Lessons from an Ignorant Climb on Mount Kenya

Happy Friday, all!  The weather got warmer here in Peaklessburg.  Some friends in cold New England said it was up to 40 degrees (F) and they were downright giddy!  I hope you got out and enjoyed it as much as they did.

I finally read No Picnic on Mount Kenya by Felice Benuzzi at long last.  As everyone probably knows, it is the story of three prisoners of war from World War II interned at a camp by Mount Kenya (17,057 ft./5,199 m.) on the equator.  Through a great job of story telling, Benuzzi and his companions break out of the camp to climb the mountain and willingly return to life as POWs.

The part that interested me the most was that these climbers did not have much research on their target before venturing off.  They had a pair of contraband binoculars to study the mountain.  They had no reliable maps.  They had no idea about the climbers hut at the base of its primary spire.  They had no intelligence on the climbs by other alpinists before them.  This lack of knowledge, or little knowledge that they did acquire, allowed them to experience the joy and the struggle of exploring the mountain as if for the first time in history.

Today, it is not often that we as climbers, or even hikers, stumble upon a target on our travels and go off without a lot of planning and research.  There is a wealth of information today about the majority of mountains on the Internet, in outfitter’s book section, professional mountain guides and the American Alpine Club Library.  Sometimes we’re lucky to find a gem that no one has written much about and it is up to that explorer to lay down the first ascent (FA), if he or she is fortunate and gutsy enough.

While research is prudent, approaching a well-known peak or a little-known mountain with a degree of ignorance can open up opportunities.  Be analytical.  Be objective.  Think through the challenges on the ridges, walls and slopes.  There might be something worth trying, even if it has already been done and written about.  It will still be the first time, even if not a FA.

Well, thanks again for visiting.  Remember, you can follow the Suburban Mountaineer on Facebook and Twitter (@SuburbanMtnr) to learn of new posts and obtain other news and information.


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