We faced death square in the eye. This one moment would be the scariest in my life. And it stretched on for what felt like an eternity. But the story begins somewhere else. Somewhere warmer and less death-y. A few months prior to this we had started up a group on Whatsapp. A group to act as a channel for our many frustrations. I am lucky in the sense that I get to work with some of my closest friends. And the conversations went on in this group.
It was an all-boys club. About 15 guys who would just talk about everything and anything that would be on top of their minds. A platform for sharing memes and venting about work. And then suddenly it became more than that one fateful Saturday afternoon.
The plan was simple. The boys would get together over the weekend and climb a mountain.It was meant to be an escape. A metaphorical obstacle to surmount in place of the real ones that plagued our lives. On Friday night we assembled at one house and prepared for the trip. Food, drinks, video games and laughter were shared. Brilliant by any standards.
The next morning we were up at the crack of dawn. The crack of dawn is not pretty. It was a chilly and wet morning and nature seemed determined to ruin this trip before it even started. As the drizzle covered the earth in misery, we got into four cars and left the city. Nothing was going to get in our way. This was going to happen come hell or high water. Turns out we were going to get both.
The drive was fantastic. Lively conversation and wisecracks from people half drunk on wine and the idea of a weekend of possibility. Mercifully the clouds cleared as we descended into the belly of the Rift Valley and Mt. Longonot came into view. Our destination was set. Breath taking is the only way you can describe Longonot. A play of superlatives. Suffice to say it’s a visual masterpiece.
The climb was largely uneventful save for the melodrama of an individual who shall not be named. “Go on without me. I will only slow you down.” He shouted at us as he writhed on the ground halfway up the mountain. Victim to a hangover after downing endless glasses of wine. (Picture a male version of Courtney Cox in Cougar Town only darker, fatter and nothing like Courtney Cox apart for a penchant for drinking wine out of an over-sized wine glass)
No one was left behind. It’s like the marines; if the marines were a group of out of shape individuals whose every word dripped with sarcasm. The decision to go run along the crater rim was unanimous. Absentmindedly, we made a mental note of the gathering clouds. We were focused on getting to the summit. But soon the clouds wouldn’t be ignored. We seemed locked in a race. The pace picked up and the summit seemed within reach.
By the time we were taking our celebratory photos at the top the clouds were upon us. It wasn’t a question of whether it would rain but when…and how much. The fog rolled in as we descended. Our biggest fear was flash floods. They were notorious for harnessing a few minutes of rain into a raging torrent. The first drops were accompanied by hail. Which was fun…for a few seconds. The laughter turned into a controlled panic as the pain started to set in. The fog had obscured the crater on one side and the edge of the mountain leaving us with a thin trail and near zero visibility.
It became evident that there was no possible way we could outrun the hailstorm. Running down the mountain was also not an option because plunging into the crater was a real and present danger. We put all our electronics in a bag, huddled together in a circle and used the few jackets we had to cover our heads. The landscape turned white as the hail piled up around our feet. And all we could do was wait.
It felt like hours but must have been minutes. But it was the scariest thing we had ever experienced. And as the storm receded we gained a new appreciation for the men who had stood next to us. We had all seen the fear reflected in each other’s eyes and the fact that we had stood through it was something we didn’t take lightly. And right at that moment as the sun peered through the clouds and our battered bodies ached for its warmth, something new was born. The men of the mountain became more than friends. They became brothers.