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Written by: Simon O’Chen

It was early and freezing in the Aberdare Mountains in the moorland covered national park about three hours north-east of Nairobi, bordering the Great Rift Valley.

© Jeremy Wyatt
©Jeremy Wyatt

We were in the Dragon’s Teeth, a sporadic spread of jagged rocks that rise above the consistently wet moorlands. I had travelled to this remote, middle-of-nowhere location to train for an ascent of Mt Kenya’s highest peak – a technical climb that involves harnesses, helmets, chalk bags, ropes, nuts, camelots, slings, rock-climbing shoes, a lapse of sanity and, of course, physical and mental strength to endure not only the freezing weather on the equator but also the climb itself.

© Jeremy Wyatt
©Jeremy Wyatt

We arrived around lunchtime on a grey-covered day where I had hitch-hiked to the Aberdare from the coast. We then hiked through the moorlands, which saw me covering the distance from sea level to 3,500 feet in the space of 24 hours. Climbing craggy rock faces with numb toes and finger tips made me realise that I hate the cold. I also have an inverted fear of heights which means I can’t look up at anything over 9 feet – it terrifies me.

© Jeremy Wyatt
©Jeremy Wyatt

climb-aberdare-kenya

The day’s climbs saw me tackling this fear head-on, but the third climb was the toughest due to the extreme challenge of not having many holds. I blindly searched with my numb fingers for grips as my legs reached yoga-like stretches to hold onto anything remotely sticking out, relying heavily on the grip of my rock-climbing shoes.

climbing-aberdare

At the end of the day we made camp where I covered up with nine layers, and put my boots and only pair of thin socks by the fire to dry. During the night I was stirred awake by the sound of scratching around our tent and in the morning my friend announced that he had found fresh leopard poo. I jolted – I thought I had heard something stalking around our camp.

aberdare-camping

After breakfast we tackled a 65-metre rock that was a very enjoyable route named Alex’s Incisor. The view from the top had us spot a dik-dik (the smallest species of antelope) galloping across the moorland. I watched behind it to see if perhaps a leopard was on its tail, but it just seemed to be out for its morning jog.

climbing-aberdare-mountains-kenya

climbing-aberdare-mountains

aberdare-flora

At the peak we could see the Rift Valley before we abseiled back down for lunch, a 7km hike back to the car and warmer weather.

In 30 days I’m to ascend Africa’s second highest peak and perhaps its most challenging – Mt Kenya, and I’m terrified…

climbing-aberdare-kenya

Shenton Safaris
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The whole 'life is too short' cliche is real and I'm out to take advantage of it. I don't like money and I have no aspiration to be financially wealthy so I'm bartering and hitch-hiking my way around the world, offering any help needed, writing articles and guitar-gigging for food and lodgings as well as volunteering with wildlife\marine conservation organisations where I can to raise vital awareness. Life is one shot. No more. No less. Go live it. Follow my journey on Facebook or on my website.