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No Picnic on Mt. Kenya part II – Here comes the sun..?


Here’s the second part to my Kenyan climbing trip…

My alarm sounded at 2am, and with some intrepidation I opened my tent and looked up at the sky. The stars I had hoped to see were hidden by thick, wet cloud.  Gloomily I dressed and set off at 3am with Cyrus, my mountain guide.  He was full of excitement as, in his opinion, the weather was ideal.  I take my hat off to him now as by 4am the skies were clear.  A dense layer of fresh snow had fallen over the last 24 hours which made progress very slow, particularly as it was knee-deep and wet.  To a Kenyan this is unknown, but to a British winter climber like myself, this is perfectly normal.

We broke trail, assisted by another climbing duo and climbed the last few steps to Point Lenana at 6:05am.  Before us lay much of the surrounding massif, and within minutes, what cloud remained began to lift as the first rays of sunlight cast themselves across the dawn sky.  The colours were vivid reds, oranges and yellows, with beams drawing shadows across the mountain.  All my fears of the last few days were wiped away in an instant.  We had a wonderful vista, and were going to stay as long as we could to enjoy it.  Behind us stood the daunting towers of Nelion and Batian.  They looked down like two towering schoolmasters reminding us that we had only climbed the third highest peak on the mountain.  They were huge technical challenges, separated by the fabled Gate of Mist.  I might have tried years ago when I had fingers and toes, but for now, Point Lenana will have to do.

We descended the deep snow at great speed, bounding from drift to drift, by an amphitheater of jagged peaks, all illuminated with a ghostly, milky light.  Within an hour the snow was gone and once again rock laid beneath my feet.  Giant Lobelia littered the valley with crystal clear lakes perfectly mirroring their reflections.  We swiftly descended further into the forest and arrived at the Mintos Hut for a well deserved breakfast.  Until this point the sun had been our friend, but once again the clouds rolled in and rain began to fall.  All the excitement in my heart sagged at the prospect of another soaking, but it had to be faced.  The rain eventually abated past 4pm, by which time I was safely ensconced in my tent and happily dozing.  The evening air was fresh and still, with hardly a sound to break the silence. We lit a fire and sat in the open air laughing and celebrating well into the night.

The final day on the mountain dawned beautifully, with warm sunshine threatening to dominate the day.  It at least tried, although the rain occasionally made an entrance.  We walked the final three hours down using a new, and environmentally scarring road to the Meru Mt. Kenya Lodge, where the mountain journey ended.  Here I took off my bag for the final time and settled down to an afternoon of rest and relaxation.  The camp was quiet, well spread out and an excellent place to complete the journey.  The wooden bungalows had open fireplaces and large armchairs in which to sink, think and write.  These final words come from that fireside, where my company is only the light of the flickering flames…

So what do I think of Mt. Kenya..? It is not as well served as many of the peaks I have climbed in this world, but I rather like that.  Simple huts or canvas are your only refuge, and re supply is almost impossible.  I hope that further development doesn’t come, and that this beautiful mountain can remain one of the cleanest I have had the honour to climb…

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