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Check your grub.conf file for the actual name of the kernel file. Different distros may name them differently. But, on most distros I've seen, the kernel should reside in /boot and the grub.conf should reside in /boot/grub.
Also, don't replace the kernel until you know if it works. Until then, create a second entry into the grub.conf file for the new kernel and boot using that. So, if it fails, you can go back to the old kernel to fix the problem.
Another problem is: If Debian is like Gentoo, the /boot directory is not mounted by default (if it is its own partition). So, you would have to do "mount /boot" first.