My wake-up alarm went off, blaring my favorite wake up tune at 0545hrs on 3rd January 2014. I had slept readily packed for the trip and by about 0630hrs we were well on the road to the meet-up point, where we were to link-up with the rest of the pack. The mission was to climb Mt. Longonot!
This is however not where the story begins. The story begun on 1st January 2014, when my family and I were invited to a New Year’s barbeque party at the Wildebeest Eco Camp in the leafy suburbs of Karen, Nairobi. Here we not only made merry, but also met a bunch of really cool people whom (on striking conversation) I discovered were quite adventurous! Before long, we were buried deep in chitchat on how beautiful a country we have and the many adventure escapades one can undertake here. Shortly we were talking about this blog and I shared my ambitious intention to climb several mountains this year. I learned that the group was in the planning stage of a Mt. Kenya climb, and in preparation they were to climb Mt. Longonot in a day’s time. Needless to say, I hopped on and into their plan and as they say, the rest is history! 🙂
Mt. Longonot is located in the Great Rift Valley, southeast of Lake Naivasha approximately 60km from Nairobi. We took the Mai Mahiu route (Old Naivasha Road) which is the most scenic route down to the floor of the Rift Valley.
We arrived at the Mt. Longonot National Park gate, where the team made the final adjustments to their gear making sure that each would be comfortable on the ascent. On paying the park entry fees, we all congregated and took some instructions from our guide for the day (Mr. Kanja from http://www.dawntreader.co.ke).
He gave the climbing tips which included; asking the team to remain together on the ascent, nobody should wander off the trail and into the bushes, we were to all keep a pace comfortable for everyone in the pack and the one that stood out the most for me was that the climb would be daunting, and the trick to keep going was to ensure that one foot was always in-front of the other. Off we went into the park to conquer the Longonot!
I had climbed this very mountain back in 2011 with my two close buddies (Nick & Joash) and to some extent that was a battle of the boys on who was in the best shape to climb. I climbed in 45min. This time I was determined to push myself to doing it in 30min. However, my intention was dashed when our guide said we all needed to stick together (a pack of climbers climbs only as fast as their weakest link). This created an opportunity for me to enjoy nature’s beauty, capture shots documenting the adventure and also to take time and wonder at how great our God is in his creation!
The trail up the mountain is a gradually steep footpath often interrupted by shallow gullies dug out by run-off water. This caused us to be in a single file for the better part of the climb. The mountain is mainly covered in short shrubs and thick savannah grass. It is therefore wise to wear trousers for the climb.
The sun was sweltering hot and with every step up the mountain the feet became heavy. I however knew what to expect on the ascent and therefore I decided to take time and enjoy the little interruptions along the climb. I let myself listen to the constant buzz of the insects in the grass, I allowed myself to enjoy the rare waft of dry wind over my sweaty face and I was glad to be in the distraction of the birds flying by. Every once in a while I would dash up to the front or lag behind of the pack to snap and capture beautiful moments on my camera. I was delightedly lost in the splendour of nature!
A few meters up the mountain, we came across a group of elderly nuns who were determined to reach the peak. I was very impressed by one of them who seemed to be the eldest. She was dressed in her official garments, armed with a wide-rimmed cotton hat and a walking stick in hand. She took every step with a gait burdened by age, yet she could still afford me a smile and a greeting as I went past her on the climb. She was to later find us at the peak, minutes before we set off on the climb down! She reaffirmed it for me that no one is ever too old to get out on an adventure! 🙂
We soon came to one of the rest points on the trail, and here the pack was glad to shelter in the shed from the hot sun. The shed was a good spot to catch a breathe and snack lightly to gather the much needed energy for the rest of the climb. KWS (Kenya Wildlife Service) has also built an ablution block at the rest post where climbers can relieve themselves before proceeding on the climb. I can only imagine how uncomfortable it would be for one to pace up the mountain while battling not to answer a call of nature. So, Kudos KWS!
As we proceeded on the climb, I realized that the higher we went the steeper the mountain became. It was harder to keep a grip of the ground, the trail had mild meanders around boulders of eroded rocks and the vegetation became thinner. We soon came to a point that was so steep such that some of us had to go on all fours to make headway! At this point, KWS has tried to make it easier for the climbers by laying down concrete steps on a stretch of about 30m at the steepest section of the trail. This was somewhat disappointing for me since I would expect a climbing trail to be as natural as possible. I am sure you all have your views on this, and it will be good if you can share them in the comments.
The peak seemed so close, yet so far. My feet were hot inside my shoes and my skin was sweating underneath my clothes. My body was slowly being lured by fatigue, but I fought on. The silence was audible as we approached the peak, partly because the chitchat in the pack had died down (possibly as each one tried to concentrate their energy on the climb). Chests were taking in heavy gasps of air, muscles ached, some feet slipped in their slow shuffle up and some even stopped to catch a breath, but we kept pushing on. Soon we were at the top of Mt. Longonot!
Exhilarating was the feeling that engulfed me as I looked down the beautifully rugged slopes of Mt. Longonot! My lungs appreciated the pleasantly fresh air and my eyes could not have enough of the picturesque view! In the afternoon of a bright sunny day, the view was so vast and clear that I could actually see Lake Naivasha from this vantage point. We (the entire pack) had done it!
We had climbed 3.1km (3100m) of jagged terrain, and all our bodies were yearning for was that much needed rest and rejuvenation. Almost instinctively, we all hurdled into yet another resting shed at the top of the mountain and shared the remaining supplies amongst ourselves. Cheerful chatter ruled this break and I noticed a smile of gratification (for completion of the mission) on everyone one of us!
I was willing to go round the full circumference of the crater (7.2km) but we only made it to 3km before the pack unanimously agreed that we wouldn’t make it round the crater, and therefore we had to start on the climb down.
We climbed down the mountain, this time at a much faster pace due to the ‘obedient’ gravitational pull. My toes inside the hiking sneakers felt swollen in the heat, my knees trembled with every step down and I jerked into an involuntary run every time I came across an unfriendly slope. 🙂
My body was tired, covered in dust and caked sweat when we got back to the base of the Mount Longonot. I was glad to find a block that has showers and toilets where we all freshened up before moving to one of the eateries (Old House shop & restaurant) near the park gate for some nyama choma (barbequed meat) and ice cold Tusker (beer).
To the pack (Nduta, Angie, Ben, Ikua, Jackie, Kanja, Ruguru, Sijenyi, Gladys, Kariuki) Kudos! 🙂
It was an awesome trip and a great way to usher in 2014, the year in which I intend to indulge in more climbing adventures!
Different angle shots from atop Mt. Longonot
Mt. Longonot lies south-east of Lake Naivasha in the Great Rift Valley, Kenya.
Approximately 60km from Nairobi City Centre, about 1hr drive.
Distance up Mt. Longonot (to the rim): 3.1km
Distance round the crater rim: 7.2km
Park Entry Fees:
East African Citizens: Kshs. 350.00 (Adults) Kshs: 250.00 (Children)
Residents: Kshs. 700.00 (Adults) Kshs. 350.00 (Children)
Non Residents: USD. 30.00 (Adults) USD. 20 (Children)
Where to stay:
This is mostly a day’s excursion. However, one has the choice of staying at the many hotels and campsites in Naivasha which is not far (Cray Fish Camp, Fisherman’s Camp, Sopa Lodge, Enashipai among others)
Activities available in the park:
Hiking, Climbing, Bird Watching, Wildlife Watching
What to Carry;
Drinking water and energy snacks, camera, binoculars, hat, sunscreen, sunglasses, comfortable climbing boots, comfortable trousers to climb in, guidebooks and camping equipment if you intend to stay overnight (at a nearby campsite)
-MASH- Macharia Njuguna