At 4.30 am…
At 4.30 am, we embarked on an exploratory journey from Nairobi to climb Mt. Kenya with one intention, to get to Shipton’s camp, 4200m above sea level, which is the last point before climbers try to submit the peaks; Nelion, Batian, and Point Lenana.
Mount Kenya at 5199m above seas level is impossible to submit in a day. Ours was a 1-day hike with a team experienced in moderately high altitude hikes-famously known as ‘team Subaru’ in the hiking language.
Well, altitude sickness is a reality that anyone can be affected, and this is the reason it is advisable to acclimatize a day before starting to ascend Mount Kenya or any other serious mountain.
My team did not acclimatize. We arrived and immediately began our climb. Ours was a test of resilience, hardiness, and ability to withstand high altitudes. More importantly, we intend to climb to submit all the peaks soon.
Snow and climate change
My intention was not to bore you with how the trip was but to express my feelings and thoughts towards the actions of the hikers and climbers on Mt. Kenya and the impacts of climate change.
The first thing you will notice as you go up is the melting glaciers making the trails soggy. The high rate at which it is melting is quite disturbing and can be seen from the fast flow of melted water.
At a glance, the amount of snow spotted is minimal; it is diminishing compared to previous years. Looking at stocked pictures of the mountain for the last decades, a notable decrease of glacial sheets is evident.
Going back to research, several studies associate the changing phenomenon of climate change. Increased atmospheric temperatures are accelerating the melting process.
The mountain’s significance goes beyond the aesthetics and the joy of the climbers to influencing the livelihoods of those people living within the region. Mt. Kenya is a vital catchment area whose disruption will affect the accessibility and reliability of water points.
Besides climate change, hikers, climbers, and potters contribute immensely to the health of Mt. Kenya. This lot of individuals are to blame should the mountain lose its natural aesthetics.
Evidence of human presence is conspicuous a few kilometers away from the start of the trail. In this case, I am referring to the Sirimon route, which we used and is popular among many because it is considered shorter and friendlier compared to the other two routes.
Plastic bottles, plastic bags, papers, and cans are in plenty. One can easily notice that the inorganic wastes were left there as opposed to being brought by the wind.
The question is, what happened to the number one rule of hiking or climbing, ‘keeping the trails, forests and parks as clean as one found, in fact, cleaner than before’!
It is the responsibility of every hiker to carry with them a container or material to keep their wastes until they get to a designated dumping point. That seems not to be the case in Mount Kenya.
You and I should be worried if the attitudes and behaviours of the mountain users don’t change for the better and that no action is taken to mitigate the effects of climate change is taken. The snow is at risk of vanishing completely, and the pleasant sight of flora and fauna will be long gone.
My call is to potters, hikers and climbers, watch out for what you leave after using the mountain; and to all of us, let’s act on climate change to reduce the exacerbating effects on us and the environment.