My Name is Stellah and I am a Female Mountain
This is my story, on how I came to be a female mountain guide
Born the early 70s as the as the 1 st born in a family of four. I grew up doing what girls did in my times; Go to school, herd sheep and help with household chores.
Our house was built in a way where we could see the snowy peaks of Mount. Kenya. This fascinated me so much that I wished to climb the mountain one day.
My late uncle was a mountain guide. I used to admire him and sometimes I used to follow him up to the Chogoria Bandas.
My Secondary school, was built on top of a hill with a breathtaking view of Mt Kenya. I remember being punished by the teachers for staring at the mountain all day long. After graduating from secondary school, my parents enrolled me in a nursing college. I was reluctant to pursue nursing as a career and eventually dropped out. This was not a sweet pill for my parents, and I was forced to reconsider my decision by being thrashed. I however stood my ground, and was later enrolled in a college in Nairobi where I did my diploma in Tour Guiding and a certificate in Tours and Travel. It was interesting to note that I was the only lady in a class of 40 young men.
After graduating I was lucky to get a job, but I was assigned to office work which I did not like, and so I quit. I then joined my uncle in his Motel in Chogoria Town. There too I was assigned to the office. I remember telling him once that I was not a secretary but a Mountain Tour Guide.
One day he took me on an expedition to the mountain. Little did I know that he had a plan to try to discourage me. He made carry a bag inside which he had carefully packed 5 pavement bricks. When I discovered this he retorted, ‘’Na mzigo wa mzungu haufunguliwi!’’ (A client’s bag is never opened). I asked him why am carrying a bag and am not a porter? He told me that he is the boss and he can assign me to either being a porter, a guide or a cook. It was hard for me but I pushed on.
After the expedition, he called me and he told me to hand him ‘’his bag’’ from which he removed the bricks. He then congratulated me saying that I have now excelled in “practical” and am now a Certified to Mountain Guide.
I have faced many challenges in the way when people often wonder what a woman is doing alone on a mountain with “Wazungus”. But I have learned to seal my ears and focus on my passion. I have also mentored a few girls who are now working with me.
As a KWS Honorary Warden, am a conservation Crusader. I enlighten the community about the sustainable use of natural resources and mitigate human-wildlife conflict. I organize tree planting sessions with schools around Mt Kenya too. My biggest worry is global warming. Most of the glaciers, the snow fields and the tarns at Mount Kenya drying up very first. Am afraid by 2020 there might be no snow or glaciers.
A life of a mountain guide it’s the most interesting one and tiresome too. As a wife and a mother, I have to make time for my family first. If I have any assignments in the in the mountain, I inform my children about it. How many days I will be there and sometimes when possible they join me up to the park gates then they go back in Nairobi.