Mount Kenya

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Only an easy scramble remained and we were there, on the hitherto untrodden summit of Nelion.
~ Eric Shipton

Mount Kenya (5,199 m - 17,058 ft) is the second highest mountain in Africa and the highest mountain in Kenya,[1] after which the country is named.[2] It lies just south of the equator and currently has eleven small glaciers.[1][3] In 1849 Johann Krapf was the first European to discover Mount Kenya.[4] Various expeditions reached it in the following years.[5][6] It was first climbed in 1899 by Halford Mackinder.[7] The mountain became a national park in 1949,[8] played a key role in the Mau Mau events in the 1950s,[9] and became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997.[10] It is climbed and walked up by up to 15,000 tourists every year.[11]

Sourced[edit]

1849–1900[edit]

It appeared to be a gigantic wall, on whose summit I observed two immense towers [Batian and Nelion]...
~ Johann Krapf
...he had often been at the foot of it [Mount Kenya], but had not ascended it to any great altitude on account of the intense cold and the white matter which rolled down the mountain with a great noise,...
~ Johann Krapf
  • This being great news to me, I pressed Kivoi for further information. He said, 'You will see both mountains at some distance from my hamlet, when there shall be a clear sky. It is ten days' journey from here to the white mountain in Jagga [Kilimanjaro], but only six to that of Kikuyu [Mount Kenya].' ~ Johann Ludwig Krapf [12]
    • Written by Krapf in his diary on 1949-11-26, the day he found out of the existence of a second, and still larger, Kiima ja Jeu [mountain of whiteness] [than Kilimanjaro].


  • The sky being clear, I got a full sight of this snow-mountain... It appeared to be a gigantic wall, on whose summit I observed two immense towers [Batian and Nelion], or horns as you many call them. These horns, or towers, which are at a short distance from each other, give the mountain a grand and majestic appearance which raised in my mind overwhelming feelings. ~ Johann Ludwig Krapf [13]
    • Written by Krapf in his diary on 1849-12-03 when the weather finally allowed him to see Mount Kenya for the first time.


  • ...he had often been at the foot of it [Mount Kenya], but had not ascended it to any great altitude on account of the intense cold and the white matter which rolled down the mountain with a great noise,... ~ Johann Ludwig Krapf [14]
    • Krapf interviewed a man from Embu about the mountain in 1851; this description suggested that the mountain might have glaciers and permanent snow.


As I stood entranced at this fulfillment of my dearest hopes … I am not very sure but there was something like a tear in my eye.
~ Joseph Thomson
  • As I stood entranced at this fulfillment of my dearest hopes [of seeing Mount Kenya], I drew a great sigh of satisfaction; and as I said to Brahmi, 'Look!' and pointed to the glittering crystal, I am not very sure but there was something like a tear in my eye. ~ Joseph Thomson [15]
    • Thomson was the second European to see Mount Kenya. By the time he did some people were beginning to doubt Krapf's reports.[4]


  • As pious Moslems [sic] watch with strained eyes the appearance of the new moon or the setting of the sun, to begin their orisons, so we now waited for the uplifting of the fleecy veil, to render due homage to the heaven-piercing Kenia. ~ Joseph Thomson [15]


This peak … without a doubt represents the column of lava which closed the volcanic life of the mountain, plugging or sealing up the troubled spirits of the earth...
~ Joseph Thomson
  • This peak [Batian and Nelion], as in the case of Kimawenzi, without a doubt represents the column of lava which closed the volcanic life of the mountain, plugging or sealing up the troubled spirits of the earth... and now the plug stands forth, a fitting pinnacle to the majestic mass below. ~ Joseph Thomson [15]
    • Thomson accurately inferred the geological history of Mount Kenya from a distance.


  • The gradient of the western slopes of Mount Kenya is very slight, whilst on the east it is so gentle as to be almost imperceptible, so that there the masses of snow extend far southwards, and give the impression of a grand and lofty glacier-covered plateau. ~ Count Teleki [16]
    • Count Teleki's expedition was the first European one to set foot on the mountain. The quote describes the view during the approach.


The Kenia crater must be from 10,000 to 12,000 feet in circumference, and the bottom, which is pretty uniformly covered with snow and ice, is some 650 feet lower than the rim.
~ Count Samuel Teleki
  • The Kenia crater must be from 10,000 to 12,000 feet in circumference, and the bottom, which is pretty uniformly covered with snow and ice, is some 650 feet lower than the rim. ~ Count Teleki [16]
    • Count Teleki misinterpreted the volcanic plugs of Batian and Nelion to be the highest point on the volcanic crater rim. Because this expedition had been on the mountain this interpretation of the landscape was believed over Thomson's correct one as he had only gazed upon the mountain from afar.[17]


It was eighty miles away from us, but it stood out sharp and clear on the eastern skyline.
~ John Walter Gregory
  • It was eighty miles away from us, but it stood out sharp and clear on the eastern skyline. ~ John Walter Gregory [6]


... my interest was roused; for its grooved and rounded surface suggested that it had been carried to its present position by ice.
~ John Walter Gregory
  • While cutting a way through the bamboos we suddenly stumbled upon a block of lava... As I examined it, my interest was roused; for its grooved and rounded surface suggested that it had been carried to its present position by ice. ~ John Walter Gregory [6]
    • It was hard to believe at the time that ice could have come as low as 3,000 m (10,000 ft) on the equator.[3]


  • Another trait of the Zanzibari character was shown at the same camp. In the morning the men came to tell me that the water they had left in the cooking-pots was all bewitched. They said it was white, and would not shake; the adventurous Fundi had even hit it with a stick, which would not go in. They begged me to look at it, and I told them to bring it to me. They declined, however, to touch it, and implored me to go to it. The water of course had frozen solid. I put one of the pots on the fire, and predicted that it would soon turn again into water. The men sat round and anxiously watched it; when it had melted they joyfully told me that the demon was expelled, and I told them they could now use this water; but as soon as my back was turned they poured it away, and refilled their pots from an adjoining brook. ~ John Walter Gregory [6]


  • 'That is all very well for wajuzi (lizards) and Wazungu (white men), but Zanzibari can't do that.' was his verdict. 'You'd better come back, master,' he cried; 'I promised to follow you anywhere, but how can I, when the path stands up on end?' ~ John Walter Gregory [6]
    • Gregory's porter Fundi refused to go scrambling; Gregory had to do the first ascent of Mount Höhnel alone.


Then, with his hands together before him, he [Fundi] began to pray...
~ John Walter Gregory
  • Then, with his hands together before him, he [Fundi] began to pray... he thanked Allah for having enabled him to come where neither native nor white man had every been before, and to stand on the edge of the great white fields he had seen with Dachi-tumbo [Count Teleki] from afar. He assured Allah that he was now more anxious to return in safety to the coast than he had ever been before, so that he might tell his friends of the wonders he had seen. ~ John Walter Gregory [6]
    • Fundi was Gregory's favourite porter and the first African to reach the glaciers on Mount Kenya.


  • After the prayer was over, I told Fundi to go onto the glacier. He went a few steps farther, and then, with a pleading look, said, 'No farther, master; it is too white.' ~ John Walter Gregory [6]


  • He [Fundi] put on the boots—under protest, but absolutely refused to keep them on. As he also declined to allow me to put nails into the soles of his feet (his hide would probably have held them),... whatever snow-work was necessary would have to be done alone. ~ John Walter Gregory [6]


  • The mountain-top is like a stunted tower rising from among ruins and crowned by three or four low turrets, upon which we sat, feet inward... We dared, however, stay only forty minutes—time enough to make observations and to photograph—and then had to descend, not from any physical inconvenience due to the elevation, but for fear of the afternoon storm. ~ Halford Mackinder [7]
    • Mackinder's description of reaching the summit on the first ascent of Mount Kenya in 1899.

1901–1930[edit]

It is an eyrie. It is pitched on the brink of the precipice.
~ E.A.T. Dutton
  • And, at the end of the day, when the sun drops behind the peaks, the sky becomes a miracle of colour. ~ E.A.T. Dutton [4]


  • The camp at Hall Tarn is a delight. On all the mountain there can scarcely be anything more wonderful. It is an eyrie. It is pitched on the brink of the precipice. ~ E.A.T. Dutton [4]


  • We must have been care-free this morning,..., for the next thing we set out to do was nothing more serious than to teach the porters how to snowball. At first they thought it the poorest of pastimes, but that was because they believed that the rules did not provide for retaliation; once they had grasped that essential principle they entered into the game with great gusto. And in the afternoon, while we were sleeping, they laid up a stock of ammunition and waited for the fuel porters to top the lip of the valley, and then pelted them mercilessly. ~ E.A.T. Dutton [4]


  • Only an easy scramble remained and we were there, on the hitherto untrodden summit of Nelion. ~ Eric Shipton [18]
    • Eric Shipton made the first ascent of Nelion and the second ascent of Batian in 1929.


  • ...and I longed to return to the peak to explore some of the many ridges and faces which as yet had never been attempted. I now realise how lucky I was to have had this extraordinary peak virtually to myself;... ~ Eric Shipton [18]


Few mountains have such a superb array of ridges and faces.
~ Eric Shipton
  • Few mountains have such a superb array of ridges and faces. ~ Eric Shipton [18]


  • After that I was infused with a pleasant sense of abandon. Our rope was not long enough for us to abseil down the red step, and the idea of climbing down it without support from above was not to be contemplated; therefore we just had to reach the summit. ~ Eric Shipton [18]
    • Shipton was climbing with the novice Bill Tillman on the first ascent of the difficult West Ridge Route up Batian.


  • There may be a way up, but there is no way down. ~ E.A.T. Dutton [4]


  • More than that, it was sheer joy to watch Melhuish. He show gracefully away from the edge of the ice; he turned and curvetted; he swayed and swerved,; he sank down on one foot with unslackened speed; he stopped; he gyrated delicately; he turned; and away he went again to the other end of the pond. It was a breathless enjoyment. I could have cheered him. The natives crowded to the edge and shouted with amazement and delight. The snow and the glaciers were all very well, but here was something: a white man dancing with knives on his feet. ~ E.A.T. Dutton [4]
    • Dutton is describing Melhuish skating on the Curling Pond below the summit of Lenana.


1931–present[edit]

  • An ethereal mountain emerging from a tossing sea of clouds framed between two dark barracks—a massive blue-black tooth of shear rock inlaid with azure glaciers, austere yet floating fairly-like on the near horizon... For hours afterwards I remained spell-bound. ~ Felice Benuzzi [19]
    • Felice Benuzzi was an Italian mountaineer held in a British prisoner of war camp at the base of Mount Kenya. This was his first view of the mountain which had remained hidden in cloud during the wet season.


'Now wait and you will see,' said Giuán... 'See what?' 'Batian. It is so marvelous that you will just sit down and stare.' He was right and we did.
~ Felice Benuzzi
  • 'Now wait and you will see,' said Giuán... 'See what?' 'Batian. It is so marvelous that you will just sit down and stare.' He was right and we did. ~ Felice Benuzzi [19]


It needed but little imagination to visualise the storm-crushed forecastle and poop, the remnants of protruding ribs, the stumps of masts and bowsprit. Even a porthole was open...
~ Felice Benuzzi
  • We were immediately struck by the likeness of this peak to the wreck of an ancient vessel. It needed but little imagination to visualise the storm-crushed forecastle and poop, the remnants of protruding ribs, the stumps of masts and bowsprit. Even a porthole was open, in the form of a natural window in the rock wall. ~ Felice Benuzzi [19]
    • Felice Benuzzi, Giovanni Balletto and Enzo Barsotti escaped to climb Mount Kenya in 1942. They did not know the names of many of the peaks. Above Benuzzi describes their first view of Sendeyo and Terere.


  • A mountaineer when writing his memoirs usually refers to the rope, to which he often owes his life, as 'trusty.' I fear that I must deny our rope the customary adjective... I cannot blame our poor sisal ropes for being unreliable, because it was our fault for bringing them. They had been manufactured for the purpose of fastening bedding-nets to bunks and were satisfactory when used thus. ~ Felice Benuzzi [19]
    • Before their escape, Felice Benuzzi, Giovanni Balletto and Enzo Barsotti had to construct or find all the equipment they needed for a serious mountaineering attempt. They got well established onto the west ridge of Batian with this equipment.


  • ...summer every day and winter every night... ~ O. Hedberg [20]
    • Above approximately 4,000 m (13,000 ft) the temperatures drop below freezing every night, but duing the day the equatorial sun is strong.


References[edit]

  1. a b Rough Guide. Rough Guide Map Kenya [map], 9 edition, 1:900,000, Rough Guide Map. Cartography by World Mapping Project. (2006) ISBN 1-84353-359-6.
  2. The spelling of Kenya, J.H. Reynolds, Secretary Permanent Committee on Geographical Names, RGS (Letters to the editor) The Times, Mon, Feb 08 1932; pg. 8; Issue 46051; col B
  3. a b Hastenrath, Stefan (1984) (in English). The Glaciers of Equatorial East Africa. Dordrecht, Holland: D. Reidel Publishing Company. ISBN 90-277-1572-6. 
  4. a b c d e f g Dutton, E.A.T. (1929). Kenya Mountain. London: Charles Whittingham and Griggs. 
  5. Lieutenant Ludwig von Höhnel; Count Samuel Teleki (1894). Discovery of Lakes Rudolf and Stefanie. London: Longmans. 
  6. a b c d e f g h John Walter Gregory (1968). The Great Rift Valley. London: Frank Cass & Co. Ltd. 
  7. a b Mackinder, Halford John (May 1900). "A Journey to the Summit of Mount Kenya, British East Africa". The Geographical Journal 15 (5): 453-476. DOI:10.2307/1774261. Retrieved on 2007-05-28.
  8. Gideon N. Gathaara, Aerial survey of the destruction of Mt. Kenya, Imenti and Ngare Ndare forest reserves. February - June 1999, Kenya Wildlife Service, August 1999.
  9. Allan, Iain (1981). The Mountain Club of Kenya Guide to Mount Kenya and Kilimanjaro. Nairobi: Mountain Club of Kenya. ISBN 978-9966985606. 
  10. UNESCO World Heritage Site. Retrieved on 2007-05-26.
  11. Gichuki, Francis Ndegwa (August 1999). "Threats and Opportunities for Mountain Area Development in Kenya". Ambio 28 (5): 430-435.
  12. Johann Ludwig Krapf Church Missionary Intelligencer (vol. i) pg 452, 1849-50
  13. Johann Ludwig Krapf, Church Missionary Intelligencer (vol. i) pg 470, 1849-50
  14. Johann Ludwig Krapf (1860). Travels, Researches, and Missionary Labours in Eastern Africa. London: Frank Cass & Co. Ltd. pp. 545. 
  15. a b c Joseph Thomson (1968). Through Masai Land (3 ed.). London: Frank Cass & Co Ltd. 
  16. a b Lieutenant Ludwig von Höhnel; Count Samuel Teleki (1894). Discovery of Lakes Rudolf and Stefanie. London: Longmans. 
  17. J. W. Gregory (1921). The rift valleys and geology of East Africa. London: Seeley, Service & Co. Ltd. 
  18. a b c d Eric Shipton (1977). That Untravelled World. Illustrations by Biro (2nd edition ed.). London: Hodder and Stoughton. ISBN 0-340-21609-3. 
  19. a b c d Felice Benuzzi (2005). No Picnic on Mount Kenya: A Daring Escape, a Perilous Climb. The Lyons Press. ISBN 978-1592287246. 
  20. O. Hedberg (1969). "Evolution and speciation in a tropical high mountain flora". Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 1: 135-148.


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