Mount Kenya, Africa’s second highest peak is regarded as the realm of Ngai, god of the local Kikuyu people. Traditionally, all Kikuyu homes were built to face this sacred peak. They call it Kirinyaga, or place of light. The mountain is an awe-inspiring sight. Its ragged series of peaks are crowned with snow, and its slopes are thick with forest. Mount Kenya lies within Mount Kenya National park.
It has a trio of summits named after Maasai Chieftains. The highest, Batian, is 17,057ft (5199M), making it the tallest peak in Kenya and the second highest in the entire African continent. Nellion and Lenana stand at 17,021ft (5188M) and 16,355ft (4985M) respectively. At present there are 11 glaciers in Mount Kenya.
At Mount Kenya the sun rises and sets at the same time every day, with both day and night lasting 12 hours. In fact, there is only one-minute difference between the shortest and longest days of the year (this is because Mount Kenya is situated too close to the Equator). There are six gates into Mount Kenya National Park but the most frequently used are the 3 main gates.
The most frequented routes are Chogoria (the most striking), Naru Moro (the quickest way to reach Lenana) and Sirimon (popular due to the steady rate of ascent). The Chogoria route is considered the most striking. It takes climbers from the small town of Chogoria to the peaks circuit and on to point Lenana.
The physical landscape on this route is its biggest attraction. Whereas the other routes above generally follow a U-Shaped glacial valley for much of the way, the Chogoria traverses around the head of the spectacular ‘Temple’ with the Hall Tarns perched on the rock ledge above it and Lake Michaelson in the base of the amphitheatre.
The additional features of Lake Ellis, the Giant’s Billiard Table and the Nithi Falls further add to its interest. The Chogoria is very often used as a descent route after ascending one of the other routes.
The Naro Moru route is the quickest way to the base of the mountain and Pt. Lenana. The forest is still dense on this route, as is the bamboo zone. You are quite likely to see bushbuck, Colobus monkey and Sykes Monkey and also evidence of Buffalo and Elephant.
The hygenia forest is also in good condition with a lot of flowers and other plants. The giant heathers above the forest were heavily damaged by a fire in 2013 but the alpine moorland has a lot of Giant Lobelia as well as MacKinders Gladiolus higher up. The Teleki Valley has a lot of the classic Tree and Cabbage Groundsels as well as Lobelia Telekii and Deckenii.
Some of the cabbage groundsels in particular absolutely massive. On the approach to or at MacKinders you are almost guaranteed to see Rock Hyrax.
The Sirimon Route is accessed via the North West corner of the mountain and the Kenya Wildlife Service have the Sirimon National Park Gate at the road head where you can pay your fees, there is also accommodation available here. The route is usually considered one of the easier routes as it climbs relatively gradually with only a couple of steeper sections to reach the top camp.
It is also currently the most popular route. The forest is relatively sparse on this route and the bamboo zone is not really evident. Crossing the ridge into the MacKinder Valley is a good viewpoint if it is clear and the approach to the peaks along the classic U-shaped MacKinder Valley can be spectacular in clear conditions.
The MacKinder Valley shows quite a lot of the giant Lobelia and Groundsel which are the classic Mt Kenya Flora. You are also quite likely to see Rock Hyrax at Shipton’s cave or hut.
Mount Kenya has permanent snow at its summits and is therefore very cold in the night and can reach lows of 14 degrees Fahrenheit (-1o degrees Celsius). The best time to hike and visit Mount
Kenya are the dry seasons between January – February and July – September as it is certainly more difficult in the rainy seasons.