Aid worker to climb Mount Kenya again – aged 85

Denis Rutovitz is ready to tackle Mount Kenya again. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Denis Rutovitz is ready to tackle Mount Kenya again. Picture: Ian Georgeson
1
Have your say

FIFTY years ago, a young Denis Rutovitz climbed to the top of Mount Kenya and planted a flag to mark Kenya’s independence day.

Now, at the age of 85, he’s going back and will climb the 17,000ft mountain again to celebrate the African nation’s half-century of self-
government.

Unfurling the Kenyan flag at the summit 50 years ago. Picture: contributed

Unfurling the Kenyan flag at the summit 50 years ago. Picture: contributed

The aid worker and academic is said by friends to be “as fit as a fiddle” but he says he has been unable to do much exercise recently because he is too busy organising a shipment from Edinburgh Direct Aid of winter clothes and blankets for Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

Back in 1963, Mr Rutovitz was a 35-year-old lecturer at the University of Nairobi and a member of the Mountain Club of Kenya (MCK).

He said: “On December 11, the eve of Kenyan independence, three of us went up to the top of Mount Kenya, stayed overnight and on the stroke of midnight raised a flag, sent off some flares and made a broadcast to the nation.

“Next morning we abseiled down the mountain to a spot where a helicopter picked up one of our number, Kisoi Munyao, and whisked him off to the stadium where all the celebrations were taking place and he was presented to the Duke of Edinburgh and the prime minister, Jomo Kenyatta.

“Now it’s the 50th anniversary, the MCK decided to do a commemorative climb and invited us survivors to take part.”

Kisoi Munyao passed away in 2007 but Mr Rutovitz will be joined by his other companion, former civil servant Robert Chambers, in re-enacting the climb.

Mr Rutovitz admits he is in good shape “for my age”. He said: “I have done a lot of hill-walking and a bit of jogging and I hobble up the odd Munro.”

And in a minor concession to age, they will not go to the highest peak in order to avoid rock climbing.

Mr Rutovitz said: “Robert and I, and two of my sons, Alastair and Neelam, will content ourselves with getting to the top of Point Lenana – 16,000ft – and letting off a few flares or fireworks there to mark the anniversary.”

He also plans to take a bottle of cherry brandy with him.