Climbing Mount Kenya: Essential Tips And Routes

Climbing Mount Kenya, Africa's second-highest peak is a thrilling adventure with diverse terrain, from dense forests to stark rock faces. The mountain offers a unique mix of tropical and alpine climates, making every step an exciting challenge.
Skyhook offers a Mt Kenya guided trip which takes hikers along the classic Chogoria route. The snow-capped peaks against the equatorial backdrop are a distinctive sight in the trekking world and it's no surprise that this mountain makes it onto many adventure bucket lists.
Here's more about this African peak and what it entails to reach the top!

What's Special About Mt Kenya?

MT KENYA
Mt Kenya views from the base

Mt Kenya Location and Geography

Mount Kenya, a stunning emblem of natural beauty, stands proudly in Central Kenya, just south of the Equator. 
It's the country's highest peak and Africa's second loftiest mountain after Kilimanjaro, located approximately 320 km to the south. This geographical marvel is not just a point on the map but a symbol of Kenya's rich natural heritage.
The summit area of Mount Kenya is marked by steep, pyramidal peaks, with the highest being Batian (5,199 metres), followed closely by Nelion (5,188 metres) and Point Lenana (4,985 metres).
This long-extinct volcano's highest peaks are formed of crystalline nepheline syenite, remnants of its ancient volcanic activity.
mt kenya lake
The perfect view of Lake Michaelson near the summit
Radiating from these central peaks are ridges, creating seven principal valleys. The mountain is home to several small, retreating glaciers like Lewis and Tyndall, which nourish the streams and marshes on its slopes. 

Different Ecosystems

Mount Kenya supports a succession of distinct vegetation zones based on elevation. The lower plateau in the west and north is grassland, while the south and east feature grasses and low trees. 
Dense forests envelop the mountain's slopes up to about 3,000 metres, with cedar and yellowwood prevalent on the drier flanks. Bamboo species dominate above this forest belt, eventually transitioning into a giant heather zone.
The high moorland zone, starting around 3,400 metres, showcases Afro-Alpine vegetation, giving way to mosses and lichens at higher elevations. Beyond 4,600 metres, the landscape is marked by bare rock, glaciers, and snow.
Want some interesting facts about Mount Kenya to inspire your hike?
Well, in 1997, Mount Kenya was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in recognition of its exceptional ecological and geological importance.

Wildlife and Local People

zebra kenya
Zebras on Mt Kenya National Park.
The Mount Kenya National Park encompasses 718 square km, including much of the mountain's lower slopes.
This park is a sanctuary for various large animals, including elephants, buffaloes, black rhinoceroses, and leopards. It also protects several endangered and rare species, such as the Sunni buck and albino zebra.
The fertile lower slopes of Mount Kenya are cultivated by the Kikuyu, Embu, and Meru peoples, who hold the mountain in high cultural regard. 
The Kikuyu, referring to it as Kirinyaga or "Mountain of the Ostrich," traditionally revere it as the abode of their omnipotent deity, Ngai.

Climbing Mt Kenya Difficulty

mt. kenya summit
Most routes up Mt Kenya are non-technical, you don't need any mountaineering skills.
Climbing Mount Kenya can range from non-technical to highly technical, depending on the route and peak you choose to tackle. 
Most trekkers aim to reach Point Lenana, the third-highest peak at 4,985 meters (16,355 feet). This ascent is considered non-technical, meaning it doesn't require specialised climbing skills or equipment. 
The routes to Point Lenana, such as the Naromoru, Sirimon, and Chogoria, are primarily trekking paths. While they can be steep and challenging due to altitude and weather conditions, they are generally accessible to fit hikers with no technical mountaineering experience.
However, if you aim to summit the highest peaks of Mount Kenya, Batian (5,199 meters) and Nelion (5,188 meters), the climb becomes a technical endeavour.
These ascents require rock climbing skills and appropriate gear such as ropes, harnesses, and protection devices. The routes to these peaks involve challenging rock climbing, often in cold and windy conditions, and should only be attempted by experienced mountaineers.

Climbing Mt Kenya Routes

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Trekking the Chogoria route up Mt. Kenya.

I. Naromoru Route

This is the most direct path to Point Lenana. It's also the steepest and, in parts, quite rugged. The rapid ascent on this route means you'll need to be well-prepared for steep climbs and potentially slippery descents, especially in wet conditions.

II. Sirimon Route

The Sirimon route has a more gradual ascent and is recommended for those who want a less strenuous climb. However, don't be fooled by its gentler slopes; you'll still need good stamina and endurance, especially for the final push to the summit.

III. Chogoria Route

my kenya
Hiking towards the mountain on the Chogoria route.
Famed for its scenic beauty, the Chogoria route is more prolonged and requires a higher fitness level. It's less crowded, offering a more tranquil climbing experience, but the longer distance means more days on the mountain, which can be physically demanding.
Note: On the Skyhook Mt. Kenya trip, the guides generally use this route.

IV. Other Less Travelled Mt Kenya Routes

Due to their undefined nature, these routes require trekking authorisation from the Kenya Wild Service. 
  • Timau Route

  • Burguret Route

  • Kamweti Route

Mt Kenya Trek Itinerary

Below is a full itinerary of what you could expect when joining a Mount Kenya Skyhook group trip.

Day 1: Nairobi to the Foothills of Mount Kenya

We depart from Nairobi and drive towards Mount Kenya's eastern side. The journey takes you through Kenya's vibrant landscapes and local villages. We'll briefly stop at Sagaa, then continue to Chogoria town. 
The adventure begins at Chogoria as you enter the Mount Kenya forest at an altitude of 1,600m, trekking through the dense forest to reach Chogoria Gate at 2,950m.
chogoria gate, mt kenya
The first day takes you to the Chogoria Gate.
We’ll set up camp at the gate and spend the evening acclimatising and enjoying the serene environment of the Mount Kenya forest.

Day 2: Trek to Lake Ellis

Today's trek begins at the Chogoria Gate and winds through the dense montane forest, rich in birdlife and the occasional sighting of larger wildlife. 
You reach the scenic Lake Ellis at an altitude of 3,400 meters. This area offers a perfect blend of tranquillity and natural beauty, with opportunities for short exploratory walks around the lake. 
Lake Elis Mount Kenya
Camping near Lake Ellis

Day 3: Lake Ellis to Gorges Valley

Trek from Lake Ellis to Mintos Camp at 4,200 meters. This part of the journey offers some of the most breathtaking views of the Gorges Valley and the surrounding peaks.
mt kenya camping
A stunning starry sky over the Gorges Valley
The terrain becomes more alpine with sparse vegetation. This campsite is perched on a high ridge and offers spectacular views of the peaks and valleys. It's an ideal place for acclimatisation before the summit push.

Day 4: Summit Day

We start the summit attempt very early to reach Point Lenana, the third-highest peak of Mount Kenya (4,985 meters).
Mount kenya summit
Reaching the summit just in time for the best sunrise.
This is the most challenging part of the trek, involving a steep ascent in the dark. Generally, we reach the summit just in time for the sun to rise, a spectacular moment you are unlikely to forget!
After the summit, take the Sirimon route and descend to Shipton's Hut for a short rest before trekking down to Judmeir Camp for the night. 

Day 5: Judmeir Camp to Sirimon Park Gate

Enjoy a relaxed start with a fulfilling breakfast before embarking on the final 10km downhill walk to the park gate. 
Here, you bid farewell to your incredible team of porters and guides, then embark on your drive back to Nairobi, filled with memories of a lifetime.

What's the Best Time to Climb Mt Kenya?

Mount Kenya
Cloudy skies provide relief from the harsh African sun. However, rain is not ideal for trekking.

Mid-December to March

​​This period is after the short rains and usually provides clear, dry days with good visibility. The skies are often clear, offering excellent views of the mountain and its surroundings. The temperatures are relatively warm during these months but can be cold at higher altitudes, especially at night.
The trails are drier and more accessible, making the climb less challenging regarding terrain. The risk of rain is lower, which means fewer muddy paths and slippery rocks. 
This is a popular time for climbers, and the routes may be more crowded. It's advisable to book accommodations and guides well in advance.

July to Early October

This period follows the long rains and typically features dry, cooler weather on Mount Kenya. The visibility is good, and the landscape is lush and green from the recent rains. 
The temperatures are cooler than the December-March period, making trekking more comfortable during the day. However, nights can be frigid, especially at higher altitudes.
The scenery is stunning following the rainy season, with vibrant flora and active wildlife. The paths are less crowded than in the December-March period. 
Nighttime temperatures can drop significantly, so adequate cold-weather gear is essential. Also, occasional showers can still occur, so waterproof gear is recommended.

Conclusion

In the realm of thrilling adventures, climbing Mount Kenya stands out as a captivating journey through diverse landscapes and climates.
Its allure lies not only in the challenge but also in the stunning vistas and unique ecosystems encountered along the way.
For those seeking the thrill of this adventure, our Mount Kenya trekking tours promise unforgettable escapades amidst Africa's breathtaking landscapes and rich heritage.
Discover the splendor of climbing Mount Kenya through an experience tailored by our vetted guides here at Skyhook Adventure.

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