The One and Only – Chris Temboh

Chris Temboh of Outdoor Circuits

I feel like no landscape inspires more like the mountains. Mountains have this beautiful, alluring quality that forms bonds that are always refreshed on the trails. This could be why guides keep going back to the same mountains, with a fresh group of hikers, for fresh new memories.

Climbing to the top of a mountain, no matter how many times you do it, will teach you a lot about life. Chris Temboh is one of the fiercest, most friendly guides in Kenya who understands that hiking and mountain climbing, whilst we dream of the summit or focus on the success achieved when getting to the top, you realize afterwards that the most profound part of hiking is the journey and effort needed to get you there.

Hermann Buhl once said “Mountains have a way of dealing with overconfidence,” and Temboh understands this to the core every time he takes a group of hikers to a fresh trail. Whilst in the end, we may never remember the time we spent working in the office or mowing the lawn, you will always remember how Temboh pushes you to climb that goddam mountain. Ladies and gentlemen, introducing, the man behind the mountain goats – Chris Temboh of Outdoor Circuits.

The man behind the mountain goats

When I first heard of you, I was looking for a good pair of hiking boots. I asked for a contact from one of my hiking groups and one of your contacts came up. Tell me more about Outdoor Circuits East Africa and Chris Temboh?

Chris Temboh is the lead guide at Outdoor Circuits EA.  Temboh is a nickname from my porter friends in Mt Kenya because they felt I was strong like a Tembo. It has stuck with me 15 years on. Outdoor circuits is an Outdoor adventure company that specializes in hiking, mountaineering and safaris. We pride ourselves in offering affordable, memorable outdoor adventure in East Africa.

Temboh Mountain Wear was born in 2012 after I realized many of my clients came on the trails without appropriate gear. Many did not know what clothing and gear they needed and others found it ridiculously expensive. At Temboh Mountain wear, we aim to avail affordable hiking gear under one roof. When you walk in, you get assorted hiking items affordably. We sell and hire both new and thrift items. We have a physical local in Ngara next to KICD.

I see every person as a mountain of sorts; we can see how they look from afar, but will never know them until we explore.

When did you did your hiking career begin?

Back in 2000! But I started doing it seriously as a business in 2012, that’s when Outdoor Circuits was born.

Why Hiking, Trekking and Backpacking? Why do you love it?

What I love is nature, Outdoors and travelling. Hiking, Trekking and Backpacking puts me right inside it. Given a choice, I would live on the road, discovering trails while living in my tent.

A younger me needed to climb every mountain. The older me says they photograph better from the bottom. 

What was the inspiration behind chasing the trails?

To be one with nature, have fun and make some money while at it, because adulting is real.

How has hiking influenced your personal life and those of people around you?

Personally hiking sobers me up, helps me build endurance for life. I recalibrate on the trails. People around me fall in two categories – those who think I am mad, let us leave those alone. Category 2 are my mates – we grow together as we chase summits, this is my gang- and it grows on each hike.

Some mountains only require a good pair of shoes. Others require an entire team to conquer. Knowing which is which is the key to success.

You happen to be one of the ‘Gear Gurus’ in town, what advise would you give hikers when it comes to hiking gear, particularly beginners?

Appropriate gear makes all the difference.  Look at it as going to a battlefield, you need appropriate weapons. Appropriate does not mean expensive or heavy, it implies suitable.

Get the appropriate gear and you will get to enjoy the trails.

Your starter kit ( Available at Temboh Mountain Wear) includes : A water proof hiking boot, day bag ( 3L water bladder included), and a rain jacket

I find that most avid hikers have a special affiliation with nature or fitness, what would you say satisfies your hiking zeal?

When doing a hike with clients, the summit has a fulfillment like nothing else; it signifies triumph, a win over self-limitations. Getting the clients to the summit becomes a calling once the trip begins. On my own, having summited most mountains severally, the experience – just being out there enjoying the scenery is IT.

Apart from a hiker and a gear guru, what else do you enjoy doing?

Time with family, running and cycling in that order. I get to have all three when we go camping so it is now ranking as the highest. Camping.

The sun shines brightest from the peaks of mountains.

You also happen to be a guide, a great one for that matter, what mountains have you climbed and how many times?

That’s a hard one actually, I have lost count of the main peaks. For Mt Kilimanjaro should be about 20 times, Mt Kenya about 3 times every year since 2012. Other favorites are Mt. Oldonyo Lengai, Mt Rwenzori and Mt Meru. For the day hike summits, we cant count, many times. 

You keep taking people to the same mountains more than once in a year, and I know it is your career path, but I wonder, don’t you ever tire?

I do get tired; I even get altitude sickness at times, safe to say the body is not loyal. However, I love my job, a lot.

Have you seen hiking influence people’s lives positively? If yes, How?

Yes, I have seen people get mental health uplifted. I have seen people manage life conditions especially those associated with weight by hiking. I have seen people who are in the office 7 to 7 pm get a much-needed breather. Hiking really delivers better humans to the universe, one trail at a time.

Mountains teach that not everything in this world can be rationally explained. 

Other than being this amazing, somewhat guide, what more can you tell us about your personality?

I am a simple, quiet human mostly. Sometimes I get angry – rogue drivers drive me mad.

As a guide, what do you think hiking should be about?

Exploring, adventure, fitness. While at it appreciating nature and increasing environmental health awareness.

Apart from hiking gear, what else do you sell from Outdoor Circuits? Tell us more about your store?

Its one stop shop for hikers. We sell/hire out new and used quality hiking gear. At a very affordable price.

Temboh Mountain wear is a hiker’s supermarket; you get all you need for hiking and outdoor adventure. We sell and hire out clothing and equipment (tents, sleeping bags, everything).

Okay, summarize Thru Hiking in Three word?

Pole pole ndio mwendo. That’s four words? No ? yes?

What is the one thing that has surprised you about a trail?

Hard to pick any specific one,No matter how many times you have done it the trails always gives you a new experience.  Oldonyo Lengai normally gets me with the volcanic crater – it’s breathtaking. Mt Meru has a sobering ash cone summit. The mountain lakes are a welcome delight on the Chogoria route. My favorite day hike currently is Kathandeni – has the most rewarding waterfalls. Elephant hill is a close 2nd on the day hikes.

How has the Mt. Kenya and Mt. Kilimanjaro trail change as you hike through?

The Fauna and flora changes as one goes up. The two mountains have changed a lot over the years. The only way I can explain is now days we can barely predict how the summit will look like. Climate change has it all mixed up so we also wait to climb and see.

The mountains because they make you feel small. They help you sort out what’s important in life.

What are the 5 Safety Precautions you give to your hikers?

  • Follow the right track – let the guide guide you.
  • Never hike alone, Be well equipped (headlamp and a lighter could save your life).
  • Keep hydrated always.
  • Do your background research on the trail and region you will be hiking.

In the book of Chris Tembo, what is Trail Etiquette?

Trash in Trash out. If the hiker ahead trashes and leaves it, PICK it up for them.

What is your most memorable memory on a hike?

My first hike up Mt Kenya. I experienced snow the very first time and it was so ecstatic. It was also also my hardest Mt. Kenya climb.

When they say “Bring your daughter to work!”

I know you have a wife and Kids, tell us how fundamental they have been for your during these hiking trips?

They have been supportive and encouraging.

Do you plan to pass your hiking zeal to your kids?

My two girls enjoy the trails so Absolutely yes. We already doing this together. I hope to keep hiking with them till they say enough.

So, what are you doing now?

Introducing the outdoors to them, one-day hike and camping after another, will soon take them to Mt. Kenya.  This has made me consider family packages more. Hoping to be able to organize camp and hike trips for mums and dads with their kids soon.

What does the future look like for Chris Tembo and Outdoor Circuits?

More gourmet trips customized to clients preferences. Training upcoming guides – we already have an awesome lady guide in training. New trails – Kathandeni and Maparasha have been our newest this year.

Going to the mountains is going home.

What’s your next adventure?

Maparasha Hills Kajiado County – Join us on 12th June.

What’s your favourite hiking memory?
Hiking with my family. Its an experience that will never get out of my memory. We had a great time and it will forever never die.

What has been your worst experience on a trail?
Getting lost on the trail and spending a night in the cold. And a rescue mission that took an entire night up Mt Kenya.

Hike more. Worry Less.

How do you get your hikers ready for big mountains?

We take them through training process. Day hike preps. We help them
Acquire the right gear. To be able to conquer big mountains, you need to be mentally and physically fit.

We know hiking isn’t as easy as 1,2,3…..what is hiking really all about to you?

Its an adventure, getting in touch with nature. Its brings out the person in you, the inner child. Its about endurance. Enjoying life keeping fit and well being.

Oh, before you go, what do they call you on the trails?

They call me Temboh or Chris.

“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

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