Just when the sleeping bag has got warm enough it was 2 am! “Guys wake up!” Peterson came to the dorms waking us up. It felt more like a nap than sleep. We all jump up, the day of Reckoning was finally here, the day we’d all been waiting, the summit was so near yet so far. It was expected we should summit before sunrise and get a glimpse of the magical rays at dawn. You could tell people were on sleep mode autopilot because we took a whooping one hour to prepare and pack our bags. We have some black tea and biscuits to reduce the probability of throwing up so I heard. The real breakfast would await us after the summit. About 3.30 we all go outside and Duncan tells us to make a single file, with the people who were susceptible to altitude sickness and crying being put in front. I was near the back with Abraham infront and Brian and Ken behind. Our headlamps glowed in the moonlit night, this was it. Peter came out to wish us well, this gent is used to this lifestyle clearly, because were I him, I’d be seriously zipped in my bag, wait, maybe he is one of those light sleepers who the lightest noise makes them wake. I would still sleep through the racket….
We start our ascend slowly up, we can only see a few metres ahead, which I later realise is a pretty good strategy to keep people going without them thinking about the steep challenge right in front. My toes are cold so are the fingertips but as we walk, the circulation helps. After about one hour Nnena and Rachel start having altitude sickness, Duncan, Habbakuk, Peterson and Ken stay behind with them to help out, true teamwork ey? I know. So up we continue and Charles is telling me how we are about to get it easier because I was starting to lag. Kuna tambarare pale halafu utaona tu Lenana tupande. My legs are completely beat Brian would be telling Kel twende tu, let’s go. Whenever someone saw my frustrated face and they ask you okay? And I tell them my legs are beat, they would be like keep pushing and go on. We all knew what to do when you got altitude sickness, drink lots of water, puke if you feel it, let the gas out, but no one had a clue about what to do with beat legs, that seemed not to have any solution. The mountain was telling me how my weekend preparations were not shit, they weren’t enough I needed more endurance, if we were batteries it seems I would be some Chinese variety when everyone else was Duracell they seemed to last and last and laaasssst haha. I’m trying to paint a picture here, anyway I think you get it. Then it happened, the sun started peeping on the eastern slope, the first rays kissed Batian giving it this beautiful amazing golden hue, absolutely breathtaking.
The guys who were ahead started to hasten up remember the sun should have found us at the summit. So it was me and Kendi and Charles. At this point it was clear that Rachel was having a tough time, but one thing I really give Rachel is her grit. You know how we are always told to never ever give up? She is the embodiment of this. It was her second time attempting to summit Lenana and she was pushing her limits to the end. Charles took her camera and told me he would make memories for her should she not be able to summit. And he did take awesome pictures…. Nnena caught up with us but she was crying, at some point she told us, “I did not get on a plane to come here only to turn back here, summiting is not an option but a must, even if I have to crawl up that mountain I will crawl but I have to get to the top!”. To be honest the determination that kept being shown repeatedly up this mountain was far greater than any of the description in management books, this was not theory it was the real deal. Olive tells us how Bonita, (oh Bonita is a travel blogger who you can view her posts here) was telling Yvonne
‘Wewe lia tu ukimaliza tutapanda’ (just cry it out, when you finish crying we will climb). Yvonne also tells us that Bonita was telling her “I know what you are feeling hata mimi nililia na saizi Niko sawa”. This is how we finally got to have a TeamMachozi the team of free flowing tears.
When we get to what Charles was calling tambarare I sat down and my legs just said I sit. It felt so good to sit. As the other guys started going I told Charles I would not be moving an inch, Olive comes and asks me if I am okay, I tell her I’m done and I’m going to sit till my legs get better. She takes the picture below, it tells what I was really going through. It is at this point I start thinking with cuss words every second, I start thinking how it wouldn’t be so bad if I just let this slide, how there will be another opportunity. But Charles as if reading my thoughts keeps prodding me and being ever so patient.
Let nobody lie to you, the climb is not always easy. Your grit will be tested to the limits. You will reach your “why did you get into this Kel” and “fuck this, this ain’t my struggle” and “I’m not moving one more inch” moments. #MtKenyaChallenge2017 #MtKenyaEaster2017 #TeamXtrym #tembeakenya #Hiking #mtkenya #adventure #grit
I remember I still have two calls to make at the summit and I wake up and trudge on. It is about 7.15am when we get to lake Harris, just when we get there the other guys start going up. There are two ladies who are coming down from Lenana, and they are walking fast, clearly these are pros. They tell us to keep on going as it is amazing up there. The I notice there are a couple of bags and Charles puts his bag down. I ask him if we would be coming back the same way, he says yes. I ask him again and he answers in the affirmative. I put my bag down and tell him twende. He asks me what about my water and snacks. Kama wewe unaenda hivyo hata mimi naenda hivyo, Chenye ingetokea kama haijatokea hadi sasa haitatokea. Plus I realised I had carried these snacks which I was not even eating, I made a note to give them all away, since we were being fed, water and juice for me were the only key things. He looked at me and realised I was dead serious and just left me to be. With ten kilos off my back I felt very light and I started to catch up with the rest of the the team. As we went higher pockets of ice were hidden on the rocks.
At 9.15 we get to the summit, there is this cable and a board saying Lenana is the highest Via Ferrata in the world. I have no clue what a via ferrata is but I make a mental note to check it out later. We climb some steps and there we were. 4985m asl. I felt peace, like a load had been taken off my chest, this was it. I was tired yet excited, I went round the peak just taking it all in, this was the moment we all had been waiting for. I call my mum and told her I was actually up there. She thinks I’m crazy for doing some of these things she tells me to take pictures and she awaits the stories. The next person I call is my grandfather who asks “so did you go as part of work?” I tell him no the umpteenth time. So you decided to just go and climb a mountain? I tell him yes. He asks if I am at the top of Batian. No, I tell him Batian needs experts with ropes and picks and a board of other specialised equipment. He tells me it’s good that I’m doing these things when I can, because when I become old as he is, there will be many things you desire to do but your body says no.
We start taking photos at the peak, Habba has become our designated camera man for the summit portraits. Wabbie is broadcasting live, this was her second time here with Loyc, then guess what? They change into black dresses and take pictures with all that cold. Wow! Well these ones were having the time of their lives. “Do you have network?” Mimie asks, “I have Airtel”, “Hotspot me, I need to post something”. The network was 2G up there I put on my data and start searching for a stronger network, if you looked at me I looked like Rafiki when he was presenting Simba to all the animals in Lion King. When you want something it’s when it starts playing games yes? Murphy’s law? Mimie goes to a higher point on the peak and lands on some good signal. I notice Yvonne is seated tears rolling down her cheeks.
You should go and have a summit photo, this is your story now taken for posterity
No, I’m not going there, actually I want to start going down
But have you had your picture taken?
Yes, when we came someone took them with their phone
Why are you crying, how are you feeling?
I don’t know
Do you feel pain?
No, but there is a slight headache from a far. I actually cannot explain this feeling I am having
Can you describe it?
Is it an overwhelming feeling?
The world crushing you
Lungs lacking air
Brain as well
Like some force sucking the breath out of you and you are fighting to breathe back
Well if that is what it is, then I don’t know what it is.
We have a summit photo and start our descent, this is finally over, so quick like an orgasm. There was this caldera full of ice. The ice is somewhat dirty which I am meant to understand is because of global warming and changing weather patterns.
As we get to the point where we saw the first pockets of ice, you will not believe this, Bonita, whom everyone had thought had quit the #MtKenyaChallenge2017 is coming up from a far, she is coming up fast and furious. Wow! This is the determination the mountain taught us. We cheer her as much as our lungs could allow. This was grit on another level. Charles is cheering her on, this guy is a true coach, walks with you along the way.
When I get to the point I had left my bag we strip down, it is getting hot anyway. We rest for a few minutes and start our trek to Lake Michaelson. I am doing my sweeping duties with Kendi, Ivy and Abraham, at this moment and time nothing else seems to matter. Our faces though tired are glowing with contentment, we done did it! Kendi shows us where Shiptons camp was where we had left, to be honest if we had left when there was light, there would have been many who were not going to finish. It was a really smart idea to go under the cover of the darkness. We start seeing so many lakes in our way to Lake Michaelson, this is pure natural beauty, pure joy to be experiencing. The Mountain slopes make these intricate shapes that I cannot seem to be having enough of. I ask Kendi why I keep seeing piled stones in our path, she mentioned that is how the guides have marked the paths. The path had loose gravel and we kept on skidding, Ivy decides that will not be her struggle, she sits and slides all the way down, find the video on my day 3 pictures.
We are hungry and are thinking about getting to the campsite and having something to fill up. At about 5.00pm we finally see the lake, it is so serene, undisturbed by intensive human activity. The water is so clear you can see the bed of the lake with the deeper parts having a green hue as a reflection of the vegetation around.
We finally get to see tents, finally I will sleep in a tent, this was a trip of many firsts clearly. Duncan is clearly excited to see us, his face hides many things but this moment he was beaming he was truly happy we could tell, we get high fives for a a job well done. And are shown our apartments haha. We take our breakfast at 5.00pm and boy was that food delicious. My taste buds were back in action, sometimes I’d think, instead of shedding few kilos I might put on a few. It starts to drizzle and we get in our tent ⛺. We chat with Abraham until we fall asleep, then Ken comes calling. Their tent is leaking so he needed to occupy the one that had our bags. We quickly pick up the bags and brainstorm how we would all fit in with our bags and keep dry as well. After we arrange them I take another nap until we are called for supper. We had fresh trout for our proteins, and that fish was awesome. Inasmuch as we didn’t want to take off our gloves because of the cold the fish was good. Yes we are fish with forks and spoons, and threw away most heads shoot me lol.
We go around a campfire and Beatrice is coordinating Zumba sessions with our headlights as the spotlights. Guys start retiring one by one and when I get my hot water bottles I am off. Tomorrow at 6.00am I need to be up to see the magical sunshine of Lake Michaelson. I get into my sleeping bag and go into sleep as quick as I got in. The following day would be another day for the #MtKenyaChallenge.
Also published on Medium.