Mt. Suswa – 10 Oct. 2020

It’s a beautiful Saturday morning as we pick our Maasai guides at Suswa town. Chocking dust finds its way into the bus, leaving a layer on our clothes; the surgical masks help with filtration to some extent. The dirt roads have deteriorated over time and we had to drive across dry river beds in some sections-flash floods in the area are notorious for sweeping away roads. Some locals had gotten wind of the bus and decided to barricade the road with rocks. The older Maasai guide was tasked with negotiating with the locals who finally let us through after about 20 minutes.

The drive to the starting point from the Suswa town takes slightly over two hours. This is heavily as a result of the impassible dirt roads. By the time we started our ascent, it was about 10:00 a.m. and the fiery sun was blazing gloriously. Taking in the breathtaking landscape around us, we disappeared into the trees. I came to learn that Mt. Suswa lies in the Mt. Suswa conservancy and spreads across three counties – Kajiado, Narok and Nakuru.

This is one hike I had been looking forward to for a long time and I was excited about experiencing Mt. Suswa’s beauty and fury. The ascent is mild and unending but quite a friendly terrain. We get to summit at about 1:00 p.m. and enjoy our lunch after snapping away the perfectly rugged views.

The views from the summit are out of this world.

The irony about this hike is that the decent is the uphill task. Loose rocks lie in waiting and some are hidden in the long grass along the steep descent. Absolute concentration is required to avoid falls and ankle injuries- Acacia tree thorns are numerous too and one has to keep dodging them. I do not mind descents but i particularly did not enjoy this one. We had a hiker in the group who twist their ankle twice. There were more injuries in our other group that was behind us.

Heavily pregnant clouds threatened to pound on us and should this have happened, there are high chances we would have spent the night in the wild. Luckily, we just got a drizzle to cool down our bodies as civilazation welcomed us back. The curious children approached, followed by their dog and as their culture demands, they bowed and the Maasai Moran touched each of their heads as a sign of blessing them.

We completed the hike at around 6:15 p.m. and it was not until 2 hours later that the other group of hikers arrived. As we waited in the bus, some boys came by and one of the hikers gave them leftover sandwiches and sausages from lunch. I was intrigued by their genuine innocence and curiosity. They deliberated about the sausages and agreed to peel them off. The sausage peels were given to their dog and so was the ham-they ate the bread :-).

Tips to hikers

  • Carry your headlamp to hikes – you never know when you’ll need it.
  • Invest in the right hiking shoes and socks. The hikers who got injuries all had sneaker shoes.
  • Carry some pain killers with you. The medic could be further ahead or behind in case of an injury.
  • Cut your toe nails – some descents are very unfriendly.

Thank you Kiprono for allowing me to use some of your images and Relive compilation.

Njoki.

Sleeping Warrior, Ugali and Saucer Hills-3 Oct. 2020

In building my endurance for a major upcoming hike in 2 month’s time, this attempt was going to be an ultimate contributor to my vision. The last time I was up this trail, my health wasn’t at 100% and my body completely gave in at Ugali hill. The scorching sun as I remembered it is unforgiving and there are hardly any trees-should you forget to bring a hat, you’re in for a rude baking. Located in Elementaita in the Great Rift Valley, this is a spectacular hike and only about two hours drive from Nairobi.

We set off towards the shoreline of Lake Elementaita, the sun rays shining brightly on our faces, excited chatter from the hikers, melodies from the heavy thud of boots humming away. The lake water level has risen considerably in comparison with the last time I was there. The guide had to lead us away from the lake as the path normally used by the locals had been swallowed by the water.

The Sleeping Warrior in her majesty looks intimidating as you get closer. It helps that the ascent is zigzagged and on the Warrior’s ‘tummy’ and not the ‘chin’. What caught my eye were the mulberry trees at the foot of the hill! They have done a complete face-lift to the vicinity and when they are grown, the area will be privy to some level of micro-climate. This place is generally very dry and hot; unimaginable that anything can flourish.

Sun beating on our heads, we start the ascent only stopping for brief moments to take in some air and wipe the dripping sweat off our brows. We summit at about 11:25 a.m. and stop briefly to energize then start the descent. This is a harrowing encounter for anyone in the wrong shoes due to the loose rocks. Some of the hikers had to support themselves on their butts and hands; let’s remember that the rocks and soil had been baking for the better part of the morning :-).

There’s some development at this side of the hill too. What was formerly bushes is now a hive of construction to one side and a flourishing aloe vera plantation to the other. The narrowing path I was dreading which was initially covered in prickly vegetation and rocks is now a winding dirt road. It is just incredibly amusing as we make our way to Ugali Hill.

This ascent is steeper compared to where we were coming from and the steaming sun does not ease the situation. We take about 30 minutes to get to the summit where the howling winds welcome us. There are some some young trees which over the coming years will be great windbreakers. Everyone finds a spot away from the wind where they seek refuge and have their lunch. By 1:30 p.m. we head off for our last summit.

Ugali Hill summit

We are leading the pack-about 12 of us. The rest of the team is possibly an hour behind. Energy levels restored and we commence our Ugali Hill descent which is quite friendly. The Saucer ascent takes your breath away for a few minutes and the balance of it is mild. The summit is the highest peak among the three hills and the views from up there are picturesque. We make our descent and complete the hike by 3:30 p.m.

Views from Saucer

Data from the hike

Tips to Hikers:

  • Desist from shorts and three-quarter pants-the sun is unfriendly and so are the bushes.
  • Go for long sleeved tops because of above.
  • Proper hiking boots are recommended-the descents can be chaotic and there are numerous acacia tree thorns along the trail that can pierce through your sneaker shoes.
  • REMEMBER TO CARRY YOUR HAT.
  • The sun is unforgiving; use sunblock.
  • Carry enough water; 3 litres should do.

Njoki.

Elephant Hill : Aug 2020

This is an old photo from my first Elephant hill hike in 2016.

When my hiking family and I agreed to attempt this hike, it was because of the self-drive option-we were assured to beat the 9 p.m. curfew. Having been to Elephant Hill before and the uncertainty of mountain weather, the group had agreed to a turn-around-time of 1:30 p.m.. Whether one had summit by this time or not, they had to turn back.

Early rise and we head off by 5:20 a.m., getting to our destination 2 hours later. The first team arrives and we hit off for the trails by 7:45 a.m.. It’s 10 degrees but it warms up as we start our trek, despite the perpetual raindrops. On a normal day, this would be a slow hike, allowing hikers to acclimatize due to the high altitude. We however had to keep moving and only took a short break an ‘Energy Point’ before getting into the bamboo forest.

It is a daunting hike as we slide our way through the wet floor only stopping at the ‘Point of Despair’ to re-energize. I was tired and the thought of the descent kept creeping in my mind, giving me cold chills. The last time I was here, I stepped on a slippery rock and landed on my behind – for a week I was in utter pains. The most strenuous bit for me is normally from the Point of Despair to ‘The Tail’ because of the steep elevation. Taking in as much oxygen as I can amidst controlled breaths, I keep moving. I have a heavy bag which is a mistake as it weighs me down.

Hubby takes my bag after The Tail because high altitude and I are not friends- it was a fast paced ascent. We keep resting as often as my body called for it and summit by 12:10 p.m.. I’m exhausted but happy at the same time because we beat our turn-around-time by over an hour. One of the signs of mountain sickness is lack of appetite. I skip lunch, sip on orange juice and after a few photos, we start our descent.

On our way back, we meet a lady who fell and injured her knee. We administered first aid and she’s willing to keep moving to the summit. It is not okay that she is injured and by herself . We say our pleasantries and move on. With the wrong shoes and socks, the descent can leave your toes screaming. We have our gloves on as we get into the Bamboo Forest in anticipation of the ‘battle’. To avoid sliding and falling, you have to hug the bamboo trees and clutch onto vegetation that can hold your weight :-). We run our way through the thicket after exiting the wet bamboo, completing the hike at 3:28 p.m.

Tips to Hikers

  • You can self-drive. A 4WD car is recommended due to the rough road leading to the hill. With mountain weather, rain is normally unannounced.
  • Carry your gloves. It can get extremely cold as you ascend and they also come in handy at the bamboo.
  • Do not overload your day bag. That weight will weigh you down.
  • Hydrate hydrate hydrate. This will help ease any altitude sickness.

Njoki.

Mt. Kilimanjaro : Feb 2019

I have no good reason for having not put this together earlier. I’ll do my best in highlighting the most important bits. This remarkable hike was made possible by Xtrym Adventures (https://www.xtrym.com). Look for me if you need the juice :-).

Day 1 : Sunday 24 February

We left Nairobi at 5:00 a.m. for Marangu in Tanzania (1860m) getting there by about 1 p.m.. The paperwork was sorted, we met our guides, porters, chefs and waiters, had some awesome lunch and were good to head to Mandara huts (2720m). Beautiful day, excited chatter, butterflies danced about as we made our way through the trees that were rough with age and disappeared into the sky. Just about 6:30 p.m., the rain started pounding heavily on us. The canopy possibly helped but by the time we got to camp 2 hours later, we were soaked.

Day 2: Monday 25 February

There’s something about a bright morning in the mountains. Raises the energy levels. We get ready for Horombo huts (3720m). The pace is slow, suggish., to help with acclimatization. I fell in love with the accommodation; nothing comparable with what we have at Mt. Kenya. Hikers can camp if they wish but our package was the boarding option. Everyone is in one piece as we get to Horombo. The elevation is quite mild, vegetation lush and the serenity that nature beholds makes it an enjoyable hike.

Day 3: Tuesday 26 February

This is a slow day for us-acclimatization day to Zebra rocks and back to camp. We don’t have to rise at the crack of dawn. All we needed to take with us was water. Hydration in plenty is a must in the mountains- 3 to 4 litres per day at the least. We leave camp at about 9:00 a.m. and are back in time for lunch. This slow day was important to us because day 4 is the toughest and most daunting.

Day 4: Wednesday 27 February

It’s an early rise and we hit the road to Kibo huts (4720m) right after breakfast. We’d walk through an alpine desert all day. Sun scorching hot trying to burn any bare skin. It’s sort of hot, but cold wind blows across our faces. Gaiters are important. Not for the rain but the intense dust. I had butterflies in my stomach. There was was something about the piping wind and scavengers flying above us that made me flinch.

Kibo huts. It’s cold…biting cold. The rays of mellow sunlight are deceiving. We clean up, dress warmly, have early dinner and have to sleep by 6 p.m. after the briefing by our lead guide. We would to be up by 10:00 p.m. in readiness for the summit. The mood was somber as we sluggishly layered up for the cold night that awaited. I possibly had 2 hours of intermittent sleep.

Summit Night : 27/28 February

I hardly had any breakfast. I could tell that soon enough, I would be throwing up. Our summit attempt starts by 11:00 p.m.. A few steps into the hike and everything that was in my stomach is out. I feel alive. We have over 10 guides with us who sing and cheer us on for the better part of the night. I am grumpy and tired by 4: a.m. as I question my decisions and long for my warm bed. We had hot ginger water served in the night which helped ease the altitude sickness.

I get to Gilman’s Point (5685m) at around 10:00 a.m.. I’m super tired and so are my other fellow hikers I find lying on the dirt. There was a group that was already headed to Uhuru. I wasn’t sure I had the energy to summit considering we had to walk back to Horombo huts. I had a chat with my guide and he convinced me to walk to Stella Point (5756m) . Gathering my remaining energy, we took off as some of the hikers decided to turn back. It’s always important to respect your body and turning back shows you’re strong enough.

As we head to Stella Point, I developed this sharp pain on my lower back. The ascent had been quite steep and this may have contributed to the discomfort. The path was slippery with frozen snow. We walked over an hour but with the excruciating pain, I wasn’t going to summit. After some photos at Stella Point, we had to turn back.

The descent is easy, similar to skiing but on very fine sand. The shoes and hiking socks have to be the right fit else walking like a duck afterwards is assured. There’s a hot meal awaiting at Kibo Huts after which we head to Horombo Huts. We got to camp slightly after 6:00 p.m.. Drenched in sweat, tired to the bone, ecstatic to have faced Kibo. They don’t allow more than one night at Kibo due to the high altitude.

Day 6: 1 March

Our last day in the mountains. We packed our bags for the last time, danced with the crew, and head off for Marangu gate. All I have in mind is a long, hot bath and a comfy bed.

Tips to Hikers

  • Lower beds are better and warmer.
  • Slow does it, take it easy in the mountains, acclimatize.
  • Get the right socks-the last thing you want is blisters.
  • Cut those toe nails short!
  • Get a day bag that you can strap around your mid and chest sections.
  • Listen to your body and alert your guide if feeling unwell-you’d rather turn back than end up hospitalized.

Njoki.

Kiou & Kalembwani Explore

My hiking buddies and I were absolutely elated about this hike as it was going to test our endurance. Being the first major hike we were attempting since March, our excitement levels were at the roof. It would also be the first time we were hiking with Hikemaniak. The drive to Kilome in Makueni County was approximately 2 hours from Nairobi; commencing around 6 a.m.

By the time we started the ascent, the sun was magnificently genial. It was going to be a hot day but nothing would wipe away our smiles. We all had our masks on-embracing the new hiking normal. The rocks were unrelenting, the sun steaming, dry bushes and grass pricked on our skin as sweat spiraled down. The terrain was unfriendly. Possibly because the trails had been abandoned for a while.

Despite the scorching sun, we had summit Kiou Hill by around 11 a.m.. We had a long way to go and the descent would not be easy judging by the landscape.

The Kiou summit where paragliding in Makueni normally takes off from.
At the Kiou Hill summit.
The perfectly formed rocks along which a river flows during the rainy seasons.
The dry riverbeds tell a story of drought and erosion … the paradox.
There were wet patches along the sandy riverbeds painted by hoof marks
Enjoying the descent.

We walked along the dry riverbed that snaked towards civilization. We exited close to our starting point and crossed the Mombasa-Nairobi highway towards Mt. Kalembwani. According to Kiprono’s Relive, it took us 5h 9m covering 10.4km.

Kiou Hill

We had our socially distanced lunch before attempting Mt. Kalembwani. It was possibly 28 degrees but felt like 35! Do not attempt this hike in the wrong attire-and do not forget your hat.

Our socially distanced lunch

The weather was super hot as we strolled towards Kalembwani; heat was bouncing from the already heated ground. From a distance, it seemed as though it would be an easy climb. The terrain was unfriendly and the sun unforgiving. I kept hydrating and slowly scaled the hill, never stopping. In about one and a half hours, we had summit.

My hiking buddy Nzilani and I with Kalembwani in the distance

During the descent, I had an encounter with a snake. I hate and fear snakes in equal measure and I do not mean to scare anybody. I’m highlighting this so that y’all are watchful during your hikes. It was a steep descent and due to the loose rocks, sliding and falling was quite easy. I slide. The snake must have been living it’s best life and enjoying the hot sun. It was startled. I caught a glimpse of it’s mid to tail as it slithered through the stones. I was terrified as I ran in the opposite direction screaming like a mad woman. Moral of the story, watch your step as you hike.

The complete Mt. Kalembwani trip took us (according to Kiprono’s Relive) 2h 47m, covering 6.2km. We took off for Nairobi by 4:45 p.m. and was home by 8:00 p.m., well ahead of looming 9:00 p.m. curfew :-).

Mt. Kalembwani

Tips to hikers: have your long sleeved tops and cargo pants, proper hiking boots, don’t forget your sun screen, hat, change of clothes-for after the hike, enough water (3 or 4 litres should do).

I have borrowed some of my photos from my friend Mbuthia-thank you sir for the amazing landscape images and from the Hikemaniak professional photographers. Kiprono, thank you for allowing me to use your Relive compilations.

Njoki.

Crater Lake, Naivasha-Kenya

This is a gem that every lover of nature should have in their list. It’s hidden off Naivasha highway; if you have been to Hells Gate National Park, same direction only that Crater Lake is farther up the road. It is about 30 kms from the highway. We had been looking forward to getting back into hiking after being locked up since March and so this was a welcome relief.

To my fellow hikers, this will not count as a hike because it comes to an abrupt end just as your body starts warming up (statistics below). Its beauty and tranquility is however worth your time. There is also a camping site and you can also go on a game drive. In entirety, it is very family friendly and hence a deserved getaway from the hustle and bustle. A hotel sits within the property but due to the pandemic, they have had to close their doors until further notice.

Choose to wear cargo pants and a long sleeved top as opposed to anything else should you choose to hike it. Possibly once normalcy resumes the long grass and vegetation around the lake will be tamed but why find out the hard way? The grass will leave unnecessary cuts, thorns will prick your skin and you’ll generally your body will be screaming should you choose to expose it.

The water levels have risen to a point of damaging some parts of the hotel-the pool was completely swallowed.
Distance round the crater lake
Altitude is actually lower than Nairobi!

Njoki.

Kipipiri

‘We were hit hard by the rain the whole day!!’…this was the first statement I heard in relation to this mountain from my fellow adrenaline seeking friend. What stood out during our conversation was how beautiful the forest was. I knew for a fact that I had to attempt.

Off we set on a beautiful Saturday morning. As a hiker, one is always ready for the rain. Mountain weather is absolute rubbish! One minute you’re sun-bathing, the next you’re soaked. The weekend before this, we could hear the thunder from the other ridge that is home to Rurumueria http://safirinajays.com/rurumueria/. I was geared up for whatever weather the mountain was willing to serve us that day.

The start of the ascent

From the onset, it’s a never-ending gradual ascent, this is never fun, but it sort of allowed me to acclimatize. Slow does it always. At an elevation of about 3,349 meters ASL, it’s important to take it easy. The path leading into the forest is a canopy of trees. The birds were chirping and the fine breeze swept by briskly. It was going to be a beautiful day.

Anyone in shorts that day for sure must have nursed cuts or pricks and danced in the shower that evening. The path narrowed the deeper we went into the forest and we all had to move in linear motion due to the overgrown vegetation.

Someone got hit by altitude barely an hour into the hike and lagged behind with one of the guides. She was determined to keep pushing and having experienced altitude sickness many times before, I absolutely was in her shoes. The forest vegetation (especially the flowers) was such eye candy and I decided to test the iPhone camera prowess…

It always amuses me how cows feed at high altitude. Maybe the air is much fresh up there? No…not much oxygen. I think the grass must be grassier and tastier up there :-). Away the cows lazily munched the grass. Anyway, there were some bones we came across of some animal that must have been preyed on years back, survival of the fittest at its best.

This hike was a breath of fresh air. It had been a while since I thoroughly enjoyed being on high elevation. The sun was out-though for the better part of the hike we were hidden under trees. There’s some rejuvenation that the rays of the sun give especially after enduring the biting cold of the morning-I can’t explain it, you’d have to experience it.

Snacking for energy provision
One of the waterfalls along the way
Yeeeeeey we summitted and lunch was a welcome idea

Lunch in the mountains is always welcome (of course upon summiting), unless you’re altitude sick at which point you cannot stand it’s sight. My expert in making amazing pasta, sausages and pepper was not around but he had done me the honors and I thoroughly enjoyed my meal.

Summit smiles

Strength, endurance and everything else left in me after summiting was required to descend. When I read ‘Into Thin Air’ (a book about the Everest disaster of 1996), I fully understood the reason many people die while descending the Everest-they deplete all their energies when ascending, forgetting that they will need to descend. . Gathering my energies, off we went.

Exiting the forest

It was a lovely hike, the forest was beautiful and the company amazing. This is one hike I’d like to attempt again in the near future. I probably loved it because of the greenery :-).

Njoki.

Rurumueria

Aberdares National Park

The summit awaits. This was after the 3rd false summit.

The very first time I attempted Rurumeria, I couldn’t go beyond the third false summit. That right there is what totally drains your energy…3 false summits. I was tired and the air was getting thinner by the minute. It had rained the night before and so the ascent was not easy. I had to turn back…I always trust my gut feeling.

Attempt number two was a breeze! The weather was perfect, my spirits were racing, and the team was leaner-this helped as we tended to move at an almost similar pace. I knew what lay ahead for the better part of the ascent; at least until the third false summit. I’m always more confident when I’m aware of what awaits-the fear of the unknown makes me a bit nervous.

The hike is generally tough, unforgiving maybe. Not to be attempted by first time hikers. Well, if you want to test your endurance and sanity levels, your body will hurt for days on end and you’ll be cursing for the better part of the day. You may even loath hiking. 

Never trust mountain weather! One minute you are sun bathing, the next you are soaked!

Lying about 3860m ASL, altitude sickness for most people tends to check in just as you approach the third hill/false summit. I had to take it easy at this point, taking deep breaths every often. I felt perfectly fine. Nothing would come between me and the summit. This could possibly pass for summit fever. There was a Chinese gentleman who decided to carry his laptop with him. Let me just mention that he had the most horrible day up that mountain. However, the gods were by his side because it didn’t rain. We could hear thunder from across the ridge and pitied anyone who was attempting Mt. Kipipiri that day. Had it rained, Sunny Boy (as we nicknamed the Chinese with a laptop) would have danced to the mountain music.

Uncle Wong, yes another very interesting man really got me thinking about my life. Would I be as fit and energetic at his age? He was probably in his sixties and pacing like a teenager! For some time I could not keep up with him. There was another lot that would stop for a smoke every often. I always presume smokers are advantaged because their lungs are used to minimal oxygen levels anyway. Oh well, whatever the case, I had a summit to conquer.

We summitted around 1330 hrs. Whenever I am at such high elevations my appetite eludes me but on this particular day, I devoured my pasta (Jay normally makes some delish pasta with sausages and peppers for hikes). The waning sun ensured we got some summit photos before it disappeared and the wind started howling; the weather changed in an instant. Having conquered, I was ready for the descent and looking forward to a hot shower and warm bed. We walked for at least 10 hours.

To the summit…

The kind of happiness that comes with summiting 

Njoki.

My Mt. Kenya

It has been a long time coming since I thought of sharing my Mt. Kenya experience. I know that many of us would rather not read so I’m planning on being as brief as can be.

In another post, I will highlight the prep and what you need to purchase in case you are planning on joining the hiking madness. This is a story about the hike from Old Moses (Camp 1) to Lake Michaelson; Sirimon to Chogoria route.

At the Sirimon gate, I was pumped and ready for the adventure that lay ahead. The 3 peaks were visible and this sort of gave me the jitters-for some reason I knew I was ready but there’s always that fear of the unknown that creeps up on me whenever I’m hiking new heights. I had hydrated the entire way- I would relish bush moments later (or not when it was freezing and I had to go) for the next 5 days.

          

The hike to Old Moses was a slow one to allow us acclimatize-Pole pole, maji mingi as Duncan of Xtrym Adventures & Safaris kept reminding us. By the time we got to camp (3,300m ASL), I was okay or so I thought. What I did not know was that altitude can get you in many ways! The very first time I got altitude sickness (which results from exposure to low oxygen amounts at high elevation) was at Elephant hill-a story for another day. While I was not throwing up, I was nauseous, kept yawning and had a headache. That night, I barely got 2 hours of sleep. The wind was threatening to blow away the iron sheets, I could locate all the snores and I could count the number of people that woke up in the night for bathroom breaks. It has remained one of my longest nights. Did I mention that there was of course no showering and we slept in a dormitory? Well, we just spread our sleeping bags on the beds, used wet wipes to get rid of the sweat (if you have been to the mountains, this is not gross at all 🙂 ), applied lots of Arimis (milking jelly) changed into warm sleeping gear and called it a night. There is no electricity up there so one must have a headlamp.

When we set off for camp 2 (4,250m ASL), I had enjoyed my breakfast and made sure that I mentioned to the leader of the expedition that I had barely slept. Our vitals were checked before we set out and everyone seemed to be in good shape.

I had not before seen such a beautiful expanse; the Geography classes came in handy; mountain vegetation is breathtaking! We fetched water in the rivers and refilled our hydration bags. Too dope an experience. My mind keeps drifting away though and I’m asking myself why it is I hike after promising myself that the previous hike was the last, why I’m out here and not at home in my warm bed, whether the rest of the team are feeling as crappy as I am, and other thoughts. It so happens that hikers have these thoughts all the time so I’m sane guys!

   

The rains started pounding on us just after lunch and barely an hour later, altitude sickness hit me real hard. I had a fever, I was throwing up and I just kept yawning. My system was shutting down literally. Everything that went down my throat, water included come back up real quick. Thing is, I had to keep hydrating which was super annoying because it was just useless as the water barely settled in my tummy before I threw up. Anyway, the leader of our expedition as well as the guides attended to me and the rest of the hikers had to move at my pace-terrible feeling when you slow people down.

 

 

I wasn’t getting any better and so it was decided that the rest of the folks keep moving. I had two guides assigned to me to keep a close eye and my boyfriend was also with me so I was good to go :-). The throwing up kept getting worse as we scaled higher. I literally had nothing in my stomach at some point and so it was really painful when the muscles constricted and there was nothing to throw up. The bile was also out-terrible!!

By the time we got to Shipton which lies at 4200m ASL, it was about 7pm. The rest of the crew were ready for dinner. The lovely porters in charge of the kitchen had already prepared a concoction for me which I gladly downed after getting rid of the dump boots and into fresh thermals. It so happens that ginger helps ease the altitude sickness. However, I couldn’t stand the sight of food-it made me want to throw up. So, for dinner I had about 5 spoonfuls of plain rice and I was ready to call it a night. My body was fatigued, and I really needed to get some sleep in readiness for summit night.

The cold was biting that night. The trick is to sleep in thermals and everything else you need for the summit night needs to go beneath the sleeping bag to ensure total warmth when you wake up at 2 am the next day ready for summit. I at least got 2/3 hours of sleep that evening. My stomach was rumbling but the thought of getting food into my mouth gave me the jitters.

SUMMIT NIGHT

2 am and people need to start moving as we needed to have summited by at least 6:30 am! I’m macho, fatigued, ready to get over and done with and get home. I stayed away from breakfast-I couldn’t stomach throwing up. The air was much warmer outside and we could clearly see the outline of the mountain due to the snow-filled slopes glistering in the moonlight. The summit was to be tackled strategically and so the weakest led the pack. I was behind the lead guide alongside two other ladies that had also been hit by the altitude in the night; the strongest were at the tail of the queue.

Barely an hour into the ascent, three of us got really sick and we had to be detached from the rest as we were slowing the rest down. We had two guides and my boyfriend also stayed behind; I was covered. By 4 am, I was ready to be evacuated!! I was done hiking, I was never going to hike again, altitude is a %*&$ and I had had enough. Thing is, at that time, it was still dark and we were at some steep elevation-all I wanted was a helicopter; after all, I had an evacuation cover!

Folks, evacuation did not happen and we had to keep moving. Five steps, sit, throw up, repeat. There’s some calmness that altitude sickness gives in such heights and you just want to close your eyes and shut out the world. The guides had to keep a close eye as one is likely to walk off the cliffs in instances of sleep walking.

The sun rays gave me some life. At least I had lived to see another day. I was starving. I needed to eat something. I got out a cookie and barely ate half of it before I was crouching on the snow. It was out before it touched base. I knew I was done with food until I lost some altitude. We had to keep moving to avoid snow-blindness.At least Jay (boyfriend then fiancé now) was there to keep me moving; he maintained my sanity.

 

Eventually we got to Lake Harris which lies about 4700m ASL and it was such a beauty to behold. I knew there was no way I was going to push myself to summit. I had zero summit fever! I was ready to get off the mountain. The other two ladies are much better and willing to tackle the last bit. I just want a photo and I’m out of there. My boyfriend is 100% and he’s been lagging behind because I’m unwell. I’m sad he had to endure my gruesome experience but happy he’s with me. I let him know he can go ahead and summit as I have a guide who’d ensure I got to camp. He declines the offer. I know I will be better soon as I loose altitude.

I’m sitting on a rock thinking about my bed. Our new found friend Daisy is ready to freeze the moment with her phone camera. I crack a smile. My boyfriend starts talking about how he’s applying for a full time job and I’m wondering if this is the best location he would have chosen to tell me about a new job. I look at him with mixed feelings; could it be that I’m getting worse or is this man really talking about a job here…in the snow, when I don’t want stories (I may have rolled my eyes lol). What I did not realize was that he was asking me to be his wife!!! Yoh! No I did not cry. The altitude sickness may have eluded me for a minute. I was beyond happy, flabbergasted maybe. We met on a mountain and he was sealing it on a mountain. Good job Jay!!

  

  

As the two ladies attempted the summit, one of the guides who had been my number one support descended with my fiancé and I. It felt amazing walking down the snowy slopes. I was engaged and it felt amazing. We were bound for Lake Michaelson. The most spectacular lake I’ve ever seen. We took about 3 hours to the lake and boy was I looking forward to a good meal!

 

The chef and the rest of the porters had already gotten to camp and tents pitched. They set a beautiful picnic breakfast for us and I thoroughly enjoyed my meal. I cleaned up and before I knew it sleep was calling. I was woken up later that afternoon by the rain drops. I felt perfectly okay and soon as I helped the mister get some stuff into the tent, I was set for round 2 of sleep. I couldn’t imagine being out in the rain. The rest of the crew got super drenched but their joy of summiting couldn’t be dumped. They had conquered.

We got some amazing photos taken by the lake by one Bem /sixtyonekenya the following morning before we left for the Bandas where we would get our first shower in 4 days! You surely never miss the waters till the well runs dry. I had sworn that I’m never hiking again but as I write this, I’m already doing my prep hikes to attempt Mt. Kilimanjaro in February 2019. I’ll be sure to let you all know how that goes 🙂 .

  

My fingers were pretty swollen 🙂

Njoki.