Labour Day Climb: Mt Kilimambogo…

This is the first installation of a series of hikes for the preparation of Mt. Kilimanjaro, hopefully (IA) in February 2017.

It was a wet and Cold Labour Day weekend, and I had the perfect plan in mind of how I wanted to spend it: curled up in front of the tele watching back-to-back series of How to Get Away with Murder (yes, I’m hooked). So, when I went to bed on Sunday night, I was totally oblivious of being woken up at 5am Monday morning by a phone call;

Caller (SCREAMING): “What are you doing?? I’ve been calling you like crazy! Where are you??” (there were 6 missed calls and 3 text messeges already)

Me: (Quiet, but thinking): Who is this! What do they Want? I am sleeping, In my bed…

Caller: “Wake up. Get Dressed. We are going Hiking. I’m coming to pick you up in 30 minutes”.

Before I could respond in the negative, the phone was disconnected. It was my best friend and climbing partner. We usually go for a hike on Labour Day weekend, but this year, due to the rains we didn’t bother. But the weather had let up Sunday night and here he was calling, all set to go. I had half the mind to call back and excuse myself, but I did make a commitment to myself, to Climb Mt. Kenya this year, and it’s not going to happen without any relevant training. So, up and ready I was waiting to be picked up.

Little was I prepared for the news that was awaiting me. Our “Hikes” are at 6am to Karura Forest. So that was what I was prepared for. Not a MOUNTAIN! We were already on the way, and honestly it felt like a Secret OPs debriefing on the way there. Apparently he had signed us up with an expedition company that will be taking on Mt. Kenya in December.They have a training circuit of 6 hikes in 6 months in way of preparation. So, we were on the way to meet the group and begin our climb.

A Little about Mt. Kilimambogo:

Kilimambogo or Buffalo Mountain, also known as Ol Donyo Sabuk mountain, is located in Thika County which is a 40 minute drive from Nairobi. The solitary mountain stands 2,145 meters (7,037 feet) above sea level from an otherwise flat area. It covers an area of about 20 square kilometers and is mostly natural forest inhabited by Buffaloes, monkeys, antelopes and other grazers, and variety of flora. Kilimambogo offers panoramic views of surrounding plains, and on days with great weather, once can spot Mt Kenya to the north, and Mt Kilimanjaro to the west.

The climb to the top is 10km and takes 2-3 hours. A KWS guide usually accompanies hikers up the mountain as security against buffalo herds. On the way up, one encounters stunning views, and just a few kilometers from the summit, lay the graves of Lord William Northup Macmillan and his Wife.

The Fourteen Falls is another magnificent attraction near Mt. Kilimambogo that can also be visited.

What the experience was like:

Well, dear reader, I suppose at this point, you are probably imagining a picturesque landscape of a beautiful green mountain on a sunny day with birds in the sky and wildlife grazing the plains. STOP RIGHT THERE. It was a huge mistake.

  1. Never Attempt to climb anything if you are not (well) prepared for it. Unlike Mount Longonot, which stands at the same height as Kilimambogo, the later is much, much steeper. I have not had any incline training since January this year and my shins were certainly not prepared for this kind of shock.
  2. Never Climb anything when it’s rainy weather. We barely began our trek and it started to drizzle lightly. However, the heavy rainfall in the past couple of days had already left the trail mucky and muddy. I was  literally trudging my way up, slipping and sliding. At some points I was ankle high in mud. My clothes were all soiled and I had mud seeping into my trainers.
  3. It’s time to quit when it’s time to quit. I knew by the time I reached (and I say that like it was a miracle against all odds) the base of the summit, that I should have gone back. It had taken us an hour and a half to get to the base. Time was wasted due to the muddy and slippery trail, not to mention our energy was quite spent. Kilimambogo is flat for the better part and then steeps towards the summit. I was already in pain (those who have walked in snow or sand can relate to the feeling), tired and hungry (2 chocolate bars, an apple and some grapes already devoured). I should have listened to myself and turned back. But ego, pride and sense of adventure kept me from doing so. Plus I was scared that if I turned back the mountain might collapse (today of all ages) and there would be a mud-slide and I would die without making it to the top – at this point, a number of people were turning back, and several others were making a quick descent from the summit, having spotted huge dark clouds looming in the horizon. We attempted, what was now, the real Climb.
  4. Do not allow anyone to push you up a mountain. And by that I mean tell you to hurry up. I am not a climber. I just trek. This was a climb. Holding onto rocks or sprigs to get my footing in the mud  so that I wouldn’t slip was frustrating. On top of that we were already slow, because neither one of us anticipated this, and the KWS guide kept beckoning us to hurry up before it starts to pour. At this point, I was praying for a mud-slide.
  5. Always get to know who/what you climb on. Nobody the (beep) told us that to get to the (beep) summit we had three steep (beep) hills to get across. I am looking at Ol Donyo Sabuk articles now and NOWHERE is this mentioned. Imagine this, you struggle climbing about 2 km (feels like forever)  reach a flat plain, only to be told there is one more waiting round the corner. You conquer that, feel like yelling in desperation only to be told to hold your horses, and brace yourself for the final ascent. By this time its raining (I forgot to landmark where the drizzle turned into rain). You climb, holding on to anything for dear life to get to the top. The promised land. Where views are spectacular. Where Mt. Kenya will welcome you on your left and Mt. Kili honor you for your bravery on the right. I think I ate more mud than  anything. We looked like POWs escaping. My only hope was getting to the top and taking a picture of the panoramic view. Someone fell flat into the mud. I slipped and twisted something. Another cried and cursed. A fight broke out, reprimanding the other for a the not so brilliant idea. All I could think of was my warm bed that I had left to suffer and die on this Mountain of Buffaloes (of which we saw none).
  6. Sometimes the climb is easier than the way down.  Finally we made it to the summit. We did not stop by the grave sites  as they were slightly off the trail. The guide was not very happy to bring us up in the rain and we decided not to prode him to take us there. The was no panoramic view either. No towering mountains waiting to crown us in glory on either side. Nothing.  Just muck and sheath of rain. I didn’t have a camera or phone (still plugged into the charger near my bedside). My friend was not very amused and the last thing he wanted was a memory of this disastrous hike (which obviously put his fitness levels on the line). Plus we looked like morons. Mud covered, wet and mad. A few sips of water and half a chocolate bar literally shoved down our throats, took us to the beginning of our descent. I was  petrified. How does one climb down mud. My feet were sinking in, I slipped on my back and sled  down. I was literally in tears. I held back my curses when I saw my friend take a fall, face down right in front of me. He was covered in mud. Poor guy. I didn’t even look at him for not knowing whether to laugh at this face, offer him comfort or bark at him for putting us through this.

It took us 3 and a half hours to climb up. And another 2 and a half to climb down. Which was not bad given the circumstances. We descended in silence. None of us spoke on the way back to the gates. And after getting “cleaned up” (failed attempt), we drove back in silence. He dropped me off at my gate, and without so much as a “goodbye”, was gone.  I checked in on him this morning. He was in bad shape. His knee was injured, and his legs were on fire. Which is about the same that I can say for myself.

I’m sure the next time we get together we are going to laugh about this. It is kind of funny if you think about it. If only I had captured us in that state, you, dear reader would be off your chair, ROTFLMAO!!!

I will leave you now, this post is long already. Brace yourself for the next one! And trust me, I’m not going to go through hell next time…(said no one ever!!!).




2 thoughts on “Labour Day Climb: Mt Kilimambogo…

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