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Royal Marines and sailors reach Mount Kenya summit

28 April 2020
A team of sailors and Royal Marines experienced the climb of a lifetime when they took on Mount Kenya as part of adventurous training.

The group, mostly from Commando Training Centre RM, enjoyed stunning scenery, picturesque lakes and incredible wildlife while in Africa earlier this year.

Despite suffering altitude sickness, they kept their high spirits as they made it to the summit of the 5,199m mountain.

Lieutenant Jamie Powell-McCrae said the team will never forget the trip.

“It proved challenging for all members, despite age, gender, rank and branch and captured what adventurous training is about,” he said.

“It also opened our eyes as to how different their world is to ours, and despite the hard living conditions that most Kenyans face, the admirable relaxed ethos and good natured/humoured manner that they adopt.

“All in all, it was a hugely successful trip, a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and what I’m sure will be a gem in our collective military careers.”

The team flew into Nairobi and then travelled to the British Army Training Unit in Nanyuki, at the foot of Mount Kenya, to rest and check supplies before beginning their climb the following day.

Lt Powell-McCrae added: “We could see Mount Kenya reaching into the sky above the camp’s rooftops; an imposing and sobering sight.”

All in all, it was a hugely successful trip, a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and what I’m sure will be a gem in our collective military careers.

Lieutenant Jamie Powell-McCrae

Day one of the climb saw the team set off up the national park’s road track and into the montane forest, where they saw elephants and buffalo. After setting up camp, checks on their blood oxygen saturation levels showed they had signs of altitude sickness already – at 3,000m.

“The next day saw us break through the tree line and ascend Mount Kenya’s slopes,” Lt Powell-McCrae said.

“The landscape and the views were stunning and we made good progress. Before we reached camp, we took a quick detour to see a waterfall which was nearly 100m in height, shrouded in foliage and that cascaded into the plunge pool.

“Many photographs and much staring later, we continued our journey.”

The next two days saw the climbers set off in search of Lake Michaelson, fed on one side by a river and naturally dammed on the other, and then climb a further 1,000m of jagged cliffs and deep valleys.

Altitude sickness meant they battled with headaches, making for a difficult final night before the climb to the summit.

Lt Powell-McCrae added: “Despite the splitting headaches, no-one wavered, and when the decision was made the next morning to take advantage of the weather and summit, we were more than keen.

“The climb was steep all the way to the peak, with spiralling drops on either side and in places, thick ice which made the ground treacherous. An hour after setting off we were at the summit, amazed by the views, and trying to think of something profound to say to match the gravity of the occasion.

“We had all done it and were all in good order. This is what adventure training looks like. This is how a life less ordinary feels.”

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