Hell’s Gate: A Walk on the Wild Side…

I had always wanted to visit Hells’s Gate. There were a few school trips that were planned in that direction, but I was more eager to get out of than go on any of them. And so I missed out until recently, when we were planning our prep hikes for Kilimanjaro, and Hell’s Gate came up as a “potential” hike. When it finally did get put in, I was really counting down to it. And so, on the 7th of August, 2016 I finally had the opportunity to visit this natural attraction with 8 other members of Summit Seekers for a prep hike.

We had a pleasant start to the journey. No surprises, no delays. I was nervous as I was heading this “operation” all by myself. A two hour drive later we arrived at the venue only a few moments later than anticipated.

As is customary when heading out to Naivasha, which is where Hell’s Gate is located, we passed the view point. The weather took a complete turn the day before and instead of bright sunny skies and a magnificent view from the escarpment, we were greeted with nothing but fog and clouds. Even Longonot, our next climb, which usually dominates the landscape was barely visible.

A hike at Hell’s Gate is often referred to as “A Walk on the Wild Side“. It was named by the explorers Fischer and Thompson in 1883. It earned it’s name following the geothermal activity within its boundaries, and is still covered by ashes from the Mt. Longonot’s eruption which is last said to have occurred in the early 1900s. The Park is also famous for its geothermal stations, a gorge and spectacular scenery, which include cliffs, volcanoes, gorges and a natural geothermal spa.

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At Elsa Gate Entrance

Our hike started at Elsa Gate. One of the many gates that Hell’s Gate is accessible from. Elsa Gate gives you the option to either drive  or walk through the Longonot National Park, before arriving at the Gorge. We opted to walk the 8.3kms to the Ranger’s Camp and then head down the 4km Gorge after a lunch break.

8km sound like a lot, but when you are lost amidst nature and beauty, it’s barely noticeable.  Our pre-arranged guide, Galgalo (thereafter renamed 100 other names) was there to meet us and patiently took us through the hike.

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Fischer’s Tower

First to greet us was Fischer Tower. This is a 25m volcanic plug that was formed by semi-molten rock forced through a fissure, cooling and solidifying as it extruded (thank God for those geography lessons). Hell’s Gate is rampant with geographic formations, and there is a second tower, the Central Tower which was also formed in the same way. However, according to local community folklore, the Fischer Tower is a bride who refused to get married at the alter and was hence turned into stone.

Hell’s Gate lies in a part of the Great Rift Valley, and offers spectacular scenery. Our trek was lined with one of the most spectacular sceneries which included beautiful rock formations. It was also rich in wildlife. We walked beside Eland, hartebeest, buffalo, small gazelles and antelopes. We also spotted a lone giraffe along the way.  Zebras were rampant and scattered everywhere,  and they were grazing quite close to the path. Galgalo warned us not to step too close to them as they may just attack. I tried to sneak up slowly behind one and take a “selfie” but it scampered off to a safer distance.

We also met with news of a Sickly Buffalo further up the path. As we approached the clearing in the bush, where we were told to find it, we could see it sitting down behind the bushes. Again Galgalo issued a warning not to get close as it could attack. So a few pictures later we made our way forward.

 At 5.2kms we had a welcomed break. We munched on some snack to replenish our energy, and soon continued the one hour trek to the Ranger’s Camp (2.6Km away). Next on our way, we saw the “Eagle’s Rock” which is white (covered by large white droppings). Home to around 103 species of birds, the cliffs are home and nesting places for rare birds such as Verreaux’s Eagle and the Lammergeyer, Ruppel’s griffon and Hooded Vultures.

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Eagle’s Rock

We finally arrived at the Ranger’s camp where we settled down to have lunch. A few sandwiches and snacks later, the team members were presented with certificates for their previous climb at Mt. Olesekut. We then made our way into the Lower Gorge.

The Lower Gorge or Ol Njorowa Gorge is the main attraction of the park. It is a 2 hour walk which presents one with an amazing geological experience of nature and beauty. Hell’s Gate is rich in geography, and in the gorge, one can see the effects of water erosion, corrosion and rock formation. There are a few Hot and Cold Springs, and the rocks range in color from black slate, to golden brown.

Did you know that the place is also popular for film productions such as the Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life, King Solomon’s Mines, and Mountains of the Moon which used the gorge as a backdrop for their movies. Even Lion King was Shot in Hell’s Gate.

The exit to the gorge is a steep climb with a single rope attached to the trunk of a lone tree. My only experience at “rock Climbing” (an activity that is also offered at Hell’s Gate for an extra cost). From there we had a magnificent view of  the valley. The walk back seemed impossible and so we decided to hitch a ride back to the gate.

It was an great experience for everyone, and I am glad I got a chance to do this.

We are all looking forward to visiting Mt. Longonot again on the 21st of August.

Keep following our journey as we prepare for Kilimanjaro with more spectacular climbs across Kenya.

 

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