John Muir once said that “Going to the mountains is going home,” going to rurimueria has never felt like going home. It always feels like I am walking to an all-day master class on how to utilize your mental stamina and learn the hardest lesson – that you can’t afford to give up.
Rurimueria is the kind of mountain that requires you to understand the whole meaning of resilience. It’s the kind of mountain that requires you to brace your lousy knee and descend nonetheless. The type of mountain that requires you not being intimated by a cow and growing a tendon of strength. The kind of mountain that requires you to keep pushing amidst all lessons, Rurimueria has the kind of peaks that presents you a new set of lessons every time you find yourself there.
When preparing to climb a mountain – pack a light heart – Dan May
Up by 3a.m, on the road by 4:45 a.m, only to start the hike at 9:30 a.m. It is a long journey from Nairobi, roughly 3 and a half hours. To climb and descend in good time, it is paramount that the hike starts as early as possible. The aim was to begin the ascend by 7:30 a.m, which wasn’t the case because we started 30 minutes past nine. We got to ndunyu njeru on time; however, the KWS office’s delay took more time than expected. It also doesn’t help that from the office to the starting point isn’t a short distance.
A bit of stretching, and we are good to go. Rurimueria is the queen of steepness. She has a way of making you question how much your ancestors even care for you. She doesn’t dilly dally when it comes to resilience; you either can do it from the starting point or can’t. The hike starts steep, without the promise of anything short of that.
This wasn’t my first time. In fact, the first time I was here, last year September, I never got to the summit. I only managed to get to peak two when my knee decided that it couldn’t take one steeper climb. The last time I was there, tears were shed, pain was felt, the weather was cruel, and even the cows didn’t like me on that mountain. Nonetheless, I had to go back – a hiker always goes back. The reality is; you never climb the same mountain twice, not even in memory. Memory rebuilds the mountain, changes the weather, retells the jokes, and remakes all the moves.
Getting to the top of any given mountain was considered much less important than how one got there: prestige was earned by tackling the most unforgiving routes with minimal equipment, in the boldest style imaginable – Jon Krakauer.
And here I was, back on the mountain that almost totally wrecked me. This time, I was ready to brace its cruelty. I was prepared for the summit. I was prepared to keep pushing past the exhaustion in my thighs every step I took up. I was ready to get my body hydrated throughout the ascent and descent. I was prepared to conquer the scary Rurimueria. A girl needs ambitions! And considering this was my first hike this year, the determination was there.
I was missing the mountains. I was missing the solitude of being up on a mountain with scenic views and heavenly silence. Even in cruelty, such a mountain is always one to behold. Rurimueria is one of those mountains you can’t really conquer because it will continue to exist beyond you. It is also the kind of mountain that will easily conquer you if you are not careful.
Luckily for us, hiking with Bucketlist Adventures means that the psyche and plenty of company is always a pushing factor. Hikers come in three major groups. We have the fastest hikes (Team Subaru) who will always summit way before fellow hikers, only to have to wait until everyone descends to leave. Then we have the slow hikers (Sweepers) who hike last. As long as the time allows, sweepers will always summit, sometimes in even better form than other hikers, because they tend to use their energy slowly and with reservations. And then we have the hikers canopied between the fast and the slow hikers. The hikers in the middle can sometimes be distributed in groups of three, twos, or even one, but still between team Subaru and the sweepers.
Everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you’re climbing it – Andy Rooney.
For this hike, I was in the middle group. My intention was to do the hike at my own pace. To not keep up with anyone. To just experience every stride, view, struggle, and joy this mountain was to present me. Of course, when going to Aberdares, you always need to carry your waterproof gear as well because the weather can turn on you pretty fast. Some mountains require a good pair of shoes. Others require an entire team to conquer. Others require a whole load of preparedness with gear to suit any condition. And Aberdares is one of those mountains. Knowing which is rurimueria is, is the key to success.
Rurimueria made me feel small the last time, and I still felt small this time. I have come to accept that it is one of the mountains that help me sort out what’s essential in my life. As I was climbed, I couldn’t help but get lost in its beauty. I valleys and ranges are clothes in healthy leafy trees, and on the right, a clean stream graces down the valley as though to inspect the soil’s texture.
The sun gloriously greeted Rurimueria on this day. Throughout the hike, the weather was kind to us. Not a single drop of rain or cloud of fog. The weather was clear, but the higher you climbed, the thinner the air was getting. After peak two into peak three, I started to feel how thin the air was, and the altitude was starting to get to me.
Getting to the top is optional. Getting down is mandatory – Ed Viesturs
When I approached peak two, I could vividly remember how it felt to just reach there the last time. How much pain my knee was in, yet this time, my knee was perfectly fine, and I had the energy and zeal to keep moving, which I did. The steeper the mountain got, the more I felt like this was a stadium for me to satisfy my ambition to achieve. The more I felt like the trail was a cathedral where I practice my religion.
Peak three was more daunting for me. I was starting to get a headache, and my chest felt like it was gasping for air. I did most of the hike after peak two alone. I enjoy hiking alone sometimes. It allows me to save energy because I don’t have to engage in a conversation and struggle for air simultaneously. It also allows me to be in my thoughts and explore my feelings and emotions.
I was mostly drinking water. You are often told that the best way to beat altitude sickness is by drinking water. To be honest, this didn’t work for me at all. As a matter of fact, one is said to get altitude sickness if they travel to high altitudes too fast, which I didn’t do. I maintained my own pace during this hike and took very breaks. In fact, I didn’t start taking breaks until the acute mountain sickness began to take a toll on me. Until last Saturday, I didn’t quite understand how severe AMS can be.
I’ve realized that at the top of the mountain, there’s another mountain – Andrew Garfield.
Contrary to what most people claim, your sex, age, or physical fitness doesn’t affect your likelihood of getting AMS. I can attest to this because even though I am not a pro athlete, I think I am kinda fit. It also doesn’t matter if you have been to that place before or not, I still got it, and it was my second time.
More than 3,500 m ASL, the headache was getting worse, I was feeling sick. At this point, I was starting to feel tired even though my body and muscles were still okay. By the time I was getting off-peak three and into the moorland stretch that leads to peak 4 (the summit), nausea was hitting hard. I was struggling to breathe and still feeling pressured by the thin air. My vision was starting to feel strained, and just when I got to a point where I could see the summit, I began to vomit.
However, the marvelous thing was that I was still persistent and equally enjoying the scenery. This part of the mountain feels like a different view altogether. It’s no longer the folds of mountains and valleys on the background, but the stretch of beautiful moorlands, orange moss on some parts of the ground, the beautiful flowers and plants, and the spongy ground beneath.
Each fresh peak ascended teaches something – Sir Martin Conway.
At this point, you actually feel pretty grateful for the sunshine. The absence of which would mean that rather than walking on spongy ground, one would be navigating deep boughs. I, for one, not be much of a bough fan. I was very much enjoying the spongy feel of the ground.
The plantation along the moorland had a quirky personality. The grass looked easy to greet, the trees looked like onlookers eager to get to know their visitors, the moss appeared like a ‘welcome home’ carpet smiling right at your doorstep. The scenery was terrific, but though my mind comprehended that, my body did not.
Here I was meeting fellow hikers coming from the summit on their descent back, and of course, a community of hikers wants you to keep pushing. “Ukichapa ile corner ni kama uko summit,” they’d say. But getting to the summit wouldn’t be the problem. My body would have done it successfully. It the AMS that was weighing me down.
I started vomiting more and in far fewer intervals. Right beneath the summit, or rather a few meters to the summit, my body was out of it. At this point, the idea of death from AMS didn’t sound so far-fetched. Lucky for me, I met Nath (A very humorous Indian Mzee) and Wairimu (the real definition of patient and caring people) on their way down, and they were the first people to see me and notice that I was out of it.
In the mountains, there are only two grades: You can either do it, or you can’t – Rusty.
I love hikers because when you find an impendent set on the policy “Leave no man behind,” they literally never leave you behind. Nath, Wairimu, and Edukan (Our team guide) were very paramount during my descent. Were it not for them, their encouragements, their patience, and their caring nature, I would have tapped out on that mountain.
They made sure I remained hydrated, that I rested whenever I felt dizzy, and after vomiting. They never rushed me down at any one point. Nath, in particular, is one to keep you going with his humorous nature. We had episodes where we laughed despite my situation. With every step, I couldn’t help but appreciate these people for their tenderness towards me.
Somewhere between the bottom of the climb and the summit is the answer to the mystery why we climb – Greg Child
A stride at a time, at my own pace, we all managed to descend. By the time we were off the mountain, Edu had organized a Boda Boda guy for me, in correspondence with our team leader, to get us back to our team on time. It was seeing that bus that gave me release. Watching that white Mercedes coaster gave me the realization that I had successfully pushed myself and managed to finish the hike safely. During our drive back, I appreciated the level of mental stamina I engaged to keep at it and not tap out.
And while I didn’t entirely end up on top of the summit, just being beneath it and hearing my fellow hikers up there rejoice on the summit made me feel less of a failure and more of a conqueror. Compared to my first attempt, I hiked past peak two, and I still had a successful hike amidst AMS and other challenges.
What are men to rocks and mountains? – Jane Austen
And so you see, to enjoy hiking, one needs a solid group or platform. One that guarentees that you will leave with new wholesome experiences as well as knew friends. Bucketlist Adventures offers that and much more. To explore their services, check out their calendar and choose a trail that appeals to you the most, I promise you will go back home with a set of new experiences and lessons,
This time around, the most critical lesson Rurimueria taught me is that sometimes, you just need to change your altitude!