Mt kenya - sirimon to peak circuit traverse

After climbing mt baldy 20 times in 3 months i felt as ready as I could be for the mt kenya challenge. The idea was to run from a lower camp up to pt lenana on our way to completing a circuit of the peaks and then return to camp in one day. This was in part to avoid hiking with large packs and boots (both of which I loath) and to see if it was possible to accomplish. We bought a sim card, rented a car, bought supplies (including a stove and food) and left town the morning after i arrived in nairobi. We stopped for gas on the way then drove into the national park and set up base camp at Old Moses hut (10,500') just before sunset. The relentless wind sweeping across the open slopes whipped our tents mildly all night. The next day we did a 9 hour recce hike to scout out the trail from Old Moses to Shiptons. We discovered that there are two different routes and the one that passes Liki North hut is a lot wetter and less used even though both travel through marshes and boglike areas. After a day of rest we set our alarm clocks for 430 on friday morning. The wind died down in the night keeping temps more comfortable. We were anxious to get started under the stars at 5am on a clear night with the surreal feeling that the adventure was underway. The lights of Nanyuki could be seen to the north below us. We made quick work traversing across two gullies and up over the corresponding ribs of the mountain to reach Mackinders valley where the sun was just beginning to hit the far rim high above us. The golden rays lifted our spirits even as we endured the blasts of bitter cold air retreating from the night. We dipped in and out of the shadows of giant rock precipices as they scurried off to hide. The always wet ground was frozen allowing us to keep our feet dry and make quick progress. We stopped to refill our packs in a river crossing before passing through Shiptons camp(13500') around 8am. The real climbing begins up a scree slope as we follow the ridge to magnificent views of the chigoria route and simba tarns to the west. Early summiters pass us on their way back down to camp. They eye us curiously as we are the only people without guides or porters on the mountain. The air gets ever colder as we climb but now fully exposed to the sun we are struggling to maintain a constant temperature. It becomes a rock scramble bouldering above the light blue transluscent harris tarn towards point Lenana (16,300') dusted in snow. We summit at 10am, a five hour ascent. Steve spots a red blip on the opposing rocks towering straight up from the glacier between us and the technical summit peaks representing a climber on the south face of batian. The sheer size of this rock tests the imagination, it is dauting. Without wasting too much time we leave point Lenana heading east to try and beat any afternoon weather that might move in. The sun is already inescapably intense. Like ants under a magnifying glass we scurry anxiously darting from rock to rock but finding no relief. After passing top hut and the row of local guides sitting outside watching us we descend scree slopes to mackinder valley on a gravel scree slope. Porters with packs the size of ovens rest next to the trail. As we pass they ask us about our endeavor. 'Oh thats great!' One says when he finds out we are doing the attempt in a single effort. It normally takes 3-7 days. We refill our tanks in the river at the bottom of the valley and cruise down to Mackinders hut where the trail splits and we turn back up a steep climb towards Two Tarn(4490m). Views of the peak now beginning to attract a flurry of clouds would be breath taking were we not expending all energy trying to climb up this sandy vertical boulder field. The clouds continue rolling in as we scramble between Hut Tarn and Nanyuki Tarn in microwave like heat. Not thick enough to block out the sun the clouds magnify it into a radiating convection oven. As we round the bend to traverse back over the north side of the peaks we finally enter the misty shade of those clouds. Clambering across rock ledges built for giants we speed through otherworldly bogs and tarns. The kinds of unnatural places where human beings dont belong. After passing over the steep Western Terminal and sliding down tan gravel scree we begin climbing Hausberg col'(15,062). What i suspected was the start of a headache turns out to be a sledgehammer pounding the top of my forehead making it hard to focus on anything. We come to switchbacks of pebble size gravel which rises up endlessly into the mist. Steep enough that every step you take starts an avalanche of rocks which slides your foot back to where it started. Squinting from the headache, panting miserably because of the lack of oxygen, murmuring to myself to try and ignore my brain telling me to stop, wait, rest I try to remember that its just pain and every stop eats away time, stalls progress. Then I hear Steve say something about finally making it over and without pause we're sliding down another gravel slope on the other side. We stop at the bottom to take rocks out of our shoes. I dump out a handful and put my shoes back on. It seems like theres still a rock so i take them off again and realize that theres no rock sores on my heels. The trail is hard to follow through marshes and tarns and otherworldly places. Perfectly still water reflects the alien world with precision. All the rocks look the same until finally we see Shiptons hut down through the clouds. We pass by tourists eating hot lunches which their guides had carried up and prepared, sitting on chairs and tables that were also brought up by porters. We keep a steady pace along the gradual valley descent through gardens of lobellas chasing the river down to lower elevation and more Os. We pass guides and hikers on their way up who knew about our plans. They congratulate us on the effort. We spot a scarlett tufted malachite sunbird with it's foot long split tail just before it begins to rain. we traverse back across the ribs and valleys including a vertical bog, grassy moorlands, and two wooden bridges till we reach the end of the fireroad on the ridge above camp. Finally the trail that shortcuts the AWD road near camp appears and a view of our tents is more than welcome as we drop below the clouds. old moses to pt. lenana + peak circuit 38k +9600' (<12:00:00)