Mount Kenya Trekking Routes : Mount Kenya also known as Kirinyaga in Kikuyu is an extinct stratovolcano in Kenya, the volcano is the second – highest peak in Africa at an elevation of 5,199 m coming second to Mount Kilimanjaro the tallest mountain in Africa.
Mount Kenya has three main peaks that is Batian, Nelion and Point Lenana, Batian and Nelion are the highest peaks and are highly technical thus rarely being climbed. Point Lenana is a trekking peak, other peaks on Mount Kenya also offer interesting rock climbs.
To climb Mount Kenya, there three main routes on the mountain catering for 90% of all trekkers visiting the Mountain. These routes are Naro – Moru to the west, Sirimon on the North West and Chogoria on the South East.
Most of the climbers going up and down combine all these three routes, it is possible to camp or use huts on all these three routes and the trek normally takes 5 days to go up to Point Lenana and back down again.
In addition to these three routes, there are more five routes which are much less climbed that are Burguret on West, Timau on the North, Meru on the North East, Ithanguni on the East and Kamweti to the South. All these routes offer wild camping and since it happens in the park it requires rangers to attend to a group of climbers because of wild animals. These routes do not have park gates and route finding is much harder.
The main peaks on Mount Kenya situated in the middle with ridges and valleys that radiate out from the summits like the spokes of a wheel, the routes used to climb Mount Kenya follow the valleys up to the massif and the trekker then ascends scree and rock to the glaciated summit of Lenana.
The two main peaks are the remains of the volcanic magma that solidified in the main vent and there is a roughly circular path that goes round them which is the Summit Circuit Route. Point Lenana is a smaller sub peak to one side of the main peaks.
Along the main routes, there are a number of huts. The main camps on the western ascent routes are
- Sirimon – Old Moses Camp
- Liki North Camp
- Shiptons Camp
- Naro Moru – Met Station
- Mackinders Camp
- Austrian Hut just below Pt Lenana
The Sirimon Route is accessed via the North West Corner of the Mountain, the Kenya Wildlife Service have the Sirimon Gate at the road head where you can pay your park fees, accommodation is also available here.
This route is usually considered one of the easier routes as it climbs relatively gradually with only a couple of steeper sections to reach the camp on top.
This is currently the most popular route though it is busy. Along the route there are two huts with dormitory rooms as well as toilets and camping sites that is Old Moses (3400m) and Shiptons (4200m).
The Sirimon Route follows a vehicle track for the first day, open moorland and the Mackind Valley for the second day and then North approach to Point Lenana on summit day.
The forest on this route is relatively sparse and the bamboo zone is not really evident, most of the second day climbing on this route is spent in the alpine heath and moorland. Crossing the ridge into the Mackinder Valley which is a good viewpoint if it is clear and the approach to the peaks along the classic U-shaped Mackinder Valley can be spectacular in the clear conditions.
The Mackinder Valley shows a quite a lot of the giant Lobelia and Groundsel which are classic Mt. Kenya Flora, also you are likely to see Rock Hyrax at Shipton’s cave or hut.
NARO MORU ROUTE
The Naro Moru Route approaches from the West and the KWS Gates there and their main headquarters for the mountain, there is also accommodation here. This route used to be by far the most popular route as it is relatively short and has huts at Met Station (3050m) and MacKinders (4200m).
The huts are good at both locations and they also have camping space, the first day up to Met Station is on a vehicle track through the forest and bamboo. The second day goes through more bamboo and forest before emerging onto the alpine heath and following the Tekeki Valley to Mackinders. You would usually then use the South approach to Point Lenana passing another hut (Austruan Hut) at 4,790m.
The forest is still dense on the route as it is a bamboo zone, as you trek you are likely to see bushbucks, Colobus monkeys and Sykes Monkey, buffaloes and elephants. The hygenia forest is also in good condition with a lot of flowers and other plants, the giant heathers above the forest were highly damaged by a fire in 2013 but the alpine moorland has a lot of Giant Lobelia as well as Mackinders Gladiolus higher up.
The Teleki Valley has a lot of the classic Tree and Cabbage Groundsels as well as Lobelia Telekii and Decekenii. Some of the cabbage groundsels are massive. On the approach to or at MacKinders, you are almost guaranteed to see Rock Hyrax.
Chogoria Route approaches from the East and there is a gate near the village of Chogoria and the gate is further up, the route is often described as the most attractive route on Mount Kenya. There is no hut for this route’s high camp and it is quite a bit longer unless you use a 4×4’s to cut out the lower park.
It is completely normal to drive 4×4’s through the forest until close to or as far as the Meru Bandas (3000m). The next stage is following a 4×4 track a bit further up to the Roadhead where you can either branch left for a more direct route or right to pass Mugi Hill and Lake Ellis. Both tracks re-converge near the head of a spectacular amphitheater of cliffs know as The Temple, in the bottom of which is Lake Michaelson and at the west end, a large notch where the Nithi River enters.
Just above the junction (4300m), there is an old rickety hut that porters often sleep in but clients have to camp.
From here the path continues to rise, up to Simba Tarn, here it splits to head either North or South for Shipton’s or Austrian huts respectively.
The physical landscape on this route is its biggest attraction.
The Chogoria Route is often used as a descent route after ascending one of the other routes.