Mount Kenya which lies on the equator is Africa’s second highest peak at 5,199 meters (17,057 ft). It is one of Africa’s premier trekking destination to the North of Mt. Kilimanjaro which so happens to take the lions share of trekkers visiting the region. This uniquely makes Mount Kenya a great mountain to avoid the crowds and remains a raw wilderness with free roaming wildlife that includes Elephants, Buffaloes, Leopards, several Antelope species, primates, birds and rock hyrax that make residence of the upper altitudes.
Mount Kenya is made of three popular peaks with the highest being Batian. Nelion and Point Lenana are second and third respectively. Point Lenana is the most common trekking destination and can be climbed by trekkers who are relatively fit without any technical climbing experience. Batian and Nelion require technical climbing experience to successfully summit and therefore are less climbed.
Generally trekking Mount Kenya starts off on a three day trek or more and a round trip of up to to 60 km depending on the combination of routes one chooses. From the gates to summit one would expect an elevation of about 2400m.
Mount Kenya History
This mountain that rises in East Africa on the equator is an extinct stratovolcano that rises high up into the clouds. It probably opened up during the formation of the Great Rift Valley. It is listed among the Seven Second Summits. Before glacial erosion the mountain stood at 7,000 m (23,000 ft). It ha 11 glaciers and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The free standing mountain is an important source of water for much of Kenya. These come from several rivers that form from the glaciers and wind their way down through massive valleys and gorges eroded by glacial action over thousands of years.
Mount Kenya Weather and Ecosystem
Mount Kenya boasts several ecological zones and a highly unpredictable weather system. The weather can be anything from hot and sunny to strong chilly winds, pouring rain to heavy snowfall all in a single day. Temperatures can range from hot summer weather to brittle freezing temperatures especially at night. The weather on mount Knya can be very unpredictably in contrast with surrounding areas in the region.
The lower part of the mountain is blanketed in a thick tropical rainforest. The trail in this zone is usually dirt or paved road leading to the lower camp sites and meteorological stations. The upper section of the rainforest gives way to the natural occurring bamboo belt. The belt traverses the circumference of the mountain except small bands on the northern face. This section of the mountain is usually trekked on the first day of climbing.
The timberline forest follows the bamboo belt with smaller trees characterized by low lying mist and fog at intervals throughout the day. Above the timberline there is the Heather and Chaparral zones with giant heathers being seen on the wetter areas while chaparral takes control of the dryer faces. These can be found at around 3000m (9,800 ft).
After this zone you get to the Moorland zone and into the alpine zone with sparse vegetation typically starring giant groundsels (senecios) and giant lobelias. Finally there’s the Nival or glacial zone where snow and ice are the order of the day and virtually no vegetation grows.This is where you expect to find the peaks that make Mount Kenya famous.
Even though Mount Kenyan can be trekked all year around, if you are planning a trip its best to avoid the rainy seasons from March to June and October to December. As the mountain is generally a very wet mountain and the rains make the condition more extreme.
Mount Kenya Routes
Mount Kenya boasts six climbing routes in various configuration but the most popular are Sirimon route, Naro Moru route and Chogoria route in that order. The Chogoria route gate lies to the east of the mountain while Sirimon and Naro Moru routes are generally on the western face of the mountain.
These western routes are usually trekked in three to five days while the Chogoria route can take up to eight days. It is common for trips on Mount Kenya to ascend using one route and descend using a different route. Sirimon is considered the easiest route. Naro Moru route is known for its traverse through the vertical bog and several swamps with stunning views in the shadows of Nelion and Batian.
Chogoria route takes climbers through breathtaking valleys and gorges riddled with high altitude lakes.
Mount Kenya Guides and Fees
Climbing on mount Kenya can be done with or without professional guides or porters even though it is advisable to contract the services of a guide as the vast mountain, terrain and thick vegetation makes it very easy to get lost. The mountain fees are usually charged per day with a usual minimum of four days unless doing a day hike (24 hours). The fees paid usually cover park entrance and accommodation in the permanent structure camps where available or access to the adjoining campsites. Camping can also be done at other convenient locations.
Tipping of the guides, porters and kitchen staff is optional and can be done at your own discretion. Tipping is highly appreciated and expected in most cases