Mt. Kenya is located in Kenya’s central highlands a couple of hundred kilometers north of the equator. It is here, where the Kikuyu god ngai resides. It is the highest mountain in Kenya and the second highest in Africa. It is one of the few places near the equator on Africa with permanent glaciers. The name of the country has been known to have been derived from Mt.Kenya which was formerly known as Mount Kirinyaga.
The mountain is located 180 kilometers north of Nairobi and it can often be seen from high-rise buildings in Nairobi and from Thika. It is an extinct volcano, which formed a couple of million years ago. The mountain is located in the Mount Kenya National Park, which is a designated protected area around the mountain above 3200m altitude. The Kenya Wildlife Service manages the park. The national park covers an area of 700 square kilometers and was established in 1949.
This itinerary is suitable for the summer to fall climbing season when the North Face of the peak is relatively snow-free and climbing conditions are best.
Leave Nairobi for a 3.5-hour trip to Nanyuki where lunch is had, meet our staff and make final preparations and continue the journey to the mountain. With porter support, trek to Old Moses Camp at 3300m (This involves about a 1 to 2-hour drive and a walk of about 3.5 hours.
Trek to Shipton’s Camp 4236m. You have the option of staying in the hut, or sleep in your own tents. The tents offer a bit of privacy and quiet from the often-busy hut. Either way, our cook will use the hut’s facilities and we will take our meals at tables and benches inside the hut.
Begin a trekking circumnavigation of the peak. This two-day trek reveals all sides of this complex peak, crossing several high passes. It also gives th body a chance to acclimatize in preparation for the actual ascent. Going counterclockwise, cross the Hausberg Col at 4591m, then pass between Oblong and Hausberg Tarns. Then it is up to Nanyuki and Two Tarn before descending to Mackinder’s Camp on the SW side of the peak, at about 4200m.
Rise up early and continue trekking up to Top Hut (Austrian Hut), 4800m. Proceed to make a final short ascent of Point Lenana, 4985m, and then go straight down the northwest side back to Shipton’s Camp by passing Harris Tarn. Point Lenana is the common trekker’s Mount Kenya “summit”. Our trekking crew will go around Point Lenana on its east side while we climb.
You have the option of either resting for one day or climbing a short route on either Point Peter or Point Dutton. In either case, you also prepare for the climb of Batian the following morning.
Ascent of Batian by the North Face Standard Route. Starting before dawn, usually between 4 and 5 am, you may climb the first couple of pitches by headlamp.
The route initially follows a wide contour which you ascend for some 7 pitches, never harder than 5.7. A bit of easy scrambling brings you to the Amphitheater, a small basin of easy rock part way up the route. Ideally you arrive here by about 7.30am and enjoying a late “breakfast” and a short break. Above this is the crux of the route, Firmin’s Tower. There are about 3 difficult pitches, all fairly short, but all in the 5.8 to 5.9 range. Above this, easier terrain leads to a few more pitches and finally, the west ridge.
From this point, we continue on easy, but still exposed, rock to Shipton’s Notch, a prominent gash in the summit ridge. Another pitch, then mixed 4th and easy 5th class rock leads to the airy summit of Batian. Descent is by the same route, with a few minor variations. If we are quick we can arrive back in Shipton’s Camp before evening dusk.
To be sure we get the conditions we need; we have added an additional day into this itinerary.
Use the Chogoria route because we believe it is the most spectacular on the peak. The trek out begins with a climb up to Simba Col (where porters once swore they saw a lion, hence the name) then a quick descent to the Hall Tarns. From here we follow the backbone of a ridge, overlooking the beautiful Gorges Valley.
Losing elevation, we leave the high moorlands and enter into the forest belt which surrounds Mount Kenya. As we approach the rustic cabins of Meru Mount Kenya Lodge (our destination for the night) we are likely to see Cape buffalo, as well as Bush Buck or Water Buck, and tracks of other wild animals.
The Bandas, as the cabins are called, are a welcome luxury after our stay on the mountain. With hot showers (after the water is wood-fire heated) and a fine evening fire, we enjoy dinner and the thick, fragrant air of the jungly lower elevations. In the evening, we can make a short hike with our Kenyan guide, looking for additional wildlife and exploring the immediate area around our cabins.
There is a rough 4-wheel drive road which leads up to the Lodge. We may choose to hike the first hour or so, enjoying the thick bamboo forest. We often see elephant tracks, and signs of many other wild animals. After a bit of time, our Land Rover catches up to us, and we pile in and continue the drive to Chogoria town on the east side of Mount Kenya. Once on the main road, we switch to a more comfortable vehicle, for the additional 4 hours’ drive to Nairobi. Back to a Nairobi hotel we enjoy the comforts of civilization and a fine dinner.