The New Year is just around the corner and perhaps one of your goals is to climb Mount Kenya. If you’re new to hiking, this may seem like a lofty goal, but your fellow novice hiker is here to tell you how you can turn this dream into reality!
I went from considering an hour-long hike as my physical limit to hiking trails that were over eight hours long! And in September of 2022, after four days, Mark and I successfully climbed Mount Kenya and reached the summit of Point Lenana.
Getting to this point was both a physical and mental journey. While I have toyed with the idea of climbing a mountain in my lifetime, I’ve always seen it as a long-term goal that would put me on a gruelling, life-changing path.
Luckily, the path to climbing Mount Kenya wasn’t so daunting. If anything, it’s given me more confidence in my physical abilities and it might as well be the most epic thing I have done to date. So, in a way, it’s been life-changing but it was certainly not as gruelling as I had initially thought.
This then brings me to my first tip on how to prepare to climb Mount Kenya for the first time.
How to Prepare to Climb Mount Kenya: Before the Hike
1. Prepare Mentally
I believe the first step for a new hiker to climb Mount Kenya is to have the right mindset. If you believe it’s something that you can’t do, then chances are that you won’t be able to do it. Seriously, if I can do it, anyone can!
One way I prepared mentally for this journey was to remind myself that as long as I kept putting one foot in front of the other, I would be fine. There were no time limits (technically), it was not a marathon or any kind of race, and Point Lenana requires no technical hiking skills, so I would be fine. And so would you.
Once you have the right mindset, you will be motivated to start training for the hike and this will ultimately increase your chances of success.
2. Train for the Climb
If you’re not physically active, then you need to get moving. For new hikers, I recommend that you test your endurance and get familiar with hiking by going on shorter treks before you set out to Mount Kenya. If you live in Kenya, there are multiple trails to start with, including Ngong Hills (~3hrs), Mount Longonot (5hrs) and Elephant Hill (8hrs), amongst others.
I would also advise that you engage in some form of physical exercise at least 2-3 times a week. This can be doing a couple of squats daily and taking walks or running around your neighbourhood.
Remember that training to climb Mount Kenya is not the same as training for a marathon, for example. So don’t feel intimidated thinking about how much exercise you have to do 🙂 The most important thing is that you are moving and you are consistent.
3. Break into your shoes
If you get new hiking shoes, be sure to break into them before your climb. The last thing you want is to have blisters while you hike.
Make sure they are the perfect fit, and try them out on your day hikes before the big climb to make sure you won’t have any issues with them later.
4. Pack the right gear
In addition to good hiking shoes, you also need good mountain hiking gear to ensure that you don’t suffer too much and to increase your chances for a successful summit. Check out this post for a complete list of all the items I packed and used on our Mount Kenya climb.
5. Go with a Good Guide
It is important to ensure that you take this journey with a guide who is well-versed with the mountain and who has your best interests at heart.
We climbed Mount Kenya with Paul, via Justrioba Tours and I can highly recommend both parties. Some guides may recommend routes that are easier to reach, however, these may not necessarily be the best routes for new hikers. So be sure to double-check with your guide and communicate your preferences clearly.
6. Choose a Good Route
We hiked Mount Kenya via the Chogoria-Sirimon route and I can recommend this route for new hikers and those travelling from places with lower elevations.
This route is both picturesque and it gives hikers sufficient time to acclimatize to higher altitudes, thereby decreasing the chances of altitude sickness.
7. Begin the Acclimatization Process
If you travel from a location with a lower altitude, try to allocate about two days in Nairobi, Nanyuki or Chogoria Town to begin the acclimatization process. This will also help to reduce the chances of getting altitude sickness.
Now that you know what to do before you climb Mount Kenya, let’s talk about what you can do while on the trail.
How to Prepare to Climb Mount Kenya: During the Hike
If you get a good guide, they will cover most of these tips anyway, but here goes…
1. Drink Lots of Water
If there’s one thing you shouldn’t forget about while hiking, it should be hydration. And this should not be limited to only when you feel thirsty. During my hike, my goal was to always get to the next campsite with an empty water bladder. Like all the earlier tips, this also helps to keep altitude sickness at bay.
2. Perform Breathing Exercises
Another tip I can recommend while you hike is to perform breathing exercises. When Mark taught me to do this before our climb, I didn’t think it would make any difference but in my experience, it did! While climbing, I would inhale deeply on one step and exhale on the other. And when we camped, we would do more breathing exercises.
There are several books and videos about this online, so you can check those out to find something that works for you.
3. Climb High, Sleep Low
This is a technique used to get the body to adjust to higher altitudes. You don’t have to worry too much about this, your guide will incorporate this technique into your climb. But it might be something to confirm during your pre-hike meeting.
Climbing Mount Kenya is an adventure of a lifetime and I applaud you for considering doing so and I am cheering you on to the summit!
Congratulations in advance! 🙂