Mount Kenya - Nelion Peak

This is a tough but rewarding climb to Nelion, the second highest summit of the spectacular Mount Kenya, and only around 10m lower than the highest peak of Batian*. The peaks of Nelion and Batian are the two tops of a huge rock spire of volcanic rock. After the trek in and acclimitisation, the technical climb is completed in one long day as a series of up to 18 individual pitches.

The last part of the fly-over in the video below is from North to South up to the main peaks of Nelion and Batian and goes through 'The Gate of The Mists' between the summits (with Nelion being the left hand summit). The South East Face Standard Route climbs a face to the left side of the shot as it flies in. The film was probably taken in the northern hemisphere's winter when the South Face is in the sun and the north Face in the shade, hence this is when the South Face routes are usually climbed..

Please note, in order to be considered for this climb you will need good previous experience of outdoor multi-pitch rock climbing and the associated skills and equipment. More information is provided under the 'How Hard' tab, it is also worth reading through the suggested kit list for a climb on Mount Kenya.

*For strong climbers it is also possible to ascend this route and cross to Batian on the same climb, though this may be prevented by snow or ice conditions on the traverse of the gate of the mists. The best months to summit Batian are generally June - August, although September and October are possibilities too. 

Mount Kenya is an extinct volcano associated with the tectonic disturbance of the Great Rift Valley. Over the course of the last couple of million years it has been eroded down by glaciers and the elements to only around two thirds of its original height. These processes are what account for the topography of the mountain today. It has a circular massif with valleys and ridges emanating from the central summit peaks. The peaks are the remains of the volcanic plug where the magma left in the vent solidified underground. This hard Nepheline Syenite and Phonolite rock is much harder than the lavas around and as such has eroded much more slowly, leaving the summit spires.

Mount Kenya is also the source of the name of the country of Kenya. In British colonial times it was only the mountain that was known as 'Kenya'. Local tribes all had their own names for the peak, some of them resembling the word 'Kenya' phoenetically. Traditionally these peoples saw the mountain as the seat of their gods on earth. Mount Kenya is therefore intimately bound up with the modern and traditional culture of the area.

Google Earth - Mt Kenya
Above: Mount Kenya on Google Earth

The itinerary is based on starting the journey from Naro Moru town and finishing in Embu town but all our Mount Kenya climbs have lots of optional extras if needed, including private transport from Nairobi, accommodation arranged in Nairobi, Naro Moru or Embu, extra nights on the mountain, tailor made safari's or visits to our Moving Mountains projects on the lower slopes of Mount Kenya or even the opportunity to sponsor a Moving Mountains Kenya beneficiary to join you on the climb.

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Mount Kenya - Nelion Peak itinerary

The South Face routes on Mount Kenya are usually climbed during the northern hemisphere's winter. As Mt Kenya is on the equator the sun will be slightly to the South of the mountain during these months. This means that there is less snow and ice, making climbing the rock easier. It also means that the rock is warmed and you have the direct sunlight on you which helps you to stay warm, especially your hands and feet.

The rainy seasons in Kenya are usually April, May and November. Therefore the normal times for a climb of Nelion via the South East Face are January and February with December and March also being an option. If you would like to climb in the July-September season then please see our page for climbs of Batian via the North Face Standard Route.


The following is a suggested itinerary to give a great overview of the mountain in general and also to promote good acclimitisation ahead of the climb. This itinerary is what the quoted price is based on and starts the climb on the Naro Moru route before crossing over to the Sirimon route for the ascent of Point Lenana before descending the Chogoria route after the summit. We are of course able to tailor the itinerary to your own requirements (a popular option is to add a final night at Meru Banda's on the descent where you can enjoy an open fire, cold beer, hot shower and some game viewing from the comfort of your veranda).


Day   Summary
1 Transfer from Naro Moru town to the National Park Gate and trek to Met Station
2 Trek from Met Station to MacKinders Hut
3 Trek from MacKinders Hut - Tyndal Glacier - Hausberg Col and on to Shiptons Hut
4 Trek Shiptons - Point Lenana - Austrian Hut
5 Climb Day: Austrian Hut - Nelion* - Austrian Hut**
6 Climb Day: Spare day for poor weather - alternative climbs/trek if already summited
7 Trek from Austrian Hut to Lake Ellis and on to Nithi Falls
8 Trek from Nithi Falls to Meru Bandas for 4x4 transfer to Chogoria town and transfer to Embu

*It is possible to cross to Mt Kenya's highest summit, Batian, from Nelion. However, this does take an additional couple of hours so the team will either have to have climbed at a good pace or they will need to be prepared & equipped to spend the night at the Howell bivi hut close to the summit of Nelion and descend from there the following day. In some conditions the traverse of the gate of the mists may require substantial time crossing snow and ice. This may not be safe or feasible if boots/crampons/axe have not been carried.

**If we make good time this day we do have the option of dropping to either Shiptons or MacKinders Hut for this night where the air is thicker and it is warmer. However, this will require an uphill climb at the start of the following day to access the Chogoria route for descent. 

You are welcome to adjust the itinerary and add nights in Nairobi, Naro Moru or in Embu, please do talk to us directly to discuss options. Ol Pejeta Conservancy is very close to Naro Moru (or a reasonably short drive from Embu) and is a great location for an optional add-on safari, both for day trips and over-nights. It is probably the only place in Kenya (aside from Masai Mara) where you have a chance of seeing the 'Big 5' in one day. It is also the only place in East Africa where you can see chimpanzee and the only place to see the remaining 'northern white rhino', there are only 3 left on the planet... all in Ol Pejeta. We can of course arrange tailor made safari's across East Africa and we're more than happy to build an itinerary to suit your budget and preferences. 


Mount Kenya - Nelion Peak cost from £2165.00

The advertised price is the per person cost based on a minimum group of 2 pax (the single person supplement is currently £595.00) and is based on camping on the mountain (except for the 3 possible nights at the Austrian Hut).

The price includes the following but we can help with airport transfers, accommodation in Nairobi, transfers to Naro Moru and from Embu, an extra night on the mountain at Meru Banda's, etc. Full details of the current prices and the extra's that we can provide can be found in the More Information section under 'Mount Kenya optional extra costs'.


  • Full ground price for the traverse route and technical climb based on 2 people
  • Transport from Naro Moru town to the trek start
  • Excess kit transfer from Naro Moru town to Embu town
  • Park fees, camping fees (4 x nights) / Austrian hut fees (3 x nights) and park rescue fees
  • Park certified trek guide (ratio of 1:4)
  • Experienced local technical climbing guide*
  • Porters and cooks, plus equipment for them
  • All group camping equipment including tents
  • All meals on the mountain - fresh food, 3 meals per day
  • Hot drinks on the trek (water is provided by Mount Kenya)
  • 4x4 transfer from Meru Banda's to Chogoria town and transport to Embu town
  • Porter support to get back to Naro Moru after the climb

*(The fee for the technical climbing guide includes three days - one day walk in, one day climbing & one day walk out. The Adventure Alternative leader will call the guide in is the weather is looking good for the proposed summit day. If the weather deteriorates and an extra day is required an extra fee will be payable. This will of course be discussed and agreed with you on the ground before committing you to payment)


  • International airfare to Nairobi Airport 
  • Kenyan Visa
  • Vaccinations and malaria tablets 
  • Personal expenses
  • Travel & Climbing insurance 
  • Personal Climbing Gear 
  • Upgrade to Mountain Hut accommodation 
  • Tips 


This itinerary is designed to give you a full traverse of Mount Kenya via the Naro Moru route for the ascent and the Sirimon route for the summit of Point Lenana before descending down the Chogoria route. Both the Naro Moru and Chogoria routes are known for their abundance of wildlife and the beauty of their montane and bamboo forest.

The itinerary is also designed to give you a very good programme of acclimitisation to altitude, cutting corners with this can not only reduce your enjoment considerably, but also greatly reduce the chances of you summiting Nelion and even put you at risk of the dangerous effects of Acute Mountain Sickness or High Altitude Oedema. There is no doubt that you will feel the effects of altitude most keenly when exerting during the climb and the more you can do to acclimitise during the trek the better your chances.


**Please note that you will need insurance in place to cover trekking to 4985m AND technical climbing to 5199m (if planning an attempted summit on Batian after the Nelion summit) including search, rescue and helicopter evacuation. Not many companies will offer coverage for technical climbing so you may have to go to more specialist providers such as the BMC or the Austrian Alpine Club.


Mount Nelion Peak difficulty

Trek Phase

To trek to Point Lenana on Mount Kenya you don't need to be a super-fit athlete nor and experienced mountaineer. The trek is accessible to anyone with good basic fitness and an ethusiasm for the outdoors. It will be an advantage to have good previous hill-walking experience and therefore be familiar with walking in the countryside for many hours at a time.

You will enjoy the trek all the more if you do have good fitness and experience. Therefore we do advise that on the lead up to the trip you do spend time checking and working on the kind of fitness that you need for the trek. The ideal preparation is spending a good number of hours walking on rolling terrain with a small pack of say 5kg on your back. Other forms of cardio-vascular exercise such as running, cycling and swimming will also of course help with the right kinds of fitness, though especially if they focus mainly on the legs.

Technical Climb

The technical climb is not of a particularly high grade (see below) but it is a long climb, usually taking anywhere between 6 and 9 hours to complete. Plus an additional 1-2 hours if the crossing of the gate of the mists to Batian is made. It is also of course at high altitude, starting at around 4800m and topping out at 5188m. Therefore you will need to be fit and strong enough to maintain not only physical but mental strength and concentration over the full period of the climb.

Needless to say, this fitness is ideally built up over long, low grade multi-pitch climbs. However, as long as you can comfortably climb at the required grade and have good all-round endurance fitness in your upper and lower body and core it is probably within your physcial capabilities. Please see below for required skills aswell though.  


Trek Phase

The paths vary as we ascend but they go from a vehicle track lower down, to a less defined path through tussocks and bog, to a footpath over gravel and mud and then sandy and dusty scree higher up. On summit day there are a couple of sections along the ridge where we use hands aswell as feet but they are very easy and the guides will help you if you need it. There is also a steel cable along most of teh final ridge which although not by any means necessar, is available for additional support. The descents from Hut Tarn and Point Lenana are over scree which can be dusty and loose. We will take our time but a trekking pole or two can be invaulable for maintaining your balance. If you have any problems with ankles, knees or hips then poles are strongly reccommended as well as a well-fitted support bandage.

Technical Climb

This part of the trip does involve some objective hazards such as rockfall and exposed technical rock climbing. The risks associated with these hazards cannot be entirely removed by our planning or the decision making of the guide. Controlling these risks relies on your own skills and experience as well as those of the guide. Therefore it is important that you fully understand the hazards and are confident that you have the relevant skills and experience to help control the risks. Please do speak to us directly if you have any doubt or any questions about this.

The technical climb is usually tackled in 15 to 20 pitches. The exact number depends to some extent on the rope lengths used and on what grade of terrain you are happy to move together. The pitches vary from sections of low grade scramble to around grade UIAA IV+ (UK~V.Diff-Mild Severe, US~5.5) but with most being at around UIAA II (UK~Diff, US~5.3).

The rock is Nepheline Syenite which is similar to granite and can be quite abrasive in places. The rock is quite 'blocky' with large weathered fissures running vertically and horizontally usually offering lots of obvious holds and good friction. However, there is some loose rock especially in bottom of some of the couloirs and notches. There is generally less than on the North Face Standard route of Batian but it will still be important to move carefully and deliberately through certain areas and avoid sending debris down on others below. It is also of course essential to wear a helmet and to give consideration to any spot where we stop to belay or rest.

Most of the standard belay stations are made with slings/tat around rock spikes and boulders but there are a number of pitons in place along the way too. Protection between belays is almost exlusively 'traditional' in the form of nuts & cams placed and cleaned by us. There is a standard descent route with bolted rappel rings which makes the descent a lot quicker and more direct than on Batian's North Face Standard route.

Whilst the technical grade of the individual pitches is not particularly high you need to bear in mind the other factors at play:-

The first and most obvious is the length of the climb. An average rope-pair will take around 8 hours for the complete climb and rappel back down (a 1:2 guide-client team will inevitably take longer). Therefore you need to be comfortable climbing the required grade many hours into the climb. Aside from the physical side of the climb, you also need to be able to maintain concentration and safely manage the ropes and gear for many hours. It is important to climb and also handle belay change-overs and rappels efficiently. This does require strong mental discipline and good past experience of multi-pitch climbing will make this much easier.

A second consideration is the altitude. We have a good programme of acclimitisation including a staged ascent and 'walking high, sleeping low' which will give us the best chances of being well acclimitised for the climb. However, you will certainly notice that the altitude leaves you panting a bit more than usual and you may tire more quickly than at home on the crag.

Further considerations include the cold and weather. We aim to climb at the optimum time of year and we have a spare day and a backup plan to allow us to have additional shots at the summit if we don't have good weather on the planned day. However, it can be quite cold on the climb and you are likely to be climbing in a warm jacket, hat etc. Where the rock is in the shade it can also be very cold to the touch. You will also almost certainly have a small pack on with some snacks, water, spare layer etc which also makes a bit different to what you may be used to.

A final consideration is that although Austrian Hut is just below the climb, across the Lewis Glacier, and a Ranger station below in the Teleki valley, once we are on the rock we are effectively in a very remote location without all the rescue facilites that would be available in somewhere like the European Alps for example. Therefore the implications of even a minor problem on the climb could be quite severe.

Please do speak to us to discuss any of the issues mentioned above.

If you are considering an independent climb of this route, please be aware that the route-finding is not always obvious and the standard descent route does not follow the ascent route in all places. Due to the long nature of the climb it is important to get a prompt start in the morning, to keep an eye on the clock and be prepared to retreat especially if you are not prepared for a bivi.



With our low deposit service, you can book your Adventure Alternative holiday for as little as £100.00 and pay the balance in as many  instalments as you like. Choose a scheduled date or private itinerary. 

Tours from only pp Dates & Bookings
Key Information
  • Duration 8 days
  • Numbers 2
  • Altitude 5188
  • Distance Camping & Lodges
  • Challenge Demanding & Technical