Mt Kenya climbing – take spikes with you

Mt Kenya is amazingly beautiful mountain with incredible plant fauna. There are several routes to choose from, so climber can ascend and descend from different directions.

I had always been fascinated by walking up the mountain, as you can basically walk from Equator to the North Pole, and see all different vegetation zones from forest to the glacier in few days.

Highest peak, that can be reached without climbing gear is Point Lenana 4985 meters. This takes five days when leaving from Nairobi. It can be made faster, but this beautiful mountain deserves the time and you are less likely to have altitude issues.

I walked up the mountain using Sirimon and descended using Chogoria route. This is described as most beautiful route, and I can really verify that.

I climbed Mt Kenya in March 2018. It was during short rainy season. I was lucky, there was no rain when I was on the mountain.

I made my booking through Gracepatt Ecotours Kenya. I had my own two guides with me Martin and Charles.

I met few climbers in the huts, so I had company during evenings. But during the days I had the mountain for myself. It was special five day meditative experience.

Meals that are prepared in the mountain put whole new standard on camp cooking! For me, and for also other travelers chefs we’re preparing full meals with soup as appetizer, main course, and deserts. It was simply delicious. Food in Mt Kenya is excellent. I had no idea that such gorgeous meals can even be cooked in so simple and basic settings.

First day hike is by using tarmac road, that leads from Mt Kenya National Park Gate to Old Moses Camp. It is just about three hour hike.

Walk begins with beautiful montane forest, continues in bamboo forest and changes again to giant heather.

Old Moses Camp is basic camp with bunkbeds. There I met Mohammed from Jordania, who had just missed the peak as his guide had malaria fever episode, and he had to carry him down. Mohammed also gave me some tips how to adjust to make climb as easy as possible. Here they are:

As you reach your destination for the day, have a short brake, but then move on little more. Walk maybe 200-500 even further, stay there for half an hour and come back. It tells your body in advance what it has to prepare for.

Also, there is no electricity in the mountain. Using airplane mode in the phone saves battery. Mohammed actually gave more battery for me, as my phone was already going down on first day.

Old Moses camp is already above the clouds

Ascend to Shiptons camp is amazingly beautiful as vegetation in Mt Kenya is incredibly beautiful.

Endemic Giant Lobelia “ostrich plume plant” is only found from Mt Kenya. “Hairs” are needed for insulation to protect the flowers and the plant itself. Another strange looking plant is Senecio in the background.

Shipton Camp is basic camp to stay for additional day for adaptation to higher altitude.

In Shiptons Camp, and also elsewhere in the mountain there are groups of rock hyraxes (Procavia capensis). Hyraxes are incredible animals. Their closest relatives are elephants, they have three toes, internal testes, and teeth like rhinos. Hyrax communication is extremely variable and many climbers have been startled by their “ear splitting” screams, coming from just a meter away behind the rocks.

Having lunch with hyraxes. This time I had no idea, that later in life I would do PhD of tree hyraxes. There is whole post about hyraxes in Mt Kenya.
Rock hyrax, Senecio and Giant Lobelia.

I was there in March, during rainy season, there was no rain, however it was really cold. Temperature was close to zero during the day and bellow zero during the night. I mostly stayed in my winter sleeping bag. I was sitting in the sleeping bag during dinner. My guides were so cold they could not sleep.

Ascent to Point Lenana takes few hours from Shiptons camp. Closer to the peak path becomes icy. At that point I wished I had taken my grips for shoes with me. One slip, and there would have been zero chance of survival.

As I was up in March, peak of Point Lenana was icy. Walking to the top was dangerous, as there was only ice, and nothing to hold on. One slip, and the fall would have been hundreds of meters. Simple spikes, the ones that can just be put on top of the shoe would have been great solution.

There were people who were not able to reach the top because of altitude symptoms. Some of them were very fit young men. I guess you can do best you can to help your body to adapt and then just hope it is enough. For me this was just a long walk, my body was just fine.

I was not lucky to see the sun set as it was cloudy. But when I began descending to the other side of the mountain clouds cleared and I had most beautiful walk of my entire life.

Going down from Point Lenana up to Mt Kenya Bandas is a long walk, about 28 kilometers. But as you are going down and view is all the time spectacular, it is a gorgeous day.

As day passes, scenery changes back to giant heather.

Then heather is behind and bamboo forest is around, and now you are back walking on the road that eventually leads to Mt Kenya Bandas.

My guide Charles and chef Martin Njure Kinyua. They took excellent care for me. They both enjoyed greatly their work going up and down Mt Kenya. It certainly would keep anyone lean and strong.

Mt Kenya bandas have very nice cabins and even hot shower! It is water warmed in barrel with wood.

Surroundings of Mt Kenya Bandas have a lot of wildlife, so keep your eyes open for sweet kudus.

Getting adapted to higher climate before heading up to the peak.
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