I first met Margie on a Bucketlist Hike in Mt. Longonot. She was petite but really strong, She was among the team meant to explore the Longonot floor. I have since followed her on WhatsApp and interacted with her online. She is an inspiration.
Margie recently summited Batian, Mt. Kenya. This is considered the ultimate Mt. Kenya hike. A good number of hikers shy away from Batian because it’s more of rock climbing. It requires skill and gut, and that’s precisely what Margie brought to the challenge. Read more about her experience and more:
Tell me more about Margie. Who is she? What does she stand for? What drives her?
Margie is just a girl who tries to live her life to the fullest and best of her abilities. I believe in hard work, ethics, fairness, independence and focus and that pretty much guides all activities in my life. My biggest drive in life is my simple background where due to lacking many material items growing up, I promised myself to make a better life for myself as an adult. That built focus, I learnt the importance of delayed gratification, the importance of keeping yourself open to opportunities and maximizing the opportunities that come your way. I’m an accountant by day, a cottage microfinance founder by night, a hiker on weekends and a traveler if covid allowed😉. Also, a daughter, a sister and the best aunt in the world.
I know you’re so much into fitness. I remember I first met you on a longonot hike with your Alphafit buddies. Tell more about Alphafit, your fitness regimen, and journey?
I come from a family where we are genetically predisposed to be on the chubbier side of life. And as such,I was the fat girl in my primary and high school days. I finished high school as a size 18 and for my short height of 152cm, that was quite a lot.
That triggered my fitness. I increased my daily steps when I was in college by alighting the matatu a stage before home and walking home. When I went to university, around 2nd year, I started running in the morning every weekday. By the time I was graduating from uni I was a size 12. My first job was quite demanding so I took a hiatus from any physical activity for 4 years, I added a little more weight. I ended up doing YouTube videos, which was good for overall health, but not so much for my weight loss.
As it were, I had a beach holiday coming up in Mauritius in a month and I happened to be following a certain lady on Instagram who used to post her workouts at Alphafit. I thought to myself, let me try gym and was dead sure that the 1 month would flatten my belly 😀😀😀
2 years later, the belly is still staying put, but I have become very strong and fit generally. My fitness routine is 5 days a week in the gym and active rest on weekends. The order changes sometimes because I make sure I have 2 rest days per week as rest is super important for performance. I occasionally take a few breaks from the gym especially if preparing for a big hike and do hill runs. I find hill runs more effective than running on flat terrain.
Did you always like fitness or was it prompted by something? If yes, what? How did you transition from the gym to hiking and rock climbing or is it the other round?
My order started from hiking, gyming then rock climbing.
Funny story, my first ever hike was Mt Kilimanjaro. It was a silly argument with the guy I was dating at the time who had hiked Mt kenya. The argument was which climb was harder; Mt kenya or Kilimanjaro. He was of the opinion Mt kenya was harder while I was for Mt Kilimanjaro. Well our relationship didn’t make it to Mt Kilimanjaro, but since I had decided I was going to climb Mt Kilimanjaro, I looked for a group and viola I was off to E. Africa’s highest mountain. I shed real tears on that climb because my gear was not 100%, I was tired, frustrated, but since I wasn’t sick, the guides didn’t allow me to come down even after asking to return. When that happened I decided to continue my abnormality and went to Rwenzori all by myself, then Mt kenya with the same group I did Mt Kilimanjaro with.
When I finished the big mountains, it was when I returned to do the Aberdares and also when I started going to the gym.
I amazingly did Ngong Hills for the first time last year, possibly had it not been for covid and lockdowns, I’d never have done Ngong Hills.
Gym generally has made me stronger, I’m able to carry myself well, my posture is right and that led me to do those 1 day challenges in Mt Kenya and Mt Kilimanjaro.
Some point last year, a random thought crossed my mind, what if I prepare for Batian. Then talking with an acquaintance he randomly mentioned I shouldn’t quit hiking and that cemented my resolve to go to Batian. That was in January this year. And I went to work, i.e. rock climbing classes.
Rock climbing! Just the thought of it provokes my flight response😂 Was it ever scary for you? How did you get into it?
Yes, it’s scary every time. But the beauty in rock climbing is once you go to the walls, properly referred to as crag, you meet experienced climbers and even them, you can hear them breathing heavily when they are moving up the crag. It calms you to know that you’re not the only one struggling to solve a problem. In rock climbing, trying to make it to the top is referred to as solving a problem.
My hack to surviving the fear of climbing is not to look down. I just focus on where to place my hands and feet, not looking far down where I’ve come from. That way you just find yourself moving higher and higher.
I honestly just started the lessons to make it to Batian. But now that I have achieved it and when I remember the time, effort and struggle I underwent to learn this skill, I don’t want to lose it, and yes, I’ll continue climbing going forward.
What gear do you need for rock climbing?
The mandatory items are a helmet to protect your head should you fall and also from falling rocks. A harness as it holds the rope used to secure you and the climbing paraphernalia. Special climbing shoes which have a special rubber sole, which helps avoid slipping. Chalk to help your palms from sweating; we climb without gloves. The rest of the guides can be provided by the lead climber or trainer and they include rope as you climb attached to a rope for safety, etc to help in belaying, cams and bolts which provide safety anchors for the lead climber quickdraws.
What are the top 3 rock climbing risks? And what would be your advice to avoid that?
The biggest risk in rock climbing is usually when coming down. Most times getting off the crag is by rappelling or abseiling. For you to do that, you need to hook the atc device to the rope and to your harness. If you don’t ensure you have fixed all the 3 items correctly and locked so that it doesn’t open, it can lead to your fall and consequent death. Rock falls, nothing is permanent and even a stable rock can fall off. If that happens and that was the anchor, you can accidentally fall.
Carelessness. When doing a big climb, you’ll be doing the same routine multiple times, like for Batian over 15 times, you can get too confident or tired that can make you forget to ensure that all safety measures are taken.
What do you actually love most, hiking, gym, running, or rock climbing?
Wow, this is a hard one, but my least favourite is rock climbing. It’s not easy, but mostly because it’s a skill I’m learning as an adult.
You’re well traveled. Has landscapes in other countries or particular experiences influenced you positively?
Yes, I can say the trade off for not having my own family is that I’ve gotten more opportunities to travel. Travelling gives me something to look forward to but also at the same time appreciate my normal life. I love the balance of Travelling and still being close to my family. I’m very attached to my family.
Batian was a huge accomplishment. Man, just saying it rings excitement and pride. Tell us about that. You happen to be one of the few women in Kenya who have accomplished this. Was it ever on your bucket list? How long did you prepare and plan for it?
I can say I prepped for Batian for 6 months. I started by indoor climbing lessons at Blue Sky in January, but more consistently (weekly) in February. In mid March, I gathered courage to go outside to the crag. In May and June I consistently went to either Lukenya or Hells Gate every week to practice.
In June as well, I did 3 hikes all above 3000m (Kinangop, Rurimeria and Mt Mtelo) and 1 endurance hike in Ukambani (Kiou Kayata). This was to ensure I was comfortable with altitude given that Batian goes up to 5,199m.
The week before Batian I did hill runs for 5 days, and would finish up with 50 push ups, and some dumbbell push press and deadlifts This was to ensure I gained endurance as well as maintained my body strength.
I also prepared my mind by doing daily affirmations. I used to tell myself, yes it will be hard, but we’ll give it our best shot. Every day I’d keep telling myself that.
Now that I did this, and realised it was manageable, I should have tried earlier. So anyone reading this, Batian is achievable, technically not very difficult, but one needs to be prepared for it.
What life lessons would you say this experience has given you?
That you don’t have a 10 year life plan. Yes I know it sounds weird, but when I first went to Mt Kenya, I remember very well taking a picture with Batian in the background. Climbing Batian was not even an idea. But if you remain forever agile and hungry to be better, great things will come your way and you’ll rise to the occasion. If I had limited myself to Lenana as my final goal, I’d definitely never have entertained such a thought.
Focus even when you’re alone in the journey. I started practicing when the only Kenyan lady I had heard to have gone to Batian was Rosemary Kamweti but I didn’t know her. I remember trying to get other girls we practice with, but they would never show up for lessons. Yes, I felt disappointed, but that didn’t stop my resolve.
Discipline and commitment. I can tell you that Batian is the only time I never fell. I used to fall every time we went for practice. Then the constant bruises on your hands from the rocks. I used to question myself every time, why Margaret, why. But few good things come easy, and I am glad I never cancelled class or gave below par performance during class.
Sacrifice; you must accept some level of discomfort in life. I put a lot of effort in terms of time and money for those 6 months. I never really had a resting weekend and towards the end, I was being careful not to pick up injuries or any form of distractions. Like I was an athlete in an imaginary Olympic. I remember just telling myself to hold on, it would soon come to an end, and it did.
How do you feel now that you’ve accomplished the ultimate Mt Kenya hike? Any future plans? What’s your next adventure?
I’m still in awe, that it happened, that I did it, and actually did it well. My trainer was very proud of my climb in Batian. I was very efficient especially when going up.
Humbled that I could afford it timewise and financially, the whole experience was a bit costly.
Yes, I still intend to do Batian next season and approach it from the South Face. I also look forward to exploring 6000m mountains.
What’s your advice to women and girls who are looking to make such huge achievements in life but still feel unmotivated?
You must be hungry for success. They say it’s lonely at the top, so you must be willing to go against the grain and go the extra mile. Otherwise you will remain average.
We are in an era where mental health is a big deal. People have discovered that being out in nature or being physically active can help them stay sane. Do you feel the same about nature and fitness? Would you recommend it to someone dealing with depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues?
I can’t agree more. They say go to places that make you look small and in my opinion nature is that thing. Looking at tiny birds, rats surviving the harshest of weather, breathing clean air, watching the water in a river or a waterfall, it rejuvenates your mind. We all need to unplug and nothing gives better distraction than being out with nature and you also get to move, so a triple rejuvenation of mind, body and soul.
My advice is try outside once, if it doesn’t work, try again and believe me by the third time it will have worked.
Well, there you have it guys; some new week inspiration for you from Margie herself