There are many words to describe how I feel writing this article, but the overwhelming feeling is pride. Over four days, Mark and I hiked through the Mount Kenya range and reached the summit of Point Lenana (4985m) – the only one of three peaks on the mountain that does not require highly technical rock climbing.
I have certainly come a long way from the girl who refused to hike Mount Toubkal with Mark in Morocco to reach the summit of Africa’s second-highest mountain!
I was here only a few months ago, writing about how I “survived” a 5-hour hike around Mount Longonot’s crater and another 8-hour hike in Elephant Hill. And now, here I am, ready to take on Everest!
Just kidding! I am all but ready to sell off my hiking boots! I have also informed my dear hike-loving husband that my new limit is 45 minutes or a maximum of an hour if the trail leads to a stunning beach, like in Seychelles or a unique experience, such as viewing gorillas in the wild!
How to get to Mount Kenya
Depending on the routes chosen, the journey to climb Mount Kenya can begin in the towns of Nanyuki, Naro Moru or Chogoria. Since we were climbing the mountain via the Chogoria-Sirimon route, we drove down to Chogoria town from Nairobi, the journey taking a little over three hours.
We spent the night in a hotel there before beginning the experience the following day.
How long does it take to climb Mount Kenya?
It commonly takes about 4-6 days to hike Mount Kenya, depending on the routes and pace chosen. Some people can and have walked it in far less time, but for people like me, looking to take it pole-pole, the more days spent on the mountain, the lower the chances for altitude sickness and the higher the stakes of a successful summit.
Our climb was initially programmed for five days (and four nights) upon my request, but later changed to four days and three nights once we started hiking. Here’s how that went:
Day 1: Chogoria Gate to Lake Ellis Campsite (3hrs)
At 10 am, Paul picked us up from the hotel, and we joined a Landrover, alongside the porters and cook assigned to us, to the Chogoria gate. We checked in, signed the necessary logbooks, and had breakfast before taking a 3-hour hike to Lake Ellis campsite.
This part of the journey wasn’t so bad. Mostly, the terrain was relatively flat, and the hills were not so steep. We arrived at the campsite as scheduled and hung out until dinner before calling in for the night.
Day 2: Lake Ellis to Lake Michaelson Campsite (5hrs)
The next day, we began hiking at 8 am, after the cook and porters made a delicious breakfast. The weather was beautiful and sunny, a welcome respite from the long cold night we had just spent near the lake. This hike was a little more challenging for me than the day before, but I can say, in hindsight, that it still wasn’t so bad.
We hiked up to a viewpoint before going down to a new campsite on the shores of Lake Michaelson. “Hike high, sleep low”, Paul had said, one of the ways to reduce the chances of altitude sickness.
This camp was by far our favourite of the entire trip. The weather remained sunny and lovely, and we could get by in the evening without a campfire.
I would admit, by this time and on only our second night sleeping in the tent, I had already grown tired of it. I craved my warm, soft bed and cosy blanket back home and dreaded leaving the tent at night to use the “wild bathroom”, not out of fear but because it meant I had to face the frigid night weather!
But, the stars, wow, those stars! They were the most beautiful constellations I have ever seen, and it was worth getting out of the tent at night to look up at the sky.
Day 3: Lake Michaelson to Upper Simba Campsite (4hrs)
Our hike the following morning was supposed to begin at 11 am. When Paul told us we could start at 2 pm instead, neither of us objected. The Upper Simba campsite, the base before our final push to the summit, was going to be the coldest.
Rather than arriving early and being confined to the tent all day, we enjoyed the beautiful sunny lakeside at Michaelson.
In the afternoon, we joined the crew to fish for trout from the lake and then took a pleasant walk around it. After lunch, we then proceeded to the next campsite.
On this part of the hike, we first encountered hailstones, not large enough to be considered dangerous and apparently something to welcome because it made the camp less cold.
But the truth is that I cannot imagine the camp being colder than what we experienced! We had to eat dinner inside our tent and awoke to ice and frozen water bladders. Luckily, this was our shortest night, and by 3 am the following day, we were preparing to make our way up to the summit for sunrise.
Day 4: Upper Simba Campsite to Point Lenana, Shipton Camp & Old Moses (12hrs)
The hike up to the summit began at 4 am, and this was the day that truly tested my limits. As we trudged to the top, it felt like the summit kept moving further and further away! I felt discouraged each time I looked up and saw how much further we had to go.
Mark and Paul cheered me on, and I kept remembering to breathe and place one foot in front of the other repeatedly until we reached the top.
Behind me, the sun was rising and lighting up the sky with the most magnificent colours! I took a few moments to catch my breath and admire the scenery; then, I continued pushing to see the rest of this fantastic natural show from Point Lenana.
A few minutes later, I climbed the ladder connecting the boulders to join Mark at the summit. It was an emotional moment for me; to be able to share this moment with Mark, to have arrived at the peak of Kenya’s highest mountain on his birthday, to have pushed myself to accomplish the most physically challenging activity of my life, and to have succeeded, it all felt extraordinary.
There’s a rumour going around in my household that I cried a little, but I cannot categorically confirm whether this is true.
We took in the views, took a few photos to prove we were there, and then it was time to head back down. Everyone celebrates a successful summit of Point Lenana, as they should, but I also believe the descent is worth celebrating.
Going down via the Sirimon route felt long, tiring and endless! It didn’t help that the rocks were loose and slippery on the way down. I had to hold on to Paul and Mark at intervals to get down faster and without taking a fall.
We made our way to Shipton Camp, had breakfast there, and then continued to Old Moses. The total time for the hike, including the summit climb, was 12 hours, a personal record and not one I’m looking to beat anytime soon!
Final Thoughts and Tips…
How to prepare for a hike to Mount Kenya
I’m going to preface this by saying that I am no expert in hiking. I will share what I did to prepare but feel free to check out articles from more seasoned hikers.
The first thing I did to prepare for climbing Mount Kenya was to test my endurance by going on relatively shorter hikes or “pre-hikes”, as they are often called. Several companies that host trips to Mount Kenya have scheduled pre-hikes to prepare participants for the journey.
I started my hiking journey in Kenya with a 2-hour hike on Ololosokuan Nature Trail, then progressed to Mount Longonot, Sleeping Warrior and Ugali Hills, Kijabe Hills, Ngong Hills, and Elephant Hill.
After completing Elephant Hill, I felt confident enough to start thinking about climbing Mount Kenya with Mark. To further prepare, I signed up for a gym membership, which I was dedicated to in the beginning, but barely went after a few months, and then in the weeks leading up to our climb, I took up running a 5K track in Karura Forest.
I would say climbing Mount Kenya is both a physical and mental journey. If you plan to go for it, don’t underestimate yourself. Sign up for some pre-hikes, get moving at least twice a week, and you know what to expect because you’ve read this blog! 🙂
How easy is it to climb Mount Kenya – Point Lenana?
If you’re someone like me, someone I would consider a “lazy hiker”, I wouldn’t call this an easy hike. The last day, especially, really challenges you and let’s face it, sleeping in a tent in frigid weather conditions isn’t so much fun. Nevertheless, you should not suffer too much during the hike with the right combination of a great guide and porters, an excellent pre-hike exercise plan, and a good route.
Suppose you’re coming from a location with a lower elevation. In that case, you need to consider altitude sickness and here are a few ways to prevent this without medication during your hike.
How to prevent altitude sickness while climbing Mount Kenya
- If you are travelling from a city with a lower elevation (for example, Lagos), it is better to spend a few days in Nairobi or Nanyuki/Chogoria Town to begin the acclimatization process
- It is essential to stay hydrated before and throughout your hike. Drink a lot of water and avoid inhibitors, such as tobacco and alcohol
- Make sure to climb the mountain at a suitable pace, slowly but surely – your guide will help with this
Climbing Mount Kenya cost
We booked this experience with Justrioba Tours and paid $450 each. Kenyan residents and citizens can expect to pay between $350 – $600 for this experience. The cost may be higher for foreigners, starting at around $800.
Mount Kenya National Park entrance fees
Entrance fees to Mount Kenya National Park are sold in packages and vary depending on the travel season. The peak season includes the months of July to September and December to February, while the low season is from October to November and March to June.
The cost for a 4-day package is 2,500 Ksh and 1,600 Ksh for East African Resident adults and children/students, respectively. For Non-residents, the price is $285 and $140. During the low season, the prices for children and students remain the same. However, a discount is applied for adults who pay 1,800 Ksh and $200, respectively. For more pricing details, please visit the KWS website.
Tip: Pay attention to the number of days you wish to stay in the mountain range and only pay for the days you need. You can pay the difference at the exit gate if you spend more days than intended.
Can I climb Mount Kenya without a guide?
At the time of this writing, unless you are a certified mountain climber, it is impossible to hike through the Mount Kenya range without a guide.
What gear do you need for a Mount Kenya Hike?
Here are the items I packed and used on the hike:
- Decathlon 3-in-1 jacket (hardshell jacket + fleece): I also put on Mark’s frog toggs later on
- 2 Long sleeve shirts (moisture-wicking fabric, one light-weight, one cold-weather)
- 2 Hiking pants
- Sports bra
- One thermal set (merino wool pants and top)
- One summit hat
- One balaclava
- Two pairs of gloves (1 waterproof and one warm)
- One pair of waterproof hiking boots – (broken into before the hike)
- One pair of crocs – for use on the campsite after the day’s hike
- Two pairs of thick wool socks and one pair of light socks
- One hiking pole
- One pair of gaiters (I didn’t use this, though)
- One pair of polarized sunglasses
- Poncho and rain cover for backpacks
- 1 Daypack + water bladder
- One rechargeable headlamp
- Flushable water-based wipes
- Snacks (nuts, sneaker bars, cookies and Gatorade)
- Sleeping bag and backpack for our things
We also rented another sleeping bag and backpack in addition to what we had and got the rest of our gear from the following stores:
- Nairobi Mountain and Hiking Gears Store (Parklands)
- Hawi Outdoors
- Decathlon (The Hub Karen or Two Rivers Mall)
What is the best time to climb Mount Kenya?
Mount Kenya can be hiked all year round, but it is generally best to avoid the heavy rainy season, which, under normal circumstances, falls between March and May.
I hope you have enjoyed reading about our Mount Kenya experience! Has it convinced you to take on this challenge? Haha, I’d love to know!
Also, please ask me anything you want to know about climbing Mount Kenya! If you’ve done this hike before, I’d love to hear all about it! What route did you use, and how was your experience in general?