000.10 ° south, 037.15 ° east , 5 199 m a.m.s.l.
Mt. Kenya - There is a true story about an Italian prisoner of war who was incarcerated in a POW camp near Mt. Kenya. So strong was his love of climbing and so relentless the attraction of the mountain, that he and two fellow prisoners escaped and risked their lives just to have a chance of reaching the summit.
The journey of these adventurers sums up the awesome and majestic arena that is Mt. Kenya. Whilst not as high as Kilimanjaro only 300 km to the south, Mt. Kenya (5199m) makes ones heart beat to a different rythm. Here is a true mountain, fashioned by pre-historic volcanic activity and shaped by millennia of glacial erosion. What’s left of the original crater today forms part of a truly magnificent and utterly beautiful landscape, privy only to those who share a love for nature and hiking in the outdoors.
While the true summit of Mt. Kenya is accessible only through technical mountaineering skills, the entire area is a hiker's paradise. The highest trekking peak of Pt. Lenana is barely two hundred meters lower than the summit of Batian and its ascent at sunrise is an absolutely awesome experience. Glacial lakes called tarns, dot the area like sparkling diamonds and glaciers glitter ominously in the morning sun. Looking west from Pt. Lenana at sunrise is like having the frontrow seat in the Mt. Kenya slideshow. The summit of Nelion glows orange in the sun and many a hiker yearns to go higher still, simply to be a part of the spectacle of it all.
Routes - The approach to the base of Mt. Kenya is relatively steep. A major consideration when choosing a route must be acclimatisation. Scenery is magnificent on almost any route and a different ascent route and descent route is advisable to maximise the scenic value of the hike.
Variations of routes can also be used to assist in acclimatisation, thereby reducing the risk of AMS considerably. The ascent of Pt. Lenana is a considerable excercise and care should be taken to acclimatise properly. To this end, it is advisable to allow for at least 4-5 days on the ascent before attempting the peak at (4 985m). Routes to consider could be Naro Moru, Sirimon, Chogoria, Burgeret or Timau. Their popularity happens also to follow the order as mentioned above. One of the more scenic options to take is the Chogoria route, approaching the mountain from the north east. This is a long route and can also be left for the descent. The Sirimon route provides the easiest access to the northern slopes of the main peaks of Lenana, Batian and Nelion. It is also the quickest access to the base of Kami Hut should one consider the technical climbs later in the expedition. Once on the Sirimon route, you have several choices, all beautiful, on which to continue. Mackinder Valley probably constitutes the more scenic option. The Naro Moru route is the most popular and alo the shortest possibility to get to the base of the mountain. Due to its steep access, this route has the highest incidence of AMS of any route and hence even greater care should be taken to build in an acclimatisation programme.
Climate - East Africa receives two major rain seasons being the "long rains" and the "short rains". The long rains result mainly from the north easterly monsoon winds from the Indian Ocean and between mid-March through to June. During October to late December, the short rains fall mainly as a result of the south easterly monsoons. The southern slopes of Mt. Kenya receive the highest rainfall with up to 2500 mm per year. Between the altitude bands of 2700m to about 3200m, the rainfall is highest and an increase in altitude normally sees precipitation fall in more solid form. Due to certain conditions found at altitude, mist, rain and snowfalls can most likely be expected from around 11:00 in the mornings through until about 5:00pm. Wind is generated by the unique topographical features of the mountain.
During the night and up until about mid-morning, anabatic winds can generate very powerful downwinds which can cause sharp drops in temperature. Anabatic winds create strong upflow from around mid-morning into the late afternoon. A knowledge of these conditions makes it easier to correctly plan for the expedition in terms of what clothing to have handy.
Temperatures vary dramatically on the mountain, depending on the time of day and also the side of the mountain you’re on. Daytime temperatures may start with very comfortable hiking conditions, but regularly drop to around minus 10 ° C as night falls. Classic conditions will see bright sunshine in the mornings. For safety and as a rule of thumb, consider the day-to-day climate on Mt. Kenya as unpredictable, especially seen in the light of recent weather patterns.
POINTS TO CONSIDER WHEN PLANNING YOUR TRIP
There are several major routes to consider when, as a hiker, you are planning to summit Pt. Lenana, the highest trekking peak on Mt. Kenya. These routes may also be used as approaches to the actual summits of Batian and Nelion, but the final stretches to these two summits are reserved for technical mountaineers. The hike into Pt. Lenana (4985m) can be done from either the south-west, north or north-east, and depending on taste and budget, may be combined with other routes for the descent. As on Kilimanjaro, the routes on Mt. Kenya can also be defined in terms of scenic beauty and length and it is up to the hiker to decide which is better suited to his capabilities.
Mt. Kenya lays claim to being the mountain with one of the highest incidences of Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) reported annually worldwide. This fact is largely attributable to the very steep approach to the summit of Pt. Lenana. As a result, your safest approach is to gradually ascend to ever increasing altitudes, acclimatising as you climb. It is generally acceptable to spend four days on the ascent and two on the descent, very similar to the 6 day climbs on Kilimanjaro. Our route itineraries have taken this need for acclimatisation into account and as such, have been designed to offer you maximum comfort for the avoidance of AMS.
Mt. Kenya is a spectacular scenic wonderland. Its highest peaks are jealously protected by steep cliffs and fierce drop-offs. For those wanting a taste for real adventure without getting involved in the technical aspects of climbing, a hike to Pt. Lenana provides it all. Separated only by the eerie presence of the Lewis Glacier, Pt. Lenana and Nelion are close neighbours in the family of peaks in the area. We have successfully hiked to Pt. Lenana and have also climbed to the highest peaks of Nelion and Batian and therefore can give you firsthand knowledge and advice. We strongly recommend that your choice of route allows sufficient acclimatisation opportunity and falls within your physical abilities. Under no circumstances should you consider the technical ascents of Nelion and Batian without first gaining significant climbing experience and then only with the leadership of a qualified guide. Tribe Safari is able to cater for all these requirements as well as the cold weather clothing and sleeping bags which is essential on Mt. Kenya.
MORE ABOUT HEALTH ISSUES
When attempting to climb Mt. Kenya, you will be exposed to extreme weather conditions. Further, you will be entering a Malaria area where malaria prophylactics are recommended. Here follow some important points regarding health issues.
MALARIA - Kenya is considered a Malaria risk area and care should be taken when visiting the country. Malaria is caused by the parasite carried by the female Anopheles mosquito. It is a serious disease which can be fatal if not treated. We recommend that you take all the appropriate steps to avoid being bitten while simultaneously taking the prescribed medication. Please note that certain medication could be contra-indicated to your condition or certain medications in general use. For specialist advice, please call The Travel Safe Clinic on their national Toll-saver number at 0860 100072. With branches in Pretoria, Johannesburg and Cape Town, you can be assured of immediate and professional assistance and advice.
ACUTE MOUNTAIN SICKNESS (AMS ) - AMS, as the name indicates is commonly encountered when climbing high mountains or visiting areas of exceptional altitude. The symptoms of AMS are mostly headaches, nausea and disorientation. The combined effects of reduced barometric pressure and lack of oxygen conspire to form one of the most formidable obstacles on Mt. Kenya, commonly referred to as altitude sickness. The illness can be very serious and has lead to fatalities in the past. Effective acclimatisation and preventative medicine is the best way to combat the onset and development of AMS. Once again, we urge you to consult your physician for specialist advice on available medication. Alternatively, you can contact the Travel Safe Clinic at the number given above. For more detail, have a look at the following pointers as given by Iain Allan in "Guide to Mt. Kenya and Kilimanjaro". [More on Altitude related Ilness]
YELLOW FEVER - It is compulsory to receive a Yellow fever inoculation prior to your entry into Kenya. The inoculation must be done at least 10 days prior to departure and proof must be obtained from the institution dispensing the inoculation. It is commonly in the form of an appropriate certificate, yellow or orange in color. As this inoculation is valid for a period of 10 years, it is advisable to complete the formality as soon as possible to avoid any possible side effects shortly before departure.
With all the paperwork sorted out, you need to start preparing for the actual climb. Here are some final points to work through in order to complete your preperation.
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