IT’S A CIRCLE RAINBOW!
We awoke on Christmas morning in the Howell Hut on the summit of the Nelion summit of Mount Kenya. Our primary objective had been met. But there was still the traverse to the Batian across the gates of the mist. We crawled out of the hut and were met with gale force winds and a dramatic shift in what had been a consistent weather pattern of the past week. The clouds had already moved in and nearly enveloped the summit. We stepped toward the crest to investigate the possibility of the traverse. Any communication with Josh required yelling. As we stood there one of the most magical experiences I have ever had in the mountains occurred.
The sun shown brightly behind us and as we looked at the sister summit of Mount Kenya a circular rainbow formed across the mountains. The brightest circular rainbow I have ever seen. I raised my hands and shadow of my arms formed a perfect V in the middle of the rainbow. Josh and I stood in awe. “That’s God saying hello Josh. It’s Christmas morning!” We soaked in the mystical nod from above and I felt at one with the universe.
WHEN IS ENOUGH, ENOUGH?
After much debate we decided to traverse down toward the precipice between the mountains. Steep snow, ice and rock along the tricky traverse got the blood pumping again all the way to the rappel site leading to the gates of the mist. At this point we had no idea which way to go. I could not remember the traverse beta and of course we had lost the route description. We stood there contemplating our options. We talked about our accomplishments and our options. I thought I saw an option but it just didn’t make sense with what I remembered. I felt a sincere responsibility to lead the climb and keep both myself and Josh safe to live and climb another day. I was torn with my desire to finish what I had initially intended to do – cross the gate of the mist to summit both mountains on Mount Kenya. We waited, evaluated the route possibilities, talked some more and used our team building tools to make a decision.
We considered a multitude of variables: timing, energy, the new weather pattern, and our desire to make it off the mountain alive. It was still a very long way back down the mountain amidst unknown weather. What was the right decision to be made in the moment? We turned and led back up the steep exposed traverse back to the summit of Nelion. Sometimes the most difficult decision is the one to turn around. As we did, I navigated my internal compass with a mixture of regret and comfort in a decision not just about own needs.
And thus began the journey back down the mountain some two thousand feet of rappelling and down climbing. The clouds surrounded us and the wind continued to howl as our decision to descend was affirmed as the correct decision.
The journey unfolded as we found our way down the mountain as we meticulously evaluated the rappel route and reviewed much of what we had climbed on the way up.
Several hours later we hit the ground passing only one other party on the mountain. They had retreated from their attempt, deeming the climb too difficult for their ability. They had made the mistake of attempting to carry too much gear.
We made our way across the Lewis Glacier once again and were greeted by cheers and celebration of success by our porters.
OUR CHOICES AFFIRMED
At the Austrian hut we met another local climbing guide preparing for an ascent the following day. We talked about our route and he affirmed that the way we went was “never climbed.” Sweet. And moreover, the beta we had been given about the crossing of the Gates of the Mist had been wrong. It turns out that our decision on the summit with the information we had at the time was indeed the right one. Even amidst regret in the moment, it felt good knowing we had made a difficult, yet wise choice.
After a quick hearty lunch and repack of our bags, we began the 14 K descent out of the mountains and through the Africa landscape as the sun set behind us. The hike out was long that day, but the sense of accomplishment and success fueled every step of the way.
What an adventure it was!
The days in Mount Kenya with Josh Morris will not soon be forgotten. The people, the landscape and the challenge of the adventure was simply, magic. The overall experience is one that I can highly recommend as an amazing alpine objective in wild beautiful country. I am alive and stronger for the experience. The feeling of adventure lives in me. That to me IS living the adventure. I feel fulfilled knowing that sharing this type of journey with others, and even perhaps YOU, is a certain part of my future. I look forward to the endless journey that only climbing mountains can offer.
Until then and as always,
LIVE YOUR ADVENTURE!