Mount Kenya Nelion Peak
Climb of Mount Kenya - Nelion Peak SE face (standard route)
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. You will need good previous experience of leading outdoor multi-pitch rock to a minimum VS standard (more information is below). It is also worth reading through the suggested kit list for a climb on Mount Kenya.
For strong climbers it is 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.
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.
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.
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.
The rainy seasons in Kenya are usually April, May and November. Therefore the normal times for a climb 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.
|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 Peak* - Austrian Hut|
|6||Climb Day: Spare day for poor weather - alternative climbs/trek if already summitted|
|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.
You are welcome to adjust the itinerary and add nights in Nairobi, Naro Moru or in Embu, please do 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. 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 Nelion Peak difficulty
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.
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.
Route and difficulty of Mount Kenya
Objective hazards include rockfall, long runouts, exposure from the weather, time limitations due to the length of the day and commitment. The route is usually tackled in 15 to 20 pitches, varying from scramble to UIAA IV+ (UK VDiff to 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.
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' with 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 the Batian 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:
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 and at altitude. It is important to climb and also handle belay change-overs and rappels efficiently because the day is so long.
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.
A final consideration is that although Austrian Hut is just below the start of the route, and there is a Ranger station below in the Teleki valley, we are in a remote location without 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.
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.
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).
Full details of any extras that we can provide can be found under 'Mount Kenya optional extra costs'.
- Full ground price for the trekking route and technical climb based on 2 people
- Transport from Naro Moru town to the trek start point on the Chogoria route
- 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 technical climbing guide approved by the national park* (ratio 1:2)
- Porters and cook
- All group equipment including tents, climbing ropes and protection
- All meals 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 if 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
**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.
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 contact us for private dates, a bespoke itinerary or more trip details.
- Duration 8 days
- Numbers 2
- Altitude 5188
- Grade VDiff, Severe