the look. Robert who once got attacked by a baboon tells us that it bites, I mean the man was attacked by a full grown baboon and he had to jump on bushes like Tarzan and to escape, when he tells you it bites you believe him, he should know right? Especially if you don’t know what goes in an animal’s brain, you leave it to the experts.
After climbing the rock with mating hyraxes we finally get to see Shiptons! The happiness, goodness, it felt like seeing the finish line after running the whole day, this was it. Finally, wooop wooop. Guys now just Subaru with the new found energy to get to the camp.
As the sun ⛅ disappears on the other side of the mountain slopes we get to Shiptons. We can see Batian now very clearly. I remember how Old Moses let’s cold air in and quickly go to bed hunt, when I get to the dorms I realise Shiptons has no cracks between the wooden walls, I begin wondering if Old Moses had done that intentionally, clearly this mountain is selling experience nothing more nothing less, just forget about comfort, and with what you are able to take in through the experiences so will be the stories you will tell. I remember how out of place I would feel during prep hikes people would talk about things to do with the mountain and I would tell them “I have no idea what you are talking about, but I can imagine”. Especially Nick, he had a way of telling his experiences vividly and telling you, “oh man you should try it” and the curiosity it me would just get fuelled. Now I was on the path of building my own story and that felt super good than anything I had ever done before.
I set up my bed and clean up in a flash because the chill on Shiptons is twice that in Old Moses. I them go out to look around. The ground is swampy and I go stepping in the wet grounds to see how waterproof my shoes are, which is very silly remembering I did not have a spare pair. Then I hear it, cue Muliro Wanje iiiiii iiiiii iiiiii iiii mulirooooo waaanjeee…. I go to find out. It’s Yvonne again, she is now able to throw up and the tears are freely flowing accompanied by the wails as well, Duncan is there helping her out. Duncan really had work with our team.
Jeremy also seems to have been hit by the altitude sickness; clearly this altitude was not anybody’s friend. I look him in the eye to see if he has any glistening to signify crying, his eyes are dry just a bit withdrawn from his bubbly self, there was hope we could survive without tears… Well today everyone is chill, the energy levels are low. Florence also seems to have been hit by the altitude, now I’m wondering what if we sleep and get altitude in bed? Whenever someone opened the door to the dining area the room temperature would drop instantly.
Did I mention we found Peter here? He had reached during the day, this guy was clearly a ninja and he was carrying all his weight, this is the true mountaineering on pro mode.
Food is served and Duncan is urging everyone to feed. At this point nobody seemed to have appetite, I even was surprised by myself, here there was food and I did not feel like eating! The rice and chicken looked delicious but when you took a bite it felt bland, I cannot find something that felt so bland, it was like chewing sawdust, but we had to force it down our throats, the body would figure out how to convert the sawdust to energy as long you swallowed and urged it to stay put in your stomach. Yvonne and Jeremy are the ones struggling feeding, and Yvonne still has tears rolling down her cheeks. Brian sits between them and takes it upon himself to urge them to feed. Which they painstakingly try to finish. As our hot water for hot water bottles is being boiled Beatrice discovers the jiko warming up souls in the kitchen, as I go to check on my bottle I also join in to warm up. And it feels good. A small rat comes to smell my toes, everyone is pointing at it and I check to see this tiny rodent fearlessly playing under my seat! How did they come up this high?
I get my water bottles and go to the dorm and retire. It is pretty cold and few hours away the summit awaits. The third highest peak in Kenya and the highest Via Ferrata in the world… The #MtKenyaChallenge2017 continued…
Also published on Medium.