Our love for scaling Mt Kenya has drawn us closer
Andrey Josephs, often referred to by friends as Joe is a software engineer by profession. It was while he was pursuing his degree in Information and Communications Technology that he took an interest in hiking and mountaineering. \
He asked his dad, Paul Muriithi, to take him on a hike up Mount Kenya one day in 2015. His father agreed, and was elated that he would get to share his more than three decades of mountaineering experience with his son.
Paul shares how he started off scaling mountains first as a porter, worked his way up to chef, graduating to guide and eventually setting up his own mountain guiding and equipment services provision company, Polemark Tours.
He always hoped his son would take up his love for the mountains, but untill that fateful day in 2015, there was no sign that Joe was inclined to do so. Joe describes his first hike and summit to Point Lenana on Mt Kenya as arduous, but worth it.
“As I watched the sun rise above the kenyte rock atop Point Lenana, the third highest peak in Kenya, with tears of awe glistening in my eyes, my love for the mountains was ignited,” Joe recounts.
Passionate about hiking
Joe juggled his studies with frequent hiking trips on various mountains with his dad. Unbeknownst to him, his dad was slowly grooming him to be a fully-fledged guide who would be able to do full hikes on his own.
With time, his passion for the mountains and the mountain environment grew in tandem with his love for mountaineering. Two years into working as a porter and as his dad’s apprentice, he finally applied and got certification in guiding and outdoor medicine certification in 2017.
“I have gone on to guide numerous trips up Mt Kenya, Elephant Hills, and Rurimeria. I am as wowed by the peaks and the summits every single time as I was on my maiden trip. I also hike on my own as it is something I genuinely enjoy doing,” he says.
Climate change advocate
He is a vocal climate change advocate having seen firsthand how the snow and glaciers atop Mt Kenya are slowly disappearing. Andrey is currently working towards creating an educative presentation to teach high schools and universities in Kenya about the ecosystem that is Mt Kenya, its direct effect on climate change and the important role communities can play in ensuring that our water towers are protected and respected.
He shares stunning images of every summit he guides and his thoughts on climate change on his Instagram page @andreyjosephs. “I have met hikers from Colorado, Iceland, Norway, Argentina, Australia and many more countries, who as a result of bumping into my images online were so intrigued that they booked plane tickets to fly in and hike the mountain,” he says.
He is happy that the images and stories about the mountain have impacted other Kenyans. “It brings me great joy when I see Kenyans hiking their mountain and being stunned by the beauty they did not know existed right in their backyard,” he adds.
He shares how the number of Kenyans summiting the mountain has increased in the past few months despite the prevailing Covid-19 restrictions, something he attributes to locals reconnecting with nature and increasing awareness around hiking and mountaineering both for adventure and fitness.
But is it easy to climb Mt Kenya and can anyone do it? Joe explains that scaling Mt Kenya may be difficult, but it is doable. All one has to be aware of is their fitness levels and ensure that they listen to their bodies. He insists on the importance of prehikes as preparation as well as good hiking gear. Besides being fit, mountaineers and hikers need to have proper gear.
“Good and comfortable boots, rain gear, gaiters, warm gear, sunscreen, water bladders, sunscreen, tents, head lamps and many more items may be needed depending on which mountain you are hiking up,” Joe says.
Bonding on the mountains
Hiking Mt Kenya might seem arduous for first timers, but it is the one thing that has inexorably drawn Joe and his dad Paul together. Joe shares how their relationship has grown exponentially while he has picked up both soft and hard skills during the innumerous climbs they have done together.
“On each trip we’ve hiked together, my father acts as my guardian and coach. Over time, I have realised that I tend to solve problems as he would, stand tall like him and face all challenges with grace. We have gotten closer as a result of facing challenges and solving problems together,” he says.
He talks of how his father shares many nuggets of wisdom during their hikes and how most of it applies not only on hikes, but in real life too. His favourite is ‘Kíríma gítire njamba’ (the mountain has no champion), something his father kept telling him when he was a novice mountaineer.
“Being young and naive, one tends to charge head first to a mountain without realising that you cannot win against a mountain. It requires humility and respect towards people you meet along the trails, the wild animals that own the slopes and understanding the raw power and grandeur a mountain holds,” Joe says in conclusion.