Exploring Mt Kenya
Mt. Kenya Extreme Sports Challenge is a two-day adrenaline filled event designed to benefit the “Save Mt. Kenya” campaign, and is sponsored by the government of Kenya. The long term goal is to restore the mountain’s lost glory. The challenge begins at the Marania base camp of the Mt. Kenya School of Adventure and Leadership (KESAL), located at 9200 feet above sea level. It is held on the north-eastern slopes because they are drier and more scenic. The first annual extreme challenge was held in October of 2011. This year, it was held from the 12th to the 14th of October.
The Extreme sports challenge is the first of this type in East Africa. It consists of 3 adventure activities, The Extreme Adventure, The Jungle Race and The Sky Marathon. Each activity has its own competition and unique set of adventures. The Jungle Race and Sky Marathon are for the most physically fit competitors. The Sky Marathon is an individual competition to reach the summit of Lenana and return to the base in one day. It is the ultimate adventure challenging physical, mental and psychological endurance. The Jungle Race is just that, a race through the unspoiled jungle high in the mountains. This is a 21 kilometre race at high altitude. The Extreme Adventure is a test of team-work, endurance, stamina and agility as they battle various natural obstacles such as cold rivers and high rocks.
It is open to participants and spectators from all walks of life. This year, there were professional athletes and experienced hikers along with hundreds who had their first camping and trekking experience. The challenge was designed to offer something for everyone and it didn’t matter if you made it to the top, or stopped half way to enjoy the Bundu Bash.
Funds raised this year were used to help reforesting projects on Mt. Kenya and installing energy efficient stoves in the communities depending on the mountain for firewood. Mt. Kenya School of Adventure & Leadership (KESAL) specializes in personal growth and development by using outdoor activities. They strive to develop self-awareness, confidence, discipline, leadership, and teamwork while learning more about their environment. It focuses on short, intensive training to build responsible leaders and good citizens. Their motto is “CONQUER THYSELF TO LEAD". Mt. Kenya is the highest mountain in Kenya and is second in Africa to Kilimanjaro. It is important locally for eco-tourism, serving as a scenic area hosting a diverse range of plants and animals as well as a source of water for the surrounding area. Mt. Kenya provides water for 2 million people.
hiking Mt. Kenya
KESAL offers adventurers the experience dealing with new surroundings, new people, and new activities to break them out of their customary routines and to enhance learning. KESAL offers an opportunity to learn more about yourself and dealing with mental, physical and emotional challenges from navigating the various courses. To help participants develop a basic understanding of the environment and the relationship of man and the environment. It also strives to motivate participants to participate in environmental protection projects.
The physical challenges include changes in temperature, different levels of difficulty in climbing up the mountain and dealing with Mother Nature. It must be stressed that the aims of the courses are not solely designed for the physical experience they give, but also the reaction to the challenges being faced.
I was fortunate to have participated in this year’s extreme adventure. It was a great opportunity to explore my home country and learn about our magnificent environment. The event started with everyone meeting at the base camp at 8am. From there, we picked up the necessary equipment, socialized, and prepared for our adventure.
I went with a team of 4, but there were many individual adventurers as well. Since none of us were experienced hikers, we were content with just having fun, and what fun it was watching the competitions. We had to learn to pitch our own tents, which was an adventure in itself. My favourite part of the trip was the Bundu Bash. It was called the highest party in the land, being held at 9200 feet above sea level. There was a DJ, a live band, and of course, lots of dancing. There was even a bonfire to give the night an authentic campground feel. All in all, the best thing about the whole adventure was the adventure of it. You got to spend quality time with many interesting people. And what would an adventure trip be without a little adventure? We got lost in the jungle and didn’t know how to use the compass and maps that we were given. We eventually trekked onto a private homestead before getting back on track.
Relaxing high in the mountains on a beautiful Kenyan night
There is a similar adventure coming in December and of course I’ll be going back next October for the 3rd annual Extreme Challenge. Maybe I can challenge my team to make it to the top next year. I would encourage people to try it out, especially those afraid of extreme sports and those looking for adventure, ans it gives confidence and fulfillment.
Getting ready for the trip to Mt Kenya
By: Vivien Wamalwa and Ray Gutt
Vivien Wamalwa is the owner of Safari Hunters, a local travel / tour agency operated in Nairobi, Kenya. She can be contacted at 254.20.521.0636 or 254.723.788.612 or by e-mail at: Vivien[at]safarihunters.net
All photos courtesy and copyright Vivien Wamalwa