Over the top to the base camp

Added: Oct. 11, 2010 | Date of action: Sept. 8, 2010
Author: Martin Linhart
Photos: Martin Linhart | Ladislav Lenc | Pavel Oplt
Tags: 2010 | Afrika | Keňa | Mt. Kenya | Point Lenana | UNESCO
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It is pitch dark in here. I’m trying to grope for my watch. Not even five a.m. yet!

"Guys, we should get up!"

"Who will go first today? We have minus three degrees out there."
"I don’t go."
"I can wait, too."

There’s not much room in a tent intended for two, so we have to get up and dress up gradually so as not to collide with each other. The first one is worst off, since he is the first to leave the warm sleeping bag, pack it quickly and make room for the others. Yesterday's double-dose of Aspirin helped us considerably and we feel good and don’t totter anymore.

Still inside the tent we scoff bread with cheese. Lada is the first to leave for the cold air. It’s 5:30, we set off.

Initially the path is rather level, only with occasional gentle climbs. The road is lined with tall lobelia. Sunrise in this magic landscape is amazing. On one side, the peaks of Batian and Nelion shining like red lighthouses, silhouettes of weird plants in the first rays of the rising sun on the other. In the middle of the climb to the Simba Col (Lion's col) you have a choice to make. To the left towards the Austrian Hut or straightforward up to the Shipton Hut. For a while we follow the beaten path in the direction of the Shipton camp and then divert slightly to the left to another steep climb. We need to get to Lake Harris Tarn.

Only Japhet is going with us. The other two carriers go through Shipton to our base camp - Kami campground.

At eight o'clock we are there (4650m). At the crossroads situated close to the frozen lake Harris Tarn. With Lada we carry on to the summit. Pavel will go with Japhet down to Kami camp. Pavel does not need to hurry, it would be useless risk for him to go the Lenana Peak too hastily, he will have the whole day for it tomorrow.

Farewell to Japhet. He was a great guide to us. As commander of our mini-team of carriers he was certainly doing more for us than he had to. He was constantly showing us interesting things, demonstrated his encyclopedic knowledge of plants and was incredibly friendly and attentive. We exchange e-mails, take pictures and give him a tip.

Lada and I take off our heavy backpacks and start the climb “on light”. We’ve just joined the direct route that leads to Point Lenana from the Shipton camp, i. e. from the north. The path is very nice, here and there we help ourselves with hands but one can’t even speak about serious climbing. Just a short step from the peak, when we can already see the flag, we enter snowfields. At the very end there’s roughly a two-meter swing-up and we are on the summit plateau.

peak of Point Lenana (4985m) exclusively for ourselves. It is exactly nine o'clock in the morning, 8th September 2010. It took us only 45 minutes to get here from the Lake Harris, breaks for shooting pictures including. Only 47 hours elapsed from the moment the jeep dropped us off on the road leading to the Chogoria gate!

With nobody to bother us we enjoy those magnificent views. The only thing we forgot is the joint summit photo!

The way down is long. In our binocular we can see the lake Kami Tarn, our shining orange tent and Pavel but first we have to get those 150 vertical meters below his level only to climb up again to 4425 meters. While going down we have plenty of time to observe our tomorrow’s ascent path for Batian. Two climbers are just roping down. It is only ten o'clock in the morning, so it is pretty obvious that it did not work out for them and they give up.

Rock hyrax

Rock hyrax (Procavia capensis) is unsightly and tubby African mammal that lives in a relatively large area and its various subspecies can be found from Libya to South Africa. It likes mainly sunny rocky places. To move on the rocky surface it is very well equipped with special glands that moisturize the feet pads and allows them a better adhesion to the surface. At first sight ungainly creature can so overcome almost vertical rock passages or to climb up a tree. It is peculiar that rock hyrax make up a group that is related to hoofed mammals and elephants!

They live on the slopes of volcanoes in scree fields and lanes of solidified lava. But they do not dig out their burrows themselves and feel comfortable in those made by other animals. Rock hyrax has brown colored hair, usually weighing about 5 kg and grows to a length of 60 cm. It is a social animal grouping into groups of several dozens pieces. It is active mainly during the day when it looks for food or basks in the sun. This distant cousin of elephants is a herbivore grazing various grasses, shoots and fruits of trees or shrubs.

We hit the camp only after eleven o'clock. We're completely alone, only with various little animals keeping us company. They aren’t shy at all – rock hyrax and other species crawl into our tent and search for something to nibble.

We spend the afternoon wrapping our chores and preparing for the climb. Lada does a bit of bouldering. The camp probably used to be more sought after in the past. Nearby there’s a shit-shack and also a plastic pipeline from the lake, so that people needn’t go for water those 50 meters. The remains of foundations of a refuge are a bit below us. We bask in the sun between lobelia plants and enjoy the perfect tranquility of the mountains – those mountains said by the guidebooks to be visited by endless crowds of tourists. We haven’t yet met but three Englishmen in Minto's Hut and today we watched from distance a handful of tourists getting back from the summit.


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Schéma naší výstupové trasy na Point Lenana (4985m) - nahoru červená, dolů zelená. Zdroj: Cameron M. Burns, Kilimanjaro & East Africa, A Climbing and Trekking Guide, The Mountaineers Books

This was bit of a heart attack. A mouse dashed into our tent. Awful awakening. It will be midnight soon and we should get up in four hours to attempt Batian! The mistake was that we didn’t totally closed the entrance to the tent and the mouse jumped inside through a small hole in the ceiling. Luckily, none of the rock hyrax was so daring ... if it were, I would have shat myself… .


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