Day 3 – Descent
If I thought climbing to Pt. Lenana was hard, then I had a new think coming getting back down. I managed to fall (read sprawl out, dirt stains up and down my clothes) a total of 12 times. That does not include the dozen of near misses and cuts to my hands saving myself once I removed my gloves. (Foolish move – I wasn’t feeling super cold so I took off the gloves, forgetting they were also preserving the skin of my palms. And then because I’m
stubborn, stupid, determined, I didn’t want to stop to put them back on.)
As I cursed my lack of balance, weak ankles, and the loose gravel (the bane of my existence), I marveled at the landscape and the sheer majestic beauty of Kenya.
The night before I asked Paul, our guide, how long it would take to descend the mountain. He said about half the time of climbing. It took us just over 3 hours to climb, meaning it should take anywhere from 1.5 to 2 hours to get back to camp. It took me about 3.5 hours.
There was another guide with us, who was very kind, and stayed with me as I slowly fumbled my way down and my light-hearted smiles laughing at myself falling turned into scowls and terse responses of, “Yes, yes I’m fine. Let’s just keep going,” to his polite pole pole’s and inquires about my wellbeing.
Arriving back at 4,200 meters and the camp where we stayed the night before, I had no thoughts, except to look up at Pt. Lenana and think it mental that I watched the sunrise from there. I had gone from my super-high on top of the mountain, to crashing, fast. I thankfully ate my breakfast, eggs, toast, and pancake(!), and drank some coffee and water, without really tasting it. My whole body was freezing, even though it was close to 10am. I grabbed my sleeping bag, went out into the sunshine, and lay down in the grass.
I awoke an hour and a half later. We were leaving to walk the 16km back to the first camp. I groggily packed up, felt terrible about delaying my groups, but was so tired (and still cold) that I couldn’t figure out how to move any faster.
Before noon, we set out for the hike back. Once my legs were moving again, I felt my strength returning, and my mind coming back to its right self. So the girls and I, much to the chagrin of our fourth climber and our guide, began belting out Back Street Boys (Everybodyyy, yahhhh yah!), Disney classics (I can show you the world… Look at this stuff, isn’t it neat?) and show tunes (On my own, pretending he’s besideeeee meee).
The wind was whipping, we were singing, and I may have demonstrated Willow’s Whip Your Hair. Yes, I was definitely back to normal.
How much fun are we to climb a mountain with, right?
So we walked, and we walked, and we walked, and as much as I was exhausted before, the walk back rejuvenated me to the point where I think I even jogged for 5 steps at one point.
We returned to Old Moses and 3,300meters before dusk. Tired and accomplished, with that deep feeling of satisfaction that only comes after achieving something that truly challenged you.
Before heading to bed, we sat with the porters, cook, and our guide – the reasons we were able to get to the top – and thanked them for all their work. Then we tumbled into our sleeping bags.
Learning from previous experience, I slept with all the layers of clothes I brought and with my shoes on. What a deep and warm sleep I had.
Day 4 – Back to the Start
The next morning, after a good stretch, we set out at 9am for the final walk back to the main gate. To make the trip complete, after a half hour into our morning walk, I went to step over a stream (less than a foot wide), and instead fell into it. Well, to be accurate, my right leg fell into it and the rest of me was leaning over the grassy ledge. Ice cold water gushed into my hiking boot and stung my leg. For some blessed reason, no one was around to witness my fall, so I pulled myself my leg out of the stream, hoisted myself onto the bank, and started yelling, “I fell into the river! I fell into the river!” after which I proceeded to show my soaked shoe. Not at all obnoxious. Nur, being fantastic, supplied me with a dry sock, and I rolled up my pant leg. Obviously, not because it was dripping wet, but because I am a gangster and style guru.
When we were less than 50 meters from the main gate (covering about 9km that morning), Sam, Nur, and I embraced our competitive spirit and feeling of accomplishment and raced to the finish line (aka the main gate). It doesn’t matter the outcome of that race, the point is we are all winners from reaching the top of the mountain (smiley-face-hand-holding-circle-time). It was also foolish because it gave me a pounding headache from the thirty seconds of running and depleted oxygen levels. Oh, for the love of running and the competitive spirit.
Waiting for us at the main gate was our ride back to Nairobi. Sad at leaving Mt. Kenya, but triumphant in our success, we bid our goodbyes, and headed back to the city.
Mt. Kenya – Asante! Tutaonana!
Final Lesson: No matter how many times you fall, if you keep getting back up, you will eventually reach your destination. And if you are literally falling, then you should also have good travel insurance so you can be helicoptered off, say a mountain, if need be. (It’s important to push yourself, but you also need to be realistic about your strengths and weaknesses.)
Climbing Mt. Kenya Question: Is it the destination or the journey? In this case, I really think it was both.