The weather for today didn’t look very optimistic last night. Later in the night heavy rain started, so I was almost sure we are not going up Mt Kenya today even though me, Ilva and Artis had agreed on leaving around 6:30am. Yet in the morning it turned out that Artis is up and ready for the hike whatever the weather and Ilva started to get ready as well. For a couple of minutes I thought it’s not too wise to do this, but since those two were going to go anyway – with or without me, I made up my mind and started to get ready as well. It actually looked promising – wasn’t raining and the sky wasn’t completely covered either.
The road for cars goes up to Meteorological Station which is 3000m high, around 10km past the park gates. Yesterday the driver had assured us that he’s driven there before and would be able to go up there even in these rainy conditions. We hoped that after we’ve been dropped off at met station, we could get to the nice panorama place at around 4000m high, but if we don’t manage that, at least should get above the tree/bush zone somewhere around 3400m.
Got to the gate, paid for ourselves and 1000Ksh for the car entrance. About 2km further along the road the car got stuck when going up the 2nd hill after the park gates and we decided to walk. It had taken some time to get up the first small hill already after getting stuck there as well, and it didn’t look too hopeful if we were going with such a speed and getting stuck on every uphill. The driver said he was going slowly and without run-ups because he didn’t want to end up with one wheel in the much deeper mud on the side of the road in these slippery conditions. But such a speed was not enough to bring us to the top of the hill. It was also almost the time when the driver was expected to collect the others for bringing them to Aberdare National park for animals and waterfalls.
And so we started to walk. It started drizzling not long after that and my rain-poncho turned out to have started to disintegrate. Luckily Ilva had a waterproof jacket and gave me hers. After walking for some half-an-hour or more we heard a truck coming. Some park staff people were going up to Met station and they took us kindly with them in the truck bed. Such a luck! We found places to sit (e.g. on the spare tyre) and were holding fast. Their driver was really good and was driving quite energetically to get up the hills. But even with this swift speed his vehicle needed some extra accelerating to be able to go up a couple of steeper places. I cannot imagine our car/driver being able to go there. Also I’m not sure I would be able to drive up there myself with one of the originally booked cars (Toyota Rav4), at least in these conditions, even though those cars would have been smaller and thus lighter.
The hike for the first 1km or so till the Signal station was not bad as the trail was paved yet steep. After that the so called vertical bog started. It wouldn’t have been too bad in dry conditions, but it was all wet, a small stream was coming down the trail and it kept on raining. If anyone of us didn’t have wet feet before we got our lucky ride, they definitely got completely wet here.
The higher we got, the worse the trail became. The stream was coming down in different sections and it was hard to tell which was the real path. It was probably not that important as we were basically trying to step on some patches of grass where it was less water underneath (most of time). Starting from our ride up all we could see was fog when trying to look further away. Up here, where the trees had got scarcer we could see a bit further, however, there was still nothing more than some different section of fog in the distance visible. We noticed here that the trail was actually marked with some high enough white posts. Seeing the next post from the current one in these foggy and rainy conditions was, however, not possible, so we tried to keep on the ridge where the trail was supposed to go. Anders had given us the mountain map and Rudolfs his GPS and I also had a GPS in my phone, but I didn’t want to soak the map by looking into it all the time and it was warmer if I kept the hands inside the rain-poncho anyway.
We were higher than the tree zone now. I realized that I won’t get any scenery at all, so was not determined to go further, but Artis and Ilva wanted to stretch themselves a little more. I gave them the GPS so that they wouldn’t need to wait on me. For a moment it became a little lighter and I continued hoping that something will clear up a bit, but no such luck. The drizzle kept on, it was also rather windy up here and cold therefore with all the moisture in my clothes, so I soon decided to turn back having reached 3600m. Going down was much faster, but it was also much easier to slip. Walking poles would have been useful.
Back at met station I changed some clothes to dry ones and waited for Ilva and Artis. They came soon having reached 3700m. It was still raining and we now had the 10km ahead of us since there was no way our car could pick us up from here. It was also rather early – 2pm – we had planned our time well. Anders sent a message that they’d like to spend 1h more in the park as they reached it very late, and thus pick us up at 6pm. The weather became better and about the half way to the gates sun started to shine and dried us up to some extent. Artis was picking mushrooms (lat. Lepiota) and me and Ilva helped him to spot them. Artis and Ilva went to explore a sound of water rumble, but the waterfall was not found.
At 5pm sharp we were at the gate. Anders had messaged me that they are having some problems getting out of their park and thus reaching us at 6pm, so after a short rest we started to walk the next 10km towards the hotel. There were many deer along the road, but they were not interested in someone trying to photograph them. Artis considered the buffaloes more friendly when they looked at him and his camera with interest from a short distance. I didn’t consider them as friendly as him and walked on.
A couple of hours later and more than a half way till our hotel we were finally picked up. Since it was decided to not go to Nairobi tonight as the driver didn’t want to drive in darkness, we stayed in the hotel and arranged to start driving at 6am tomorrow.
Conclusion1: Even though it was not wise to go up in these conditions, we enjoyed to spend some time outside the car for once.
Conclusion2: It is possible to go from Met station to Picnic stones (path crossroads at around 4000m) and come back in one day if the weather is fine.