Climbing Mount Kenya - Expert Tips from a Guide

By Rintsje Bosch

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Climbing Mount Kenya - Expert Tips from a Guide
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Climbing Mount Kenya is something else. Yes, of course, you should climb Kilimanjaro but when you are looking for a more interesting piece of rock in Africa, you will sooner or later come across Mount Kenya. Mount Kenya offers outdoor enthusiasts and mountaineers different options to bag one of the three peaks on Mount Kenya. You can make it as difficult as you possibly want. In this blog post we will focus mainly on the easiest but not less exciting way of your Mount Kenya climb: By foot. Yes, you can go trekking on Mount Kenya. We spoke to Evans Mwangi, who has climbed Mount Kenya hundreds of times as a guide and a porter and share his insights and tips for this trek.

Everyone can name the highest mountain in Africa but did you know that Mount Kenya is the second highest? With 5,199 meters Batian Peak is a bit higher than Nelion (5,1888m) and Point Lenana (4,985m). If you want to summit the first two peaks mentioned, you will need to gain some experience in traditional rock climbing. However, if you want to climb Point Lenana, you can just buy a decent pair of hiking shoes. You can get to the third highest peak on the second-highest mountain of Africa in only a few days of hiking. Evans Mwangi of Go To Mount Kenya has gone a few hundred times before you and these days he is sharing his expertise with trekkers from all over the world who want to trek to Point Lenana.

Mount Kenya Facts

How High is Mount Kenya?

Everyone can name the highest mountain in Africa but did you know that Mount Kenya is the second highest? With 5,199 meters Batian Peak is a bit higher than Nelion (5,1888m) and Point Lenana (4,985m). If you want to summit the first two peaks mentioned, you will need to gain some experience in traditional rock climbing. However, if you want to climb Point Lenana, you can just buy a decent pair of hiking shoes. You can get to the third highest peak on the second-highest mountain of Africa in only a few days of hiking.

Where is Mount Kenya?

The mountain is located in central Kenya, 150 kilometers northeast of the capital Nairobi. The snow-capped mountain is also surprisingly close to the equator located 16.5 kilometers south of the Equator. Mount Kenya is situated 320 kilometers to the south of the Kilimanjaro.

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Climbing Mount Kenya with Guide Evans Mwangi

"I was only 18 years old when I started as a porter on Mount Kenya. It was a good way to make money in those days," remembers Evans Mwangi, managing director of Go To Mount Kenya, a trekking company specialized in Mount Kenya tours. "It was 1989. As I liked hiking so much, it was an obvious choice for me. The money was good and it kept me fit. No one in my family was into it, but I went for it anyway. Before I knew it, I was in my 20s and I had climbed Mount Kenya so often that I knew the mountain like the back of my hand. I was a cook for a few years and I then became a guide and started leading trekking expeditions."

I remember the mountain in those days. The glaciers on Mount Kenya, especially the Lewis Glacier, could be enjoyed in all their glory. Over the years the glaciers became smaller and smaller. One of them is just dust and rocks these days", says Evans with a slightly sad tone. "Climate change definitely took its toll on Mount Kenya. Everything else if still as it was, of course. The route itself hasn't changed.

Climbing Mount Kenya with Guide Evans Mwangi

The Importance of Mount Kenya

Mount Kenya isn't just a great mountain to see and climb. The second-highest mountain of Africa is a massive catchment area and plays a vital role in the agricultural sector on the lower slopes of the mountain. "This is why you will see that every door in houses around Mount Kenya is facing the mountain. People believe the Gods are on the mountain and they provide. Without rain, no crops," explains Evans. "On top of that, tourism on Mount Kenya plays another vital role. Many people have jobs as a guide, a cook or a porter on the mountain. The trekking industry definitely makes a positive change in the livelihoods of people on and around Mount Kenya." The Kikuyu, Ameru, Embu, and Maasai all call Mount Kenya their home.

There came a point for Evans to professionalized and to start his own company. Evans took a course in guiding and can now name all the vegetation on Mount Kenya and is a professional when it comes to preventing altitude sickness. Evans now has two daughters and one son. Will they be part of the company one day? "I will leave that up to them. If they want to, they are welcome to. Of course, I am not as often on Mount Kenya as I used to be, but I do try to bring my family or my friends every now and then. Nothing is more rewarding than to have a few Tusker Beers after having successfully made it to Point Lenana."

Tips for Climbing Mount Kenya from Evans

"Some friends and I tried to climb to one of the other peaks some time ago. But for this, you need to be a very experienced rock climber. We didn't make it all the way to Batian, unfortunately. But, the trek to Point Lenana can be done by everyone, especially if you take it pole pole. This is Swahili for taking it easy", explains Evans. A guide will tell you the same when climbing Kilimanjaro. Taking it easy is key if you want to prevent altitude sickness and make it successfully to your goal. "As soon as you make it to 3000 meters, it is okay to take it slower. Also, you must drink lots of water to stay properly hydrated."

Most treks on Mount Kenya are either 4,5 or 6 days. If you have the time, Evans suggests doing it in 5 days at least. "This will give you more time for acclimatization and this way the trek doesn't become the rush. This will also allow you to do one of the longer routes, like the 6-day Burguret-Chogoria Traverse. Personally, I love the Chogoria side of the mountain", tells Evans. Further one you will find one of Evans his favourite itineraries.

What is the Best Season for a Mount Kenya Trek?

Mount Kenya can be climbed all year round. But if you want the best weather then you should be planning for January to March or June to October. Then you are avoiding the rainy season and you get the best weather and with that the best views", Evans agrees. Of course, the weather on the mountain can be hard to predict and all seasons are possible at any time on the day, but if you stick to the best seasons, you can get the best bang for your buck.

What Should I Pack While Hiking Mount Kenya?

Trekking in Mount Kenya requires decent gear. Especially the basics like an 80-90 L backpack and quality trekking socks.

Technical clothing

  • Waterproof jacket, breathable with hood
  • Insulated jacket, synthetic or down
  • Soft jacket, fleece or soft-shell
  • 2 Long sleeve T-shirts, light-weight, moisture-wicking fabric
  • Short sleeve T-shirt, light-weight, moisture-wicking fabric
  • Waterproof pants, breathable (side-zipper recommended)
  • 2 Hiking pants (convertible to shorts recommended)
  • Fleece pants - shorts (optional)
  • Long underwear (moisture-wicking fabric recommended)
  • 3 Underwear, briefs (moisture-wicking fabric recommended)
  • 2 Sport bra (if applicable)

Headwear

  • Brimmed hat, for sun protection
  • Knit hat, for warmth
  • Bandana (optional)

Handwear

  • Gloves, warm (waterproof recommended)
  • Glove liners, thin, synthetic, worn under gloves for added warmth (optional)

Footwear

  • Hiking boots, warm, waterproof, broken-in, with spare laces
  • Gym shoes, to wear at camp (optional)
  • 3 Socks, thick, wool or synthetic
  • 3 Sock Liners, tight, thin, synthetic, worn under socks to prevent blisters (optional)
  • Gaiters, waterproof (optional)

Accessories

  • Sunglasses or goggles
  • Backpack cover, waterproof (optional)
  • Poncho, during rainy season (optional)
  • Water bottle (Nalgene, 32 oz. recommended)
  • Water bladder, camelback type (recommended)
  • Towel, lightweight, quick-dry (optional)
  • Stuff sacks or plastic bags, various sizes, to keep gear dry and separate

Equipment

  • Sleeping bag, warm, four seasons
  • Sleeping bag liner, for added warmth (optional)
  • Trekking poles (recommended)
  • Head lamp, with extra batteries
  • Duffel bag, (waterproof recommended) for porters to carry your equipment.
  • Daypack, for you to carry your personal gear

Other

  • Toiletries (Optional)
  • Prescriptions
  • Sunscreen
  • Lip balm
  • Insect repellent, containing DEET
  • First aid kit
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Toilet paper (To be provided)
  • Wet wipes (recommended)
  • Snacks, light-weight, high calorie, high energy (optional)
  • Pencil and notebook, miniature, for trip log (optional)
  • Camera, with extra batteries (optional)

Itinerary for a Mount Kenya Hike

The following itinerary is a favorite of Evans Mwangi: "Chogoria is fantastic. This shows a more beautiful side of the mountain and allows us to camp in some special places. An absolute favorite of mine."

Day
1

Nairobi – Mt Kenya Bandas

Duration: 03:00 h
After pick up in Nairobi, we drive through agricultural country up to Chogoria town for lunch. After lunch, we take 4×4 and drive up to the edge of the bamboo forest where we start our trek through the dense bamboo forest for distance of 10 km up to the Mt Kenya Bandas (2900m).

Meru Mount Kenya Bandas

Info
Meru Mount Kenya Bandas
Day
2

Meru Mount Kenya Bandas - Lake Ellis Campsite

Duration: 03:00 h
Day 2 is a long hike with a steady climb to Mintos. Hikers who are not pressed for time can stay overnight at the Lake Ellis Campsite (3600m) halfway to Mintos, for the purpose of better acclimatization. You can also hike directly to Mintos/Halltarn and spend an extra day here to relax and explore the Gorges Valley. This too will benefit acclimatization.

Lake Ellis Campsite

Info
Lake Ellis Campsite
Day
3

Lake Ellis Campsite - Minto's Camp

Duration: 04:00 h
Today you commence early for a long trek on a wide track through the forest, with occasional sightings of elephant, bushbuck, buffalo and impala. Emerging from the forest, you walk through heather before crossing the Nithi River to reach the moorlands from where you can enjoy good views of the picturesque Gorges Valley, the Temple, lakes, mushroom rocks, billiards table and the high peaks.

Minto's Camp

Info
Minto's Camp
Day
4

Minto`s - Pt Lenana - Judmiere Camp

Duration: 12:00 h
Predawn attempt of the summit starts at 0300hrs and you hike for about three hours up to point Lenana (4985m), the hikers summit, arriving there for the African sunrise. Descend Shipton`s camp for breakfast. After breakfast, begin a 5 hour descent via Mackinder`s valley to the Judmiere camp. (3300m) The descent is gentle and it offers ample time to enjoy fascinating scenery which includes the moorlands before reaching the camp.

Judmaier Camp

Info
Judmaier Camp
Day
5

Judmiere Camp – Nairobi

Duration: 03:00 h
After early morning breakfast, descend for 3 hours to the Sirimon Park gate to catch a vehicle for the return journey to Nanyuki for lunch. Later transfer back to Nairobi arriving by 1700hrs.
Hide entire itinerary

How To Train for Climbing Mount Kenya?

If you are wondering about how to train for your Mount Kenya trek, you can use these five steps to become the best version of yourself. Fitness is not as important as the right acclimatization, but it can definitely make things easier and help you on your way to Point Lenana.

Aerobic fitness

You best get moving as soon as you have your mind set on your Mt Kenya climb. With the right aerobic fitness, you will have an improved heart rate, healthy muscles, and great lung capacity. Do power walking, running, hiking, trekking, cycling and/or swimming. Don’t worry. you don’t need to train for a marathon. One hour, 3 to 4 times a week is plenty of exercise.

Endurance

When you are comfortable doing exercise a few times a week, you can fire it up by doing some longer sessions. The best thing you can do is walking long distances, at least once a week. If you can hike comfortably for a prolonged time, you are good to go.

Gear

Don’t use your backpack and shoes that you purchased for your Mt Kenya ascentfor the first time after your land. Break them in and use this equipment when you are working on points 1 and 2. Altitude: If you can, you can mimic the altitude by hiking and trekking in the hills and mountains. If you do not live in the right area for that, then don’t panic. The first two points are most important.

Know your body

This is perhaps the most important part. If you are questioning your physical capabilities, you should perhaps go see a professional for monitoring. It is important to know your body, so you can notice any warning signs when you are on your way to Point Lenana.

How much does climbing Mount Kenya cost?

As there is different trekking routes on Mount Kenya, there are different options and prices as well. You can climb Mt Kenya in as little as 4 days but you can also do a traverse and spend 6 days on the mountain. 4 to 5 days on the mountain, regardless of which route you choose can cost between 600 and 700 EUR or 700 and 800 USD. If you are interested in doing the Burguret - Chogoria Traverse, for example, you can expect to pay about 975 EUR or 1080 USD.

Should I tip my guide after have climbed Mount Kenya?

In the mountaineering and trekking industry, it is common to tip your guide and other support staff after you have safely descended. And why not? If it wasn't for them, you might not have submitted and they are there to keep you safe. Just as when you are trekking in Nepal or when you are climbing Kilimanjaro or Mount Meru, it is expected to give your guide and porters a tip. It is normal to tip about 8 to 12% of the total trekking price. The tips will be split among your staff.

Should I tip my guide after have climbed Mount Kenya?

Not sure yet or want to discuss your plans for the Mount Kenya with one of our trekking experts? Get in touch today and turn your dreams into memories!

Mount Kenya Map

Here below you can find a Komoot map that shows some of the different alternatives available in the Mt. Kenya National Park.

How To Identify and Prevent AMS On The Mount Kenya?

It's essential to understand that altitude sickness can affect anyone, regardless of age, fitness level, or previous high-altitude experience. These days there are several tools to monitor your health at altitude. A widely-used (analog) method is the Lake Louise score card. It ticks the altitude symptoms while keeping the severity in mind. It’s a common tool used by guides. Nowadays, most trekking and mountain guides bring a blood oxygen saturation meter, which also measures the heart rate. These are key indicators whether a person adapts to altitude well or not. AMS can occur when trekking the Mount Kenya. Below you can find everything you need to know about altitude sickness.

  • Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS)

    Altitude sickness, also known as Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) is a health condition that occurs when someone is exposed to low levels of oxygen at higher altitudes. AMS is a serious condition and as the name suggests acute. It needs to be dealt with immediately, as it is potentially life-threatening. Most people will experience some mild symptoms of altitude sickness. It’s important to be aware of these symptoms and act before symptoms become more severe. Below we break down the different forms of AMS and how you can reduce the risk of getting it.

    AMS symptoms

    It is key to know how to identify altitude illness. You may experience the following symptoms due to the jump in altitude: headache, lack of appetite, breathing difficulties, insomnia, nausea and vomiting. The intensity and severity of these symptoms may increase with altitude and an overall feeling of fatigue will take all your joy away. This may further deteriorate to one of these life-threatening conditions.

    High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE): HAPE is a condition in which fluid accumulates in the lungs, making it difficult to breathe. Symptoms may include shortness of breath, a persistent cough, chest tightness, and an increased heart rate. It can be a life-threatening condition and requires immediate descent to lower altitudes and, in severe cases, medical treatment.

    High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE): HACE is a more serious condition in which fluid accumulates in the brain. Symptoms may include severe headaches, confusion, loss of coordination, and altered mental status. HACE is also a medical emergency and requires immediate descent and medical attention. Below 7 ways of minimizing the risk of AMS:

    • 1. Gradual Ascent

      One of the most effective ways to prevent AMS is to ascend gradually. When traveling to high altitudes, try to take several days to acclimatize before going higher. This allows your body to adapt to the reduced oxygen levels. All our treks in Nepal keep sufficient acclimatization into account.

    • 2. Stay Hydrated

      Dehydration can increase the risk of AMS, so drink plenty of fluids. Avoid excessive alcohol and caffeine consumption, as they can contribute to dehydration.

    • 3. Diet

      Consume a balanced diet with adequate carbohydrates and avoid heavy, fatty meals. Carbohydrates can help your body utilize oxygen more efficiently at high altitudes.

    • 4. Medication

      Some individuals may consider taking medication, such as acetazolamide (Diamox), to help prevent AMS. Consult with a healthcare professional before using any medication, and be aware of potential side effects.

    • 5. Rest

      Ensure you get enough sleep and rest during your ascent. Fatigue can increase the risk of AMS.

    • 6. Avoid Overexertion

      Pace yourself and avoid overexertion. Listen to your body, and if you experience symptoms of AMS, rest or descend to a lower altitude.

    • 7. Descend if Symptoms Persist

      If you experience symptoms of AMS, such as headache, nausea, dizziness, or difficulty breathing, it's crucial to descend to a lower altitude. Symptoms should not be ignored or dismissed.

Where Can I Book the Mount Kenya?

At Bookatrekking.com you can book this trek and many others. Our guided options come with experts on the ground, and offer you a convenient, stress-free, safe, and educational way to explore the outdoors. Find our offers here. Our easy-to-use platform allows you to browse and compare different trekking options and find the perfect fit for your interests, abilities, and budget.

If you have any questions about a specific trek or need help choosing the right one for you, our team of trekking experts is here to assist you. Simply reach out to us and we will be happy to provide you with personalized recommendations and advice to help you plan the trekking adventure of a lifetime.

Is this not your cup of tea and are you looking for other epic adventures? Check out one of our blog posts:

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