Following an uneventful first night in our tent, we were treated to a breakfast of porridge. I usually exist on nothing more than a cup of coffee for breakfast but I was aware of what was ahead of me so I forced myself to endure a proper wholesome breakfast. Phil was more than happy with porridge and happily tucked into it. We were lucky to have a ‘camp cook’ known as Davis who had the unenviable task of cooking for the entire camp out of a tiny tent which he had to carry up the mountain along with enough food to feed all of us (there were 12 in our group) along side a porter who carried a stove along with kitchen equipment. The porters took down our tents and set off ahead of us with our bags, and after breakfast had settled, we set off on our second day of trekking up the mountain.
We were ascending gently and not covering a huge amount of distance on this day so we took the opportunity to take in the scenery. The slow and steady pace was to enable acclimatisation to the ever prevailing altitude. The landscape was beautifully wild, and as we left the lower altitude forests behind, the terrain became increasingly alpine although very much like moorland. The chance of seeing larger wildlife began to diminish the higher we climbed but there was continuing evidence of the presence of leopard with fresh scat and paw prints, a reminder that we were not alone and in an unpredictable wilderness holding many dangers.
We continued the trek up the mountain in the blistering heat and remaining ever conscious of the altitude and upon a slight descent, came across Lake Ellis. It was a welcome sight and this was where the camp was set up. We were able to take a rest and have lunch before embarking upon an afternoon walk to continue with the acclimatisation. We were to walk a further 5km or so up nearby Mugi Hill and whilst this was a steep climb, the views were stunning.
We were able to see with clarity the imposing peaks of Batian (5199m), Nelion (5188m) and Lenana (4985m) the latter of which was our ultimate destination. These peaks and the other ridges, cliffs and spires are the weathered remnants of this large extinct volcano and they are composed of nepheline-syenite which is a course-grained intrusive igneous rock. The rocks of the lower slopes are made of various different lavas and agglomerates and the features such as Mugi Hill (upon which we were standing!) and an enormous flat-topped hill known as the Giants Billiard Table will have been created from eruptions from satellite vents millions of years ago.
After clambering back down Mugi Hill, we returned to the camp and Phil and I took the opportunity to bathe in the lake itself. As we were on a mountain, there were no bathroom facilities so we seized the chance to have a wash although the water was somewhat fresh! Phil braved it and went straight in, whereas I simply dipped various body parts into the clear water. Despite the chill in the water, it was invigorating and revitalising! Dinner was served soon after and we then settled down to another night in our tiny tent. Darkness descended quickly and the sky was so black that the stars seemed brighter than ever. A beautifully crisp and clear night meant that the temperature was dropping, but we couldn’t wait to continue the journey……….