It was my first time climbing a mountain. “Shouldn’t be too bad,” I thought as the bus my study abroad group and I rode in pulled up to Mount Longonot National Park. I came with a lot of water and some fruit wearing basketball shorts and tennis shoes thinking I was prepared to make the journey. I would later learn that I should have prepared a bit more.
I trailed the initial few hundred meters in good time, every now and then, I would drink some water just to cool down.
I found that one of my favourite aspects of hiking on Longonot was when I wasn’t climbing at all but sitting high above the ground. Tasting the crisp air and absorbing the majesty of the Great Rift Valley was a nice break from the bustle of Nairobi.
Longonot is a small mountain in the Great Rift Valley whose summit lies at about 2780 metres. It was a great climb for me as a beginner who was not experienced in hiking and wanted a good exercise while enjoying the outdoors.
There were other sides to the hike however, that were much more challenging. Several points along the rim of the mountain were formed by steep channels filled with gravel. My group and I would attempt to creep along the edges, but often decided it was easier to slide along the rocks, slowing the trip by grabbing a branch or stone. It was the dustier option.
Here were some things I learned while meeting other climbers and going through the experience myself that I would definitely want to impart to other beginning climbers:
Bring plenty of water: If you initially think you have enough for yourself, remember to bring some for the chance that you may share with a group member. When you are hiking, especially when you make it to the summit, you could be very far from medical services so keeping your fluid intake high is essential.
Travel with a group: One of the best ways to be safe is to travel with a group. I was hiking with friends from my study abroad program, which helped in several ways. For one, it provides healthy competition. I pushed myself harder when I got tired because I was wanted to keep up with others. Secondly, it is safer, because if someone feels faint or needs assistance it is better circumstance to be surrounded by others than to be alone.
Bring an extra set of clothes: I realised that hikers who often visit Longonot would have an extra pair of clothing to change into when they returned from the trip. At Longonot, for a fee, you can take a shower after you are done hiking.
Consider cleats: Giving your feet as much comfort as possible should be a no-brainer when it comes to hiking, but as an inexperienced hiker I did not consider some of the advantages of cleats. I wore running shoes that were very well insulated, while this kept my feet from being over-heated, it also let a large amount of sand through the shoe and did not help keep enough traction on steeper, dustier parts of the journey. Cleats are helpful with keeping you balanced and creating a firm grip for the hike.
Know your limits, and be fine with it: Some people in the group lagged behind and were much slower than other people in my group. Some moved very fast and reached the summit of the mountain before the majority of us. One girl had asthma, and determined it was better for her to not go to the summit. It’s best to listen to your body when it comes to intense physical effort.
There is no need in rushing your way through nature and hurting yourself in the process. Everyone, no matter how fast or slow is probably going to see the same sights as everyone else. Enjoy your hike, and stay safe!