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Mount Kenya: A fine sporting effort
For those whose idea of a fine autumnal Sunday afternoon is one spent next to a glass of sherry and in front of The Great Escape or The Wooden Horse, it’s tempting to think that Allied POWs had a monopoly on devil-may-care derring-do. But then one remembers that the Italians eventually ended up on the right side of history, and so perhaps it comes as less of a surprise that they, too, could hold their own at that particular game.
The British-run Camp 354 near Nanyuki, Kenya was by the sounds of it a dreary place – too dreary for the likes of Felice Benuzzi, Giovanni Balletto and Vincenzo Barsotti, three unwilling guests with a taste for adventure.
So, with meager rations and a little improvised equipment, they broke out. Rather than try to rejoin their Axis comrades, however, they decided it would be rather more amusing to attempt to climb Mount Kenya. They had a picture of it that they’d found on an Oxo tin and that, they figured, would be enough of a map to see them through.
After nearly three weeks during which they ran the gauntlet of savage wildlife and even more savage geography, and climbed over 5,000 metres up that unforgiving mountain, they then broke back into their camp, no doubt much refreshed.
The officer in charge of the camp wasn’t exactly amused and sentenced them to four weeks’ solitary confinement. He could, however, appreciate what he called their ‘sporting effort’ and commuted the sentence to 7 days.
The full story is told by Benuzzi in the mountaineering classic No Picnic on Mount Kenya, and we recommend it highly to anyone casting about for something to read whilst safe and sound in the bath after a long day on the river.