The Mountains are calling and I must go- John Muir naturalist and preservationist John Muir (As seen on a coffee mug)
Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro is one of the top items on my bucket list and this year I finally decided to be proactive about it. You however cannot just wake up on a random day and spontaneously decide to summit the highest mountain in Africa- it takes a lot of physical and mental preparation. With this in mind, I have come up with a very simple game plan: start with Mt. Kilimambogo, take on Mt. Longonot, summit Mt. Kenya before finally tackling the Kilimanjaro. To put the first phase of this plan into action, I booked a stay at Ol Donyo Sapuk Resort on the border of Kiambu and Machakos counties this past weekend and just went for it. Based on my experience, here is what you need to know and do before scaling Mt Kilimambogo:
The mountain is located about 65km from Nairobi and 15Km from Thika Town, and the drive there took us less than 2 hours. If you are ambitious, you could actually make this a day trip, but I would recommend giving yourself at least an extra day to explore what the Ol Donyo Sabuk area has to offer.
The Mountain is located at Ol Donyo Sabuk national park within which you will find camping grounds. I was however looking for comfort during this trip- cozy fireplace, warm hearty meals and and an even warmer bed- and decided to stay at Ol Donyo Sapuk Resort. Read more about that here.
You can actually decide to go it alone but I quite enjoyed having an experienced companion, and Ol Donyo Sapuk Resort paired me with their experienced resident guide Yemen, a seasoned mountaineer (he has climbed Mt Kenya and Mt Kilimanjaro a combined total of over 60 times!) who regaled me with interesting tales about the mountain, the buffaloes after which it was named, the town as well as its people and their history/culture. If you get a good guide like mine turned out to be, get ready to delve into a whole new world you possibly didn’t even know existed, and your 3 hour climb to the top and back will while away so fast you will hardly notice it.
This is a relatively easy climb so you won’t need a lot of gear. Carry enough drinking water, sunscreen, a hat, wear loose-fitting clothes, have on the right shoes and carry a sweater or rain jacket since it is bound to get cooler as you ascend.
It is a 9.2km hike to the top of the 2,145m-high mountain which given your level of physical fitness, is relatively easy and should take about 2 hours with pit-stops at the observation area with a scenic 180 degree view of the town as well as Macmillan’s burial site. The summit was actually a bit of an anticlimax as the view is marred by thick vegetation which can however not be cleared since most of the plant species are endangered. The thrill of having summited a mountain is however what makes it all worth it, since if you can conquer a trail that seemed almost impossible to hike, you can overcome any challenge that life throws your way.
It started pouring heavily on our way down and the resultant muddy slippery red soil and loosened rocks made the descent a lot more gruesome than the ascent, and the 9.2km trail took another 2 hours to the ground. If you’re new to hiking, I wouldn’t suggest going in the rainy season. Sore, wet, muddy and absolutely knackered, it is thoughts of the cozy fireplace at Ol Donyo Sapuk Resort, comfortable plush sofas coupled with a delectable hot chocolate and array of warm pastries that kept me walking those last few miles.