Summit climb to Point Lenana
There are three main approaches to the summit area of Mount Kenya and ideally you walk up one route and come down another so that you experience the very different views of the mountain.
The best choice of routes depends on a number of factors from the time of year to the nature of the terrain.
Access to the eastern side of the mountain and the Chogoria route is only possible from December to March and August to mid October, although this may change as the road is currently being improved. The transfer from Nanyuki or Naro Moru to Chogoria town and then up to the park gate is significantly longer (and more expensive) than the transfers to the other park gates.
The Naro Moru route, on the west of the mountain, is the closest to the Naro Moru River Lodge and is therefore a popular choice. However, there is a section known as the Vertical Bog which consists of clumps of tussock grass interspersed with deep and muddy gullies. If taken slowly, this section of the route is challenging but manageable on the way up, but it is trickier to negotiate walking down and we do not recommend it as a descent route.
The Sirimon route, approaching the mountain from the north west, is easily accessible from Nanyuki and Naro Moru and will always be included in a high altitude trek, either up or down.
As well as the classic summit traverse, there are plenty of other options to consider. You can walk up part of the route to the summit and then return by the same route, spending less time on the mountain but still having the experience of a high altitude trek.
You can do the Summit Circuit, a ten kilometre trail around the base of the peaks up and down over several passes with spectacular views of the peaks up close.
If you want a wilderness experience off the beaten track, you can camp on the Chogoria side at Lake Ellis and Lake Michaelson, and you may not see another person, other than your mountain team, till you reach Shipton’s Camp at 4,200 metres.
This is a typical itinerary walking up by the Sirimon Route and descending by the Chogoria Route.
After breakfast, you are driven to the Sirimon Gate via Nanyuki for any last minute shopping. It is about twenty minutes from Naro Moru to Nanyuki, and then a further 45 minutes to the Sirimon Gate. On arrival at the gate, your Guide will register with KWS, the Kenya Wildlife Service, and pay the park fees. The Cook and porters will organise the distribution of the packs and provisions and then set off for the first camp.
This is a four hour trek up a fairly steep vehicle track through the forest where you will see evidence of elephant and buffalo and possible sightings of bushbuck and baboons. If you are setting off around 11, you will have a picnic lunch on the way, weather permitting. If your departure is delayed, you may have an early picnic lunch at the gate. This walk takes you up to 3,300 metres to Old Moses camp where there is a bunkhouse and campsite.
After breakfast, you leave at around 7.30. An early start is advisable for the best views, as the weather can close in during the afternoon. The walk crosses two ridges and several streams and in 3-4 hours, you reach the beautiful valley of Liki North dominated by the peaks of Sendeyo and Terere. There is a small mountain hut for cooking, and you camp overnight.
After an early breakfast, you climb out of the Liki valley, crest a ridge and descend into Mackinder’s valley, dropping down to pick up the trail on the valley floor. You then climb up the other side of the valley to reach Shipton’s Camp at 4,236 metres. This walk can take between 4-5 hours. Shipton’s Camp has a large bunkhouse and campsite. It is one of the main bases for summit attempts, mainly by trekkers but also by mountaineers.
This is a rest and acclimatisation day at Shipton’s Camp to prepare for the ascent of Point Lenana. It is well worth walking up to the Hausberg Col from where you get spectacular views of the peaks including Point Peter and Point Dutton. This is a good dry run as you reach 4,591 metres, only 394 metres lower than Point Lenana. Then an early supper and bed to get some sleep before the next day’s very early start.
You set off for Point Lenana with the aim of reaching the summit just before sunrise at 6.30 a.m. This walk is only 4 kms but it can take 3-4 hours in the darkness, and with altitude limiting the pace.
Then it’s a steep descent down a scree slope towards the spectacular Gorges Valley. Dotted with giant groundsel, this is the most extraordinary landscape. Breakfast is at Minto’s camp near Hall Tarns, a distance of about 4.5 kms.
After breakfast and a rest, you continue down the Gorges valley to the Meru Mount Kenya Lodge, known as ‘The Bandas’. Each cottage has a sitting and dining area with fireplace, bedroom with three beds, kitchen and bathroom with loo. You can have a hot shower heated by a “Tanganyika” boiler at the back of the cottage, and a log fire in the evening. Your Cook will prepare supper in the kitchen and you can buy beers from the Lodge shop.
After a leisurely breakfast, you walk about 10 kms down through the forest and then rendezvous with a 4WD vehicle which will take you down the rest of the track and on to Chogoria town for your onward transfer.
Short breaks strolling in the foothills
There are some lovely trails through forested parkland to waterfalls and lakes and you can easily spend three or four days walking on the eastern side of the mountain.
This is an ideal option if you want to experience some high altitude walking without the pressure of a summit trek. You can base yourself at the Chogoria Bandas and walk every day, returning to your cottage for a welcome hot shower.
An excellent day’s hike takes you to Lake Ellis with good views of the main peaks and then if you feel like climbing your own mini Point Lenana, there is Mugi Hill, a classic conical peak of 3,547 metres. Another day out can be spent walking to the spectacular Nithi Falls, amidst sentinels of giant groundsel, having a picnic lunch at the top of the falls.
After breakfast, you are driven to Chogoria town and then transfer to a local 4WD vehicle to take you up the forest track to the Chogoria Bandas.
After lunch, a gentle acclimatisation walk in the surrounding parkland. You may catch a glimpse of elephant, buffalo or bushbuck.
Walk through parkland and forest glades to the Nithi Falls. If you are feeling energetic, you can walk down to the base of the falls, followed by a picnic lunch back at the top of the falls before returning to base.
Walk along the same track but then take a different route to the tranquil Lake Ellis, have a picnic lunch, and then for those feeling like an extra challenge, walk to the top of Mugi Hill for amazing panoramic views.
After breakfast, walk down the forest track to meet your vehicle and transfer back to Chogoria town for your onward transfer.