Photographs by Richard Freeman
Ascending (and descending) Mount Kenya, 16,000 feet! Summer 2000
Getting there was a feat in and of itself (as was getting back to town). Mt. Kenya, 17,057 ft.; 5,199 meters. We climbed Point Lenana at 16,355 ft, or 4,985 meters (the two taller peaks are technical rock climbs, a different world). I dont think I have it in me anymore (which I repeated over and over, cursing, as I climbed a volcano in Nicaragua 4-years later). It was the single most challenging hike I have ever done. On the last day's hike to the top, we (my friend and I) literally could not fully put one foot past the other. At least in Peru one has coca leaves to chew on, which helps one breathe at high altitudes. If it wasnt for our guide Boni, who went ahead, leaving us no choice but to push on (it was 3am and dark), I dont think I, nor my friend, would have made it. Flying back to Chicago I had a short flight from Detroit to Chicago. We flew at an altitude of 16,000 feet. Boy did that put things in perspective!
When I was visiting my friends in Kenya they asked what "Richard" means. It means a "stern ruler". So, they named me Munene, which means big man (as in the "big" or important man in the village). All the Kenyans I met laughed when I introduced myself as Munene (go figure). But when I climbed Mt. Kenya and arrived at the summit just before sunrise, Boni, my Kenyan guide, hugged me and said "Now, you are Munene!" Back home, no one calls me Munene.