Mount Kenya, Africa’s second highest mountain after Kilimanjaro may be yours to conquer if you take up the challenge to climb it.
It’s situated 16.5 km south of the equator in central Kenya and 150km from Nairobi.
Its proximity to the equator does not prevent glacial nightly temperatures which freeze the soil only for it to thaw when the sun comes up the next day. This daily expansion and contraction prevent the establishment of vegetation high up on the mountain.
Apart from being the place where the Republic of Kenya derived its name, this stratovolcano also acts as a water tower for the Tana River.
The Kikuyu, Aembu, Maasai, and Ameru who live around the mountain regard it as God’s dwelling place and many built their houses with doors facing the mountain.
The Kikuyu call the mountain Kiri Nyaga which loosely translates to God’s resting place. The Maasai call the mountain Ol donyo keri which means mountain with stripes.
The Ameru call it Kirimara which means mountain with white features. This is in reference to the snow that capped the mountain for centuries, representing a crown on God’s dwelling.
This reverence that the settlers on the mountain extended to Mt. Kenya has helped to preserve it for centuries. Locals know that it is the source of water and the fertile volcanic soils that they use to farm.
There have been two major periods of glaciation which have led to eroded slopes, several shallow U shaped valleys and 11 small glaciers.
The snow that accumulates every year on the mountain is getting less and is predicted that there will be no more ice formation by 2047.
It plays host to different types of forest, several vegetation bands and Mt. Kenya National Park which is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Mount Kenya National Park
On average, Mount Kenya National Park receives 16,000 visitors per year.
It is found within the forest reserve and protects the region around the mountain, hosting over 130 bird species, elephants, duikers and unique flora.
It covers 715 km2 and provides a great environment to indulge in fishing, bird watching, game drives, trekking, camping, and caving.
Climbing Mount Kenya
The highest peaks of the mountain are:
- Batian (5,199m)
- Nelion (5,188m)
- Point Lenana (4,985m)
They have been named after Maasai chieftains. Mbatian was a Maasai Laiboni (a medicine man), Nelion was his brother and Lenana his son. Other peaks are named after European climbers, explorers and European settlers.
Majority of Mt. Kenya visitors scale Point Lenana Peak through rock climbing. Batian is climbed via the north Face Standard Route while Nelion is ascended through the Normal Route. One can transverse the two peaks through the Gates of Mist. The Diamond Couloir and Ice Window Route are becoming more dangerous as snow and ice levels continue to retreat. Satellite peaks provide an easier climb and are suitable for acclimatization before venturing into the higher peaks.
Chogoria route leads you through the forest to the south-east of the mountain to the moorland. It then follows the Gorges Valley up to Simba col below Point Lenana. The Sirimon route is on the north west and splits on the moorland – you can take the Mackinder Valley path or the Liki North Valley path to get to Shipton’s Cave. Naromoru route has bunkhouses on each camp so its popular to most trekkers going to Point Lenana. It climbs towards Mackinder’s Camp.
Mount Kenya map – how to get there
Mt. Kenya may be accessed by bus, car hire, or cab which will take you to the closest tarred road to the mountain – Naromoru town (if you’re using Naromoru route).
It may drop you off at Chogoria town if you’re using the Chogoria route and Nanyuki if you’re taking the Sirimon route). You will then walk the rest of the way on a dirt road to the various trailheads.
These dirt roads are best navigated by 4 wheel drive vehicles.
Mount Kenya facts
- Mt. Kenya has an equatorial mountain climate described as winter every night and summer every day
- Mt. Kenya stands at 5,199m
- Dr. Johann Ludwig Krapf, a German missionary was the first European to report seeing Mt. Kenya in 1849
- The first European expedition up the mountain was achieved in 1887 by Count Samuel Teleki
- Kisoi Munyao raised the Kenyan flag at the mountaintop after Kenya’s independence in 1963
Places to stay at Mount Kenya
- Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club
- Serena Mountain Lodge
- Mt Kenya Leisure Lodge
- Mt. Kenya Royal Cottages
- Meru Slopes Hotel
- Murera Springs Eco Lodge
- Naro Moru River Lodge
- Rhino River Camp
- Glaciers on Mt Kenya
- Giant lobelias
- Rock hyrax
- Block fields where ground has cracked to form hexagons
- Deep V-shaped valleys
- Bamboo belt
- Timberline forest
- Giant groundsels
- Giant thistles
- Tree hyrax porcupines
- Groove toothed rat
- Mole rat
- Alpine chats
- Verreaux eagles
Best time to climb Mt. Kenya
Snow and rain fall from March to December but the frequency and amount doubles in the wet seasons from April to June (long rains) and October to November (short rains).
It is safest to visit Mt Kenya during the sunniest months when visibility is not restricted. Least rain is experienced from December to mid-March and there are 12 hour days throughout the year.
What to pack for a Mt. Kenya trip
- Crampons to fit on your shoes when climbing on glaciers
- Warm clothing
- Rain jacket
- Sleeping bag
- Walking poles
- Gaiters: To keep snow and mud from your boots
- Ankle supporting hiking boots
- Water purifiers: To treat the drinking water you get from streams
- Waterproof pants
- Insulated gloves
- Light fleece shirts
- Sunhat/climbing helmet
- Snacks to eat in between meals
- Climbing backpack
- Water bottle
- Pocket knife
- Foldable umbrella
- Insect repellant
If you would like to scale up and touch the sky, check out the Mount Kenya tours available or call an agent to customize your trip.