Kenya is the highest mountain in Kenya and the second highest in
Africa after Kilimanjaro. Mt Kenya is a broad volcanic cone whose
base is around 120km in diameter. The mountain was formed by volcanic
eruption during the creation of the Great Rift Valley and geologists
believe that it was over 1500m higher than its present height of
5199m (17,057ft). At this stage it would have had a summit crater,
however intensive erosion has worn away the original upper parts
of the cone leaving arêtes, pyramidal peaks, U-shaped valleys
and rock basins containing glacial lakes. The peaks of Batian (5199m)
and Nelion (5188m) are the remains of a huge volcanic plug that
has slowly eroded to create the distinctive silhouette.
Only 16kms south
of the Equator, the peaks are permanently iced with snow and glaciers,
although this may end in the very near future. In the last 20 years,
the glaciers have been retreating at an alarming rate and it is
estimated that if the present trend continues there will be no permanent
ice left on the mountain. Since records were established in 1893,
eight of the eighteen glaciers then recorded have disappeared.
On the lower
slopes below 4000m, trekkers encounter a variety of alpine vegetation
ranging from rain forest, bamboo, hagena and hypericum woodland,
giant heather, tussock, and the fascinating giant lobelia. The forests
are rich in wildlife and elephant, buffalo, zebra, antelope and
monkeys are often seen. Bird life everywhere is plentiful and varied.
Mt Kenya (or
Kirinyaga) was revered by the Kikuyu who settled in the Central
Highlands and believed their god, Ngai, lived on top of the mountain.
The first European to lay eyes on the mountain was a Swiss missionary
named Ludwig Krapf in 1849, but his stories of snow on the Equator
were ridiculed by the Geographic Society in England. It was only
in 1883 when a Scottish explorer, Joseph Thomson, confirmed its
existence that Krapf’s findings were accepted. Other explorers
followed and several attempts to scale the mountain were made. In
1899, Halford MacKinder and two Alpine guides made the first successful
ascent of the mountain and named the two highest peaks after Maasai
Mt Kenya is
unexpectedly different, attracting trekkers and mountaineers from
all over the world. The mountains unique landscape and vegetation
have been declared as International Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO.
Its range of walking and climbing routes offers something for everyone
and, unless your time is limited, is too good to miss.
The mountain can be climbed all year round but for a more comfortable
trek it is best to avoid the rainy seasons. The best times for reasonable
weather are January – February and August – October.
It should be noted that the weather patterns on Mt Kenya are notoriously
unpredictable, and even during ‘dry’ seasons rain can
fall and the weather can be unpleasant for two or three days at
a time. The highest peaks, Bation and Nelion, can only be reached
by fully equipped mountaineers with technical skills. The goal for
most trekkers is to reach Pt. Lenana (4985m), the third highest
peak on the mountain, where superb views of the surrounding countryside
IMPORTANT NOTE: Mt Kenya
has somehow acquired the reputation of being an easy climb…
it’s not! People who under-estimate this mountain and set off
unprepared for the conditions usually have a miserable time due
to the cold and altitude. Trekkers who do not spend enough time
acclimatizing will often suffer from some form of altitude sickness,
and this is one of the main reasons why over 25% of attempts fail.
By allowing an extra day on the mountain you will stand a better
chance of reaching Pt Lenana, and have a more enjoyable climb. Hiring
a porter to help carry some of the heavy gear will also improve
your chances of getting to the top. The other consideration is that
you are not permitted to trek alone and hiring a porter will overcome
the regulation of having a minimum group size of two.
There are three
main routes up to the peaks area – Naro Moru, Sirimon, and
The most popular and fastest route to Pt Lenana. It is the least
scenic of the main routes but has easy access from the main road
and reasonable facilities in the form of bunkhouses and camping.
Being the most direct route it is easy to follow but can be steep
and boggy in places.
The least used of the main routes of ascent. Because it is on the
drier side of the mountain, this route offers superb forest walking,
open scenery with wonderful alpine vegetation, and the chance of
spotting wildlife on the lower slopes.
This route is the longest but also the most beautiful and spectacular
way by which to ascend the mountain. Wonderful views for most of
the climb, particularly in the upper sections with its glacial lakes,
giant groundsel, lobelia and weird volcanic formations inhabited
by rock hyrax.
can be combined to traverse the mountain by going up one side and
down the other, the most popular being the Sirimon – Chogoria
For most routes, a minimum 3-4 days should be allowed from the road
heads or 5-6 days if departing from Nairobi. If you plan on trekking
around the peaks, allow an extra 1 or 2 days to really enjoy the
DAYS SIRIMON - CHOGORIA ROUTE
Day 1 Nairobi
– Nanyuki – Old Moses Camp (3300m)
Depart Nairobi in the morning by public transport to the Equator
town of Nanyuki, 200kms to the north at the base of Mt Kenya. After
lunch, drive to the Sirimon Park Gate where fees are paid and trekkers
are registered. Accompanied by a guide and porters, trek 3-4 hours
through equatorial forest and heathland to Old Moses Camp. Dinner
and overnight in the bunkhouse.
Day 2 Old
Moses Camp – Shipton’s Camp (4240m)
After breakfast, trek for 6-7 hours through undulating moorland
and alpine vegetation to reach Shipton’s Camp at the head
of the Mac kinder Valley. Lunch is taken enroute and the night is
spent in the Camp bunkhouse.
Day 3 Shipton’s
Camp – Austrian Hut (4790m)
The climb to Austrian Hut takes you around the eastern side of the
mountain via Simba Col. The path climbs and descends over rocky
scree slopes but offers excellent views to the south and south-east.
Trekking time is 4-5 hours, overnight at Austrian Hut.
Day 4 Austrian
Hut – Point Lenana (4985m) – Minto’s Hut (4300m)
An early start for the final climb to Pt Lenana, arriving in time
for sunrise. On a clear day the views from here are superb and quite
often Kilimanjaro can be seen in the distance.
Descend to Minto’s Hut for breakfast, followed by further
descent through the beautiful Georges Valley to the Meru Mt Kenya
Bandas for dinner and overnight stay.
Day 5 Chogoria
After breakfast, a leisurely descent through tropical forest and
bamboo to Chogoria township and your transfer to Nairobi, arriving