Mt Kenya December 1971

At the tender age of 17 I had already taken my A levels and took a gap year before heading for Nottingham University to read civil engineering.

I spent this most formative of years teaching O levels at a small “Harambe” (self-help) school near the town of Othaya in Kenya not far from Nyeri where Lord Baden Powell is buried and close to the famous Tree Tops hotel where the Queen learnt of the death of her father (see The Crown series 1!). The Youth Service Abroad (YSA) scheme was run by the Church Missionary Society in a pioneering scheme that they instigated before the term “gap year” even existed.

From our well built little house on the school grounds we could see the Aberdare mountains rising up behind us, and in the distance, in the opposite direction, Mt Kenya, an irrisistable lure.

A couple of days before Christmas 1971 saw a group of us walking up to the Teleki valley via the Narro Moro route through the infamous “vertical bog” carrying up to 60lb packs (27kg). On Christmas day we successfully reached the summit of the third highest peak, Point Lenena, now a well known trekking peak which I climbed again 42 years later in 2013 (see separate page).

The adventure did not end there. One of the porters developed
pulmonary oedema (acute mountain sickness) that evening and in the middle of the night twelve of us, including several beefy Americans in a nearby hut, set off down the mountain carrying him on a home-made stretcher. He survived! We then had to turn around and climb straight back up to the Teleki valley to re-join the rest of our party and collect our gear. Probably one of the most physically demanding efforts I’ve had to make (apart possibly from climbing Mera Peak in 2017!).

These are just a few of my pictures scanned from the slides I always used to take before turning digital.