So it was one of my most difficult climbs ever, at least for now, but I rediscovered my old love for hiking and Mt. Longonot was first up!
Mount Longonot, found in Nakuru County in Kenya’s Rift Valley is a lonely peak, standing alone proud and strong in its might. It rises to an elevation of 2500 meters above sea level and is a 3 and half kilometer ascent and 7.2 kilometers hiking around the rim of the crater.
The mountain itself is largely bare of vegetation, or to be more precise, it is ‘sparsely populated’ with thorny and dusty shrubs, which is just a picture of the rest of the area. The mountain is found in a gazetted national park, run and managed by the Kenya Wildlife Service. For that reason, if one intends to hike the mountain, you must first inform KWS in advance so that they can provide a guide who as it turns out, is very very useful.
Now to my story. I used to love hiking back in the day (I’m not that old though). I did my undergrad in a school located in quite a ‘mountainous area’ and Saturday hiking, it was always a plan. And it helped keep me fit which was a plus. But I’ve not been on a trail for years now and barely even exercised as I used to. Going up any sort of incline left me panting and out of breath and more so when I walked fast. In other words, I was totally unfit.
But I thank God.
The Longonot Hike came together like a well-orchestrated move when one day some time ago, going through my TL, Facebook suggested this amazing hiking group ( women who hike-Africa) to me and the Longonot hike was on the menu. I have always wanted to hike the mountain but time and circumstances never seemed to align. So this time, I had some cash to spare and I thought well why not?
So I got in touch with the group admin and the date was set. The hike itself was a bit of the unexpected given that I was so rusty and unprepared, but also riveting. I’m into challenges nowadays and I like putting myself in new situations and seeing how well that goes. This time round, I was hiking with a group of complete strangers and in different circumstances than envisioned before.
So I bought the supplies I would need (read some fruit, carb and proteins) The hike master had advised us on the proper shoes to wear(rubbers like Reebok), food items to carry (no yoghurt), but I didn’t abide mostly because I thought it wouldn’t change much. How wrong I was!
Hiking Mt. Longonot requires patience and grit. The climb is steep and the soil so loose that there are stairs built on some parts of the incline to help hikers ascend. There are two levels on the mount. The first part leads to a relatively flat plateau like area. It is recommended to rest a bit here and regain your strength and also to take in the beautiful views of the surrounding peaks like Suswa or the Sleeping Moran (this is quite picturesque by the way, beautiful).
The second part of the climb is to the summit and the entire process from top to bottom takes at least an hour or an hour and half. As a rule when hiking any mountain, you must go at your own pace. Don’t compete, don’t try too much to keep up. Just hike the mount at your own pace. The second rule is that there’s no leaving any hikers behind. In any group, due to differing levels of fitness and enthusiasm some people will always be ahead while others lag behind. It’s normal. But the most important thing is to make sure you do it at your own pace. It’s not a competition. It really isn’t. Mountains are no respecters of persons and if you dare them they’ll teach you a lesson you are unlikely to forget in a short time.
Also, have some company or music. A bit of banter and encouragement goes a long way to help you put one protesting leg ahead of the other.
So back to my story.
I had about 2 liters of water which is of ABSOLUTE ESSENCE. Your body will be sweating from both the ambient heat and energy expended as you climb the mountain. I drank every drop of water that day and still took some more when I got back home. You are advised to either get a hiking bag with an inbuilt water container and drinking pipe or carry some water in both your backpack and in a small bottle to sip on as you ascend. Another thing I found convenient is to put glucose in your water rather than putting the powder on your dirty palms and licking it.
I climbed Mount Longonot basically by sectioning it, a habit I’ve had since childhood. I measure out a distance using my eyes then program myself to climb it, after which I will rest for a minute, take on the next section and a minute of rest and so on. Another important thing to note is that you can’t sit down to rest. If your legs get tired, stop and rest while standing. If you sit, you’ll lose steam and your body takes that as a sign that you should now rest and basically collapses.
So you got to keep on going, Mind over matter.
No sooner had I summited at the top than the first group of guys took off hiking round the rim of the crater. I didn’t want to go, and this is where good company comes in. Rahma, a good natured fellow hiker and generally warm human being amped me up to go with her. She said. ‘It kind of beats the point to come all the way up and fail to go round the crater. You’ll regret it.’ She was right. And that’s why against all the protests of my aching body, we took off in a quest to walk the 7 kilometers around the crater.
The crater itself is quite picturesque, a huge circular hole in the middle of the mountain top full of vegetation. Because of time and the sheer amount of energy it would take to go down and up the very steep incline, we left out that part for another day. The hike around the crater has its own set of unique features. Most of it is undulating land but there are several high points which you have to use both hands and legs to maneuver around.
Views from the top!
To be entirely truthful, I thought at one point that my legs would give way but Eric, the kind KWS ranger urged me on till we got back to the point we started from.
The descent itself was another challenge. First of all, it is absolutely beautiful up there and the views are breathtaking. You can see Lake Naivasha in all its glory, another park that you should have a look at when you’re in Kenya. So about the descent, this is why you have to wear hiking shoes. Sneakers will literally injure your feet. Sneakers cannot expand appropriately and because you are going down, your feet are pressured forward and your toes will feel the heat, literally and metaphorically speaking.
We made it back to base camp at around half past three pm and did a bit of cleaning up and then got on the bus ready for the journey back.
Another thing I forgot to mention, Carry a cap. A cap or hat protects you from the sun’s direct glare and saves your head from the heat. In my case, it came in handy as I get horrible headaches when exposed to too much sun.
Another thing, it is advisable to eat a high carb meal in the early morn so that as it is slowly digested you’ll have continual strength throughout the ascent. Also sleep early the night before and say a prayer on the morning of the hike.
I got home a few minutes before 7pm, took a shower and then let my body give in. As I lay on my bed i felt every single aching muscle in my flesh but also so much fulfillment! I had conquered a mountain and ticked one off my bucket list. I couldn’t eat because I felt like throwing up and everything was aching but my spirit was content.
About your body, it will be back to normal in less than three days so don’t worry too much about recovery.
The hike is well worth it!