Lifestyle

Hiking stories to inspire a next high

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Christine Wanjohi, an ardent hiker on Mt Kenya, December 2021. PHOTO | POOL

There is something divine when you stand on top of a mountain. The air is fresh, the sound of nature in its rawness soothes the soul, the chirping birds on trees and the whirlwind offer a melodious tone. The silence is therapeutic.

It is this silence and serenity that many Kenyans are now chasing.

Almost every city dweller seems to have picked up mountaineering as a new hobby, whether they are starting with a seven-hour hike on Ngong Hills and finishing with a week on Mt Kenya or Mt Kilimanjaro.

BDLife spoke to four hikers who have discovered the joys of climbing some of the 3,856 mountains in Kenya.

1. It was coincidental, a push from a friend

Christine Wanjohi has pictured herself atop Mt. Kilimanjaro. Not once. The 33-year-old says standing on the roof of Africa will be the peak of her mountaineering hobby. She started her hiking journey in 2018 while on a trip to Naivasha with a friend.

“The first time wasn’t pleasant at all. I was a rookie climbing Mt Longonot. I lost balance and tripped. We didn’t have the right gear, and I was not prepared mentally and physically. But when I reached the top, I felt some fulfilment. That’s how my interest was piqued,” she says.

So far she has been to three mountains but Mt Ololokwe has grown on her. “I have climbed Mt Ololokwe four times. I go back for the scenery and to learn from different cultural activities,” she says.

Last year, she had a target that she did not actualise. In the coming nine months, she aims to reach six peaks, including the Aberdare Mountain Ranges and Mt Kilimanjaro.

Besides the tranquillity and to test her body’s endurance, what keeps arousing the hiking interest is meeting different people from different communities. Mt Kenya tested her tolerance.

“Instead of taking in the beauty, I was more relieved that I had finished. It was not easy and reaching the peak felt like was a big achievement. It was extremely cold and since they don’t allow bonfires at night, the only thing we that kept us warm was drinking lots of hot water,” says Ms Karanja. 

2. A gift from a client

Wanjiru Karanja has climbed eight mountains so far. Her target is 12 this year. The 30-year-old says mountaineering has become her new addiction.

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Wanjiru Karanja, an ardent hiker on Ngong Hills. PHOTO | POOL

“My client paid for my first hike. It was terrible because I didn’t have the proper gear,” she says. 
Can she climb a mountain alone?

“I am a social person so I would never dream of doing a solo trip. There is a thrill of doing things with people, their laughter, interacting with them fills my heart, and as it is, Kenya is a beautiful country and I don’t want to experience it alone.”

Her easiest hike is Mt Kilimambogo. She now climbs the mountain every month.
“I knew it is an addiction when I found myself going to the same place over and over again.”
Her most challenging was Mt Satima. 

“I am planning to do Mt Satima again and hopefully the climb will be easy,” she said. 

3. I do it for fitness

Denis Mureithi, also known as Mufasa, a gym instructor has climbed more than ten mountains and hills.
The 26-year-old’s hiking journey started after he completed high school. His dream is to reach the summit of Mt Everest, Earth’s highest mountain.

His most challenging hike? 

“Mt Kenya was challenging because of the altitude change at every level. The more you continue the more the temperature changes, if you have not done the pre-hike before, it will be a tough one to the summit,” he says.

This year, his target is to do four mountains, and Mt Kenya is the ultimate because it has three peaks.
“Being a fitness instructor who takes enthusiasts to hikes, I have to go on a solo trip, a pre-visit of the mountains so that I know the routes my group will pass through and if I can hack it depending on their fitness levels,” he says.

Every ardent hiker has a memorable moment and for Mufasa it is watching the sun rise from on the top of a mountain and the beautiful sceneries uphill.

“The best camping site was Lake Elementaita. It has hot springs, it was like whiling away time in a jacuzzi and dancing Zumba as part of fitness,” he says.

Mufasa takes fitness enthusiasts on hikes, a job which has its challenges.
“I had to carry one person who sprained his leg from the seventh hill of Ngong Hill,” he says.

4. It was an after-effect of a hobby

Alex Kamau’s career in hiking was borne out of a photography hobby. He looks to climb one mountain every month because it is therapeutic.

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Alex Kamau, a hiking guide on Mt kenya in 2021. PHOTO | POOL

“It all started when I went to take pictures of some friends in the wilderness. Little did I know I will be interested in guiding hikers,” says the 29-year-old who has been to seven mountains so far. His ultimate is climbing Mt Everest.

“I want to meet the most daring people in the world, and that is one place I will find them. The thrill, the adventure fascinates me, and I want to experience that and learn how they do it,” he says.

Like many Kenyans, Alex has never gone on solo hiking trips. He goes with groups of people who pay Let’s Drift company to plan hikes every weekend.

“The most challenging has been Mt Kenya and Mt Satima,” he says.

His favourite camping spot was a hill in Elgeyo Marakwet.

“From the top, you get to see the entire of Kerio Valley as you tell campfire stories. Then in the morning, you hike again. It is magical,” he says.

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