Climbing Mount Kenya

In between Kilimanjaro ascents this June, TSA Managing Director Oliver Browne, found a few days to climb the beautiful and wild Mt Kenya.

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How did you end up climbing on Mount Kenya?


It was totally last minute. I just finished our first Kilimanjaro ascent of the year and had a few days to wait in Moshi before the second one. An operator in Nairobi messaged me on Instagram to ask if I was interested in Mt Kenya as an itinerary and invited me to come and check it out. I couldn’t turn it down.. 


How did you get there?


Very straightforward in fact and all went to plan. I took a 06:50 flight from JRO to Nairobi on Precision Air, which took 1hr and cost £250. Once in Nairobi the team, lead by Head Guide David, picked me up and drove me to the Sirimon Gate which took about 4hrs with a couple of stops on the way. In Nanyuki we had a quick lunch and picked up supplies for the trip as well as Samuel, our porter and Patrick our chef. 


How does Kenya / Mount Kenya compare with Tanzania / Kilimanjaro?


Driving through the suburbs of Nairobi it definitely feels like they have had more economic development than their neighbours in Tanzania although I haven’t been to Dar Es Salam so I am not sure if that is good commentary! But the people in Kenya are warm, friendly and helpful, just like in Tanzania. Mount Kenya itself definitely felt wilder and more scenic than Kilimanjaro. The main difference was the number of people. There were only 2 other climbers going for the summit with me, on Mount Kenya; a guy from Arizona and his guide. 


Which route did you take and which summit did you attempt?


Because of the amount of time I had (only 3 days / 2 nights) we did the 3 day Sirimon Route to Lenana Point (the trekking peak).


We arrived at the park gate at 2.30pm and I hiked to the first camp, Old Moses up the road but I later heard there is a jungle path! This took about 3 hours and was through a very ancient feeling forest - very Jurassic Park. We saw a troop of baboons and zebra which was amazing, but the guides said they have seen hyenas and elephants in this area. Looking at the wildness of the place it seemed highly plausible!


The next morning at around 8 we began the 6.5hr hike to the Shiptons Camp which took us up the beautiful Mackinders Valley from where we could see the 3 summits of Mount Kenya looking in the distance.


Arriving at the camp at 2.30pm it was tempting to go for the summit but we decided to wait and go early in the morning. 


You did Lenana Point. Why didn’t you go for the true summit?


Yes. I went for Lenana Point, the trekking summit and the third highest as I didn’t have enough time this time. 


Bation, the true summit and Nelion, the second summit are serious, technical rock climbs that require more time and planning and more work to reach the top!


So you were camping?


No. We slept in the mountain huts which weren’t bad. Probably how I imagine European huts were in the 1970’s. I saw a couple of bigish looking mice, but otherwise perfectly habitable. Our chef cooked some amazing food. I think the high altitude chefs have the edge over the Tanzanians! 


How was the summit push?


Far easier than Kilimanjaro. From Shiptons Camp it took just over 3.5hrs to reach the summit of Lenana Peak. We left at around 4am and it was very straight forward. Not overly steep, long or unstable terrain. 


The last section is technically a Via Ferrata but we didn’t clip in as there isn’t much exposure. I used the ladder and held the cable. We reached the summit just as the sun was rising, it was really beautiful. 


I would say that if you’re worried that Kilimanjaro might be too much for you, i.e. the summit night is too long, but still want to take on a high altitude trekking peak then this is a great alternative. 


What kit did you take?


Similar to Kilimanjaro albeit less of it as it was only 3 days. For the 2 approach days I was in a t-shirt and trekking trousers. I wore La Sportiva approach shoes. The summit night was very mild. I just wore a base layer and fleece. Towards the summit I added a thin down jacket and waterproof to keep out the wind. I had more layers in my bag and 6000m gloves but I never put them on - just two pairs of inner gloves. 

Otherwise I had my Marmot 8000m sleeping bag which I take everywhere - I love it. 


And to come down?


I think we were back at Shiptons Camp in just over 90 minutes. My guide David was sprinting down the screw slope although I was more cautious! We then had a quick breakfast at the hut and left there at c. 9am. We went down fast, almost racing each other. It took 2hrs 40mins to get to Old Moses where we got a lift to the park gate as I had a plane to catch! We saw some zebras on the way out which was cool. I love that about Africa! 


What did you like best about Mt Kenya?


It is a very beautiful and wild feeling place and there were very few people when I was there. It felt like a hidden gem although I am told the season was yet to start in earnest. Definitely aim for early June if you can and you might find similar conditions, i.e. dry / warm and very few people! The guide, porter and chef I went with were excellent also.


So will you be adding Mt Kenya to your program?


100%. I think we will have an expedition there in 2024 and it will be a climb plus a walking or horse safari. I am looking at Uganda also where we will have a Mount Stanley climb plus gorilla trekking. I got a real taste for safari in Nepal after my expeditions so it is definitely a thread I want to expand. 


Is it feasible to do Mount Kenya after Kilimanjaro?


Absolutely. So long as you are in good condition, have good fitness and are not wiped out by Kilimanjaro it is easy to head to Mt Kenya straight afterwards. You would be well acclimatised and ready to roll! We will have it as an add on I am sure.