Table for two on Neilion Mt Kenya
On the 3rd January 2013 Noelle and Michael dined on Mountain House dehydrated Macaroni Cheese and Chicken Curry whilst sat on the summit of Neilion as the sun set. This was a very special 50th Birthday for Noelle who had decided that a family trip to Mount Kenya was the way she would like to celebrate her half Century. On the 4th January Noelle, Michael and Adele descended into the gates of Mist and topped out on Batian (5199m) before returning to the Austrian Hut.
Noelle and Michael on the Summit of Neilion 5188m
Early on in 2012 Noelle hatched the plan of a family excursion to Mount Kenya with her ultimate goal of an ascent of the Normal Shipton Route (IV) onto Neilion and then Batian . This route first climbed in 1929 by Eric Shipton and Percy Wyn Harris is a 20 pitch rock climb gaining 400m in elevation. Following an ascent of Neilion and a night in the Howell Bivi Hut the route climaxes with a descent into the gates of Mist, followed by two splendid pitches of perfect granite rock to the summit of Batian.
In May whilst Adele was fighting on Lhotse Noelle and Michael booked their flights and confirmed the trip. Their two sons Tom and Joey had agreed to join the celebrations with and ascent of Point Lenana but sensibly declined the rock climb and chose to have a few days rafting, kayaking and mountain biking. With the help of Savage Wilderness Tours an itinerary was formulated and Michael and Noelle set about their training plan.
As time passed December the 27th soon came round and the team gathered in the arrivals at Nairobi Airport. After a very short stay at the Crown Plaza and a visit to a shopping mall we were soon heading towards the Sirimon Gate with Julius our trekking guide. Unfortunately the weather forecast was not promising for our trek and together with our 18 porters we hid from the rain and wind under canvas at our first camp. Arriving later than expected dinner was served in the dark as we hung onto the mess tent as a storm passed through. Not deterred, the following morning we left for the trek to Leki North Camp. Temporarily the weather held dry but it was not long until we were in full waterproofs, heads down traipsing through boggy moorland desperately trying to remain positive. A comical lunch stop of a buffet served under Noelle’s tarp did cause some smiles but the rain and wind continued not really giving us a chance to enjoy our surroundings.
Lunch under the Tarp
Following a damp night at Leki North camp we headed towards Shipton’s camp only briefly getting glimpses of the scenery surrounding us. On arrival the skies did clear giving us a glimpse of the mountain we had come to climb. Entertained by other trekkers and their tales of attempts to climb in the bad weather we just lived in hope that things would change.
The trek from Shipton’s to the Austrian Hut was much more rewarding as the clouds swirled around giving us views of the amazing landscape and scenery. Unfortunately, our arrival at the hut coincided with the afternoon rains which had now turned to snow. Tom and Joey took refuge with their kindles as Michael Noelle and Adele tried to negotiate space in the hut to dine and for the boys to sleep. An afternoon ascent of Point Lenana was aborted as we huddled in the refuge discussing plans of an early start on point Lenana in the morning.
Scrambling on Point Lenana
Family Summit Success
At 6am on 1st January 2013 there was a break in the weather and the team ascended Point Lenana through the snow in just an hour. As the sun rose over Neilion, Noelle and Michael gazed at their next challenge for the first time. Tom and Joey were certainly pleased to be on their way down to some civilisation. After a second breakfast the boys departed into the mist, sad to see them go Mum, Noelle turned her attention to her 50th Birthday challenge as we took a walk over the Lewis Glacier to the bottom of the route. For a group of French, their climb had been aborted due to unfavourable weather conditions and we remained positive that the weather would improve.
Sunrise on Neilion " The next Challenge"
Adele focussed her attention on obtaining weather forecasts and making the best plan for their ascent. Forecasts from Julius and from Roger in the UK were predicting the same pattern.
Sun and Cloud for the 1st, 3rd and 4th with rain on the 2nd Wind 15/25km except Wednesday
Should have clear weather from the 2nd to the 6th
Finally a plan was made and following a gear dump and practice climb on the 2nd we were to make our attempt on the 3rd. All was good except for the realisation that five Finns were planning their climb on the same day. Eight in the Howell bivi hut would be a squeeze. After some negotiations we assured a place in the hut and had a definite plan to carry the weight of bivi kit, ice axe and crampons so we attempt Batian.
The 3rd of January dawned clear with very little wind; now very familiar with the ascent to the bottom of the route and also the first four pitches we made good time. We had given the Finns an hour and a half head start so that we were not held up. Puffing and panting to start with we made our way up and over the rabbit hole and then up 1 O’clock gully. As the rock warmed up we enjoyed each pitch of the climb with no real pressure of time. Past half way Van de Graaf’s variation went smoothly and soon we were within sight of the summit. At 3pm we topped out to join two Finns who were also planning to stay. A gas cylinder purchased from some trekkers made cooking so much easier. Noelle took control of the stove and soon we were enjoying what felt like the best cup of coffee ever. Water was boiled and dinner cooked as the sun set and provided us with a perfect evening on Kenya’s second highest peak.
Michael Climbing on Neilion
With one of the Finns making a very quick exit from the hut to be ill, the rest of us spread out to enjoy! Or perhaps tolerate the night.
Michael was first out of the tin box as the sun rose and prepared breakfast as we slowly got ourselves ready for the final part of the route. Delightful Alpine climbing and perfect granite rock made for a very special 50th Birthday as Noelle and Michael spent a very special few minutes on the summit of Bataian.
Returning to the Gates of Mist
Wasting no time we returned to Neilion and abseiled without event to 3m above the bottom of the route. A little scramble saw us safe and sound but unfortunately the ropes were to be left!!
Now relaxing at the Noro Moro River Lodge Noelle can truly relish in her 50th Birthday treat as the boys tell tales of their rafting and kayaking adventures.
Thanks to Savage Wilderness, Noelle , Michael, Tom and Joey for making my third visit to Kenya so special.
Family reunite at the Noro Moro River Lodge
Posted on 07 Jan 2013 by adele