January 1, 1998 New Stanley Hotel, Nairobi “It’s game over, mates! Forget the Ruwenzoris … move on and put ‘em behind you. If you do end up going, be sure to bring a company of Green Berets and a bullet-proof vest … ” The words of David West, a Kampala, Uganda-based adventureoutfitter, echoed over the phone line in our hotel room in Nairobi, Kenya.

The mountains we’d intended to trek into and snowboard, the Ruwenzoris in Uganda, were strictly out of the question due to rebel warfare,and it seems that the group holding the area surrounding the mountains-The Lord’s Resistance Rebels-werenot to be taken lightly, having slaughtered scores of people. While planning our trip to Africa, we’d beenconcerned with the deadly Ebola virus that was running rampant in the Congo, but the last thing on our mindswas a murderous rebellion in the hills.

The reality that our plans were coming apart at the seams hit us like the first wave of Yellow Fever. We’d spoken with the Ugandan Consulate prior to our arrival, and everything seemed to be in order, but as we were learning, you’re never guaranteed reliable information in Africa.Together with veteran snowboard-mountaineers Tom Burt, John Griber, and Jim Zellers, I had come to “TheDark Continent” with plans of first descents and adventure, but now we were driven to a new task-creating asolid plan B, in a hurry. We needed to find a mountain range where we could trek and snowboardlegally-without getting killed. We weighed our options and decided to try to salvage our journey to Africa by climbing and riding Mt. Kenya, an extinct volcano right here in Kenya, which is somewhat politically stable.

January 2, 1998 New Stanley Hotel, Nairobi Kenya’s in the midst of its national elections whilewe’re here in Nairobi-not particularly good timing, considering Kenya has had the same dictator, DanielArap Moi, for the past twenty years. Nairobi was a ghost town this morning when we woke up; the streetswere empty, and despair lingered in the air as the all-too-predictable results of the elections began to sinkin-it was only a matter of time before reactions heated up. We cleared out of the city as fast as we could andmade our way north to Nanyuki, a small farming town on the fertile outskirts of Mt. Kenya. In Nanyuki, wehired porters and guides and planned the logistics for our trek.

January 3, 1998 Nanyuki, Kenya Nanyuki bustled to life early, making it impossible to sleep late. African pop music blared at mega-decibel levels, andnoisy carts creaked their way to market as the tell-tale calls of commerce overcame the relative silence. Webegan the lengthy process of gathering supplies, always an interesting challenge in the Third World. We alsomet our guide, Robert Gathu. Robert’s tribe-the Kikuyu-inhabits the area surrounding the mountain, and hisfamily has guided expeditions on Mt. Kenya for many years. We left town in a dilapidated pickup truck, andafter only one minor breakdown along the way, we arrived at the entrance to Mt. Kenya National Park. Wechecked in and completed the necessary paperwork, then were free to enter the park and start the longjourney up to Mt. Kenya and its surrounding peaks. After being so deflated when our Ruwenzoris bid wasshot down, it felt good to actually be in the park and on our way. The porters followed behind as we startedup the Naro Moru Route, which leads to the base of Mt. Kenya.

Almost immediately, we entered the lush canopy of the Galleria Rain Forest. Situated less than twenty miles from the equator, Mt. Kenya is quiteunique, and with six different climate zones, the flora and fauna that thrive there are bizarre and rare. Earlyon, we encountered a group of bush buck, a deer-like species that feeds in the forests skirting the mountain.We also sighted dik-dik, a type of African antelope, as well as playful colobus monkeys and wily verdetmonkeys. We hiked on in amazement and eventually arrived at our home for the night, a meteorologicaltesting station-Metamp for short. In no time, the porters had tea and dinner under control, and we had achance to unwind and get to know the Kikuyu tribesmen who were helping us carry our gear. We evenpicked up a few useful Kiswahili phrases, like “pole pole bwana,” which means roughly “slow down, boss.”The cook, James, prepared a wonderful meat and vegetable stew-without a doubt one of the best meals I’veever tasted in the mountains. After dinner, as we gathered around the fire, Kenyan folk songs echoedbeautifully off the forest’s dense canopy. “The people are one of the greatest assets of Kenya. Theybarely exist on the basic necessities of life: food, water, and love, yet they are so friendly ands havesuch an intense happiness and spirit. It makes you question all the material goods the First Worldhas, and you realize how much those things clutter and complicate our lives.”-Greg Von Doersten

January 4, 1998 Met Camp I drifted out of a sound sleep to the steady pattering of rain on the tent walls.In an equatorial shower, we broke camp and began the slow slog up to Mackinder’s Hut-named after SirHalford Mackinder, the first European to climb Mt. Kenya in 1899. Our first major obstacle was the”vertical bog,” a section of trail that floods during storms, creating a 3,000-foot rise of suck-mud and rushingwater. And because it rains almost daily on Mt. Kenya, it held true to form as we struggled up it. We finallytopped out on a ridge and put the heinous bog behind us. A beautiful U-shaped expanse opened up in frontof us as the glacially carved Teleki Valley slowly revealed itself after the storm. Continuing down into thevalley, the plant life got stranger; giant lobelia and senacio keniensis thrived in the moist and fertile soil,looking like oversized artichokes that fell from Mars. After a two-mile hike we found Mackinder’s Camp. Irelished the chance to dry out and relax in the shelter of a hut. January 5, 1998 Mackinder’s Camp Thefamiliar sound of rain greeted us this morning. It never seemed to stop. Tom and I felt under the weather, sowe decided it was best to lay low for a day. We sent the porters back home. We’d be able to shuttle thegear to the final camp on our own from here. We spent most of the rainy day in weather mode-resting,reading, and playing cards. But in the afternoon the clouds began to clear, and as they parted a pyramid of rock and ice emerged until finally we were rewarded with our first view of Mt. Kenya’s 17,044-foot-high summit. The mountain glistened from the snow and rain that had battered her flanks. Upon closer inspection,we realized one of the routes we intended to descend-the Diamond Couloir-was out of the question. Whatwe’d hoped would be snow and ice was instead a rock-strewn chute with waterfalls cascading down itscenter. It was beautiful, just not for snowboarding. Some of the other descents we were considering lookedpossible, though. The Tyndall Glacier and some areas on 16,300-foot Pt. Lenana, a peak adjacent to Mt.Kenya, appeared to have good coverage and fresh snow. January 6, 1998 Mackinder’s Camp Theweather held this morning, so we began the significant task of moving over 400 pounds of gear up to basecamp at Tyndall Tarn, a lake that sits at 14,190 feet.

We made two trips, and by the second round, the burden and the altitude were taking their toll on us. Exhausted but happy to be finished moving, we looked to the north, where Mt. Kenya and its steep glaciers seemed just a stone’s throw away. January 7, 1998Tyndall Tarn We chose to focus first on climbing and riding Mt. Kenya’s Tyndall Glacier. But just when theweather seemed to be cooperating, we found ourselves tent-bound once again, engulfed in another full-onMt. Kenya downpour. A late-morning peek out the tent door indicated that the storm was clearing, and wequickly decided to get on it-the weather window might have proven small. Just as we left camp, an azure skyopened up, revealing the imposing Tyndall Glacier, flanked by Mt. Kenya’s never-ending West Ridge. Weput on crampons and pulled out our ice axes-it was time to start climbing. The glacier rose steeply from thelake, and after only 60 feet we realized that a thin layer of snow covered a rock-hard base of glacial ice-notthe ideal riding conditions we’d hoped for.

Proceeding up, the snow changed to equatorial slush. Determined to link turns, we roped up to cross a dangerous crevasse zone and hiked further into the cirque. The sun was strong all morning and seriously affected the snow stability-a number of healthy avalanches and large rockfalls thundered down the adjacent peaks. Tension grew as the whole mountain came alive with danger. Theteam made a quick decision to retreat and we began to descend the wet slush we’d been trudging through.The first turns set off huge point slides that disappeared into the deep crevasses below. We moved swiftlyand cautiously to avoid being tagged by rocks or snowfall. We made it out of the cirque, but still had the45-degree black ice to contend with. It was a true no-fall zone, but our ice tools were in hand, ready toself-arrest just in case. After an intensely hairy five-hour experience, we were all relieved to be back at basecamp with the Tyndall behind us. “There were holes and crevasses everywhere-it was nasty going,with snow and rock-fall unloading frequently. It had to be one of the scariest moments I’ve had inthe mountains. Crossing the crevasse zone, my knees were shaking, and I had to take a few deepbreaths to compose myself. By the time we got down, we had ridden about 500 feet of the mostintense and demanding terrain we’d ever encountered.”-Jim Zellers on the ascent and descent ofthe Tyndall Glacier.

January 8, 1998 Tyndall Tarn We decided to attempt the adjacent peak, PointLenana, and left base camp under partly cloudy skies. The ascent involved negotiating the scree and rockdebris that make up much of the lower mountain. As we approached the 16,000-foot level, the air becamethinner. At first it was barely noticeable, but with each step toward the summit, the symptoms grew-shortnessof breath, fatigue, pounding headaches, and lightheadedness. At around the 15,900-foot mark, I split off andmade for a ridge nearby to set up a long shot. An ominous grouping of storm clouds was moving over thepeak, and I lost sight of the team as they ascended. I scanned the route for them with my camera lensperiodically, and was relieved to spot them an hour or so later-they were on the summit. The plan was tohold off their descent until a weather window opened, but unfortunately a light drizzle began to fall. Jim madethe first turns on the glacier on Pt. Lenana’s southwest face. He had a hard time with the equatorial snow;each turn triggered a point slide behind him, making it awkward to maintain a continuous line. Conditionsimproved lower down, though, and John, Tom, and Jim opened it up on eight to ten inches of African slush.To our knowledge, these were the first snowboard turns ever laid on Pt. Lenana. I rejoined the team at thebottom of the glacier, and we headed back to Tyndall Tarn, stoked to have ridden, despite the ever-presentrain.

January 9, 1998 Tyndall Tarn It rained all day, but our minor victory on Pt. Lenana has lifted ourspirits. Hopefully tomorrow brings good weather so we can ascend again to try some other promising lines.We even made an offering to the great one the Kikuyu call Ghai, looking for meteorological cooperation ofa higher order. January 10, 1998 Tyndall Tarn Ghai cruelly answered us this morning with relentlessrains. Time is running out. Tomorrow will be our last chance to summit before we need to break camp andhead down into the valley. “We tried to summit Point Lenana again today, but we were turned backat the Austrian Hut due to atrocious weather. The windows of opportunity have been few and farbetween. To date, we’ve had one good day of weather and nine days of horrible weather. We’re allgetting a little burnt out on the altitude and constant raiest Ridge. Weput on crampons and pulled out our ice axes-it was time to start climbing. The glacier rose steeply from thelake, and after only 60 feet we realized that a thin layer of snow covered a rock-hard base of glacial ice-notthe ideal riding conditions we’d hoped for.

Proceeding up, the snow changed to equatorial slush. Determined to link turns, we roped up to cross a dangerous crevasse zone and hiked further into the cirque. The sun was strong all morning and seriously affected the snow stability-a number of healthy avalanches and large rockfalls thundered down the adjacent peaks. Tension grew as the whole mountain came alive with danger. Theteam made a quick decision to retreat and we began to descend the wet slush we’d been trudging through.The first turns set off huge point slides that disappeared into the deep crevasses below. We moved swiftlyand cautiously to avoid being tagged by rocks or snowfall. We made it out of the cirque, but still had the45-degree black ice to contend with. It was a true no-fall zone, but our ice tools were in hand, ready toself-arrest just in case. After an intensely hairy five-hour experience, we were all relieved to be back at basecamp with the Tyndall behind us. “There were holes and crevasses everywhere-it was nasty going,with snow and rock-fall unloading frequently. It had to be one of the scariest moments I’ve had inthe mountains. Crossing the crevasse zone, my knees were shaking, and I had to take a few deepbreaths to compose myself. By the time we got down, we had ridden about 500 feet of the mostintense and demanding terrain we’d ever encountered.”-Jim Zellers on the ascent and descent ofthe Tyndall Glacier.

January 8, 1998 Tyndall Tarn We decided to attempt the adjacent peak, PointLenana, and left base camp under partly cloudy skies. The ascent involved negotiating the scree and rockdebris that make up much of the lower mountain. As we approached the 16,000-foot level, the air becamethinner. At first it was barely noticeable, but with each step toward the summit, the symptoms grew-shortnessof breath, fatigue, pounding headaches, and lightheadedness. At around the 15,900-foot mark, I split off andmade for a ridge nearby to set up a long shot. An ominous grouping of storm clouds was moving over thepeak, and I lost sight of the team as they ascended. I scanned the route for them with my camera lensperiodically, and was relieved to spot them an hour or so later-they were on the summit. The plan was tohold off their descent until a weather window opened, but unfortunately a light drizzle began to fall. Jim madethe first turns on the glacier on Pt. Lenana’s southwest face. He had a hard time with the equatorial snow;each turn triggered a point slide behind him, making it awkward to maintain a continuous line. Conditionsimproved lower down, though, and John, Tom, and Jim opened it up on eight to ten inches of African slush.To our knowledge, these were the first snowboard turns ever laid on Pt. Lenana. I rejoined the team at thebottom of the glacier, and we headed back to Tyndall Tarn, stoked to have ridden, despite the ever-presentrain.

January 9, 1998 Tyndall Tarn It rained all day, but our minor victory on Pt. Lenana has lifted ourspirits. Hopefully tomorrow brings good weather so we can ascend again to try some other promising lines.We even made an offering to the great one the Kikuyu call Ghai, looking for meteorological cooperation ofa higher order. January 10, 1998 Tyndall Tarn Ghai cruelly answered us this morning with relentlessrains. Time is running out. Tomorrow will be our last chance to summit before we need to break camp andhead down into the valley. “We tried to summit Point Lenana again today, but we were turned backat the Austrian Hut due to atrocious weather. The windows of opportunity have been few and farbetween. To date, we’ve had one good day of weather and nine days of horrible weather. We’re allgetting a little burnt out on the altitude and constant rain. It begins to take its toll on the team aseveryone vents their frustration now and then.”-John Griber

January 11, 1998 Tyndall Tarn We woke to decent weather this morning-it seems our offering was approved after all. We quickly broke campand prepared for the long day ahead. We hoped to summit Pt. Lenana once more and ride down thereceding Kolbe Glacier. The down time hadn’t helped John and me acclimate to the higher altitude, but wepressed on, determined to make some turns-it was our last chance. Deprived of oxygen, I entered atrance-like state where I barely communicated with the rest of the team; I felt detached from the earth.Finally at the summit of Point Lenana, I was fatigued but stoked, even more so because it wasn’t raining. Theview from the top was stunning-to the north sprawled the impressive Chogoria Gorge and Hinde Valley,which seemed to hang thousands of feet above the rain forest below. And to the west, shrouded in theensuing clouds, loomed the twin summits of Mt. Kenya-Nelion and Batian-named by Mackinder after twogreat Masai chiefs.

This time, Jim, John, and Tom chose to descend the Kolbe Glacier on Pt. Lenana’snortheast face. The sky cleared briefly as Jim made his turns off the summit cone. The snow conditions wereactually decent-even resembling powder at times. Tom selected a tighter couloir adjacent to Jim’s, which hequickly and flawlessly carved to its bottom. John dropped next, giving me a wave as he pushed off. The sightof him cutting his way down the glacier against the backdrop of lush plateau and forest was absolutelysurreal. He disappeared off the horizon line and was gone. Left alone on the summit with nothing but thewind and clouds as my companions, I began recalling our trip: What were we doing here? Why do we seekto snowboard in such strange and bizarre environments? I reflected on the twists of fate and luck we’d hadover the last two weeks that resulted finally in my solitary presence on the summit of Pt. Lenana-not somepeak in the Ruwenzoris. It had been one of the most difficult trips I’ve ever taken, but also one of the mostrewarding. The lure of the unknown, the unexpected turns that lead us in directions we otherwise neverwould have ventured-this is snowboarding on the Equator. “Got up at five a.m. on our last day on snow.For the first time since we’d been in Africa, we see a full sky of stars. We make the 3,000 vert tothe top of Pt. Lenana just as the fog hits. We can’t shoot photos in the fog, so Jim and I go for afree run 1,500 feet down the Kolbe Glacier-four to six inches of fresh powder in Africa! Whowould have thought?”-Tom Burt rain. It begins to take its toll on the team aseveryone vents their frustration now and then.”-John Griber

January 11, 1998 Tyndall Tarn We woke to decent weather this morning-it seems our offering was approved after all. We quickly broke campand prepared for the long day ahead. We hoped to summit Pt. Lenana once more and ride down thereceding Kolbe Glacier. The down time hadn’t helped John and me acclimate to the higher altitude, but wepressed on, determined to make some turns-it was our last chance. Deprived of oxygen, I entered atrance-like state where I barely communicated with the rest of the team; I felt detached from the earth.Finally at the summit of Point Lenana, I was fatigued but stoked, even more so because it wasn’t raining. Theview from the top was stunning-to the north sprawled the impressive Chogoria Gorge and Hinde Valley,which seemed to hang thousands of feet above the rain forest below. And to the west, shrouded in theensuing clouds, loomed the twin summits of Mt. Kenya-Nelion and Batian-named by Mackinder after twogreat Masai chiefs.

This time, Jim, John, and Tom chose to descend the Kolbe Glacier on Pt. Lenana’snortheast face. The sky cleared briefly as Jim made his turns off the summit cone. The snow conditions wereactually decent-even resembling powder at times. Tom selected a tighter couloir adjacent to Jim’s, which hequicklly and flawlessly carved to its bottom. John dropped next, giving me a wave as he pushed off. The sightof him cutting his way down the glacier against the backdrop of lush plateau and forest was absolutelysurreal. He disappeared off the horizon line and was gone. Left alone on the summit with nothing but thewind and clouds as my companions, I began recalling our trip: What were we doing here? Why do we seekto snowboard in such strange and bizarre environments? I reflected on the twists of fate and luck we’d hadover the last two weeks that resulted finally in my solitary presence on the summit of Pt. Lenana-not somepeak in the Ruwenzoris. It had been one of the most difficult trips I’ve ever taken, but also one of the mostrewarding. The lure of the unknown, the unexpected turns that lead us in directions we otherwise neverwould have ventured-this is snowboarding on the Equator. “Got up at five a.m. on our last day on snow.For the first time since we’d been in Africa, we see a full sky of stars. We make the 3,000 vert tothe top of Pt. Lenana just as the fog hits. We can’t shoot photos in the fog, so Jim and I go for afree run 1,500 feet down the Kolbe Glacier-four to six inches of fresh powder in Africa! Whowould have thought?”-Tom Burt