Saturday, June 14, 2014

Mount Kenya : Peponi School Nairobi

Dawn from the Point Lenana, Mount Kenya 

Approaching the summit up the steep ground
I have just returned from a Mount Kenya ascent with a Nairobi School Peponi which is in the Westlands area of the capital. And a nice school it is as I went to Nairobi with the bus and saw it. There where 33 in the group along with Mike, Debs, Katie and John as the accompanying teachers. I dont think we could have asked for better weather on the way up we where greeted by clear sunny days until the last part of the return walk where we did get a good soaking but then its the mountains and having been used to Scotland it didn't seem to bad. 
We all met at the Siromon gate just north of Nanyuki where the porters, cooks, guides and clients all assembled. There was a couple of other large teams heading up so the porter situation looked a little like that described in the ‘first ascent of Rum Doodle’! With the group quickly assembled it was   a quick sandwich and then off following the track up to the Jude Mayer camp just below the old Moses hut. The group where great with no real complaining a few people feeling the burn and getting used to the thinner air and new boots. 
A sliver of ice on Lenana, Mount Kenya 
Day 2 we headed off past the Met Station and on to Liki North, a great wild campsite which sits behind the Mackinder valley where Shiptons camp sits directly under the peaks. Its a wild site although it needs some work on the toilets area which in all my travels I have never come across a loo that bad. As soon as I saw it it became a blanket ban on its use. Instead we used the pit method. Its not something the park service thinks about and will generally look the other way with these environmental issues leaving it to the guides to make sure something is done. It was a fairly long day in the end as one member of the party was on go slow, it was a case of not having done anything of this type before but Riza dug deep and kept going to the Shiptons camp he missed the summit but achieved a lot in getting to the top hut. 
Day 3 saw us pull out from the Liki camp and up and over the ridge into the Mackinders valley winding our way up to Shiptons camp. Time was spent eating and relaxing ready for the summit attempt in the morning. 
Day 4, Summit day ! Its an early start on summit day with the team getting the wake up call at 1:30am for tea and biscuits before starting out for the top at 2:00am to see the sunrise from the top. We scrambled up through the small gorge which leads to the steep moraines and a slow plod upwards was underway. We only had one who retreated on the summit morning which was due to a weak knee and the strain proving to much for it. She returned with a guide and teacher. John who returned with the student put in a great effort and turned on his heels at the hut with the guide and ran back up to catch us up making sure he got the summit tick in to. Once you get to the top of the moraines it kicks back a little in a very lunar style landscape. You wind your way up to the summit pyramid where some small scrambling style steps wind up through the cliffs. The group where doing so well at nearly 5000mts digging deep and keeping together winding up to the summit for pictures. While the group took some snaps I had a good look around for the via ferrata style safety cables which KWS wants to put in place soon and wanted to know where the best route would be. Although the summit is a fairly simple one in terms of climbing it does have the potential for someone to take a long slide on very broken and loose ground. I think have identified the key areas for putting them in place. Its a tricky one coming from the UK and not really wanting to have fixed gear in the mountains but as with Ben Nevis its a mountain which attracts a large number of people who don’t know what they are doing and so perhaps as mountain professionals we have a degree of responsibility to those people and to put things in place to help them stay 
a little safer on the mountain. Hopefully I shall be up and putting them in soon. 
Happy on the way down through the Mackinders valley 

Heading up towards Shiptons camp prior to the summit 

Its a long day for the summit team as once we had descended to the hut we then continue all the way to the Jude Mayer camp. We arrived at about 5pm that day so it made for a long one but the group kept plugging away and got there. We also had some torrential rain and hail as we crossed the moorland. This had quite an effect on our camp almost completely flooding it. It was great to arrive at the hut to see Paul the cook had already been arranging things ahead of us and with a discussion with Nick they had us booked into the hut rather than the tents. A pleasant evening in the hut with celebrations of a good trip. My experience of the guides room was not the best I have experienced plenty of huts and am used to the bag shuffling and snoring the most notable was the Old Gouter hut on Mont Blanc which was pretty bad with its terrible loos and the noisy snoring but there was a guide in Old Moses who was by far the worst snorer I have ever heard. I extended my walking pole in the end as far as it would go and would periodically poke him in the side which would make him roll over and stop for a while, he must have rolled over nearly fifty times by the morning. Tents are far preferable to huts in my mind. I have attached an image here of the new Gouter hut from Rob Jarvis at High Mountain Guides which looks very impressive.

The Gouter hut on Mont Blanc, what its possible to build in the mountains: Rob Jarvis High Mountain Guides
Perhaps George at KWS (Kenya Wildlife Services) could take a look at this as he seems a little perplexed as to how you can build good huts up high in the mountains, the Alpine countries seem to have no problems with it. I would think it would be a financial issue for the park service, however and I have noticed this on Kilimanjaro as well that the park fee is very high and there are large numbers of people coming through but none of that money is coming back to the mountain. Possibly an issue in all areas of African affairs where money is involved. Its very short sighted if you lower the fee and put something back into the mountain you will in turn get more people coming and thus make more money in the long run.   
We walked the last stretch down to the gate with all in good spirits, quite a lot of tired youngsters but a great team and a real pleasure to work with. I joined them on the drive back to Nairobi and a drop off at the school. 
Another group ahead on the slither down the old marraines to the tents 

Mike Peck teachers slithering down the sloppiest path in Africa ! 

Its quite nice dipping in and out of Nairobi and seeing whats changing buildings springing up all over in the area that I stay in. Lots of folk have a problem with the big city but I have never felt in danger here and am happy to potter about during the day in the leafy suburbs around Lavington and Othya road. I did however try and find the only climbing shop in East Africa which was not very good and the prices where super high for the type of kit which we would get very cheaply in the UK. There was one other and as one of my boses described as the other one he knew about was blown up by terrorists and then looted by the Army in Westgate, TIA !