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TRIALS OF HEROES

Hans Rey, Danny Mac Askill and Gerhard Czerner take on the highest mountains in Africa, and the hardest ride any of them has ever done.

Mount Kenya and Kilimanjaro are the two highest mountains in Africa. Everybody has heard of them. At least in mountaineering circles. They are fairly unknown destinations in the bike community. We wanted to try what no one had done before; we wanted to ride both mountains consecutively. A challenge that would bring us closer together and take us to our limits.

Part 1: Mt Kenya

Caustic smoke rises into my eyes. I squint. I’ve been standing in front of a burning steel barrel with about 15 Africans for over an hour. They are our good-humoured mountain equipment carriers, most of them from Kenya. We all have the same goal – to dry our drenched clothes and shoes here at the Old Moses Camp; the only warm place near or far. If I fail to dry my shoes it will definitely be the end of my African adventure. To reach 4,900m in a healthy state with wet shoes would be nearly impossible. “What a great start,” I’m thinking, as Hans Rey comes out of the cold cabin with wet shoes and pants and tries to get a spot around the warming barrel.

This morning, Hans Rey, Danny MacAskill and I started from Sirimon Gate at 2,650m in a drenching thunderstorm. Mt Kenya, a volcano and second highest mountain mass on the African continent, is only supposed to be our acclimatisation for a higher, bigger goal: Kilimanjaro – the highest peak in Africa at 5,895m.

It rained almost perpetually on our first leg up the slippery logging road to the barracks of Old Moses Camp at 3,300m. The precipitation eased off right before we reached the camp. The locals tell us this is just how the weather develops on this mountain and it may go on like this for the next few days. It’s usually dry in the mornings with clouds building up around noon. These bring rain, which often eases by the evening. So the timeline for the next few days is set: start as early as possible to be able to reach camp around noon.

The door in the back of the green sheet-metal shed leads to our sleeping spot. We step into a dark, cool, slightly mouldy room with a bare concrete floor. A small wooden table, a few chairs and a row of bunk beds with sagging mats are the only furniture in our barren housing for tonight. But at least it’s dry and we have enough room for all our gear and bikes. We get rid of our soaking wet clothes and treat ourselves to a hot cup of coffee. A couple of our carriers had made a fire earlier in a steel barrel with the little wood available; I grab my wet shoes and stand next to the warmth. It turned out to be a popular meeting point for all the soaking residents of the camp.

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