‘It’s going to be two to three hours of walking a day, not much steeper than Rutland waters, isn’t it?’ Commented my twelve year old daughter with trusting conviction in her tone. ‘Actually, the itinerary mentions six to seven hours a day and it is much steeper than Rutland waters’, I answered haltingly, not wanting to shatter her confidence. As she stared at me with undisguised horror, she also realized that it was too late. Our plane was touching down at Nairobi.
Six months ago, I had decided to take my daughter on a once in a lifetime mother-daughter trip, a hike to Point Lenana on Mount Kenya. Tickets booked, trip organized and we were counting down the weeks when trouble erupted in Kenya. Mombasa was in red alert when we boarded the plane to Nairobi. Whether it was bravery, foolhardiness or simply the fact that the tickets were non-refundable; we decided that Mount Kenya National Park was too large to be cost effective for bombing or shooting.
Day four of the hike dawned early for us as our guide John woke us up at 2 am. We scrambled out of our tent in Shipton’s camp, the base of the final climb, adjusting to the cutting chill in the early morning air. The path ahead was lit up by starlight and our head torches. I tried to forget how it had looked the last evening and convinced myself that it was possibly not as steep as it came across from our camp site. We had been surrounded by tall stony cliffs, the roads near vertical at some places, zigzagging through cliffs and sharp edges. John smiled and commented that it was better not to be able to see too well while we climbed.
Delicate volcanic scree finely layered the path to the top. It was not long until I had experienced my first slippery fall, flat on my face and utterly undignified. For a hiker who had managed Mount Kilimanjaro the previous year with little training, this was Mount Kenya’s demand for her true share of respect. As I dusted my jacket, unsteadily balanced on a ridge, John told me, ‘Place your steps bravely, firmly. If you get scared, your steps falter and the mountain gets the better of you’. My daughter was plodding ahead with little expression of fatigue and a confidence that made my heart burst with pride. ‘Come on mom,’ she called nonchalantly.
I grasped my hiking poles and tested my steps. Point Lenana- here I come. The scrambles ended in a rocky ledge which ultimately led to a series of iron rungs. A brown board with yellow writing proudly proclaimed ‘The world’s highest via ferrata’. A climb on the rungs and we had reached Point Lenana.
Daylight broke through the clouds, bringing into undisguised view the path we had climbed. Shipton’s camp was a dot in the distance and the road to the next camp spread like a map stretching out to eternity. We rubbed our gloved hands, shook the stiffness out of our legs and smiled at each other. Another six hours of walking ahead before we stopped for camp. No problems, we can do that.
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