One thing army life encourages is a sense of adventure and exploration and a posting to Kenya certainly offers lots of opportunities. With the notion that she may never return, Dawn Fitzsimmons, AFF’s Kenya co-ordinator, seized the chance to trek to Mount Kenya on the BATUK spouses’ and partners’ annual expedition. Here Dawn and her fellow explorers chart their incredible journey…

The titanci mountain, the highest in Kenya, lies south of the equator and means God’s Resting Place. It’s an impressive sight and visible from Nanyuki, BATUK Main.

“After much training and preparation, me and eight lovely ladies – Pam Todd, Sian Boyd, Elena Charles, Sandie Mutch, Mary Gutkowski, Jackie Mayne, Lois Rudling and Ashleigh Ellis – embarked on an adventure,” says Dawn.

It was, as Sian put it, “a feel-good group”.

The six-day trek via Chogoria, said to be the most scenic of routes, didn’t disappoint. Their objective was to summit Point Lenana, named in honour of a Masaai chief and the third highest point of Mount Kenya at 4,985m, which is certainly not for the faint-hearted.

The group formed a close bond and provided much needed encouragement for the highs and lows along the way.

“We fed off our shared experiences, both strengths and struggles,” adds Dawn.

Sandie says: “It was definitely emotional, but we had great times too.”

Day four was R&R at Lake Michaelson, one of the mountain’s iconic glacier lakes. It was Dawn’s favourite part of the expedition.

“An amphitheatre of impressive cliffs surrounded our campsite and it was stunning,” she recalls. “We awoke to the sunrise, took part in group yoga, basked in the sunshine, and for a few of us brave enough, plunged into the icy lake.”

Spectacularly on day five, the big day, the entire group reached the summit. It was a proud moment with a profound sense of achievement for everyone.

“It was also the longest trek, with around 11 hours of hiking,” explains Dawn. “The advice ‘hydrate or die’ has been forever embedded into my memory!”

“It was one of the best experiences ever and I’d love to do it all over again,” says Ashleigh.

“The views, when I was able to gather myself together, were breath-taking,” adds Dawn. “The mountain held a stillness that allowed you to pause, reflect and reconnect.”

The group’s advice to other families is wherever you are and whatever your focus: learn, grow and develop.

“When opportunities come your way, seize them. And if they don’t, seek them out,” concludes Dawn.

At the time of going to print, service families in Kenya have been repatriated to the UK because of coronavirus. In normal circumstances, there’s a proactive Community Engagement Team and there are a variety of different volunteering opportunities, from children’s orphanages to animal rescue centres.

Contact Dawn at kenya@aff.org.uk for details.

 

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