The final day had come. After the difficult preceding four days climbing the mountain, it was now time to descend the mountain and trek the long way home. We had spent our final night in Mackinders Valley, near to Shiptons Camp at 4200 metres and we were to follow the valley down through the well trodden Sirimon route, towards the Met Station and finishing at Old Moses Camp, then leaving the national park via Sirimon Gate.
Our final night had not been without issue. Whilst the rain, sleet and snow had cleared up, the sun came out for only moments and as darkness fell, the wind gathered pace. As we lay in our tent, the wind roared down the valley and was so ferocious, it was lifting the tent. It was a hairy night with little sleep had and we could only hope there was limited devastation. One of the lady’s in our group had so little sleep she was able to catch the sun rising over the valley, and provided some stunning pictures.
We awoke to realise that whilst our tent had remained intact, the kitchen tent and the toilet tent were never to be seen again. This created numerous difficulties in the preparation of our final breakfast and understandably, the camp cook, Davis, was somewhat stressed. We were once again, extended hospitality from Shiptons Camp and our group was welcomed into the hut to take shelter until our departure, but also Davis was allowed to use the kitchen facilities to feed us. Our final breakfast was delightful with sausages, bacon and eggy bread! Unbelievable food given that Davis had lost his entire kitchen to the mountain!
After breakfast, we started on the trek home which was to take around 4 hours, and was around 17 km. We had wrapped up warm for the conditions but the wind died down and the sun finally made an appearance. As the layers were removed, the warmth and brightness from the sun cheered me up no end, but it could not help the sheer exhaustion that I felt. The landscape was ruggedly beautiful, and as we steadily trekked down, the alpine vegetation such as the Giant Groundsels diminished and the terrain became more moor land like again. Signs of life returned and we even saw birds! The sky was so clear we could see the vast plains of Africa from the mountain side which was a glorious sight.
Our descent was rapid and although the terrain became easier to negotiate, my legs felt like lead and it became increasingly difficult for me to put one leg in front of the other. Other members of the group were also suffering with exhaustion and dodgy tummy’s so it was hard going. We were all buoyed by the fact that we would be nearly home after what had been an epic adventure, albeit incredibly challenging.
We all managed to make it safely to our finishing point, Old Moses Camp, not far from the Met Station, where we met up with the porters and the camp cook, Davis. We applauded one another and thanked the porters and Davis for their valued assistance. Phil and I could not have done this without their help and the food had been outstanding even more so given the environment we were in. We said goodbye to our trusted guides, Elijah and Garvin who had been with us every step of the way. The vehicles were parked up waiting to take us back to civilisation and once we had taken numerous group photographs to remind us of our achievement, we all wearily clambered upon the minibuses for the journey home.
The journey home was as dramatic as the journey on the minibus some five days ago. We were in the rear minibus and as it coasted down the mountain, the minibus in front of us containing our compadre’s looked to lose control and veered violently across the road. Our driver was terrified, as we all were, as this was unfolding in front of our eyes, and whilst our driver braked to stop our vehicle, the minibus in front lurched from side to side and at one point, looked as if it would tip over. After what seemed like an eternity, the minibus in front of us was driven into the banked right hand side and came to rest over a ditch. We all jumped off our minibus to see what had happened and to check how everybody was and it turned out the brakes on the minibus had failed! Clearly very unfortunate when we are going down a mountain! Nobody was injured although the driver was somewhat shaken and after making arrangements for the vehicle to be recovered, and for an alternative vehicle to collect everybody, we set off back on our journey home.
Phil and I had never been so relieved to get home, back to the comforts of home – a bed! a shower! a toilet! I have never been a fan of camping and this stint on the mountain served merely to reinforce my views that camping is not for me. That said, this had been the most amazing adventure and although incredibly challenging, Phil and I considered it to have been unmissable. Mount Kenya is truly awesome in every sense of the word but most definitely not for the faint hearted.