Mount Kenya Climbing Routes
Climb Mount Kenya
Located in equatorial Africa, Mount Kenya boasts the second highest point on the continent and stands at an impressive 5,199m (17,057ft) tall. The main peaks rise from about the 4,500m mark to the summit of Batian (5199m), Nelion (5188m) and Lenana (4985m) amongst others.
This natural wonder is often overlooked by potential travellers in favour of the taller African alternative, Mount Kilimanjaro. However, many experienced hikers report that they preferred Mount Kenya because of the thriving wildlife and idyllic mountain lakes it has to offer. It is also much more off-the-beaten path. With snow-covered peaks and panoramic views of its forested slopes and the surrounding African planes, hiking Mount Kenya promises the adventure of a lifetime.
Hikers can expect to pass through distinctive zones characterized by a variety of vegetation. Gentle farmlands give way to dense rain forest which is populated by camphors and several species of monkeys, buffalo, elephant and even leopard.
As hikers ascend, they will encounter a belt of natural, homogenous bamboo followed by a region of low-lying shrubbery. Finally, the altitude becomes inhabitable for flora and fauna, yielding a barren moonscape of jagged rock and ice. These eroded, volcanic slopes are 3 million years old, and present a challenging and awe-inspiring final push.
Choosing the right path is essential to a successful hiking experience, and the different peaks of Mount Kenya provide options suited for the casual fit trekker as well as for advanced technical climbers. Of the highest peaks, point Lenana alone can be reached without technical climbing experience, but there are numerous routes to get to this point. From the base to summit generally takes from three to five days.
To help you make the right choice of route, and to help you prepare for this unique journey, we have compiled a comprehensive overview of all you need to make this experience the best it can be.
Mount Kenya is the less climbed cousin of Mount Kilimanjaro nearby in Tanzania, however many people prefer the wilderness, abundant wildlife and stunning mountain lakes that you find on Mount Kenya. Point Lenana at 4985m metres is a feasible trekking peak and also currently the worlds highest via ferrata summit route, which adds to the challenge and enjoyment. The panoramic views of the jagged volcanic peaks, wide valleys and surrounding savannah makes a trek on this mountain a thoroughly enjoyable African experience.
We have been guiding trips on Mount Kenya and have full time mountain staff at the base. Our advertised trips on all the main routes can be offered on tailor-made private trips and can can be combined with safari’s to experience a bit more of Kenya’s diverse culture and unique wildlife in some of the world’s great National Parks, Game Reserves and Conservancies.
MOUNT KENYA SIRIMON ROUTE
Sirimon is another walking route that reaches Point Lenana, this route is the easiest of the three trekking routes to Point Lenana. Also starting from Naro Moru, the route takes five days and the diverse scenery and enjoyable hiking make this route the perfect choice if accompanied with a descent down the other side on the Chogoria route. 4-Day Mount Kenya Climbing Sirimon Route 2023
|MOUNT KENYA NARO MORU ROUTE|
This particular trek ascends the Noro Moru Route from the west and is our most popular option for the ascent. It includes the notorious ‘Vertical Bog’ which ascends for an hour or so above the Met Camp and takes the hiker into the Teleki Valley and up to Mackinders Camp. From here, an acclimatisation day follows and then an early start to the summit, initially over easy paths to the head of the valley and then up a steep zigzag route on loose ground to reach the Austrian Hut at the base of the Lewis Glacier which has now retreated significantly over the past twenty years.
Aside from the stunning beauty, this route has the added challenge of a Via Ferrata. Feel the airy exposure of scrambling the side of the summit ridge from the Austrian Hut, the fixed lines help to provide a bit of extra confidence however the Naro Moru approach to the summit is definitely an adrenaline rush for those looking to experience the exposure of rugged peaks. From the summit our most popular descent is the stunning Chogoria route but cheaper and faster descents can be made down the Sirimon route or back down the Naro Moru route. 4 Days Mount Kenya Climbing Naro Moru Route
ABOUT MOUNT KENYA
The tallest in Kenya, and the second highest in Africa, Mount Kenya stands 5199m tall. There are several summits on Mount Kenya: Batian, Nelion, and Point Lenana. Despite being a strato-volcano, the peak itself gets its rugged profile from previously being covered in ice. Today, there are 11 small glaciers still on the peak.
The area surrounding the peak make up Mt Kenya National Park, well known for its unique flora and fauna. From the lowland savannah and bamboo forests the flora changes as you rise in elevation. Here you will find the unique high-altitude equatorial environment. The landscape seems as if it belongs on another planet with strange plants and misty terrain.
The approach to Mount Kenya from Nairobi involves a journey of about four hours to either the town of Naro Moru or Chuka where you can start the trek. Naro Moru is the base for ascents on the Sirimon, Burguret and Naro Moru routes and Embu is used for the Chogoria route. All our advertised prices are based on camping on the mountain but there are also huts on the Sirimon, Naro Moru and Chogoria routes which you can upgrade to.
|MOUNT KENYA CHOGORIA ROUTE|
Like the Naro Moru Route, the Chogoria Route of Mt Kenya does not require any technical climbing skills. Arguably this most beautiful of the trekking routes, it is also the longer option and our most popular option for the descent, however you can ascend the Chogoria route too. This route starts and ends at Embu and requires 4×4 transport to reach the starting point. It is also a trekking route that summits Point Lenana taking you through the Gorges Valley and the Lewis Glacier. There are lakes and tarns to explore along this route, although not the same infrastructure that you get on the Naro Moru and Sirimon routes, any climb on the Chogoria side will be a camping trip. 5-Day Mount Kenya Climbing Chogoria – Naro Moru Route hiking
|COMBINATION ROUTES, TRAVERSES & SUMMIT CIRCUITS ON MOUNT KENYA|
We have several different combination routes for trekking to Point Lenana, allowing you to go up one route and down another. Almost all are camping routes, but some have mountain huts that you can upgrade to. Our Mount Kenya Traverse ascends the Naro Moru and descends via the Chogoria route over 5 or 6 days and would be our recommendation as it combines spectacular beauty with airy and challenging trekking and good acclimatisation. The Summit Circuit is a bit longer at seven days and explores the nooks and crannies of the mountain, circling the summit massif and camping high throughout. 5 Days Mount Kenya Climbing Sirimon – Chogoria route trekking
ROCK CLIMBING IN KENYA
TECHNICAL CLIMBS UP MOUNT KENYA BATIAN PEAK
If you are a proficient trad climber, you will love the challenge of Batian Peak, the true summit of Mount Kenya (5,199m). Previous technical rock climbing experience is required for this 21-pitch climb. All 21 pitches are done in one day, making this Mt Kenya summit not only a beautiful climb, but an exhausting one as well. This peak is best attempted in June through August.
TECHNICAL CLIMBS UP MOUNT KENYA NELION PEAK
The second tallest peak on Mt Kenya demands 18 pitches of trad rock climbing. Like its neighbor, plenty of technical rock climbing experience is required prior to climbing this demanding point. It is possible, if the weather and snow pack permits, to climb both Nelion and Batian Peak in the same day if you are a well-experienced fit climber, but this involves traversing between the two. There is in fact a small bivi hut right on the summit of Nelion which can take two people who get weathered out or have run out of time. Prime times for climbing Nelion are September through to March.
BEST TIMES TO TREK MOUNT KENYA
Best times for climbing Mount Kenya from any of the trekking routes are January to March and June to October but it can be climbed year-round. The rainy seasons typically occur in April, May and November. However, with the onset of climate change they have been difficult to predict in recent years.
FITNESS LEVEL REQUIRED TO CLIMB MOUNT KENYA
For the trekking routes up to Point Lenana, you do not need to be an ultra-fit mountaineer. However, you should have some previous hiking experience over hilly terrain and a good overall fitness. For Nelion or Batian Peak you will need to be in excellent climbing shape. Multi-pitch climbs involve a lot of stamina and strength. Not just in your ability to climb, but walk as well. The technical climbing routes require you to summit Point Lenana as well, so be prepared to both trek and endure a multi-pitch climb.
Whichever route you choose, Africa Magical Tours promotes proper acclimatization. We build extra days and hikes into our itineraries to ensure that you do not ascend too quickly and you are properly acclimatized.
CULTURAL IMPORTANCE OF MOUNT KENYA
Mount Kenya holds deep cultural value in the eyes of the Kenyan people. Local tribes have use this peak as a meeting place and it is seen as a throne of the gods. This mountain gave the country of Kenya its name and it holds a special place in the heart of all Kenyans.
What Gear do I need for Mount Kenya? (Packing List)
This list is suited for the casual trek only – technical climbing equipment should be sought with the help of your experienced guide and depends on the route you have chosen to climb.
GEAR AND KIT REQUIRED TO CLIMB MOUNT KENYA
Aside from personal articles, having the right layering and clothing is key for climbing Mount Kenya. Having a few moisture-wicking, non-cotton layers are essential. Furthermore, you will want an insulating layer like a puffy jacket, hat and gloves for higher elevations. Mount Kenya does get rain and snow, so a waterproof layer and gaiters are useful for keeping the wind and rain at bay.
- 2 × long/short sleeve shirts (moisture-wicking fabric)
- Warm fleece top
- Soft shell jacket/Hard shell, waterproof jacket (breathable hood)/Down jacket (insulated)
- Thermal base later (long johns and vests, moisture-wicking fabric)/Lightweight poncho
- Waterproof trousers (side zipper recommended)/Hiking trousers/Fleece trousers (for evenings at camp)/Shorts
- 6 × underwear (moisture-wicking fabric)
- Brimmed hat/Knitted beanie/Balaclava or buff
- 2 × gloves/mittens (a warm & a thin, windproof)
- Hiking boots (waterproof, warm, broken-in)/Sandals for campsite
- 4 × pairs of thick wool hiking socks/Thick socks reserved for night times
Gear & Paperwork
- Warm sleeping bag (comfort -5° or lower)
- Sleeping mat (e.g. Therm-A-Rest, check if provided)
- Rucksack (usually carried by porters, 65L – 90L)
- Day bag (for personal carriage and use, 35L – 45L)
- Duffle bag (to leave unneeded items at the base lodge, 80L – 100L)
- Sunglasses (with UV protection)
- 2 × water bottles (Nalgene, 1L), or 1 × Water bladder (Camelback, 3L)
- Pee bottle (1.5L, to avoid having to leave tent at night)
- Collapsible trekking poles
- Head lamp with extra batteries
- A few plastic bags to keep gear dry
- Passport/3 × photocopies of passport/Student card (optional)
- Flight details
- Insurance policy details (see below)
- Yellow fever certificate
- Cash (for tips) and bank cards
Toiletries, First Aid & Other Items
- Facecloth/Travel towel (quick dry)/Wet wipes
- Soap/Hand sanitizer
- Sunscreen (SPF 30+)
- Toilet paper
- Toothbrush & toothpaste
- Insect repellent
- First aid kit
- Anti-malaria tablets
- Pain killers (Ibuprofen and Paracetamol)
- Zinc oxide tape and small scissors
- Pack of blister pads
- Loperamide / Immodium diarrhea tablets
- Pack of Dioralyte sachets (or similar rehydration packs)/Electrolytes, powder or tablets (optional)
- Pack of throat lozenges
- Pack of iodine water purification tablets
- Prescription medication
- Duct tape
- Waterproof wallet
How Difficult Is The Mount Kenya Climb
The most technically challenging sections of the hiking route to Point Lenana generally only requires a bit of scrambling over snow and ice.
The greatest challenge to trekkers is usually not the physical exertion but the effects of thinning air which are evident above the 3000m mark.
The difficulty of the technical climbs varies, but significant prior climbing experience is essential for all climbing options. Even though you will be accompanied by qualified guides, experience of outdoor multi-pitch climbing is necessary, as well as with leading long runouts, long abseils and applying safety procedures.
The summit of Nelion is reached after one, protracted day of climbing and a series of about 18 pitches, and while the climb is not highly graded technically (between scramble and UIAA IV +, averaging at around UIAA II). The climb up Batian Peak also requires a full day of climbing, and a series of up to 21 pitches. These range from low grade scramble to grade UIAA IV+, averaging around UIAA II.
Apart from the technical grade, there are other considerations which affect the difficulty and safety of the advanced climbs.
Firstly, their significant length demands physical stamina as well as mental concentration over up to 11 hours.
Secondly, while most guided tours facilitate sufficient acclimatization, the altitude of the climbs compound the fatigue experienced by climbers.
Potential tricky weather conditions (which can be mitigated by choosing to hike at the best time of year for the chosen route, and including a “weather day” for insurance), as well as the lack of sophisticated rescue facilities which would be expected in the European Alps, for example are also factors which must be taken into account when determining the difficulty of the trek-climb combination.
Altitude Sickness a Risk on Mount Kenya Climb
Altitude sickness (or Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS)) is the main obstacle hikers face in reaching the summit.
Head-aches and nausea are its common effects and are experienced by most hikers beyond 3000m. To mitigate these symptoms, it is recommended that hikers drink 3-4 litres of water per day, and acclimatize properly to the thin air.
Before hiking Mount Kenya, it is essential that hikers are fully informed on the risks, symptoms and treatments available for AMS as well as for high altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE) and high altitude cerebral edema (HACE), which are life-threatening if left untreated