“I love the upward ways. To the sun tipped crest of the mountains. High over the billowy world; where the wind sings hymns of praise, and the snows break into fountains, and life is a flag unfurled.” Harriet Monroe
Route: Minto’s camp-Lenana Peak-Minto’s-Chogoria main gate
When: 23rd December 2021
Duration: 17hours 45 mins
Altitude: 4, 985mASL
Elevation gain: 739m
2:00am was our wake up call. For someone who functions after 8 hours of sleep, I was sleep deprived. Waiting for breakfast and changing into summit gear took forever. Tea and biscuits didn’t assure us to pack more snacks. We should have. At 3:30am the long journey to the summit started. It was freaking cold.
Flickers of headlamps shone from all angles. I didn’t even realize the boggy lands that I loathe, streams and the lobelia vegetation that started us off until 1pm when we were back at Minto’s. Darkness engulfed us. It was a steep affair that made walking harder. Austrian Hut and Shiptons Camp signage gave us hope as well as foreigners who thronged the route.
All was well till we got to Simba tarn with its two tarn lakes and I saw mountaineers camping there. Snow all over, it got me wondering who the hell dares to camp under that weather. From here, matters at hand were thick. At some point the 4km journey from Minto’s to Lenana peak seemed like 10km or even more.
Sunrise caught up with us halfway. Snow excitement faded. The picturesque views were jaw dropping but the only thing dropping was the temperature. Capturing the moments seemed impossible because once you exposed your hands to the cold, freezing awaited. This hide and seek game couldn’t get any better. Chilly slapping wind required a balaclava at all times.
“Almost there,” was the only assurance that came out of people’s mouth. Never believe these words while at the mountains. NEVER! A look at a false peak and you think it is the one. Only to find more false peaks that you have to pass by before getting to the main one that is always hidden. Why do they always hide? Don’t they want to be seen?
At some point our bodies felt like giving up. “Hatufiki?” Then it dawned on me that descending was even more dangerous. Slippery snow. At this point our water bladders had ice cold water. In fact, the water was ice cold at Simba tarn. Chef Francis had boiled our drinking water which was warm when we left but now all his efforts seemed fruitless.
5 hours 30minutes for a freaking 4km, we made it to Lenana Peak at 9:00am. Before then, there was use of steel ropes to hold onto for balance. Then came the staircase to get to the top. Here plaques do the talking. There’s a Bahaullah prayer, Dr. Johann Kraft honoring his great friend Richard Carles who died coming off the mountain and another that congratulates Teleki Samuel for reaching the mountain’s snow-limit in 1887. Our famous Munyao flag still stands tall. Batian Peak peeped through. Photo moments done, the hunger that awaited us was real. Glucose tried to hold it. Descending started.
I saw a certain guide with an ice axe trying to create way for his team. We had none. We saw foreigners use their shoe heel to grip to the snow. Well, they have snow in their countries we might as well copy them. That was the technique we used. Walking toes up, sole down made one look like a penguin. Spotting Harris Tarn lake was magical. Wearing sun glasses was mandatory to avoid sun glare.
Surprisingly, at Simba tarn, the snow had vanished. From here it was a walk in the park. At 1pm we got to Minto’s. Breakfast was served. The strength to take more pictures faded. I was done with my phone. Lunch was cooked. It was time to pack and leave. At 7:00pm, rainfall was upon us. We got to Bandas at 9.18pm. We left Chogoria on 24th December morning.