Having gone on a couple of “tough” hikes, the thought of re-visiting Longonot sounded repetitive. Fearing that we would not have many people sign up for the Prep-Hike, I decided to add a little “twist” to Longonot this time round and came up with an “Ultimate Challenge”. Want to know what was different about it this time? Read on…
24 People. That is right. 24 people signed up for the Mount Longonot Ultimate Challenge Prep Hike. This is the largest number of people ever to expedition with Summit Seekers. It was overwhelming in more ways than one. But like always, it was fun, we had no injuries this time, as compared to our last hike at Sleeping Warrior. There was a mild case of altitude sickness but it was quickly treated.
How was I going to make this both “different” and “Challenging” at the same time? I coaxed the KWS Ranger to take us up through the Gorge. Not a conventional way to go up the mountain, and highly dangerous. The Gorge goes up the side of the mountain, almost double the distance of the mountain path. It is populated with buffalo, leopards and the odd poachers. There were moments when we were all stopped in the middle of our tracks and asked to keep hush while the ranger observed the movements of a buffalo not far away. There was a point where we came across leopards paw prints and were asked to wait in a cluster while he inspected the direction, hoping that the Leopard had actually gone east or west and not north, where we were heading.
The path was definitely not one that we are used to going up on Longonot. The gorge started off and a volcanic ash river bed and then turned into a thicken and shrub landscape as we stepped out of the gorge and into the mainland. We spotted some gazelle and zebra not o far away.
The 6km hike up to the rim of the mountain along this path was definitely taxing – challenging, for sure, but we all managed to summit in 2 hours.
Most of us decided to take on the rim, prior to lunch. A small snack later, we began our 3 hour trek around the rim. Temperatures were soaring, and were unfavorable, compared to last time I was on the rim when it was much cooler, and I got caught up in the rain, half way across. There is one thing about a mountain – no matter how many times you visit the same mountain, it is never really the same. There were so many things along the path that I did not recall noticing on my last visit. Was this a new path? Were these sandbags exactly where they are last time? Was it so difficult last time?
The group split up in several smaller factions and we all eventually took the trek around the rim at our own pace, finally arriving at the starting point 3 hours later.
It was tiring. Some people were at the verge of collapsing. But everyone appreciated the amazing ans magnificent views the crater rim provided. Because the sun was out, and there were no clouds, the shadows on the hills and valley of the Rift Valley created beautiful patterns. It was glorious to catch the golden wheat farms beside green valleys.
A quick lunch and presentation later, we began our descent down the steep mountain path. I remembered the steps – the horrible steps – on my way down. This was one aspect of the mountain that remained constant and did not change. Thank God this time, I didn’t come sliding down.
Albeit tired and exhausted, this remained a memorable experience for everyone. For some it was laced with magnificent scenic images and for others it was the tumultuous ascent and even more steep decent.
I can only say and reaffirm that never take the same mountain for granted. Every time you walk the same path it has something new to present. But so long as you keep your eyes open and notice how retreaded and new the path is, you will appreciate the experience.
Our next hike is just a week away. Be Prepared!