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I go up the mountains to conquer life

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Rosemary Kamweti was going through a rough patch in life when she decided to climb the Ngong Hills —suprisingly the stress she bore vanished. The climb turned out to be therapeutic and this set her on a path to summiting higher peaks. The IT expert has gone up Mt Kenya six times and Mt Kilimanjaro eight times. Early this year, she conquered Batian, the highest peak on Mt Kenya

On December 12, 2018, Rosemary Kamweti summited point Lenana, the third highest peak of Mount Kenya that stands at 4,985 metres above sea level. The first thing she would ask Munyaka Njiru, the Bucketlist Adventures founder and guide, was why they had gone to the third highest peak and not the highest one.

The answer would be that this was the most accessible peak as one requires rock climbing skills to summit the other two peaks. Rosemary would take this as a challenge and would summit Batian, the highest peak on Mt Kenya that stands at 5,199 metres on January 20 this year, thereby becoming the second black woman to ever successfully complete such a fete. The first woman was Lydia Muthoni in 1998. But a journey of a thousand miles starts with one step, so when did Rosemary take her first step into hiking.

Mountain therapy

“You go up mountains to either chase angels or demons,” Rosemary starts. “In 2018 September, I was going through a stressful time and was looking for an outlet. I had gone to talk out my issues in therapy twice before I decided to go up Ngong Hills on a whim. The quiet time up, coupled with the serenity and the arduous climb must have catalysed the solution seeking-process because I came down with answers. Suffice it to say, I have never gone back to therapy and always go up mountains to find myself. Mountain climbing is therapeutic for me,” she explains.

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Three weeks after the Ngong summit, Rosemary would travel to Mt Kilimanjaro and summit the mountain using Machame route. She talks of how she prepared for this by going for several prehikes in Kenya. She explains that Kilimanjaro is a gentler ascent compared to Mt Kenya hence why she picked to do it first. She would then enlist the help of Bucketlist Adventures and summit Mt Kenya in December the same year using the Chogoria route.

She talks of how fortune favours the brave and how serendipity would put her and James Muhia, another mountaineer on the same hike. They would talk, bond and decide to do future climbs together in order to encourage each other as well as to

bring down mountaineering costs. They would enroll at Blue Sky for rock climbing classes, as one has to have a certain level of rock-climbing skills to be able to even attempt climbing Nelion and Batian.

In August 2020, Rosemary decided to try her first Batian ascent. She was forced to turn around as it started snowing halfway. Snow tends to be slippery, hence why hikers are told to attempt summiting Batian and Nelion during the drier months. She would climb down disappointed, but determined to try it another time. She talks of how the successful Batian summit this January was both exhausting and exhilarating.

“It took a total of four days. The toughest part of the climb has to be the traverse between Nelion and Batian. There is a place called the Gate of Mist, the gap between these two peaks where we had to use ice axes to get across a section, which was just snow. I remember doubting myself and the guides telling me that it was possible. Later on, I would climb up with just my bare hands and summit, of course while harnessed to a guide. The whole experience humbled me. It taught me to be calm and to believe in myself and shut off any thoughts that doubt my ability or that amplify just how steep and scary a challenge is. Even after descending, it took me a week to be able to articulate my experience up there. But would I do it again? Definitely,” Rosemary enthusiastically explains.

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Speed hiking Rosemary has grown from strength to strength in the three years since she started hiking. She has summited Kilimanjaro eight times, with the last attempt being a sub 24-hour challenge at the end of February. She has done a 10-day hike in the Ruwenzori ranges in Congo. The ranges stand at 5,109 metres above sea level. She has summited Mt Kenya six times and has tried all the three routes up though on different climbs.

Mt Kenya has three possible routes up; the Naromoru route, which is the shortest and hardest, the Chogoria route ,which is the most scenic and the Sirimon route which is the least used. She has summited and descended down Mt Kenya in 10 hours. She also plans to do a Mt Kenya Traverse, where you go up one route and come down another. She hopes to keep speed climbing and bettering her total ascent and descent times on the hikes she goes for with Lennin Peak, which stands at 7,134 metres being one of the challenges she is eagerly looking forward to. Lennin Peak is situated in the Pamir’s range of Kyrgyzstan that borders with China and Tajikistan.

But where does she get the time? Rosemary works in database administration. Being an information technology expert means that one can be called in to work at any time, which means that there are times when she can plan for a hike then have to miss it when work comes calling.

She talks of the importance of planning her time and ensuring her hikes coincide with longer public holidays with any additional days needed for the hike being supplemented by her leave days. She talks of the importance of balancing both work and hiking as they are complimentary and each is fulfilling to her in its own way. Where there is a will, there is a way, she says. If you truly want to do something, you will find a way to create time.

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AT A GLANCE
• In the three years that Rosemary Kamweti started mountaineering, she has conqured both mountain peaks and life’s challenges

• Having been mountaineering since 2018, she had heard that making it to Batian’s peak was a reserve for expert climbers, and especially foreigners. The summit climb, whose base is at 4,600 metres and peak at 5,199 metres was said to be long and “technical” thus difficult. However, she conquered Batian in January this year.

• Rosemary who holds Bachelor. of Business Information Technology from Jomo Kenyatta University of Science and Technology is an IT expert who balances work and hiking.

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