Health & Fitness

Before you climb Mt. Kenya

Mountain climbing not only helps you keep your weekend interesting, but also enables you to stay fit and meet new people. PHOTO | COURTESY
Mountain climbing not only helps you keep your weekend interesting, but also enables you to stay fit and meet new people. PHOTO | COURTESY 

A week ago, Stellah Kaburu led a group of mountain hikers up Mount Kenya. She has climbed the mountain over 20 times. Having been born and raised in Meru, climbing mountains was part of her childhood.

“I always loved going up the mountain with my uncle who was a tour guide,” she says.

She turned the childhood pastime into a job and now she is a mountain guide who is seeing a growing number of Kenyans who are finding fun in hiking.

Mountain climbing is becoming a popular pastime. The new trend about town, not only helps you keep your weekend interesting, but also enables you to stay fit and meet new people.

The treks and wilderness journeys have opened opportunities for guides and organisers to make money.

Ms Kaburu has helped people climb Mt Kilimanjaro, Mt Kenya, Rwenzori Mountains, Mt Elgon, Aberdare Ranges, Mt Longonot, Mt Kilimambogo, Mt Meru and up Menengai Crater. Her clients are mostly women aged between 26 to 30 years.

“But I have had hikers who are over 50 with the oldest being 82 years old,” she says.

She describes mountain climbing as a fun activity, as it is all about challenging yourself, a way to reflect while taking in the beauty of the forest and jagged snowy peaks from the top.

‘‘Hiking is one of the best ways to relax the mind,’’ she says.

Silent hiker

But hiking is not for everyone, especially if you are not fit or fear extended periods of intense boredom. Some hikes take upto 10 hours and most people prefer to climb in silence, saving the energy for tough terrains.

The nonstop chatter also overwhelms the peace of the forest and the mountains.

Ms Kaburu says if you are not a silent-hiker you can kill the boredom by doing various activities.

“Run up the mountain, sit, walk, pick rocks and engage in as many activities as you want to make the hike more interesting.’’

While walking up the mountain, you can also hug trees, sit down and watch the forest or just breath in the clean air. “The calming effect that one experiences from a mountain forest improves the memory and it helps a fatigued mind,” she says.

On top of Mount Kenya, there are several natural features including lakes where hikers can fish just for fun. To make the climb less torturous, walk at a slow pace in a group with a stick to ensure you do not get exhausted faster.

“To climb to the peak of Mount Kenya, start by going for short hikes. Climb as many hills and mountains as possible so as to keep the body strong and help it to start adapting to high attitudes,” she says.

Ms Kaburu, who climbs Mount Kenya in just three days, says before taking your first steps into the realm of the outdoors, prepare physically and mentally, read about the mountain if you have to

‘‘The mistake that first-timers make is underrating the mountain and forgetting to park the hiking and climbing gear. As a guide, I always take my clients through a short training to prepare themselves psychologically,” she says.

Start running a few months to the hike to keep the body fit, to strengthen the muscles and increase the heart rate.

“If not physically fit, you may faint and die during the hike and because of the change in altitude, one may start vomiting or nose bleeding which can be dangerous,” she says.

Consult a doctor and if you have any heart ailment, don’t try climbing a mountain.
Apart from being an award-winning guide, Ms Kaburu has started training young girls in her home town on mountain climbing.

“Rarely will you find a woman working as a mountain guide as for many years it has been a male-dominated field,” she says.