Monday, September 12, 2011

Second take on Mt. Kenya

This was my second attempt at Mount Kenya. This time women were left behind and there were only four of us, guys. We took Chogoria route. We did not find anyone at KWS station at the mountain foot so we just drove in. The route took us through equatorial jungle, later becoming bamboo forest.

On our way to park gate we met some guys in old Land Rovers (like seriously Out Of Africa old) going down and these guys told us there was no way we'd make it to the gate in our car. We just laughed at them and Bartek even said Whatcha mean we won't make it? Of course we will! I will have a sandwich while we do. Admittedly we got stuck like four times in the mud, but I have seen enough Camel Trophy documentaries to know what to do. We cut some bamboo, dug some mud from under the tires and we stuffed the bamboo there.

Thus we got out of mud and ploughed on uphill, soon reaching Park Gate at altitude 2950 m. From there another seven clicks - no mud there, just some creeks and kinda uneven road:

and we reached Road Head at altitude 3300 m. Here we camped, drank and sang next to camp fire (we brought our own wood and charcoal ;-)

And all of us slept in my trusted tent: Bartek on the left, then his dad - Piotr, then my bag and Father Arek on far right

Next morning I had a moment catching spider webs lit by morning sunlight from underneath.

Oh well... We all have our idiosyncrasies, don't we? Soon we packed our stuff and moved up towards Mintos Hut.

Mintos Hut (altitude 4290 m) was actually a shed made of metal sheets, kinda windy and cold. I was kinda tired so I excused myself from the rest of the evening.

I could not sleep much this night. I would think this was the altitude - when I tried to sleep I would try to breathe through my nose, and there would be not enough oxygen, so I'd wake up suffocating, only to recover by breathing through my mouth. Then I'd try to sleep again but I'd wake up from the same sensation. Funny. We got up at 01:00 and set off to reach Lenana Point. It was kinda funny to walk - practically on Equator - in the night in sub-zero temperature only with headlamps... We reached Lenana Point (altitude 4985 m) just before sunrise:

The scenery was beautiful:

Here's the view for second highest point in Africa - Batian (altitude 5199 m)

As it was freezing cold (no, not the temperature but the wind chill factor) we did not dwell too long at the peak - just a few photos and we were off. We reached the hut at 0930, greeted by some Hyraxes.

We reached the car at 1345 and set off back home. Unfortunately while we were climbing up it has been raining down here and the mud we experienced on our way up got even more tricky. We got stuck once but I requested for a try and managed to pull the car out of the mud. The second time we got stuck we hanged on the floorplate in the middle of the jungle, only some 6-7 km down from the park gate. It was about 1500 hours.

At 1700 we decided this is beyond our ken. Of course - no cell coverage ;-) So we send our people to get some assistance. While Piotr and Bartek were walking 17 km downhill in all this mud, Arek and I still tried to move the car. We dug the hole from behind to free the rear axle, then from front to free front axle, then from the side to remove the mud from underneath the car. But the thing would not move. So I lifted the car on a jack by some 20 cm, put some tree branches under the wheels, then let the car down... I gained like 5 cm, but there still was not enough weight on the wheels - the car would not move. At about 2000 hours it started raining again and we gave up. At 2210 Piotr and Bartek came with the rescue - there are a bunch of guys who make their living by helping cars out of the mud on this very road... The moment Piotr and Bartek got into the car they just passed out ;-) The mud rescue team tried (in pouring rain) for two and a half hour, but at about 1230 they gave up. This was beyond their ken as well... They promised to come back at sunrise and disappeared into rain... We slept in the car. Not very comfortable... I woke up at about 0700. No rescue in sight... You know - T.I.A. - these guys might as well have given up on us. Uncertainty was the worst - you just do not know if you are being rescued or not...

They arrived at about 1200, altogether 12 people, some rescue guys, some priests and a lovely Polish nun who brought hot chocolate and clean towels and ham sandwiches... Call for help worked - 10 people just pushed the car out of the mud as if it was a toy... We've been stuck there for 22 and a half hours. Soon we reached the lower gate near KWS station:

I have never been so dirty in my life. I did not sleep properly since Wednesday (I managed to hit myself on my ear with a jo on Wednesday Aikido class to the point that I bled and I could not sleep Thursday night), I did not eat properly, I got running tummy from drinking water from stream up there (and later pooed all over the mountain). I was exhausted, dehydrated, sleepy but very, very happy.

And I will never eat Mars bar again. Ever

More pictures here