Mount Kenya
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Mount Kenya

Access to the mountain

Tarmac roads lead to towns at the starts of the three principal routes up the mountain; see road map. Dirt roads lead to the park gates and on up to the roadheads; in wet weather these may be impassable, even to 4WD vehicles. National Park fees are payable in Kenyan Shillings at the three main park gates (about $10 per day in 1991).

Walking routes to the peak area

Naro Moru Route: The most popular and quickest route to the south side of the mountain. Good access to Naro Moru from Nairobi; from there limited public transport goes part way to the park gate or it is possible to use Naro Moru River Lodge transport to the Met. Station ($35 per person one way). Just past Naro Moru, turn right and follow signs for the National Park; the dirt road leads in 17km. through farmlands then plantations to the park gate (2450m.). Now forests to the Met. Station (3050m.) and roadhead (3 h.). Easy forest path then very boggy moorlands to the Picnic Rocks (3750m., 3 h.). (It is important not to get lost in the lower half of the "Vertical Bog" during descent - if in doubt keep right). More soggy moorlands then a ridge lead to good viewpoint over Teleki Valley (4000m., 1 h.). The path slants to a stream crossing, then gently up valley (several campsites) to Mackinder's Camp (4200m., 1 h.). (Fine groundsel forests on a southern, weller variant). 10 mm. beyond Mackinder's Camp and 80m. above the MCK hut is the Ranger Station.

Sirimon Route: This offers some of the best forest walking on Mt. Kenya. Bantu Lodge provides a vehicle service to the roadhead. The track, 13km. from Nanyuki towards Isiolo, is well signposted and leads through farmland for 10km. to the park gate (2650m.). Forest track to Judmeier Camp (3400m., 4 h.). Campsite on edge of moorland by stream 500m. before Judmeier Camp. Now two options: 1. Eastern Variant. The track deteriorates to a boggy path. Traverse then descend into the marshy Liki North Valley; hut and pleasant campsites (3993m., 3 h.). Climb over a ridge and descend into Mackinder Valley; follow this to Shipton's Cave and slightly higher Shipton's Camp (4236m., 3 h.), good campsites. 2. Western Variant This involves fewer ups and downs but is wetter.

Chogoria Route: From roadhead the fastest and most spectacular route to approach Point Lenana. Driving from Embu two turn-offs are sign-posted "Meru Mt. Kenya Lodge"; the second is better; dirt roads for 9km. to the Forest Gate (1700m.). Now a track for 22km. (high clearance 4WD advised even when dry) through beautiful rain forest, bamboo then parkland to the Park Gate and Meru Mt. Kenya Lodge (3017m., 9 h. on foot). Campsite at 2700m., water in valley to south. There are fine walks in the "Parklands" near the Park Gate. Now two options: 1. Via Urumandi Hut. 5 mm. from the Park Gate turn left and follow an overgrown track to the Kinithi stream, campsite, then on to hut (3063m., 1 h.). Path over natural bridge then through heather moorlands to roadhead, campsites, fine watertall (3300m., 1 h.). 2. Follow the main track, cross the Kinithi stream, pass special campsite, and ignore turn-off right to Lake Ellis and Mugi Hill (2 h.). Dry ridge with views over Gorges Valley to Hall Tarns and Minto's Hut (4297 m., 5 h.); campsite and viewpoint over Lake Michaelson. Further information on peak area diagrams. diagram

Walking round the Peaks

Hall Tarns to Top Hut, Kami Tarn and Shipton's Camp. Easy path to scree slopes (40 mm.). Path divides: 1. Left steeply to Square Tarn, cross ridge then traverse to Top Hut (4790m., 2 h.). 2. flight to head of valley then up steep screes to Simba Tarn (4560m., 40 mm.). From here: either west up screes, traverse base of North Ridge of Pt. Lenana, descend a moraine ridge and traverse again to reach Kami Tarn (4439m., 1 h.); or over Simba Col to Shipton's Camp (40 min.).

Kami Tarn to Hut Tarn. Steep screes lead to Hausberg Col (4591m., 30 min.). Down scree to a boulderfield and Hausberg Tarn; between this and Oblong Tarn bear off south-west up scree to a col beside the Western Terminal (1 h. 15 mm.); drop down, contour left across rock ledges (avoid descending to Emerald Tarn'), then up slightly to Nanyuki Tarn and Hut Tarn (4480m., 1 h.).

Hut Tarn to Top Hut. From the tarn either descend directly to American Camp, then join the Naro Moru route up the screes; or traverse left, then descend slightly to Tyndall Tarn, continue below Midget Peak to a flat outwash plain below Pt. John and Lewis Tarn. From here either join the Naro Moru route to Pt. Lenana or head for the south-west tip of the Lewis Glacier and climb this till level with Top Hut; either traverse to the hut or continue to Pt. Lenana. Ice axe useful.

Point Lenana. From Top Hut the ascent is straightforward but an ice axe or ski stick is useful (1 h.). From Harris Tarn the North Ridge provides an exposed scramble (grade 1+); the North Face, to the left of the ridge, involves a left to right scramble and is slightly easier (1 h.). In icy conditions these northern routes require proficient use of ice axe and crampons. Harris Tarn can be reached in 40 min. from Simba Tarn or 1 h. from Kami Hut. Further information on peak area diagrams.

Porters and Guides

Guides are recommended and may be hired at: i) Mutindwa or Chogoria for the Chogoria Route, ii) 5km. from Naro Moru (towards the park gate) and Naro Moru River Lodge for the Naro Moru Route, iii) Bantu Lodge for Sirimon Route. It is best to maker arrangements one day before or in the early morning of the day of planned departure. Porters, if required, are chosen by the guide. Guides and porters are self-sufficient; wages are low compared to park fees but a reasonable tip should be given for good service. Expect to end up paying about $6 per day for a porter and $8 per day for a guide. Porters carry 18kg. of clients' equipment and rarely provide their own rucksacks.

Special Hazards

Other than the normal mountain walking and climbing hazards the following should be taken note of on Mt. Kenya.

ANIMALS The forest zone contains large numbers of buffalo and elephant. These animals can be very dangerous, avoid walking at night through this zone and avoid straying off the main tracks.

GETTING LOST It is easy to stray off the Naro Moru and Sirimon Routes during descent. If lost avoid descending any further, particularly into the forest zone. Either wait for better visibility - if necessary spend the night where you are, or retrace your steps back uphill. Remember smoke attracts rescuers.

EXPOSURE A warm day can rapidly turn very cold as the clouds build up and rain or snow start to tall. Exhaustion and damp, sweaty clothes can cause a rapid body cooling and finally hypothermia. Have warm clothes handy and eat energy snacks regularly.

DEHYDRATION Fluid loss occurs rapidly at high altitudes accentuating altitude sickness. Drink copious amounts of fluids.

ACCIDENTS In the event of an accident help can be summoned at the permanently manned Ranger Post in Teleki Valley, at the Met. Station and at any of the three main Park Gates; all of these locations are in radio contact with each other and with Park Headquarters where the Rescue Team is based.

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External links: Mountain Club of Kenya website | Kenya Wildlife Services website
Comments and updates to information are most welcome. © Andrew Wielochowski 13/04/02. Extract from Mount Kenya Map and Guide