(This week is a guest post from my friend Ratia, who takes us on a hiking adventure up the Elephant hill in the Aberdares ).
A few weeks ago I decide to join some friends for a hiking expedition to the Elephant Hill in preparation for Mt. Kenya which I will be climbing at the end of the month. I didn’t know much about the hill except that it was a good challenge for people who were training for more challenging climbs like Mt. Kilimanjaro and Mt. Kenya. This was a good opportunity for me to see how prepared I was and also get to experience something different.
Elephant Hill is ideal for a day’s hike we therefore left town (Nairobi CBD) at 5:45 a.m. The Hill is located in the Aberdare Ranges southern end, west of Mt Kenya and about 90km north of Nairobi. We used the Nairobi-Nakuru Highway until the town of Naivasha, then turned left onto the flyover and headed towards Njabini. We drove to Njabini Forest Station from where we were to begin our climb.
After a short briefing session with our guide, it became apparently clear that this was not going to be a walk in the park. I was however determined to give it a try despite my inexperience. We were a group of about 60 and therefore, it was important to start the climb well so as to pace ourselves suitably.
My friends (all of whom are experienced climbers, I am not) and I, decided to move fast at the begining. We joined forces with some guys who had a similar goal. It took us about an hour to get to the first resting point through the thick expansive forest. By the time we got to this point, half of the team had decided to turn back. The temperatures at this point were not so bad and after resting for a little while, we continued with our trek.
My favorite part of the trek was through a canopy of towering Bamboo. I found this place very scenic despite its treacherous nature. The ascent was very steep and one had to pause several times for water breaks. The path is quite narrow and therefore, guys have to walk in a straight line.
Temperatures started dropping and I learnt that one has to be mindful of their pace so as to avoid altitude sickness. Besides being steep, elephant “footprints” are quite common, and rest be assured that you will fall and plunge in the mud several times like I did. Just before starting the second stage, my body was almost giving up. I was extremely tired and the altitude was giving me a hard time. Thanks to great friends who were encouraging and don’t really know what giving up is, I continued the trek. The second zone was a gradual ascend and quite manageable. It took us about three hours in this area.
The last stretch will make you question why you chose to go to the mountains as this is by far the most difficult part of the climb. My goal was to take photos along the way but the complexity of the climb could not allow. I’ll be sure to carry a Go-Pro next time. The place is extremely steep and full or rocks. My friends and I nicknamed this place “stairway to heaven” as the climb is literally a stairway which is not easy at all. Temperatures are dropping and you can see the clouds. The view from above is spectacular as you can see other surrounding hills. At about 3530m, we reached the first peak and this was it for me.
I had wanted to continue to the second peak which is at 3600m but altitude sickness wouldn’t let me. Despite that, I was glad to have made it to the top and was among the first people.
The descent is as tough as the climb and will take approximately 3-4 hours depending on your pace. Just a few pointers from this experience, carry a super light bag, the climb is tough from the beginning and a heavy bag will only drag you down. Once there, walk in packs. This is a guided climb and most of the time the wardens/guards will be staying behind with the group that’s not walking too fast, so being with other people helps. Be sure to carry warm clothes with and a rain jacket as it normally rains frequently. It is also advisable to have climbing boots due to the nature of the climb and to avoid any injuries.
This was indeed the ultimate test of fitness and resilience and it was worth every moment. Next time plan to climb the elephant hill, I’ll make sure to prepare thoroughly for the climb.
This week we are linking up with;
1. Reflections enroute #wkendtravelinspiration
2. Adelina’s Pack Me To in #SundayTraveler
3. Noel Morata’s Travel Photo Mondays