Climbing Mount Kenya in East Africa
Traditionally Mount Kenya is the less climbed, smaller brother of Mount Kilimanjaro, however it should not be underestimated and many people who have climbed it prefer the wilderness, abundant wildlife and stunning mountain lakes that you find on Mount Kenya. Point Lenana is a feasible trekking peak and also currently the worlds highest via ferrata summit route, which adds to the challenge and enjoyment. The panoramic views of the surrounding peaks, valleys and savannah makes a trek on this mountain a thoroughly enjoyable African experience.
We have been guiding trips on Mount Kenya since 1996 and have full time mountain staff at the base. Our expeditions here have been successful because of a proper approach to acclimatisation which means that the ascent is not rushed. Point Lenana is just under 5000 metres high, so we always allow four days minimum for the trekking peak of Point Lenana on a variety of routes.
For more information on routes, kit, and fitness see below our trip offerings.
About Mount Kenya
The tallest in Kenya, and the second highest in Africa, Mount Kenya stands 5,199m tall. There are several summits on Mount Kenya: Batian, Nelion, and Point Lenana. Adventure Alternative offers trips to each of these peaks, plus a few more trek options. Despite being a strato-volcano, the peak itself gets its rugged profile from previously being covered in ice. Today, there are 11 small glaciers on the peak.
The area surrounding the peak and the peak itself make up Mt Kenya National Park. The surrounding area is well known for its unique flora and fauna. From the lowland savannahs and bamboo forests the flora changes as you rise in elevation. Here you will find the unique high-altitude equatorial environment. The landscape seems as if it belongs on another planet with strange plants and misty terrain.
A map showing the various Mt Kenya terrain.
The approach to Mount Kenya from Nairobi involves a journey of about four hours to either the town of Naro Moru or Embu, where we can provide accommodation in a local hotel or our Guest House. Naro Moru is the base for ascents on the Sirimon, Burguret and Naro Moru routes and Embu is used for the Chogoria route. All our advertised prices are based on camping on the mountain but there are also some huts, mostly privately owned, which you can upgrade to.
Cultural Importance of Mount Kenya
Mount Kenya holds deep cultural value in the eyes of the Kenyan people. Local tribes have use this peak as a meeting place and it is seen as a throne of the gods. This mountain gave the country of Kenya its name and it holds a special place in the heart of all Kenyans.
The view of the summit from Point Lenana, the third peak of the mountain and a popular trekking ascent.
Mount Kenya Trekking Routes with Adventure Alternative
There are many choices when it comes to exploring Mount Kenya. We offer such a wide array of treks and climbs, it can seem a little overwhelming. We can customize anything you see here to your needs. Furthermore, we are happy to arrange private transport to and from Nairobi, accommodation in Nairobi, any extra nights on the mountain, or a tailor-made safari. You can also enjoy a visit to one of our Moving Mountains Projects nearby.
All of our prices are advertised based on a minimum of 2 pax. We are happy to arrange climbs for solo travelers with another like-minded group, but it’s best to join as a pair or more to ensure that you get the price advertised.
Views from the Sirimon Route showing the twin headed peaks of Batian and Nelion which are technical climbing routes.
If you have any questions, we are happy to help. Simply drop us a line.
Mount Kenya Naro Moru Route
This route takes six days and ascends and descends the same trail. As with all trekking routes, Naro Moru tops out at Point Lenana. Arguably this most beautiful of the trekking routes, it is also the most difficult. This route starts and ends at Embu. It is a beautiful area with some of the world’s most unique landscape, including a “Vertical Bog”. The Naro Moru Route offers the opportunity to explore the unique nature of Mount Kenya and summit one of her high points without any technical climbing.
Aside from the stunning beauty, this route has the added challenge of a Via Ferrata. Feel the airy exposure of scrambling the side of a cliff face, while being roped into a Via Ferrata system. A true adrenaline rush for those looking to experience the exposure of rugged peaks.
The Noro Moru Route offers some of the best scenery. Batain and Nelion are the two highest peaks, with Point John to the right, and the smaller peak to the right of that and slightly set back, is Point Lenana.
Mount Kenya Chogoria Route
Like the Noro Moru Route, the Chogoria Route of Mt Kenya does not require any technical climbing skills. It is a trekking route that summits Point Lenana. This route takes you through the Gorges Valley and the Lewis Glacier. There are lakes and tarns to explore along this route, as well as the opportunity to stay in a high alpine hut.
Stunning views along the Chogoria Route with giant lobelia in the foreground, just one of many unique plants to be found on this mountain.
Mount Kenya Sirimon Route
Sirimon is another walking route that reaches Point Lenana, this route is the easiest of the three trekking routes to Point Lenana. Also starting from Naro Moru, the route takes five days and the diverse scenery and enjoyable hiking make this route the perfect choice if accompanied with a descent down the other side on the Chogoria route.
Green lakes along the Sirimon Route
Mount Kenya Naro Moru trekking route
This particular trek ascends the Noro Moru Route to the west and is probably the most popular of all routes on the mountain. Four or five days is enough to reach Point Lenana on this route, and includes the notorious 'Vertical Bog' which ascends for an hour or so above the Met Camp and takes the hiker into the Teleki Valley and up to Mackinders Camp. From here, an acclimatisation day follows and then an early start to the summit initially over easy paths to the head of the valley and then up a steep zigzag route on loose ground to reach the base of the Lewis Glacier which has now retreated significantly over the past twenty years. The route then follows to the right of the glacier on rocky and often icy, snow covered ground to the summit which is reached at dawn.
Combination Routes, Traverses, and Summit Circuits on Mount Kenya
We have several different combination routes for trekking to Point Lenana, allowing you to go up one route and down another. Almost all our camping routes, but some have rudimentary huts. There are also lodges that are owned by local hotel companies, and these are also available if we are given enough notice to make the booking. Our Mount Kenya Traverse ascends the Naro Moru and descends via the Chogoria route over 5 or 6 days and would be our recommendation as it combines spectacular beauty with airy and challenging trekking and good acclimatisation. The Summit Circuit is a bit longer at seven days and explores the nooks and crannies of the mountain, circling the summit massif and camping high throughout. It includes going on a hunt for “Icy Mike” a very lost elephant!
Technical Climbs up Mount Kenya Batian Peak
If you are a proficient trad climber, you will love the challenge of Batian Peak, the true summit of Mount Kenya (5,199m). Previous technical rock climbing experience is required for this 21-pitch climb. All 21 pitches are done in one day, making this Mt Kenya summit not only a beautiful climb, but an exhausting one as well. This peak is best attempted in June through August.
Taking a break on the route up Batian Peak, a significant rock climbing challenge.
Technical Climbs up Mount Kenya Nelion Peak
The second tallest peak on Mt Kenya demands 18 pitches of trad rock climbing. Like its neighbor, plenty of technical rock climbing experience is required prior to climbing this demanding point. It is possible, if the weather and snow pack permits, to climb both Nelion and Batian Peak in the same day if you are a well-experienced fit climber, but this involves traversing between the two. There is in fact a small bivi hut right on the summit of Batian which can take two people who get weathered out or have run out of time. Prime times for this climb are also in June through August.
The stunning Nelion Peak
Best Times to Trek Mount Kenya
Best times for climbing Mount Kenya from any of the trekking routes are January to March and June to October. But it can be climbed year-round. The rainy seasons typically occur in April, May and November. However, with the onset of climate change they have been difficult to predict in recent years.
Fitness Level Required to Climb Mount Kenya
For the trekking routes up to Point Lenana, you do not need to be an ultra-fit mountaineer. However, you should have some previous hiking experience over hilly terrain and a good overall fitness. For Nelion or Batian Peak you will need to be in excellent climbing shape. Multi-pitch climbs involve a lot of stamina and strength. Not just in your ability to climb, but walk as well. The technical climbing routes require you to summit Point Lenana as well, so be prepared to both trek and endure a multi-pitch climb.
Celebrating a successful summit on Point Lenana.
Whichever route you choose, Adventure Alternative promotes proper acclimatization. We build extra days and hikes into our itineraries to ensure that you do not ascend too quickly and you are properly acclimatized.
Gear and Kit Required to Climb Mount Kenya
Aside from personal articles, having the right layering and clothing is key for climbing Mount Kenya. Having a few moisture-wicking, non-cotton layers are essential. Furthermore, you will want an insulating layer like a puffy jacket, hat and gloves for higher elevations. Mount Kenya does get rain and snow, so a waterproof layer and gaiters are useful for keeping the wind and rain at bay.
Enjoying the beauty of Mount Kenya
If you are climbing Nelion or Batian peaks, you are responsible for bringing your own trad racks, ropes, harness, helmet, cams and anchoring systems.
For a more comprehensive list of gear see our trekking kit list for Mount Kenya.
Need to know more? We’re here to help. Feel free to contact us with any questions you may have regarding your trip to Mount Kenya.
Mount Kenya books and maps
Maps & Guides
Mount Kenya 1:50,000 Map & Guide. Wielochowski. EWP 2007
Kilimanjaro & East Africa, Climbing & Trekking Guide. Burns. ISBN 0-89886-604-9
Guide Book to Mt Kenya & Kilimanjaro. Mtn Club of Kenya, (4th Ed 1990) ISBN 9966-986-0-3
Trekking in East Africa, Lonely Planet, ISBN-10: 1864502894, ISBN-13: 978-1864502893
Factual Stories & Autobiographies
No Picnic On Mount Kenya. Felice Benuzzi. ISBN 978-1-59228-724-6
Upon That Mountain, Eric Shipton, Ashdown. ASIN:B000QREDLY Chapters 4 & 5
That Untraveled World, Eric Shipton, Hodder & Stoughton. ISBN 0-340-21609-3
Snow On The Equator, H.W.Tilman, The Travel Book Club. Chapter 4
Kenya Mountain, E A T Gregory, Jonathan Cape. 1929.
The First Ascent of Mount Kenya, H Mackinder, Hurst. ISBN 1-85065-102-7
Through Masai Land. J Thomson. Frank Cass & Co Ltd. ISBN 1-141-95717-5
Large Format Pictorial & Descriptive
Snowcaps On The Equator. Ward, Boy & Allan. ISBN 0-370-31126-4
On God’s Mountain. Amin, Willets, Tetley. ISBN 0-86190-393-5
Mount Kenya, John Reader, Elm Tree. ISBN 0-241-12486-7
Expedition Reports, Journal Articles & Scholarly Publications
A Journey to the Summit of Mount Kenya. H. Mackinder, The Geographical Journal, May 1900.
The Glacial Geology of Mount Kenya. J Gregory, Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society, 1894.
The Great Rift Valley. J W Gregory, Frank Cass & Co. ISBN 0-7146-1812-8
The Glaciers of Equatorial East Africa. S. Hastenrath. D. Reidel. ISBN 90-277-1572-6
Discovery of Lakes Rudolf and Stefanie. L. Höhnel, S. Teleki. Longmans
Geological Map of the Mount Kenya Area. Cartography by B. H. Baker
General Country Information & Relevant Books
Kenya, Lonely Planet Guide. ISBN 978-1-74104-773-8
The Rough Guide to Kenya, Rough Guides, ISBN-10: 1848361378, ISBN-13: 978-1848361379
Born Free, Adamson, Pan Books, ISBN-10: 0330391909, ISBN-13: 978-0330391900
Out of Africa, Blixen, Penguin Classics, ISBN-10: 0141183330, ISBN-13: 978-0141183336
Mountain Travel & Altitude
Altitude Illness: Prevention & Treatment. Bezruchka. ISBN 0-89886-985-5
Travel At High Altitude. Medex. ISBN 0-901100-76-5 http://medex.org.uk/v26%20booklet.pdf
British Mountaineering Council website : http://www.thebmc.co.uk/Feature.aspx?id=3158
International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation website : http://www.theuiaa.org/medical_advice.html
UNESCO listing info http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/800
Summary & Aerial Shots of Mt Kenya. https://vimeo.com/80359250
Aerial shots and Time lapse of Mt Kenya. https://vimeo.com/80375283
Volcanic Origin, Retreating Glaciers, Watersource. https://vimeo.com/80362793
Volcanic Mechanism of Rift Valley & Mountains. https://vimeo.com/80375280
Flora & Fauna on Mt Kenya. https://vimeo.com/80364403
Flora & Fauna on Mt Kenya. https://vimeo.com/80377285
Kikuyu Beliefs & Ngai. https://vimeo.com/80365566
Kikuyu Beliefs & Drought. https://vimeo.com/80365567
Weather & Climate on Mt Kenya. https://vimeo.com/80375277
Forest Zone- Colobus Monkeys. https://vimeo.com/80368535
Aberdares- As an ancient version of Mt Kenya. https://vimeo.com/80367751