Once an active volcano, thought to have towered at 6706 m (22,000 ft), currently only the eroded, steep and snow covered core remains standing at 5199m (17057ft). This mountain though on the Equator like its taller neighbour Kilimanjaro, offers more climbing challenges than the ‘Roof of Africa’ Kilimanjaro.
Most climbers who talk of climbing Mt. Kenya, are essentially heading for Point Lenana, a much easier peak. The other popular but higher peaks of Batian and Nellion are a serious and long ascent through masses of fifth class rock climbing. As opposed to the Kilimanjaro climbs, this is NOT a trekking peak!
The two main peaks of Mt. Kenya are Batian the highest at 5199 meters and the slightly lower Nelion standing at 5188 meters. Separating the two peaks is a difficult and deep notch, aptly named the ‘Gate of the Mists’.
Mt. Kenya supports a very wide ecosystem ranging from rain-forest and thick bamboo forests on its lower slopes. The unique Afro-Alpine moorland and its dependent plant-life are to be found at higher altitudes.
Your climb should not only focus on getting to the summit but also seeing most of the flora and fauna and also making new friends. As the saying goes, the journey matters, not just the destination.
Here is a teaser look at the Mt. Kenya climb: you will wade through thick forests as you spot the wildlife including the buffalo and elephant. You delight in the range of wildlife to be seen as you emerge in the expanse moorlands and their unique flora.
Take time to marvel as you spot the attractive coloured sun-birds and follow them with your binoculars, be captivated by the strange giant Lobellia plants as you progress with your climb. At Shipton’s Camp relax and get the requisite rest as you take photos of the spectacular 3 peaks. Later, at 3 am leave your warm sleeping bag and begin the final ascent to the peak.
Mt. Kenya climb is not very difficult but its unique in that any fit person can climb and rapidly gain altitude and on the night before summiting you find yourself with a disturbing head-ache and all the symptoms of acute mountain sickness. To prevent this you should ascent with a well experienced guide and porters, going at a slow pace and ensuring you are sufficiently hydrated.
This increases your chances of summiting the mountain. Ideally, an extra day at one of the climb camps such as Shipton’s Camp allows you to properly acclimatize and also adequately rest before your summit. Any one who is sufficiently fit and can walk an average of 7 hours a day can successively summit the mountain.
A well planned trek will include a well experienced guide, cook, porter for the cooking gear plus a personal porter per trekker. A good guide will aid you in spotting the diverse and unique mountain flora and fauna thus increase the climbing experience. But, most importantly a climbing guide will regulate your ascent pace, capitalizing on their experience to diagnose altitude sickness symptoms and thus make critical decisions.
You should rest assured as all porters and guides are registered with Kenya Wildlife Services and thus possess a good knowledge of the routes. Your experienced guides will be experienced and knowledgeable in dealing with altitude sickness and also aid you in spotting the various wildlife and unique plants.
Remember: at an altitude of over 4,000m it gets freezing at night! Therefore, you require warm clothing to keep sufficiently cozy as the night temperatures are well below freezing. During the day you can expect lots of hot overhead sun and even rain if it is the long (mid March to mid June) or short (September to October) rains season. The sun is visible in both seasons and even in the long rainy season you can expect lots of sun between 10am – 3pm.
Remember to carry all the equipments you need. Here is a checklist:
Hiking Boots: This is the most important item on the list. You’ll need a waterproof/comfortable hiking boots broken in before you get to Mt. Kenya.
Water purification as drinking water is taken directly from the mountain streams.
Gaiters: To keep snow, rocks and mud out of your boots.
Also remember the following but LIMIT YOURSELF!
1 warm scarf
1 wool hat
1 pair of sunglasses/mountaineering glasses
1 pair of light weight gloves (inner gloves)
1 pair of gaiters
1 pair of warm heavy weight gloves/mittens
1 pair of sneakers/trainers/takkies
1 wide brimmed hat / baseball cap
1 pair of hiking boots
2 to 3 pairs of shorts (with pockets)
2 to 3 T-shirts/shirts
2 pairs of thermal socks liner
4 pairs of thermal hiking socks
1 to 2 long sleeves shirts (cotton/wool)
1 waterproof jacket (with a hood) & pants
1 pair of light loose fitting cotton trousers
1 polar fleece/down vest
1 light towel
1 pair of track suit top & bottom
1 sleeping pad/mat
1 warm jersey/sweater (wool)
1 sleeping bag (rating 0 C or four seasons)
1 set of thermal underwear (top & bottom)
The following useful equipment should be considered:
1 travel pillow (optional)
2 – 3 packets of moist towelettes.
1 pocket swiss army knife
1 pair of walking/ski poles
1 head lamp (plus spare batteries & bulb)
2 x 2 litres water bottles (camel bags preferably)