Trekking Mt. Kenya For Five Days

by Monicah Wangari
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Mt Kenya for 5 Days

It’s been 5 months since I hiked Mt Kenya. The second highest point of Africa following closely after Mt Kilimanjaro.

It was an amazing, life changing experience for me. It’s one of those I opted to keep to myself because it was so personal and beautiful.

I didn’t write about it because I needed the time to digest it and be that girl who summited Mt Kenya. 

But I did share stories on my IG. I guess that’s also partly why I haven’t written about it.

Day 1&2; themkare IG

Day 3&4; themkare IG

Day 5; themkare IG

In my lifetime, I’ve been on 19 hikes. 

And the one that I’m most proud of is Mt Kenya.

So today, I will write it’s tale.

Preparation for Mt Kenya

It was a wild dream of mine to one day summit Mt Kenya. The more I talked about it since last year, the more it looked achievable. I remember seeing it so clearly one beautiful morning from Nanyuki as I and my family were headed upcountry. It stood so majestically and I said “one day”. I remember posting it on my Instagram Stories and saying “one day”.

At the start of this year, I resolved. To hike Mt Kenya. I had been following this travel blogger for a while. She offers girls trips. I liked her. So I joined her preparation hikes towards hiking Mt Kenya in March 2021. We did about four preparation hikes. Ngong Hills (this I did with a different group), Ngare Ndare, Sleeping Warrior, and Ugali Hills, and Elephant Hill. We hiked Elephant Hill the weekend before Mt Kenya. It was brutal and it made me question my commitment to summiting Mt Kenya. I mean my legs hurt for three days straight.

Anyway, I didn’t have time for all that doubting as I was mentally and physically getting ready to face my dream. I also needed to purchase hiking gear, a sleeping bag, and snacks. 

The 26th of March 2021; Road Trip to Chogoria and Trek to Lake Ellis

We left for Mt Kenya.

Normally we leave Nairobi by 6 am for day hikes. 

On this day, we left Nairobi at 7 am. On a cool Friday. I took the front seat next to the driver. I was feeling on top of the world. I was going to conquer my world. A girl was excited. 

It was a beautiful road trip which I documented. Documenting the whole experience was a must-do for me. For memories and content sakes.

The plan was to start our hike from the Chogoria route and finish at Sirimon. It is the most scenic route. We would spend 5 days on the mountain.

We got to the Chogoria entrance at around 1 pm. We had lunch. The porters repacked our clothes in rented rucksacks. Each one of us had a porter to carry our luggage throughout the hike. So that our only load was our day backpacks. At 3 pm we began our trek towards our first campsite of the day; Lake Ellis. 

Mt. Kenya is a beauty. The views were amazing. It rained at some point and we put on our rain gear. 

Most parts of the mountain don’t usually have a network connection. But there are a few points which do. Halfway into our afternoon hike, we stopped by one of the network supporting points. We got the news that the president had just announced a countrywide lock down and curfew. Guys, the second Kenyan lock down was announced while we were on the mountain. Honestly, I wasn’t shaken a bit. First, because there’s no way I’d prepped to my best abilities to turn back. Second, because I had faith in the trip organizers that we’d find a way back when it was time. Third, because nobody seemed bothered in the group.

We went on with our hike and got to camp as dusk set in.

The porters had already gotten there and pitched our tents. We had supper inside a tent. Supper was a combination of all essential meals for a hiker. Lots of carbohydrates and protein.

Nights are cold on Mt Kenya and it is advisable to carry two hot water bottles. They help warm you in your sleeping bag. I wore about three layers to sleep. I slept fine. Like a baby. Some people were unable to sleep. It happens at high altitudes – the body trying to acclimatize.

The 27th March 2021; Trek from Lake Ellis to Lake Michaelson

If you want to catch the sunrise on the mountain, be awake by 6:20 am. A few of us were. I took out my tripod which I’d bought specifically for Mt Kenya. These days I use it to shoot TikTok videos. You should check me out (themkare). I recorded a sunrise. It didn’t show out as we’d have loved it to, but it was something. Boy was it cold. Nights and mornings on the mountain are cold. 

We had breakfast made of oatmeal, more carbs, and proteins. We then refilled our hydration bladders – our guides/hosts had carried enough supplies. Mt Kenya doesn’t have wash areas. We had a mobile toilet pitched by our guides. For showering, we carried wet wipes. And with the low temperatures, showering wasn’t an option.

The part I don’t like about a mobile-many-days hike is the unpacking and packing. Glad we had help. The porters would assist us to repack our luggage.

About 9 am we set out for Lake Michaelson. It started easy with the sun looking down on us. Allow me to say this again. Mt Kenya is beautiful. So beautiful. It will bless your eyes. Your soul. Your mind.

Some hours into the hike, it got mean cold. It began snowing. We wore our rain gear. We walked slower. We had a late lunch in a cave. We then left the cave for Lake Michaelson. It is somewhere in a valley. To get to it, we had to descend for some hours. The ground was wet and slippery. It was beautiful how snow lay on the vegetation. As we got closer to Lake Michaelson, the sky started clearing up. People, Lake Michaelson is spectacular. A sight for sore eyes. Something everyone should see in this lifetime. PS, you don’t have to hike to it – you can use a helicopter.

We got to camp and changed outfits. It is advisable to change into a fresh fit to sleep. We had supper and called it a night. We were always briefed of the next day’s activities during supper.

The 28th March 2021; Trek from Lake Michaelson to Shipton’s Camp

As usual, we rose early to watch the sunrise. This day was special because we were going to do a lake tour and a photo-shoot in the morning. Having seen justrioba’s previous mountain shoot, I was excited about it. 

After we were done, we went back to camp. We had breakfast and broke camp. Everyone was given a packed lunch. 

The trail started next to a small waterfall. Talk of tranquility. Vegetation starts changing the higher you go. We could now see vegetation found only on high altitudes. Higher altitudes don’t have any vegetation – they are rocky.

Halfway into this trail, I got slower, talked less, and lost my appetite. I didn’t think much of it. Little did I know, the altitude had started hitting me. I was tired and my mind was not as strong anymore. I broke down while walking. The hike on this day seemed to not end. I was angry and frustrated. Despair was my fourth name. It stuck with me until we got to Shipton’s Camp.

Shipton’s Camp is one of the base camps for those seeking the summit. The view of the peaks from here is heavenly. Like a movie. We slept in bandas. It was extremely cold. I was not feeling like myself at all when we got to camp. The pressure of summiting the next day also got to me. I was unable to eat. I puked. I cried. It was a mess. My oxygen level was checked and thank God it was normal. I couldn’t eat anything, so I had lemon water for supper. I slept unsure whether I’d summit Lenana peak the next day. Between sobs, I made peace with that.

The 29th of March 2021 – Lenana Peak Summit Day

We woke up at 2 am to start our summit pursuit and be there by sunrise. I woke up feeling fresh as a daisy and hungry af. I wore three layers of outfits. Around 3 am we set out. For Lenana Peak. I decided to move at my own pace and not let any pressure rush me. We hiked in the dark with our headlamps on our foreheads. The moon shone brightly and beautifully. It was snowy all over. Snow glitters in the dark. There was no vegetation. Just lots of rock formation.

By the time the sun started coming up, I was hours away from the summit. The mountain slows you down. You can’t run-up. You move at the pace the mountain wants you to. The sun rose and it was the most beautiful sight I have ever seen. The sun above the clouds. I got to the summit at about 10 am. All my water and snack supplies were depleted. I was weak too. Super tired. My guide Anthony was very patient. He held my hand when I’d have given up and descended. I thought about descending multiple times. He encouraged me. A step at a time. I met the group as they descended. I did not lose hope. I said that as long as they passed by where I am passing, I will get to the summit as they did.

I appreciated getting to the summit. Anthony documented my moments – I did not have the energy.

Summit Moment

The moment I got to the peak, I lay on the ground flat. To catch a breath. To take it all in. I wished a helicopter would pick me and take me home. Because descent wasn’t a piece of cake either.

The Descent

Anthony was kind, patient and understanding. He moved at my pace. A slow pace. One thing I liked about the hike organization is, whenever someone was left behind and others got to camp, guides were sent back to fetch them. At some point into the descent, two guides came to get me and Anthony. They held me on both sides and we descended at a faster speed. I had some time to rest and eat at Shipton’s camp. The others left for Old Moses Camp. Shipton’s to Old Moses is 14 Kms (5-8 hours). My weak body was not having an easy time on this day.

We then set out for Old Moses. That trail seemed to never end. With multiple hills and valleys which seem to resemble each other. Night fell with us in the forest. Word has it that animals come out at night. Guides were sent again to come to get us. Again, I was held to walk at a quicker pace. I got to camp at 10 pm. The other girls had gotten there about three hours earlier. They’d refreshed, had supper, and gone to bed. 

There were times my soul was crushed while on this hike. Being left behind sucked. Often while on this trail, I wanted to cry a river. This experience taught me to stand by myself, hold my hand, encourage myself, listen to myself and do what I set out to do no matter how discouraging the circumstances.

I had a conversation with the main guide after we got to camp. I was pondering on why we hike. I remember it was a really deep conversation. 

I ate and went to sleep.

30th March 2021; Old Moses Camp to Sirimon Gate and Back to Nairobi

I woke up feeling like heaven. I had gone through an array of emotions and physical strains on the mountain. And here I was feeling fantastic. The girls were happy to see me at breakfast and they said kind words.

The walk to Sirimon was 9 Kms. We recounted the previous day’s events. We had made lifetime friendships and experiences.

I knew that despite going through hell and heaven on the mountain, I would miss it. I went back home a conqueror.

At Sirimon Gate where our bus awaited us, we said goodbye to our guides/porters who’d seen us through the experience. 

We got permit letters to allow us to get back to Nairobi.

Closing Remarks

We have become accustomed to sharing just the beautiful parts of our lives. However, I believe that the ugly ones deserve light too (once you’ve accepted and dealt with them).

I decided to share the not-so-beautiful parts of hiking because they are as significant as the beautiful ones.

It took me a while to wrap my head around being carried on the hike. I felt like my body had failed me. I felt like I was not supposed to celebrate my win. I am my own worst critic. Aren’t we all? Over time, I’ve learned that there is no shame in asking for help. No shame in getting help. No shame in getting altitude sickness. No shame in puking and crying at the same time. No shame in being left behind.

The only shame is in disqualifying my wins when I should celebrate them. I AM A POWER-GIRL! Mt Kenya is not the end of my big mountains pursuit. I WILL CONQUER MANY MORE IN THIS BEAUTIFUL LIFETIME I’VE BEEN BLESSED WITH.

Cheers to all of us fearlessly pursuing our goals and dreams. Celebrate all your wins. You deserve it.

The lady I told you about who organizes epic girls’ trips;

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