Category: Mt. Kenya

Our New Web Site is Live!!

Mt. Whitney (14,508’/4422m) in morning alpenglow.

Greetings from Bishop, CA!  We hope this finds everybody well and enjoying the fall season.  After a busy summer and fall we have been hard at work planning for 2014.  We have also launched a new web site for your viewing pleasure.  We invite you to have a look and come with us on a trip!

As of this writing SMI guides April Mayhew and Kurt Wedberg are off to Argentina for an Aconcagua expedition.  Back home in the Sierra the weather is getting cold and we’ve seen some of our first significant snowfall.  We’re gearing up for winter time activities including ice climbing, backcountry skiing, and avalanche courses.

Basin Mountain and surrounding skyline on Sunday November 24, 2013 after our recent snowstorm.

Here is a brief listing of some of our upcoming offerings for 2014.  We hope to see you on a trip with us in 2014!

Aconcagua:  Trip #1:  November 29 – December 17, 2013,  Trip #2:  December 27 – January 17. We still have a couple openings on both of our upcoming expeditions to the highest mountain in South America.

Mt. Kenya:  February 1-10, 2014.  A technical rock climb up the second highest mountain in Africa.  The climbing ranges from low 5th class up to 5.7.  It’s in a beautiful, remote, and wild setting overlooking the beautiful East Africa jungles.

Kilimanjaro and Safari:  February 11-25, 2014.  A 7-day climb of the highest mountain in Africa combined with a game viewing safari where we see some of the most spectacular wildlife on our planet!

Mt. Whitney:  Winter/spring 4-day climbs and summer 3-day climbs of the highest mountain in the contiguous United States.

Ice Climbing Courses:  Ice is forming now in Lee Vining Canyon and June Lake.  Come up and discover the exhilaration of climbing ice in these premier destinations.

Avalanche Classes:  Learn essential skills to evaluate snow conditions in backcountry travel.  We also include rescue training using transceivers and probes.


East African Safari: Plentiful Animals and Great Times!

After a successful climb of Kilimanjaro the team said goodbye to Caleb, John, and April.  Caleb and John began their journey home.  SMI guide April Mayhew stayed behind in Moshi to run in the Kilimanjaro Marathon.  Three days after standing on top of Kilimanjaro April placed a very respectable second among female non-Africans then caught up with the rest of the group for the last three days of safari.  Congratulations April!  The rest of the team took off on a game viewing safari to see up close some of the most fascinating animals on our planet.

Over the course of five days the team visited Lake Manyara, the Ngorongoro Crater, Tarangire National Park, and the great Serengeti Plains.  In addition to seeing a wide range of exotic wildlife our safaris are also a rich cultural experience.  We spent some time with kids at a local orphanage as has become traditional on our trips.  We also visited a local Masai Village where we were treated to traditional Masai dancing ceremonies, saw the mud huts they live in, and we were given the opportunity to purchase jewelry items.  We also visited Olduvai Gorge which is rich in archeological history.  Bones of many extinct animals have been found in this area.  It is also the sight where the archeologists Tom and Mary Leakey discovered the oldest homonid footprints.

Wildlife was prevalent throughout our safari.  Below are a few pictures.  The entire photo gallery can be found here:

Game Viewing Safari February 25-29, 2012

Rhonda, Kurt, Jackie, and Janet on safari at Lake Manyara National Park.

Two lioness sisters resting in a tree at Lake Manyara National Park.

Male lion in the Serengeti.

Cape buffalo with a stork on its back in Lake Manyara National Park.

Wart hog family in Lake Manyara National Park.

Wildebeest mother and calf. 185,000+ wildebeests are born within a two week period in October each year. This insures the survival of the species.

Male and female impalas at Lake Manyara National Park.

Janet, Rhonda, Kurt, and Jackie in the Ngorongoro Crater.

Female spotted hyena on the Serengeti plains.

Male agama lizard sunning itself on a kopje rock outcropping in the Serengeti.

Grants Gazelle in the Serengeti.

Zebras resting in the Serengeti.

Young teenage elephants in the Serengeti.

When a giraffe bends over to drink it is in its most vulnerable position for predators.

Giraffe eating leaves from an acacia tree in the Serengeti.

Vitelline Masked Weaver at Olduvai Gorge.

Abdim's Stork in the Ngorongoro Crater.

Male Cory Bustard bird puffed up looking for a mate in the Ngorongoro Crater.

Red Collared Widowbird

Egyptian Goose in the Serengeti.

Secretary birds on top of an acacia tree in the Serengeti.

Saddle-billed Stork in the Ngorongoro Crater.

Janet, April, Kurt, Jackie, and Rhonda at our hotel in Karatu during our safari.

Traditionally dressed Masai women during our visit to their village.

Rhonda, Jackie, and Janet were invited to join the Masai ladies in their traditional dance.

Masai warriors conducting a traditional mens dance and jumping ceremony.

A Masai man shows us inside his mud hut where he and his family live while he shares with us their way of life.

Masai jewelry for sale at their village.

Kilimanjaro Summit Success!!

February 23, 2012 6:15am. Summit photo on Kilimanjaro. Team members from left to right: Rogati Lucas, Caleb Fiske, Rhonda Bellavia, Kurt Wedberg, Janet Lacey, April Mayhew, Hillary

SMI guides April Mayhew and Kurt Wedberg just returned from Tanzania where they led another successful climb of Kilimanjaro.  Team members included Rhonda Bellevia, Caleb Fiske, Jackie Hammitt, Janet Lacey, and John Lafaro.  Several team members used this climb as a fundraiser for Big City Mountaineers (  The money raised will help this well respected organization bring underprivileged and inner city youth on 7 and 8 day backpacking trips this summer.

The team met in Moshi, Tanzania where we spent one day to relax after the long flights, pack our gear for the climb, take a hike in the forest near our hotel, and eat a traditional Chagga meal of banana soup.  On February 18 the team took off for Kilimanjaro National Park and the gate at the start of the Umbwe Route which would be our ascent route of the mountain.

Kilimanjaro is the only place in the world where one can pass through five different temperate zones over a 5-day period.  We start in a jungle environment at 6000’/1829m and by the time we’ve reached the summit at 19,348’/5895m we’re in the alpine zone.  Along the way we were met with every type of weather possible from warm sun to rain, foggy white out conditions to clear days, and we even had some snowfall at the higher elevations.  The team adapted beautifully to the changing conditions keeping a great attitude throughout.

For all team members (besides the guides) climbing Kilimanjaro would be a new personal altitude record.  It was a joy watching this group of people who came from California, Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas mold into a super fun, supportive, and efficient climbing team over the course of this 7-day climb.

Congratulations everybody on a job well done!!

A few pictures are below.  The entire photo gallery can be found here:

Kilimanjaro February 18-24, 2012

The team ready to start the climb of Kilimanjaro at the Umbwe park gate.

The team at a rest break in the jungle on the first day of the climb.

John enjoying a lunch break in the jungle.

Inside the dining tent at the end of day 1. One of the countless jovial moments during this climb.

Kurt Wedberg performing a little first aid on one of our local Chagga staff.

February 19, day 2 of the climb. The team leaves its camp in the jungle at Umbwe Cave headed for Barranco Camp at 3940m/12,926'.

Our first view of Kilimanjaro from the jungle.

Gladiola flower along our route.

Janet Lacey at the front of the team enjoying the hike as the route rises out of the jungle.

Caleb takes time out for a gymnastics workout during our hike!

Jackie enjoying the views as the team rises out of the jungle.

The elated team reaches Barranco Camp at 3940m/12,926'

Jackie hugs a Giant Senacio tree near Barranco Camp.

Barranco Camp with the Western Breach Wall of Kilimanjaro behind.

The team and our Chagga staff enjoying an afternoon game of hacky sack at Barranco Camp.

The team at Lava Tower during an acclimatization hike. An afternoon snowstorm would not dampen this teams spirits.

February 21, day 4 of the climb the team leaves Barranco Camp headed to the next step; Karanga Camp at 3930m/12,893'

Rhonda and Caleb en route to Karanga Camp.

The team arrives at Karanga Camp 3930m/12,893'. Back row: John Lafaro,Hillary, Rhonda Bellavia, Caleb Fiske, Kurt Wedberg, and April Mayhew. Front row: Janet Lacey, Jackie Hammett, and Rogati Lucas.

Sunset over Mt. Meru. The peak is a dormant volcano at 4566m/14,980' about 60 miles away from Kilimanjaro.

February 22, day 5 of the climb. The team packed and ready to leave for Barafu Camp at 4600m/15,100'.

The team enjoying the climb to our high camp.

April Mayhew and Rhonda leading the way close to high camp.

Team members having a cup of hot tea before beginning the summit climb.

Streaking headlamps during the pre dawn hours of the summit climb.

Rhonda and Kurt shortly before dawn as the team reaches the crater rim of Kilimanjaro.

Team members silhouetted as the sun rises over the African plains.

Summit success on Kilimanjaro!!

Kilimanjaro casting its shadow across the African plains at sunrise.

SMI guide April Mayhew standing proud on the crater rim of Kilimanjaro at the start of the descent after guiding another successful ascent of Kilimanjaro; her 3rd ascent in the past year!

Celebration dinner after another successful climb of Kilimanjaro. Congratulations Team!!

Tanzanian Orphanage Visit June 26, 2011

Steve and Sarah helped distribute dollies at the Kilimanjaro Orphanage.

As has become customary on our Africa trips we pay a visit to at least one orphanage.  HIV and AIDS is still a very big issue in Africa and orphanages are overflowing with kids who’s parents have fallen victim to this epidemic.  What little SMI can do to bring a little cheer into these kids lives we feel very humbled and honored to be able to do.  Sarah MacDonald and Steve Schumm joined SMI guides April Mayhew and Kurt Wedberg for this visit.  As we did with our visit in February we brought with us hand made dolls courtesy of Cindy Simon and a group of talented ladies who sew these to distribute to kids all over the world.  A big thank you to Cindy and all the ladies who help make possible delivering these special dollies to the kids.

A few pictures are below.  The entire photo gallery including some video can be found here:

Kilimanjaro Orphanage June 26, 2011

Sarah giving out some of the dollies.

Kurt handing out dollies to some of the kids.

Steve with one of the kids at the orphanage.

One of the kids with her new dollies.

The children and their new dollies. Each dollie is unique and sewn by hand.

After our visit kids always follow us when we leave.

April getting her bicep workout courtesy of one this child.

See you next time. Our next trip is in January / February 2012!!

Mt. Kenya, February 27 – March 4, 2011

Following a successful and very emotional climb of Kilimanjaro SMI guides April Mayhew and Kurt Wedberg traveled to the country of Kenya for a climb of the peak that bears it’s country’s name.  Mt. Kenya is the second highest mountain on the African continent and one that sees a small fraction of the attention that Kilimanjaro receives.  The mountain is actually the crater rim of an ancient volcano.  It has three summits named Batian, Nelion, and Point Lenana.  While Point Lenana requires stamina to reach its summit, Batian and Nelion require rock climbing skills to reach their pinnacles.  April and Kurt set out on an adventure to try and reach the summit of both of these peaks.

From Nairobi we traveled 4+ hours to to the entrance to Mt. Kenya National Park.

Kurt and April at the Mt. Kenya park gate at 2400m, 7874'

We then set out on a 3-day trek that put us in striking distance of a summit attempt.  On February 27 we began at the park gate ascending through a jungle environment rich with wildflowers, bamboo, exotic bird species, and monkeys.  A 9km, 5.6 mile trek brought us to the Met Station Hut at 3048m, 10,000′.

April and local guide Charles at the start of our trek into Mt. Kenya National Park.

Met Station camp at 10,000' / 3048m in Mt. Kenya National Park. This small lodge has a couple small but clean huts that make for a comfortable place to spend the night in the jungle.

Kurt and April having an afternoon picnic on the porch of the Met Station hut on Mt. Kenya.

Sykes monkey near the Met Station hut.

A dik dik near Met Station. Dik diks are smallest member of the antelope family and prefer the thick foliage of the jungle for protection.

On February 28 our trek ascended above the jungle where the scenery opened up offering breathtaking vistas that were not only beautiful but reminded us of how remote this destination is.  Today we were treated to the sites of many exotic plants that lined our trail and we got some of our first views of Mt. Kenya.  After 5 hours of hiking we arrived at MacKinder’s Camp at 4200m, 13,779′.

The Torch Lily aka Red Hot Poker is one of many exotic wildflowers seen on Mt. Kenya.

Gladiola in bloom on Mt. Kenya.

April arriving above the jungle canopy in Mt. Kenya National Park.

Lobilia plant in bloom at 3350m/11,000' on Mt. Kenya.

Three types of lobilia plants on Mt. Kenya.

Giant Senacio trees provide an exotic foreground as we got some of our first views of Mt. Kenya.

A rock hyrax looks out from its perch at 4260m/14,000'.

Giant Senacio trees decorating the hillside above MacKinder's Camp at 4260m/ 14,000'.

On day 3 we would move up above timberline where plants grow into the alpine environment.  Our goal was the Austrian Hut at 4730m/15,518′.  This hut will serve as our base of operations for making an attempt on Mt. Kenya.  After being on Kilimanjaro for seven days we felt well acclimated.  A move to the Autrian Hut would feel great and put us in good position to prepare for a summit attempt.

April at 4570m/15,000' en route to the Austrian Hut. The Lewis Glacier is in the distance with its turquoise glacial fed lake below.

Kurt sorting gear inside the Austrian Hut.

After getting settled in the Austrian Hut we sorted gear then took a hike to the base of our route.  Reaching our route would require crossing the Lewis Glacier then ascending an open talus slope to the start of the route.  The Lewis Glacier has been receding like many glaciers worldwide.  In the process of recession it has revealed layers of ice that are relatively old.  There are not many crevasses on the Lewis Glacier but the conditions warranted having a good sharp set of crampons and an ice axe.  Along with doing a reconnaissance mission we would also carry gear to the base of the route allowing us to go fast and light when we would approach the route on the day we planned to climb it.

Mt. Kenya from the Austrian Hut.

April crossing the Lewis Glacier during a reconnaissance hike to the base of the route.

April at the base of Mt. Kenya where our route begins.

With our reconnaissance mission complete we returned to the Austrian Hut.  After some weather issues and one false start we would attempt the summit on March 3.  Waking at dawn we left the Austrian Hut, traversed across the Lewis Glacier, and roped up for the climb.

April on lead traversing out on the first roped pitch of the climb.

April enjoying the view after 8 pitches of climbing.

After 10 pitches the climb moved back into the shade. We put on more clothing layers and April takes off on lead at pitch 11.

April leading a chimney on pitch 13.

April topping out onto a ridge line after pitch 15.

It felt great to be back in the sun for the last few pitches of the climb!

April on lead picking her route up pitch 17.

April on lead stemming out over one of the last crux moves of the climb.

With easier climbing above April topping out on the route.

Summit photo on Mt. Kenya.

With the climb complete we returned back to the Austrian Hut and descended out the Teleki Valley to see some new scenery on Mt. Kenya.

Looking back at the north side of Mt. Kenya.

Morning camp on the final day of the trip offering views of the Mt. Kenya massif behind.

One of the many spectacular views on the trip out.

Reflecting back on a great few days. A smile is worth a thousand words!

Orphanage Visit February 26, 2011

Dollies sewn by Cindy Simon and friends ready to be sent to kids overseas.

After a very successful and emotional climb of Kilimanjaro the ladies flew to Zanzibar Island.  SMI guides April Mayhew and Kurt Wedberg had a day in Moshi to relax before traveling to Kenya for an attempt at climbing Mt. Kenya.  In addition to relaxing they paid a visit to a local orphanage in Moshi.  Orphaned children is a growing problem in Africa where Aids and other diseases takes its toll on the parents of families.  This orphanage houses 35 kids ranging from 4-12 years old.

April and Kurt brought with them gifts of hand made sewn dolls.  These dolls were the creation of Cindy Simon and a team of ladies in the LA area.  Cindy’s husband Bill is a regular client of SMI.  Bill and Cindy climbed Kilimanjaro with SMI in February 2010.  Cindy and her friends sew these dolls for orphans around the world.  They have sent over 600 dolls to children in Haiti.

Here are a few pictures of the event.  The entire photo gallery is here:

SMI guide April giving dollies to the orphans.

The kids pose for a picture with their new dollies.

A child at the orphanage happy with her new dolly.

Kids playing with their new dollies at the orphanage.

Mt. Kenya June 10-17, 2010 – Beautiful and Untamed

After winding up a very busy spring season in the Sierra it was time to pack our luggage for another trip to Africa. Our objectives on this trip include climbs of Mt. Kenya and Kilimanjaro followed by a game viewing safari. On June 10 Mike Crafts and Kurt Wedberg departed from Nairobi for Mt. Kenya National Park for a 7-day adventure through this beautiful and untamed land.

Mt. Kenya has three summits that comprise part of the rim of an extinct volcano that is thought to have been higher than Mt. Everest. The three summits are called Batian (17,058′, 5199m), Nelion (17,020′, 5188m), and Point Lenana (16,400′, 4999m). The top two require a long technical rock climb to reach their summits while Pt. Lenana is a very enjoyable trekking peak. We came with an open mind and prepared to climb any and all of the three summits of the second highest peak on the African continent.

Our trek was fun and adventurous. The lower slopes of Mt. Kenya National Park feature a jungle environment teeming with wildlife. It is not uncommon to see a herd of cape buffaloes, zebras, or a couple different species of monkeys. The camps are clean and well kept with huts that have sleeping areas plus tables and chairs for eating and relaxing. Very few people visit this area and we ran into very few other parties during our time here. After two days of trekking we found ourselves at Mackinder’s Camp at 13,800′, 4200m. From here we woke early and climbed to the summit of Point Lenana under a clear and cold morning. This climb is traditionally done at night so you’re reaching the summit at sunrise which offers breathtaking views of the surrounding scenery including a nice perspective of Nelion and Batian basking in morning light. We returned to Mackinder’s Camp and prepared to move our camp higher on the following day. As we rested in the afternoon we were treated to excellent views of Batian and Nelion with the Diamond Couloir forming a dividing line of ice in between. On day 4 we ascended to the Austrian Hut at 15,720′, 4791m. This is the highest camp in the park and offers a great viewpoint of Batian and Nelion including a good look at the rock climbing route up the south face.

Feeling well we decided to hike that afternoon to the beginning of the south face route carrying climbing equipment to leave here in preparation for an attempt at this route. This required a short descent into a glacier carved valley, crossing the Lewis Glacier, then up talus and scree to the base of the route. Leaving our gear here we returned to the Austrian Hut to hydrate and make final preparations for our climb. As weather moved in dumping snow and hail that stuck to the ground we decided to use a weather day we had built in to our itinerary and use the time to further acclimatize.

Up until now this trip had been an amazing experience. We had been in a remote and very beautiful part of the world, seen an abundance of wildlife, and enjoyed the fellowship that goes along with sharing adventures with in the mountains. On this evening as we were reflecting on our experiences to this point Mike decided that seeing Batian and Nelion from the various vantage points we have had so far was enough. While climbing to the summit of Batian and Nelion was one of our goals it wasn’t the only goal. Mountaineering is about the journey and not the destination and we have so far had a very memorable adventure. The decision was made to retrieve our equipment and head out down a different route than we entered the park.

On day 6 we traversed around the Circuit Path which is a trail that circumnavigates all three summits of Mt. Kenya. As were entered new terrain the views continued to be outstanding as we discovered new facets to this diverse environment. We descended down to Shipton’s Camp (14,025′, 4275m) named after the distinguished British mountaineer who made the first ascent of Nelion in 1929. Continuing our descent down Mackinder’s Valley we ended up at 11,200′, 3413m. This camp is situated just above the jungle zone setting us up well for our final scenic day back to the park entrance.

On day 7 we left Old Moses Camp and began seeing not only thicker vegetation but more signs of wildlife including recent elephant dung and tracks. Rounding a corner we heard a rustling in the bushes immediately stopped and listened. After a few moments we heard some more movement then looking down 100 yards away we saw an elephant. Hearing more rustling we realized there was a large herd nearby. Our Kenyan porters became very concerned. We then saw 30+ elephants cross our path 100 yards away. It was a rather tense moment and our staff looked truly worried. They have never encountered a site like this. While they have seen anywhere from 1-3 elephants in Mt. Kenya National Park they’ve never encountered a herd of this size before. They are trained to light a fire which is supposed to keep them at bay. They did that and we kept our distance as they crossed the trail. African elephants are very dangerous animals. They are unpredictable and very protective when calves are around. They had big males and baby calves. We don’t think they actually saw us although we can’t be sure. We are convinced the elephants knew we were somewhere close though. We ended up waiting a while then extinguished the fire and continued down quietly. As we continued down the dirt road we heard elephants in the distance. Our porters said the elephants will cross the road at a bend up ahead and if we don’t beat them there they’ll block our path. We moved quickly and quietly and got to that crucial bend in the road first. Up to that point we saw elephant tracks and heard movement in the bushes. After that turn in the road we didn’t see any more evidence of them and stopped hearing noises. Eventually the porters relaxed and were jovial again.

All the photos taken are currently being uploaded to the SMI photo gallery. The gallery will not be complete until we return home in early July Here’s the link to the gallery with what we currently have uploaded:

Mt. Kenya's South Face

Summit photo on Point Lenana. From left to right: Kenyan guide Charles, Mike Crafts, Kurt Wedberg

Young elephant crossing our route on the final day of our trek

Zebra mother and her new born foal.