There are many types of adventurers in the world, many different expeditions to chase and many thrills to seek. There is, however only one single thing that ties us all together – that feeling.
That feeling that every day of your life, every hour of effort and every second of muscle wrenching climbing was absolutely worth it. That feeling of standing on top of a mountain you’ve dreamt of conquering for years, and knowing that you set a goal, you put in the work and you smashed it with every bone in your body.
What a high.
You’ll find Mount Kenya at [ 0.1521° S, 37.3084° E ], just south of the Lewa and Borana Wildlife Conservancies. Lock it into your GPS now and commit to the challenge. We’ll run you through the steps required to get you from that office chair to 5,199m above sea level in a minute, but first let’s do a quick rundown of Mount Kenya’s history.
Photo: Sam Rookes, Progress Film Company
Mt. Kenya’s Batian was first ascended in 1899 by Sir Halford Mackinder, a British geographer and politician, along with 2 hardcore mountaineers Joseph Brocherel and César Ollier.
From 1900 – 1930 many further attempts and successful summits were made by local and international mountaineers, including the first ascent of Nelion and Point John in 1929. Famously, during World War II, 3 Italian prisoners of war escaped British imprisonment and climbed Point Lenana.
Long story short, you’re following in the footsteps of legends and mad men, which is always a great place to start.
Mount Kenya is an incredible collision of volcanic rock, glaciers and scree slopes that combine to offer summit euphoria to novice and experienced climbers alike. Unfortunately a summit here won’t put you in the boardroom with Everest veterans, but nonetheless it is an experience that you don’t want to miss.
Alright, let’s get to those steps, go ahead and pocket this because it’s going to be valuable.
STEP 1: CHOOSE YOUR ROUTE
If you’re not into life risking first ascents, there are 4 main established routes for you to choose from. You’re going to want to pick your route very carefully, taking into account your experience, fitness, and general badass level.
ROUTE 1: NARO MORU
Naro Moru is perfect for reasonably experienced climbers that are short on time. With this route you can knock Mount Kenya off your bucket list between Monday’s board meeting and Sunday’s lunch time tee off. There’s a price though, the 40Km hike can be pretty gruelling, especially when you hit the Vertical Bog section – that swing might be a little off on Sunday.
ROUTE 2: CHOGORIA
The Chogoria route is for those that appreciate the views. It’s a route that provides climbers with the opportunity to experience both the moorlands and tropical forests. If you want to have that on top of the world feeling, this route offers up GoPro worthy views of Ithanguni and the Giant’s Billiards Table.
ROUTE 3: SIRIMON TRAVERSE
The Sirimon traverse approaches from the North-West and is the drier side of the mountain – great for hiking but no stoke for ice climbers. This route is best for reasonably fit climbers with little or no mountaineering experience.
ROUTE 4: TIMAU ROUTE
This one’s for the Columbus types – Timau route is a seriously off the beaten track way to experience this mountain. There are few markings and little infrastructure to help you on your way and keep you on the path, so a guide and a well prepared route is a must.
Climbing Mount Kenya is tough, climbing Mount Kenya while having to run ahead of other climbers to get the shot is tougher. Sam Rookes, filmmaker at Progress Film Company based in the UK is a beanie wearing adventurer that recently climbed Mount Kenya with GlaxoSmithKline employees as part of their global partnership with Save The Children foundation… whilst filming the entire thing. We caught up with him to get his input on gear, preparation and general tips of the trade.
STEP 2: GET YOUR GEAR
Boots: Sam wore heavy duty Salomon boots. Go long on quality and remember to break them in.
Clothes: Pack as light as you can. Make sure you have good thermals for the night time. Pack at least 3 pairs of socks to cycle throughout your ascent and descent.
Photography: Sam used a Sony FS7 with a Canon 24-105 lense because there’s little time to change lenses when you’re, you know, climbing a mountain.
Contact us for a full list of gear required for this expedition.
STEP 3: PUT IN THE WORK
While Mount Kenya doesn’t require the physical fitness of any of the 7 summits, it does require stamina and the ability to walk for hours on end for 4 – 6 days in a row. Sam’s preparation involved 8 months of training.
His preparation routine focused on a few main pillars: walking fitness, general cardio, altitude training and upper body strength.
Walking: Over the space of the 8 months, train your body to walk for longer and longer periods of time. Starting with a few hours and building up over the course of your preparation window. Remember, the distance is only one third of the battle, you’re going to be ascending thousands of meters while fighting altitude sickness and a lack of oxygen. Take it seriously and turn yourself into a mountaineering machine. If you live in cBrighton like Sam you can try altitude chambers for fitness, but you’re going to have to hope for the best in battling altitude sickness.
General Cardio: swimming is a great exercise to build cardio while giving your joints a lower impact period to reduce the strain from your walking training.
Upper body strength: Stick to a well paced gym routine to build upper body and overall strength. You’re looking to develop functional fitness and a strong core to give yourself a shot. Remember, train dirty and climb easy.
Photo: Sam Rookes, Progress Film Company
STEP 4: GIVE IT ALL YOU HAVE
Be prepared to dig deep and overcome some serious obstacles. We could literally hear the pain in Sam’s voice when he told us of his summit – enduring parts of the those final hours where he couldn’t take more than six or seven steps without stopping to catch his breath.
If that all sounds like absolute heaven to you, let us know.
Here’s the GSK video of the climb: