Travel

‘I became second woman to reach Mt.Kenya summit’

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Ms Rosemary Kamweti. PHOTO | POOL

Summary

  • In recent months, climbing Mt.Kenya has become everyone’s dream.
  • For some, it is to test their fitness endurance.
  • For others, it is helps them figure out if they have the mental toughness to push themselves when they want to.
  • But for Rosemary Kamweti, it was to bust a gender stereotype.

In recent months, climbing Mt.Kenya has become everyone’s dream. For some, it is to test their fitness endurance. For others, it is helps them figure out if they have the mental toughness to push themselves when they want to.

But for Rosemary Kamweti, it was to bust a gender stereotype.

An avid mountaineer, Ms Kamweti’s interest in hiking started from a desire to become the second woman in Kenya to climb up Mt. Kenya’s Batian peak.

The first woman was Lydia Muthoni in 1998.

“I want to tell you that the decision to head to the snow-capped Batian peak was the thought of seeing the spectacular views that awaited me up there. It was not,” says the 28-year-old.

“It was curiosity. I wanted to find out what it is that made Batian so inaccessible and difficult for Kenyan female climbers. And the only way to do that was to do the climb.”

Two words introduced Ms Kamweti to mountaineering; unexplored strength. These were words from a therapist she was seeing.

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“I began to look for an activity to tap into this strength my therapist saw in me as well as relieve stress. When I discovered mountain climbing I knew that I’d found it,” says the Nairobi-based IT database administrator.

It took her three weeks after this discovery to climb her first mountain— Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. The experience marked a turning point for the then 25-year-old. She came back “relaxed” and “in tune with herself.”

She has climbed to the peak of Mt. Ruwenzori in Uganda, the Aberdares, Mt. Kenya, Ngong Hills among others.

Whereas most people take days to climb mountains, she prefers speed climbing where she ascends and descends in a day.

Having been mountaineering since 2018, she had heard that making it to Batian’s peak was a reserve for expert climbers, and especially foreigners. The summit climb, whose base is at 4,600 metres and peak at 5,199 meters was said to belong and “technical” thus difficult. She was indignant.

“I was adamant to find out if that was true or if people just spoke of what they heard from others,” the outdoor lover says.

Prep exercises

In 2019, she made conquering Batian and prove naysayers wrong her new year goal. With her climbing history, a tonne of determination and a stubborn spirit, she knew she would make it. In August 2020, she was en route to Batian. Unfortunately, due to bad weather, she had to turn back with a promise to not be easily shaken.

To prepare for the climb, the strong-willed Ms Kamweti engaged in both indoor and outdoor rock climbing going to Hell’s Gate on most weekends before D-day. Rock climbing builds one’s arm and leg strength. Doing this together with arm and leg exercises ensured she was in perk shape.

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She also took up running to increase her speed, which is essential during ascending and descending. As for her nutrition regime, she ate a healthy diet rich in proteins and carbohydrates.

But there was one challenge she was not prepared for; a hesitant guide.

He did not want to do the climb with her. He was worried about her young climbing history, her speed, skill and mental state especially because of the dreaded traverse between Nelion and Batian (the gap between these two peaks) christened the Gate of Mists and the overhang on the descent route. He refused to continue when they reached Nelion, the second-highest peak. The weather was also not favourable due to snow and rain. However, Ms Kamweti would have none of it.

On January 24, 2021, under the watchful eye of her guide, David Muigai and her experienced climbing partner, James Muhia, at 2.40 pm she was closer to the sun by 5,199 metres surrounded by snow. Though sore from the climb, she was thrilled. Her chocolate bar had never tasted so sweet.

“I was humbled and peaceful. I was so emotional. At the top of this mountain, at such a lofty vantage point, I didn’t care about what was going on down here. It was just me and my thoughts,” she says, adding that this is one of the main reasons why she is not giving up mountaineering anytime soon.

“The quiet one experiences at the summit cannot be found anywhere on the ground.”

How much it cost

The trip cost her Sh60,000.

This feat has seen her become the ambassador of Salomon Kenya, a platform she is using to encourage more Kenyan women to participate in outdoor adventures.

Mountain climbing may seem physical but it is mental.

“It’s an activity that pushes you to the limit. There are many dangers on a mountain, from falling rocks, thick snow to rappelling. It's a dance with death, and it's during those moments that one tests their mental strength,” she says.

Her next adventure? To see how many mountains she can speed climb in three weeks, to ascend 7,000 metres and to snack atop the K2 Mountain in Asia, 8,611 metres above sea level, because she has heard it is a “technical climb.”