So through a few tricky moments and precarious challenges we’d made it the top of Firman’s Tower.
The only problem now was the time – close to 4pm, we were committed to our emergency bivvy as there was no way we were going to make it down. The next few pitches included an abseil down an easy 15 pitch and then lots of scrambling to the highest bivy ledges which we only just managed to reach before sunset. Thinking we could still reach the summit, we left one rope and pushed on along the summit ridge, which included a tricky traverse and a climb up some loose rock.
About 80m from the summit, we realized we couldn’t beat the ever-increasing darkness and decided to head back to the bivvy ledge, reaching it just as visibility got really bad.
Our disappointment at still needing to complete the distance the following day was slightly worsened even more by a tiny supper of one and a half cheese wedges each. Needless to say we had a restless and mostly sleepless night with both of us squeezed into one sleeping bag.
The weather had cleared overnight and so we headed out at sunrise to do the last scramble. …Again. We maneuvered in and out of the summit ridge peaks for an hour to finally attain our prize: Batian in clear skies (and fruit jubes to celebrate)!
During our descent, the clouds rolled in again and we had to complete 16 long abseils on tat (mostly good condition slings left behind). Along the way we also discovered the travel guide’s recommended route down Firman’s Tower (and the horrible looking grovel chimneys we were grateful to have missed) – the route we took seemed like a much cleaner and easier line!).
While descending, we passed two climbers and a local climbing-guide, who seemed in no hurry to reach the top. They later made the decision to turn around and they ended up abseiling above us in the dodgy gulley while sending a few loose rocks our way!
At about 3pm we finally made our way out of the gulley onto the moraine slope. As we headed down we heard a huge rock-fall above us. Thinking it was on the moraine we ran to the side and the noise stopped thankfully. That evening at camp, we found out that it had come from the descent gulley; a rock from the large rockfall had broken one of the descending climber’s legs (who were just behind us). We had just missed the rockfall by about 5minutes!! The injured climber was carried out for 24km by about 15 porters later that night. Snow had prevented any chance of a helicopter rescue – Well Done to the Kenyan Mountain Rescue!
Day six of the hike came and we were back with our relieved porter, James. We’d had enough of paying US$55 per person per day for park permits, so we decided to head out. We left early, covering 22km before hitching a ride with a Land Cruiser to the town of Nanyuki for a fantastic hotel meal and a less fantastic matatu ride back to Nairobi, followed by a great week in Zanzibar.
We made sure to finish our descent from 5199m to ’0′ meters with a refreshing swim in the sea 🙂
(If you’d like your own hiking story published, feel free to send it to me).
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