Days 131 & 132: Mt Kenya # 6 & 7

Date: 22.02.2017 & 23.02.2017
Distance: 23km, estimated
Start altitude: 4 790m
End altitude: 2 700m
Problems: None

Staying in the Mt Kenya Bandas (Day 6) and back in Chogoria on Day 7.

Our plan was to hike from the Austrian Hut, via Lenana to the Bandas in one day. We also planned a sunrise-summit on Lenana and started hiking with our headlamps at 05:45.

Previously we were all alone on the peak. Now in the dark we could see a worm of lights, many on the summit, some approaching from the other side. Unfortunately today we will not have that privelege. At the final steps of the via ferrata we fall in behind another group. There is a buzz on the summit from all the people and it momentarily distracts me from the magnificent beauty around us. 

Dawn has broken in all its glory and visibility is good. The sky is streaked in diferent shades of blue and orange. The mountains are  coloured in soft hues of pink and the valleys down below are covered in a sleepy grey. The fresh cold air gives me a runny nose and I sniff a few times.

Suddenly there is a terrible buzz and I see a man launching a drone into the air. Remote in his hand he flies it off in the direction of Nelion then returns the noisy machine as if to photograph everyone on the summit. I have to make an effort not to throw it or its pilot with a stone, but keep on wishing a falcon will sweep in and take the dreaded thing out of the air. 

With all the activity we feel as if something revered has been defaced and we depart from the summit after only a short while. 

As we go down we pass many people on their way up. Our biggest surprise was to see a large noisy contingent of the Kenyan army on its way to Lenana. A string of people so long we did not see the end of the line. Many of them looked tired and out of shape. Charles however says they started far away that same morning, that might explain it. So glad we avoided this noisy bunch on Lenana.

Soon our route circles back onto the same track we followed up. We hike through the plain with the giant groundsels and stopped for breakfast at Mintos, Simon and the porters on duty as usual. Charles says we’ll have lunch at the start (end) of the jeep track. We however want to get to the Bandas and ask Charles that we rather have a late lunch there. 

We continue hiking at a fast pace and soon we are in the heath-fields again. Down at the beautiful stream next where we camped our second night we refill our water and take a short break. Now onto the jeep track we are close to the Bandas, but the last 2 kilometers feel unusually long. We finally arrived around 13:00. 

This was our longest hiking day and our feet feel tired, but we are glad to be back at the Bandas with its relative luxury.

We have lunch and relax the rest of the day.

On our last morning we start hiking down to our pick-up point at 09:00. It is still on the jeep track and only takes about 40 minutes until we see the waiting Land Rover. Along the way we see fresh elephant dung, but not the beast itself.

Before being dropped at our camp site in Chogoria we stop at an ATM and we pay the team the customary tipp for which they are very grateful.

At camp we pitch the tent again and sort the gear that have to go back to SA. 

Mt Kenya was a highlight in all respects. Now back down our mood falls when we think of getting onto the bicycles. We wonder if we should not have stopped the tour after this great highlight. It almost seems appropriate to end on such a note. With some effort we motivate ourselves for the saddle, believing it will be worth it to finish what we started. 

Thanks for enjoying the adventure with us.

Willem & Eva

The morning crowd on Lenana

Nelion in the early morning light as seen from Lenana.

Staring at the imposing Nelion. Cannot believe I was on there the previous day. It feels unreal.

Looking back to Nelion-Batian with giant groundsels in the foreground.

Zoomed in on Nelion-Batian. From this angle Nelion looks higher.

View into one of the beautiful valleys. We also passed this on the way up.

Looking back from the Bandas the mountain seems almost unreachable.

On the final day, just before the Land Rover took us back to Chogoria. After our return it was difficult to get motivated again for cycling.


Day 130: Mt Kenya # 5

Date: 21.02.2017
Distance: ??km
Start altitude: 4790m
End altitude: Nelion, 5188m
Problems: None

Staying in the Austrian hut, at 4790m asl the highest hut on Mt Kenya.

My alarm sounded at 04:10. I did not sleep well, maybe the excitement, maybe the altitude or a combination of both. Breakfast followed at 04:30 (yes Wilson already had this prepared) and we started hiking from the hut at 05:00, in the dark with headlamps on. While hiking there is no talking, each busy with his own thoughts. It is very cold (guess around 0 degrees) but the physical effort warms me up.

Shortly we went down a steep rock ridge requiring steady steps in the dark. To my surprise we suddenly were next to the lower half of the Lewis glacier. We fit our crampons and step onto the ice. I have last done this in Switzerland, but no problem. There is a rule when walking with crampons. Walk with wide legs, buckled to the outside, like a cowboy πŸ˜‚. You do not want those sharp teeth to catch your pants (or flesh). That is a guaranteed fall as I have already learned before.

The crampons crunches on the ice as we move forward. The glacier is not very big and soon we reach the other side and remove the metal from our shoes.

We have descended a bit and are now hiking up again over rocks and scree to the foot of the rock face. Here David stashed most of his climbing gear and quickly get it ready for the start of the climb. Before I get my harness on I have a last toilet break. It’s  more of an effort once the harness is fitted. I also remove my gloves as you cannot climb with them. Initially my fingers are somewhat cold, but its not too bad. However, the rope wich was stashed outside is partly frozen making for difficult handling during the belay.

We start climbing around 06:00 in the light of dawn. David states that if all goes well he expect us to be on Nelion at 11:00. We are roped up with a double rope system, David leading. He puts in protection as he sees fit. While following I remove the hardware and hand it back to him at the end of the pitch. We climb about 3 pitches in this manner before changing to a single rope system as the climbing gets a bit harder and the pitches longer.

Meanwhile the sun came out to announce a beautiful morning with not a cloud in the sky. The rock face is in the sun and it makes for pleasant climbing conditions.

Soon we pass a rudimentary structure almost half-way up the rock face. It serves a a bivouac for emergencies. Just after this we cross over a rock wall into the shade. Immediately the rock feels very cold and then follows the 2 most difficult pitches of the climb. David leads and I hear a couple of grunts from the effort required, then he’s done. My turn. I climb some meters and then find a flat vertical slab with a narrow crevice on either side. I’m a little out of breath and while studying the problem in front of me breath onto my cold hands to warm up. Using the crevices I get up a little before being able to just reach a good grip higher up which was the crux of the problem. This required some effort and as I reach David my breath is racing. We drink a bit of water before continuing.

After a few more pitches the rock slopes-out onto an easier gradient again. We are still roped together but just walk this out. Next I see another basic shelter for emergency purposes and then realise we must be on top of Nelion. David confirms this and I step out up to the last few higher rocks on to the summit, it is 10:30. I look across to Lenana and make out some figures on top of it and realise Eva must be one of them. Ecstatic I shout across to them and was answered with equal enthusiasm. What a coincidence! For a short while I stood there  just enjoying the moment. A little distance away is Batian, so close it looks like you can quickly go there and back. David let me have it before joining me on top. Next we had some of the lunch-pack (also prepared by Wilson). 

As we are well within our planned time, I suggest to David we now continue to Batian. Unfortunately he does not want to continue and points to clouds moving in fast. He expects rain in the afternoon. He also explains that despite the proximity of Batian another 4 hours must be allowed to get there and back to Nelion. I’m not going to argue with him. With all his experience on the mountain he certainly knows best. Nevertheless I did feel a bit disappointed.

After a quick bite we went to the side of Nelion to prepare for abseiling. David leading again, me following. I observe David closely to see how I can improve my own technique. I abseil the first pitch, better than yesterday, but could be better. From the second pitch onwards I have the hang of it and quickly slide down the rope feeling comfortable.

I ask David why he specifically asked me (the previous day) how well I abseil. He explained he once climbed Batian with 2 older gentlemen. They assured him they can abseil. However once they had to go down they had no clue what to do. In fact the whole business of abseiling scared them! With David’s persistent help they slowly managed to get down. On some pitches they were so slow David started to doze off πŸ˜‚. After 24 hours, abseiling through the night they finally got down alive, but exhausted.

We, however, were making good progress. I really enjoyed one of the pitches abseiling over an overhang, being entirely suspended in the air πŸ‘πŸ˜.

Quickly we were down at the base of the rock-face. Harness off, David stashed some gear again and we continued down to the Lewis glacier. With our crampons on we crossed back then hiked up the steep rock slope we descended in the dark. We were finally back in the hut at 14:30.  

As we entered the whole team stood there cheering us and shaking our hands. Turns out they could watch most of the climb from on top of a ridge close to the hut. It was their entertainment for the day 😁. Wilson quickly brought some tea and pop-corn while I could relive the experience telling Eva all about it. It was such a great feeling!

Tomorrow early we will go down all the way to the Bandas after a last early morning visit to Lenana.

Thanks for sharing in the adventure!

Willem & Eva

Dawn is breaking just before we got onto the rock.

A photo taken on the climb after one of the pitches.

The route up looks intimidating from this angle.

While taking a quick breather I snapped this picture of David. It was beautiful climbing conditions.

View from somewhere high up the mountain.

Emergency shelter on top of Nelion.

One of the views from the top.

David and I on Nelion.

Batian as seen from Nelion. So close, yet so far.

David abseiling the 1st pitch. The clouds have moved in.

David stepping down towards me after having detangled the rope that got stuck while pulling it down.

David abseiling a pitch.

From this angle the Lewis glacier is clearly visible. It used to be one continuous piece of ice.

David stepping out onto the ice.

David and I, back at the hut.

Day 129: Mt Kenya #4

Date: 20.02.2017
Distance: 6km
Start altitude: 4200m
End altitude: 4985m
Problems: None

Staying in the Austrian hut, at 4790m asl the highest hut on Mt Kenya.

I woke up shortly before 07:00 to 2 degrees celcius in the tent and could sleep no longer. With Eva still cosy in her sleeping bag I ventured out into a misty cold. With hands deep in my pockets I walked around to stay warm and explored the 2 small lakes (tarns) in the vicinity. The half frozen soil crunched under my shoes as I carefully avoid slippery areas. Water vapor rises from the tarn surface to create a mysterious scene worthy of a good suspense novel. The fog briefly lifted like a curtain to reveal the impressive peaks, one of them, Point Lenana our goal for the day.

Back at the tent Eva is up and we pack our bags for the day. Shortly afterwards breakfast is served in the misty cold. The Maasai blanket has multiple uses. Now it is used as a table cloth on flat stones as we sit on the ground to eat. Warm oats and tea help to fight the cold.

At 09:00 we started hiking, past the tarn and over some level plain dotted with giant Groundsels (Dendrosenecio). Sometimes half frozen water cracks under-sole, other times the fluid causes marshy muddy conditions. 

Shortly we get to a steepish flank and start a slow walk up the muddy slope. Now there are no vegetation, only rocks and soil. It is “pole-pole” again and then the porters come racing past as we inch forward. At the top of a neck we overlook an awesome valley surrounded by peaks with 2 tarns lower down. We take a short break and absorb the scene. Continuing to our right-hand side we are on a slope again walking a contour. The surface changed from solid soil and rock to a scree-field. The unstable surface causes us to slide down a little with every step and has to be corrected while going. At this stage we can see the Austrian hut and it is not long until we reach it. The hut is located on a large flat neck with beautiful views of Nelion-Batian.

From the hut we also see the Lewis glacier for the first time. Like most other glaciers throughout the world this one is retreating fast. It has already split into two parts, with a large rock-bank separating the upper and lower halves of the ice. A Youtube video called “Fire and ice” is an attempt from a few years ago to illustrate how much this glacier retreated.

At the hut we are served with lunch before we start the hike up to Lenana. It is not far, but it is steep terrain and we are at 4800m. Half-way between the hut and the peak is a “via-ferrata” to aid the hiker. I’m told that some years ago the Lewis glacier extended all the way up here. Now it is far below.

We finally reach iron-grips in a rock face, we climb up and then find ourselves literally a few steps from the summit. We walk until we cannot go any higher, we are on top of Lenana! Wooden signage provides curt congratualations confirming your location and altitude, 4985m asl. Another milestone for us and we are really grateful! 

We are alone on the peak and enjoy the solitude for a while. Unfortunately the clouds were not kind and we have no view. We plan however to scale Lenana again in 2 days on our way down and hope for better conditions. The first part of this route will be slightly different to our ascend and is a great alternative giving us another opportunity to visit Lenana.

Back at the hut I meet the technical climbing guide for the first time. David is one of a hand-full local climbing guides for Nelion-Batian. Very experienced, he’s lost count of how many times he’s been on those peaks. 

David and I will attempt Nelion-Batian the following day. Eva has generously agreed that she does not mind waiting around. My agreement with the trekking company was to climb Batian. I was now surprised when David told me it typically takes 13 hours up and down Batian via Nelion. He’s reccommendation is to do it over 2 days, with one day bivouac in a basic shelter on Nelion. We do not have 2 days, nevertheless, we agreed to try both Nelion and Batian if all goes well.

I suggested to David we do a small test climb close to the hut to ensure we are comfortable with each other. David specifically asked me how well I abseil (rappel). There was a reason to this question which I only learned the following day. 

Using the rocky ridge in the vicinity we rope-up, climb to the top and then abseil down. I have not climbed for a long time and in fact have never done a large multi-pitch wall such as Nelion-Batian. During our test-climb I’m somewhat clumsy on the abseil. David, being gracious says, don’t worry, tomorrow we just enjoy, doesn’t matter how far we get. 

That evening I prepare my gear and backpack. A little nervous, but very excited about the following day!

Thanks for enjoying the climb with us.

Willem & Eva

Cold early morning next to the tarn.

The clouds lifted briefly to reveal some magnificent scenery.

Time for breakfast before the hike.

Eva nicely illustrates the concept of layering. She takes long to get dressed in the cold πŸ˜‚

The terrain shortly after our camp site were decorated with giant groundsels (Dendrosenecio).

There is not a lot of signage on the mountain, but here are some. This is at the start of a steep and muddy slope up to a neck above.

Hiking up, pole-pole.

The view back to where we came from.

Shortly before the neck, starting to see some snow.

The view into the valley on the other side of the neck.

Walking a contour, onto the scree-field.

Meeting David, talking ropes and knots.

Looking back, on the way up to Lenana.

They claim to have the highest via-ferrata in the world.

Eva is almost there.

The last steps.

Alone on the summit, but unfortunately in cloudy conditions.

In glass encased, on the summit a bible is open at Proverbs 14 & 15.

Eva took this beautiful picture showing the perspective of the Austrian hut. Lenana is to the right of the Lewis glacier. Only the upper half of the glacier is visible.

Nelion looming large. David and I are on top of the ridge in front doing our test climb. Charles is at the bottom observing us.

Another dramatic scene from around the hut.

David and I on the ridge. Nelion to the right.

Day 128: Mt Kenya # 3

Date: 19.02.2017
Distance: 10km
Start altitude: 3300m
End altitude: 4200m
Problems: Rain

Camping at Mintos camp site.

The rains on Mt Kenya falls mainly where it will. The rains shall enter your tent, given the chance. You shall get wet and regret, but no fret, you are no porter πŸ˜‚

So it rained a lot during the night. Our tent remained dry, but the rest of the team got soaking wet. Poor them 😱. The reason: It is the dry season and they opted not to bring the ground sheet of their tent. At 04:00 they tried to light a fire for some warmth. 

Wilson still managed to deliver a delicous breakfast of banana fritters, french toast, sausages and tea.  The Kenyans typically like to deep fry their fruits and vegetables.

Another hiking group that camped in the same area turned around this morning. They prepare their own food and one hiker got sick during the night. Hope Wilson’s cooking keep us healthy along the way. 

We started hiking shortly after 08:00. Today is one of the longest days up to 4200m. Throughout it remained cloudy and rainy with occasional mist enveloping us. 

We saw the giant Ostrich Feather Lobelia. Mountain Chats were also scouring for food during our breaks.

With about 30mins to go Charles let us take the lead. With mist around he’s soon out of sight behind us. Initially we’re a bit worried but the track is clear and we continue until the camp site. Charles arrive just when we want to inform the rest of the team that he is not with us. We find it a bit odd and still not sure what happened here. 

The altitude is still ok, but I can feel I’m sooner out of breath if I put in an effort with some scrambling.

Once again, upon arrival our tent is pitched and tea and pop-corn awaits us. The rest of the team sleeps in a small, stuffy and very basic hut. 

Late afternoon the clouds retreat and we are stunned by the magnificent scenery. The mountain peaks are closer than expected and just over a rocky ridge is a beautiful mountain lake. Looks like a lot of fresh snow on Lenana. Nelion/Batian looks very intimidating! 

We also met another party descending from Lenana. They had zero visibility. Hope we have better conditions, especially if I want to attempt Nelion/Batian.

There was also a Dassie (rock-hyrax) at our camp. 

For all the beauty it is very cold. Soon we are in our tent, inside our sleeping bags trying to stay warm while reading. 

Thanks for joining the adventure.

Willem & Eva

One of the few sign-posts along the route.

Scenery early on during the hike.

Cloudy conditions remained throughout the hike.

We had a break at this beautiful location with the giant Lobelia in the foreground. A cross in the vicinity remembers a hiker who got lost and was never seen again.

The same view cleared up a little.

An inquisitive Mountain Chat came very close.

View to the other side of the valley.

The conditions remained unpleasant. We had some rain and put on our waterproof clothing.

A young giant Lobelia seen from above.

The clouds retreated for a while to reveal this stunning scenery.

…. but we were soon in our sleeping bags, reading.

Dinner! Wilson’s food never dissapointed.

Day 127: Mt Kenya #2

Date: 18.02.2017
Distance: 7km
Start altitude: 2950m
End altitude: 3300m
Problems: None

Camping at the end of the jeep-track.

Blankets were provided in our hut so we did not bother using our sleeping bags. This proved a mistake as we slept cold and both of us were too “lazy” to get up and crawl into our down-bags.

Wilson’s breakfast was served and it was delicous and enough. It is pure luxury not to worry about food or pitching a tent.

We started the hike from the Bandas at 09:00 continuing along the jeep-track. We crossed a beautiful stream and passed massive trees with lichen (old man’s beard) growing all over them. This could be “Lothlorien” (Lord of the Rings).

Gaining altitude we soon entered heath vegetation reminding me of cape fynbos. I was very surprised to see species I thought (in my own ignorance) are unique to the cape mountains such as Protea and Everlastings (Sewe-jaartjies). If we did not know better we might have thought we are back home πŸ˜‚.

The “pole-pole” mantra prevailed and eventually we arrived at the end of the jeep-track to find our tent pitched and lunch prepared. What luxury!!

It is a beautiful camp site close to a stream from where we can drink directly.

After lunch we did a short walk with Charles to a stunning waterfall, 60m in height. Late afternoon we washed in the stream. Eva carefully by splashing herself. I was brave enough to enter the water in my birth-suit; so refreshing! This would be our last wash for a few days. From here onwards its no showers and only long-drops πŸ˜‚.

During the day another hiker came down. He said he had serious problems with the altitude. High up (above 4000m) he could not go more than 20m’s without stopping. Hope we will be fine, “pole-pole”.

Dinner was served: rice with a chicken/vegetable stew. Wow, we are so surprised at the quality and quantity of food we receive.

Thanks for following.

Willem & Eva

Scene early in the day.

We entered a small forest area with massive trees overgrown with lichen.

Soon we were surrounded by heath vegetation.

Surprised to see Everlastings.

…. and surprised to see Protea.

The stream close to our camp site.

It was a 15 min hike to this waterfall.

The waterfall, without any obstruction in front 😁. It is 60m high.

Charles initially said these are giant Lobelia, but later gave it another name I cannot recall.

Strawberry Everlastings.

Our tent was pitched when we arrived.

Day 126: Mt Kenya #1

Date: 17.02.2017
Distance: 3km
Start altitude: 2700m
End altitude: 2950m
Problems: None

Sleeping in the Mt Kenya Bandas huts. Own room, bathroom and hot water.

The guide, cook and porters arrived in Chogoria at 09:30. We were still busy sorting our gear wich was couriered separately from SA thanks to my sister.

We departed for Mt Kenya national park around 10:30 in an old Land Rover, looking like a relic from the colonial era. At some stage we stopped so that the engine could cool down 😁

We entered the park and drove all the way up to about 2700m (Chogoria at about 1500m). At this altitude the vegetation is mostly bamboo forest, but overlaps partly with the tropical forest.

In previous conversation with a Kenyan he proudly proclaimed that the difference between Mt Kenya and Kili is that Mt Kenya is “alive”. There are elephants, buffalo, hyhiΓ«na and various antelope in the bush (I have not been to Kili and do not know if this is true). During the ride, we stared around in the hope of seeing something, but only dense vegetation was visible.

Once the Landy stopped luggage was sorted and loads assigned. We were introduced to the whole team: Charles (guide), Wilson (cook, NB! 😁), CK, Simon, Joseph & Stephan (porters).

The porters’ loads looked gigantic. It includes all our food and cooking  accessories for 7 days on the mountain. They did not have enough space in their back-packs but quickly improvised a carry-bag from a Maasai blanket (known as a shuka).

We continued along the same jeep track with dense bamboo forest on either side.

The Jeep track is steep but the hike is short. The porters and cook race ahead. We walk slowly with Charles. “Pole-pole” he keeps on telling us. This is swahili for “slowly” (not slowly-slowly, “Pole” means “sorry”). It is the mantra they follow for high altitude hiking. 

So we walk up like chameleons and reach the “Bandas” after about 1.5 hours’ hike. We do not mind “pole-pole” too much. We are here to enjoy every moment on the mountain and are in no rush. 

The scenery at the Bandas are awesome and we enjoy the fresh mountain air. On this tour we have not often felt completely relaxed, but now we are winding down and in a good spaceπŸ‘. So happy we have made this part of our tour! The break from cycling is welcome and much needed.

Early evening we walk to a view-point from where we saw a small herd of water-buck.

Very excited about our Mt Kenya adventure!

Thanks for your interest!

Willem & Eva

Illustration of different vegetation, varied with altitude. Source: “No picnic on Mt Kenya”. Note, we approached the mountain from the opposite side.

The jeep-track through tropical forest.

The landy cooling down. Have they not heard of Land Cruiser before 😁

No back-pack, no problem! Just give me a shuka πŸ˜‚

Scenery around the Bandas.

Here we saw some waterbuck.

Arriving at the Bandas.

Another viewpoint close to the Bandas, but we did not see any animals.

Late afternoon we got our first view of the mountain. Nelion/Batian are the “small” peaks above the large neck in the middle on the horizon.

The team: me, Eva, Charles, Stephan (arms in the air), Joseph, CK, Simon. Picture taken by Wilson.

Mountaineering background and Mt Kenya information

I’m no mountaineering historian but below will try to sumarise general interesting facts, concluding with information about Mt Kenya. If a mistake appears below, I will be the first to accept it, but I hope to give facts as best I can. 

When it comes to mountaineering it seems that people’s ego’s are at stake. I do not think it has always been this way. 

People looked at these majestic geographical features and felt in awe of them. People were humbled by all their majesty. To most it gave a religous and sacred experience. For many, mountaineers and non alike, it is still the case. This is consistent with Ps.19:1 (“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork”; NKJ).

As humans, always striving to understand and conquer, we wanted to stand on top of them. There was a period in the 19th century (1854 to 1865) known as the golden age of alpinism. During this time many of the most difficult mountain peaks in the Alps were climbed for the first time. 

The last major climbing problem in the Alps was the Eiger north face (nordwand or “mordwand”) wich remained unclimbed until 1938 (the Eiger has been climbed before, but not the north face). There is a brilliant German movie “Nordwand” which tells this interesting and tragic story (it might have been translated into english as “North Face”). 

For interest, techniques and gear have advanced so much that the Swiss mountaineer Ueli Steck climbed the Eiger North Face in about 3 hours! A record at the time. I think you can even watch this on Youtube. Imagine that, a quick Saturday outing of 3 hours to climb arguably the most difficult wall in the Alps 😱 (some people spend a lifetime to try and achieve this and many die in trying so).

Then in the 50’s and 60’s all 14 peaks in the world higher than 8000m’s were climbed. The summiting of Everest by Hillary and Norgay in 1953 being the most famous and publicised of them all.

As altitude increase the level of oxygen in the atmosphere drops. The body can adapt to high altitude up to a certain point. Somewhere around 8000m’s the level of oxygen is so low that the body cannot sufficiently compensate for this. Therefore anything above 8000m’s is known as the “death zone”. As a result, the 8000’nder mountaineers  of that time used supplementary oxygen (and most still do). 

Then Italian Reinhold Messner came along, proposing to climb all 8000m peaks without use of supplementary oxygen. Many regarded his idea as preposterous, until he did it! (between 1970 to 1986). Now there are a very unique club of 15 persons (incl. one woman) who have done this.

The latest extreme test is to climb the 8000m peaks in winter conditions, crazy!

Somewhere, someone declared that it will be a great achievement to climb the highest peak on every continent, known as the 7-summits. This was first achieved in 1985. 

Many of the 7-summits are achievable by “normal” people with a desk job, and so another ego-drug was born and many spend their livelyhood in pursuit of this.

Then famous climber and mountaineering author, John Krakauer stated that in fact a more difficult challenge will be to scale the 2nd highest summit on every continent. A classic example being K2 vs Everest. The percentage death rate on K2 being significantly higher (I think Anapurna’s is even higher). 

Unfortunately, as the world’s mountains were successfully scaled, pride became stronger and stronger. Many climbers and non-climbers alike started to think they are “god”, instead of being reminded of the real God. A typical example of how something sacred can be perverted.

So we tend to think we “conquer” mountains, when in fact we are but visitors on these age old structures for a very short time and some pay for it with their lives. 

I do not exclude myself from the risk of such arogant thoughts. It is something everyone risks as we are born with an inherent pride. For me it is therefore important to be reminded that nature shows us how fragile we are and we are but humble visitors to her grand theatre. As Ps. 19:1 says, it should remind us of God’s glory, that is the correct perspective.

Sorry for the long story but I have a passion for this stuff.

So at last on to Mt Kenya. 

Mt Kenya (5 199m asl) is the 2nd highest mountain in Africa after Kilimanjaro (5 895m asl) and due to it’s technical nature considered more difficult, ala Krakauer.

What many people do not know is that unlike Kili, Mt Kenya consists of many peaks. The 3 highest are of most interest, namely: Batian (5199m), Nelion (5188m) and Point Lenana (4985m). All 3 named after Maasai chiefs.

Lenana can be summited through hiking and a little bit of scrambling to the top. Do not be fooled, it remains a challlenge, especially due to it’s altitude (Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in the Alps is 4809m).

Nelion and Batian are twin peaks situated on the same rock massif (Capetonians can think of Die Pieke, Jonkershoek). 

To summit them requires rock climbing about 15 to 20 pitches. Various routes can be followed up to Batian, of which I think the route via Nelion is the “via normale”.

It is however a very long route. I was surprised when I met the climbing guide and he told me it requires 13 hours (this was not communicated to me before by the trekking company).

Once on Nelion, Batian is horizontally less than 100m away (my own guess) but according to my very experienced guide (no sarcasm) takes 2 hours one-way. This is due to the traverse to Batian and back, and the re-ascend of Nelion on return. Both require extensive protection to be put in place for a responsible climb.

Lastly, the guiding company states that this route is rated at 5.6 (YDS, USA). I’m more familiar with the French grading, the equivalent is 4c. However in my limited experience it felt to me more like a 5b, of course very exposed. 

Daily posts of the hike / climb to follow soon.

Thanks for climbing with us. 

Willem & Eva

Nelion in early morning light as seen from Lenana. Batian is behind Nelion and cannot be seen from this perspective.