Fundraiser conquers Mount Kenya

Debbie Marsden from Ashbourne successfully completed an amazing trip to the top of Mount Kenya in September to raise money for the team. Mount Kenya, at 4985 metres, is the second highest mountain in Africa after Kilimanjaro. Not only did Debbie reach the summit but, she also exceeded her fundraising target.

Debbie admits to not being a true mountaineer preferring scuba diving to climbing but the opportunity to scale Mount Kenya was too good to miss. The expedition took five days and Debbie relates her own story below.

Buxton Mountain Rescue sends Debbie its warmest congratulations for her success and a huge thank-you for supporting the team. It’s absolutely amazing how far people will go to raise money for us and every penny is truly appreciated. So far, Debbie’s Just Giving page stands at £350 but we know there is still more sponsor money to collect. The page will remain open for donations for another week or two yet so there is still time to boost her total by visiting her JustGiving page. This sponsorship will help us top up the funding required for new radios which the team hopes to purchase before Christmas.

Thanks Debbie, perhaps swapping flippers for boots is the start of a new challenge.

Day One

We met up with all the porters and our Guides at the Sirimon Gate of the Mount Kenya National Park after a 4 hour drive north from Nairobi. The first day consisted of a 4 hour walk to the first camp, Old Moses, on the Sirimon route. The walk was predominantly through rainforest. Unfortunately we didn’t see any elephants but we did see baboons and a wide variety of birds. Old Moses camp was very basic with bunk beds, a mess area and kitchen for the porters but to my surprise it did have a flushing toilet. Our dinner was served by our cooks when we arrived and consisted of mainly carbohydrates for the next day’s energy. Even at the first camp, at a lower altitude of 3000m I could feel that my breathing had changed and had become more laboured, which affected my sleep.

Day Two

Thankfully on day two I seemed to have acclimatised well at the first hut and felt well in the morning. The second days walk was pretty tough and took about 7 hours to reach our next camp, which was Shipton’s (4200m).

The scenery on this stretch of the walk was breathtaking as we walked up Mackinder Valley. The hardest part of this walk was an ascent, which took about 50 minutes, something that wouldn’t bother me in the UK but it was a lot tougher due to the increasing altitude. A few people in the group were now feeling the effects of the altitude with dizziness, headaches and generally feeling ill. Fortunately for me I was feeling better than I did at 3000m and didn’t suffer again.

On the final 50m or so of the walk to Shipton’s Camp the landscape opened up as we walked over the final hill. The sun was out showing Point Lenana, Batian and Nelion in all their glory in addition to the glacier. The view was amazing! About an hour or so after reaching Shipton’s Camp the cloud started to come in from the valley that we had just walked up. The cloud completely engulfed the peaks and the temperature dropped significantly.

The second camp (Shipton’s) was very similar to Old Moses except the bedrooms were bigger with more beds so the 7 of us shared the room with two German trekkers and three Spanish climbers who we bumped into on the walk from the first camp to the second. Dinner again that evening was purely carbs, laid out on a Massai table cloth, with hot chocolate, tea and coffee, proper plates and knives and folks. The whole evening was spent huddled under a light powered by solar panels playing cards and discussing the day ahead with our guides Peter and Elija.

Day Three

The evening and night of day three should have been spent at Austrian Hut about 1 ½ hrs from the summit but it was decided by our guide that due to the effects of altitude that many of us were feeling at this point that we spent another night at Shipton’s Camp acclimatising. Day three was therefore used as a day to acclimatise. This just meant that day four was longer, as the time to the summit from Shipton’s is 3 ½ hrs.

After a breakfast of porridge made of maize in addition to being served sausages, egg and fried bread we set off up the Mountain for a 500m ascent. Peter the guide set a very steady pace up a very steep, rocky/scree ridge. At this point you could tell we were high up and Shipton’s Camp was starting to look very small. We reached the top of the ridge after about 3 ½ hours and had a very close view of Batian and Nelion. The top of the ridge was covered in cloud and extremely cold and it even started to snow. Some of the group were still feeling unwell. After a rest on the top of the ridge we heading back down the same route back to Shipton’s camp for our third night. Back at the camp Peter our guide told us all to get our bags packed and ready for the morning and get to sleep for 7.00pm, as tomorrow was the climb to the summit.

Day Four

On the morning of the ascent we had to wake up at 2.00am and leave Shipton’s Camp at 3.00am after tea and biscuits. We left the porters behind at this point as only the two guides went the summit. It was pitch black on most of the trek up to the summit and we only had our head torches for light. The walk at the start was steady but I couldn’t see ahead in order to know how steep it was to become. After 20 minutes or so it started to become steeper and the pace began to slow down. At about 5.45am I could just see the sun about to rise and I could now make out how steep it was to either side of me. As we ascended we met other groups along the way, passing them as they took a break with them overtaking us later on. The last 200m or so was very tough and you think you have made it to only discover a rock blinded your view of the real summit. At about 6.00am as the sun was rising, we met all the groups on what appeared to be a platform about 100m from the summit. The final 100m needs daylight so we all waited here until it was time. That 100m was more of a scramble where I ditched my walking poles and put my trust in my hands. I waited my turn to climb up and reach the final bit of rock before the summit. We made it to the summit on 13th September at 6.15am local Kenyan time.

I was absolutely overwhelmed by what I had done but I didn’t stand in amazement for too long, as at the same time I was cold, very tired and also eager to get a photo of Batian and Nelion and the Lewis Glacier in the bright sun. The time spent at the summit was short, due to how cold and windy it was but also because we had an 11 hour walk ahead of us and needed to push on. We spent about 15 minutes on the summit. We went back down the Chogoria route, which was made up of lakes, deep valleys and cliffs. Everyone was shattered at this point. After about 5 hours we met up again with the porters for breakfast and we all flaked out not thinking we could carry on. This part of the day was probably the hardest of the entire trek as the descending was harder on my legs then the going up. I looked back and Point Lenana was becoming smaller and smaller as we made our way to the final camp, which had showers, the first shower of the trip. We made it to the final camp after 14 hours, covered in dust, head to toe.

Day Five

I was in pain! The final day was a short 3-hour walk to meet up with the 4X4’s that took us out of the park on a very bumpy 1 ½ hr drive and the 4 hour drive back to Nairobi.


Sirimon Route

Day 1: Park Gate to Old Moses camp (4 hour walk through rainforest)

Day 2: Old Moses to Shipton’s Camp at 4200m (7 hour walk)

Day 3: Acclimatisation walk to ascend 500m and spend the night at Shipton’s camp to acclimatise (5 hour walk in total)

Day 4: Trek to the summit at 4985m (3 ¼ hrs to the summit from Shipton’s camp). A 14hr day in total to reach last camp

Day 5: To meet the 4X4’s, 3 hour walk through rainforest

One comment

  1. Les Bonnington

    12 months ago if you had said Debbie was going to climb the second highest mountain in Africa I’d have said you were crazy. She’s had a sense of adventure for some time but never followed in my footsteps as a keen rockclimber and mountaineer for 43 yrs. As such I know what a fantastic job the volutary mountain rescue teams do all year round often in the most atrocious weather conditions. Both myself and Liz think Debbie’s done a fantastic thing for a worthy cause achieving something she’ll never forget.

    Well done “OUR” Deb!

    Les and Liz Bonnington (Debbies parents)

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