Howdy!! 😀 Welcome back to our recurring series: The Traveler’s Chair! Today, we catch up with Gitonga Wandai, as he shares his journey towards accomplishing one of his biggest, most daring dreams…
But first- a confession! 😀
I’ve honestly been wanting to do more Features on The Traveler’s Chair, in this season. I remember whispering a prayer in my heart the other day, asking God to show me who to feature next; a person whose story would inspire hope in our hearts. 🙂
Then, like an answered prayer, Gitonga Wandai expressed interest in being featured here, a second time!
If you recall, Gitonga Wandai was our very first guest on The Traveler’s Chair, 2 years ago… And his inspiring story truly resonated with many of us.
So you bet that mine was a happy resounding YES! 😀
Gitonga Wandai is a man with a big dream and a persistent determination to live life to the full, no matter what!
We have the privilege of being part of his journey through today’s post, and witnessing what I believe to be- History in the making!
Tip: Check out our first Traveler’s Chair feature on Gitonga Wandai HERE!
Gitonga Wandai: A Visionary Kenyan Man’s Journey to Mt. Everest!
Tell us all about your escapades since our last chat…
Life has been one adventure after another! My son Wandai just turned 9 and we recently climbed Mt. Longido in Tanzania together. He took on that 2,637m climb like a champ!
And my baby girl Koko is now 2; she’s been keeping us on our toes! 😀
My love for mountains grows with every summit I encounter. 🙂 I’ve returned to Mt. Kilimanjaro 7 times, totaling 13 summits overall!
And in 2019, I challenged myself to run up and down Mount Kenya in a day. It took me 5 hours, 33 minutes to summit to Point Lenana… The whole activity took about 9 hours, 50 minutes.
I got to take on Africa’s most iconic mountains, the Rwenzori Mountain ranges in Uganda, on an 8-day wild adventure!
How’s your business Hikemaniak Beyond, and how are you coping with Covid-19?
Hikemaniak is 4 years old now & going strong! 😀 In those 4 years, we’ve taken over 10,000 hikers to the trails and hoping to inspire more.
Due to the pandemic, we had to halt all our activities, although temporarily.
However, we’re encouraging our trail lovers to stay active, while maintaining the M.O.H. safety guidelines.
Tell us about your journey to Mount Everest… What makes it so special for you?
I’ve nurtured this dream, of climbing the world’s highest mountain at 8,848m, for about 10 years! I want to prove to myself and be able to tell my kids, Wandai and Koko, that it is possible!
3 years ago, I took the first step when I sold my car to raise money for a 12-day solo trek, to the Everest Base camp in Nepal.
I wanted to see the Mountain with my own eyes and get my goal in sharp focus. It was a life-changing experience!
I returned in April of 2019, for a 14-day trek in the Annapurna Himalayan Range. Being accompanied by my Hikemaniak Team made it an even richer adventure!
What goals do you hope to achieve by Summiting Mt. Everest in 2022?
I have three goals that keep me going:
>To inspire my son and daughter to be diligent with their own dreams.
>I want to place Kenya in the World Map of mountain climbing, while also inspiring my fellow Kenyans to pursue their dreams.
>To raise environmental consciousness, by planting 500,000 trees to replenish the forests in Kenya by 2022.
What are your fears about taking on Mt. Everest?
Fear can be crippling and sure, a lot has been written about the tragic events on the Everest… But positive, life-altering experiences have transpired on the Everest too!
I choose to focus on the good and let that carry me to the summit! 🙂
How much does one typically need to climb and summit Mt. Everest?
I will need about Kes. 6.5M for the journey. This covers: all the gear, return flights, meals, guides, and 2 major mountain climbs for my training.
It also caters for the 60 days’ long expedition up Mt. Everest.
How can people support you in raising the funds?
I’d love to invite both individual and corporate well-wishers to support and be part of making this dream come true. Your support is highly appreciated! 🙂
What lessons has this journey taught you so far?
To keep going even when you don’t ‘feel’ the progress.
And to keep believing and stay persistent with whatever makes your heart dance. Because that is everything… That is living!
What kind of gear do you need to climb Mt. Everest?
There’s quite a lot of clothing and technical climbing gear needed… The summit suit and a sleeping bag with -50degrees rating to help keep myself warm, is of key importance.
Others include harness, summit boots, crampons, tent, ice axe, and many more climbing items.
What challenges are you confronted with as you prepare for 2022?
While this journey has been amazing, I’ve had a few setbacks with my ideal timelines…
I had one training climb planned for April, but we had to postpone it due to Covid-19. I am staying active with endurance training, through ultra-running in Nairobi.
We’ve also just embarked on the uphill task of raising 6.5 Million Shillings for the expedition… Still, we match on! 😀
Tell us about your upcoming Film: Gitonga, and how the idea came about…
GITONGA is the story of a father who at the most basic level, wants to inspire his children to passionately follow their hearts’ compasses.
The idea for the film was created by Joe Bunyan, the Director.
I met Joe at the Tribhuvan International Airport, in Nepal while boarding our flight to Lukla, the trailhead of the Everest Base-camp Trek.
We hit it off immediately and our motivations for being there resonated. Joe had just quit his job to venture into his passion: film-making. And I was there because I belong on the mountain.
On the second day, Joe shared his idea of filming my trek up to the Base-camp, and I said Yes! 😀
And thus the project: GITONGA was born.
What has the filming journey been like for you?
It’s taken us 3 years to complete this project… Joe is meticulous with his work and has put in endless hours/energy into it.
We’ve had our fair share of challenges, yet it’s been so rewarding!
Initially, I struggled with being in front of the camera; the takes/retakes sometimes felt overwhelming.
Then there were times of self-doubt on whether the story was worth telling… I had to dig deep into some of what felt really personal.
Yet, a half-told story can never be inspiring… This journey has allowed me to embrace vulnerability.
What parts of the film did you enjoy the most?
My favorite scene shows Wandai having breakfast when he says: anyone can be anything they wish to be.
It truly captures the heart of this film.
Why should people watch it?
At this moment, I feel like a writer and my piece is ready.
I stand with great faith that my story will resonate with many Kenyans and give them the impetus to believe in themselves again.
P.S. The film: GITONGA premiers on NTV, K24 & Kameme TV this Sunday, 31st May, at 6pm, EAT.
What can we expect to see from Gitonga Wandai leading up to Everest 2022?
Lots of training! I plan to do more Kilimanjaro climbs, plus a possible running up the mountain in a single day.
I hope to return & trek to the Everest Island Peak (6,182m) later this year or in early 2021.
And later on to Mount Himlung (7,120m) in the Manaslu Region of the Himalayas.
I also have my sights set on Mount Manaslu, the 8th highest mountain in the world at 8,163m, late next year. It all feels very exciting!
Then there’s accumulating the necessary gear and fundraising. I welcome all your support and good cheer! 😀
Any advice for people in this Covid-19season?
Many dreams have been shattered, but let’s keep our heads up. This too shall pass and we’ll emerge even stronger.
Do what you can at the moment and let go of what you can’t change.
My sincere thanks to Gitonga Wandai for trusting us with his inspiring story!
Thank you for reading! 😀 I hope you enjoyed this read!
Do you know any inspiring people whose stories should be highlighted on the Traveler’s Chair?
Leave a comment down below with your input plus some kind cheerful words for Gitonga Wandai!
<<Stay. Inspired. Always>>