Overview

Mount 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 them 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 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 Fitness/Skills tab.

*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..

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.

Mt Kenya is approximately a circular massif with valleys and ridges eminating 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 so it has eroded much more slowly and has been left as 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.

Dates & Bookings

Bespoke Dates

Itinerary

Mount 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 Later December and Early March also being an option. You can see annual weather averages for Nairobi on Weather-and-Climate.com.

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.

BROAD ITINERARY

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.

However, we are of course able to tailor the itinerary to your own requirements. This may be in terms of the routes for the trek in and trek out and also for extra days to allow for more climbs or the case of slow acclimitisation or extended poor weather.

Day   Summary
1 Drive Nairobi - Naro Moru
2 Rest & Preparation in Naro Moru
3 Drive Naro Moru - NP Gate. Trek to Met Station
4 Trek Met Station - MacKinders Hut
5 Trek MacKinders Hut - Tyndal Glacier - Hausberg Col - Shiptons Hut
6 Trek Shiptons - Point Lenana - Austrian Hut
7 Climb Austrian Hut - Nelion* - Austrian Hut**
8 Spare day for poor weather. Local climbs/trek if already summited
9 Trek Austrian Hut - Minto's Hut - Lake Ellis
10 Trek Lake Ellis - Nithi Falls - Meru Bandas. Drive to Embu
11 Drive Embu to Nairobi
12 Depart Nairobi

 

*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. 

Cost

Mount Kenya Nelion Peak cost from £2495.00

INCLUDES

  • Full ground price for the traverse route and technical climb based on 2 people (please ask for rates for individuals or additional people)
  • Airport pick-up & drop off in Nairobi
  • Transport from Nairobi to Naro Moru
  • Transport from Embu to Nairobi
  • Accommodation in Naro Moru for 2 nights (twin, full board)
  • Accomodation in Embu for 1 night (twin, full board)
  • Jeep or shuttle transport to & from the trek start
  • Park fees, camping/hut fees and park rescue fees
  • Adventure Alternative staff leader
  • 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 sleeping tents
  • All meals on the mountain - fresh food, 3 meals per day
  • Water & drinks on the trek
  • Bottled water when not on the mountain

*(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)

EXCLUDES

  • International airfare to Nairobi Airport (~£500-£700)
  • Kenyan Visa, purchased on arrival (~£30)
  • Vaccinations and malaria tablets (~£25-£75)
  • Personal expenses (~£varies)
  • Travel & Climbing insurance (~£30-£100)
  • Personal Climbing Gear (~varies)
  • Upgrade to Mountain Hut accommodation (see options below)
  • Tips (~£40 per trekker to trek guide & porters. ~£25 per climber to the technical guide) paid in local currency only. The tips are discretionary but please see our relevant web page for more information.

Payments

A deposit of £250 is required on booking to secure your place and we ask that the remaining balance (trip price minus the deposit) is paid in full 4 weeks prior to your departure. When you book with us you're given your own secure online account which you can access 24/7. Through this account you can edit your booking, add flight, health, insurance and dietary details and also make interim payments. We make payments as flexible as possible and you can choose, if you wish, to pay a bit off your trip fee whenever it suits you.

NOT ALL ABOUT MONEY

Our prices are competitive and good value, and we offer quality, service, security and an ethical stance on tourism in a developing country. We don’t want to be so expensive to run fewer trips and have our staff idle, but on the other hand we believe that running  cheap trips that promote the practise of skimming budgets would result in the porters getting next to nothing, which is something we cannot consider.

Additionally we will only run a minimum of 5 day climbs, since any less is dangerous for a peak just short of 5000 metres. Reducing the number of days may make the price cheaper but the chances of summiting reduce to around 50% and it is potentially dangerous.

We include one support staff to each member plus one guide for every four members. We do not operate kitties and we use a very secure hotel just outside Naro Moru with which we have built up a strong relationship for the past fifteen years. 

We have our own license to operate tours in Kenya and are a fully bonded, insured and registered tour operator and a member of the Association of Independent Tour Operators (AITO). In addition, we have been climbing Mount Kenya for more than 20 years and have built up strong and lasting relationships with local communities, porters, guides and guesthouses. We have our own full time staff in Kenya all year round as well as our own vehicles and equipment. We don't outsource our clients and are with you from first enquiry, throughout your climb and home again. All of our UK and Kenyan team have climbed the mountain numerous times and can give you honest, professional advice.

We work closely with the charity Moving Mountains Trust and have won many awards for our stance and projects linking tourism with responsible travel. We have a number of projects close to Mt Kenya which you are welcome to visit.

How Hard

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.  

TYPE OF TERRAIN

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.

Kit List

Mount Nelion Peak kit list

The basic idea of your kit is to keep you warm, dry, protected from the sun/rain and comfortable in the various environments that we will find ourselves in.

There is a detailed kit list via the menu to the right, the main principles are:-

  • BAGS - A Big duffle type bag for general use and leaving gear in Naro Moru, A Medium-Large Rucksack for a porter to carry your kit on the mountain and a Small pack for carrying a few items on day trips
  • GENERAL CLOTHING - Clothing and footwear for travel to Kenya and prior to/after the climb
  • SHELL - Waterproof layer to keep off wind/rain. An umbrella can be very useful.
  • INSULATION - Layered system to keep you warm on the mountain- body hands & Head
  • FEET - Sturdy trekking Boots, Climbing shoes, Flip flops/Sandals
  • SLEEPING - Warm sleeping bag and camping mat to get a good nights sleep
  • EATING/DRINKING - Water bottles and favourite high-energy snacks
  • WASHING & MEDICAL - Suncream, Anti-Malarials and a small 1st aid kit to allow you to wash and maybe stave off a headache or blister (leaders will have a larger group one)
  • HARDWARE - Personal climbing gear required for the climb.

We will give you detailed advice on the equipment needed for this climb to ensure you are properly prepared.

Why Us

  • We offer small scale, authentic adventures, which you can tailor to your personal needs at no extra cost
  • We have been climbing Mt Kenya for more than 20 years so we know the mountain and its communities extremely well
  • All our trips are personally overseen by Gavin Bate, Company Director, Mountaineer and Everest Guide
  • We do not contract out our trips in Kenya, we employ trusted full time staff who are very experienced and knowledgeable. This arrangement offers job security and good benefits to the staff and gives them very strong loyalty to the company.
  • All the staff in our UK office have climbed Mount Kenya many times so you can chat to people who understand what its really like before you go.
  • We are a fully registered operator with AITO and have financial bonding with ABTOT. We have all the relevant company insurances.
  • We are members on Interhealth which gives you access to pre-trip health information and on-site assistance by phone in the event of an emergency.
  • We are a company founded and run by people who are passionate about trekking, climbing and exploring in the world's most beautiful wildernesses. We are equally passionate about having the opportunity to share these experiences with others.

Photos

Extras