Several thousand people climb Mount Kenya annually, although most go no higher than Lenana Point, the highest peak that can be reached without specialist rock-climbing gear. Several routes are available, but whichever is used, the ascent is not to be taken lightly. Subzero temperatures carry a risk of hypothermia, the rapid ascent often induces altitude sickness and occasional blizzards can lead the unwary away from their routes. Hikes must be arranged with a reputable operator and be equipped with a good local guide and adequate mountain gear. The upper slopes of Mount Kenya are inaccessible to non hikers, but the forest zone can be accessed at several points, most notably from the Serena Mountain Lodge.
Naro Moru Route
The shortest, easiest and most popular path up Mount Kenya approximates the route taken by the British geologists Halford Mackinder and John Gregory in the 1890s, following the Naro Moru river uphill from Naro Moru town to its source on the western base of the glacial peaks. The round hike can be completed in 3 days, using the Meteorological Station as a starting point, but allowing an extra day would greatly reduce the risk of altitude-related illness. It is nor mal to spend the first night at the station, which lies above the forest line, so hikers on this route will only see the forest and its wildlife from behind a car win dow unless they opt to walk some or all of the way from Naro Moru.
From the station, the hike to Mackinder’s Camp takes birds, although zebra, eland, buffalo and even elephant are seen from time to time. With an early start from the camp, it is possible to ascend Lenana and return to the trailhead at the Meteorological Station in one long day. Those who wish to spend more time in the glacial zone will find that Austrian Hut is the highest permanent structure in the mountain, and well positioned for the ascent of Lenana, while the more immediate vicinity is notable for its sparsely vegetated lava formations and views over the Lewis Glacier, especially at dusk.
Widely regarded to be the most beautiful hiking route up Mount Kenya, and the lon gest of those in regular use, Chogoria was pioneered by the aptly named Edward Carr, who drove a Model-T Ford along it as far as the 4,260-m (14,000-ft) contour in 1929, the same year that mountaineer Eric Shipton undertook the second ascent of the peaks. The ascent starts at the Chogoria Mission Station, and most people drive at least some of the way through the extensive forest and bamboo zones using the renovated Carr’s Road, still said to be the highest motorable track in Africa. Scenic highlights of the upper slopes include Hall Tarns and the Afro-alpine moorland of the Nithi Valley, both of which are crossed en route to Minto’s Campsite, the base for the final climb to Lenana. At least 4 days and ideally 5 or more should be set aside for this route, descending via the Naro Moru Route to save time.
A very beautiful and rather gradual ascent from the north west, the little used Sirimon Route offers a relatively unhurried and untrammelled 5-day hike to the peaks, descending via Naro Moru. The northwest slopes receive a significantly lower precipitation than other parts of the mountain, which makes this route particularly attractive during the rainy season. Passing through more extensive moorland than any other route, Sirimon is excellent for Afro alpine flora and is regarded as the best route for encounters with zebra, klipspringer, elephant, eland and other large mammals. Weather permitting, the moorland also offers fine views to the peaks, particularly from the spectacular Mackinder Valley.
Timau, Burguret and Kamweti Routes
These three ascent routes require special permission from KWS, have limited facilities and are seldom used these days. The most alluring is the Timau Route, a leisurely and scenic approach from the north east that connects with the Sirimon Route at Shipton’s Hut, and is best undertaken over 6 to 7 days. The Burguret Route is a former mule trail that starts in Gathiuru, north of Naro Moru, and runs parallel to the North Burguret river for most of its length.
This route is of interest for its bamboo forest and for access to caves for merly used as Mau Mau hideouts. It is most suitable from January to March, before the start of the long rains. The practically unused Kamweti Route is a very long ascent from the south, starting in Kamweti village and passing through extensive montane forest as it follows the Nyamindi river