Created approximately 3 million years ago, Mount Kenya is an extinct volcano, often referred to as the ‘Place of Light’. Situated in central Kenya, just north of the equator, Mount Kenya lies within the Mount Kenya National Park. It has a trio of summits. The highest, Batian, is 17,057ft (5199m), making it the tallest peak in Kenya, and the second highest across the entire African continent. The mountain’s other two summits, Nelion and Lenana, stand at 17,021ft (5188m) and 16,355ft (4985m), respectively. Together, these snow-capped mountains tower over the surrounding savannah landscape, stony and silent.
Mount Kenya is an extinct volcano (last eruption 2.6 million years ago), which originally rose over 3 million years ago. At its peak, it reached heights of 19,700ft (6000m) before being eroded down to its current height. Formed by two extended glacial periods, research indicates that the lowest elevation reached by the glaciers was 10,800ft (3300m).
At present, there are 11 small glaciers on Mount Kenya. However, they are shrinking, and with snow now rarely falling on the mountain, no new ice is formed. In fact, researchers predict that the ice will completely disappear by 2050 unless current temperature and precipitation changes occur, which appears unlikely given current patterns emerging as a result of global warming.
There are six gates into Mount Kenya National Park. In order to gain entry, visitors must pay an entry fee. Only cash is accepted. Payments can be made at the 3 main gates, which are well signposted and easily accessible by car.
Once inside the park, lakes, glaciers, peaks, mineral springs and forests abound. Naturally, walking and hiking are popular ways to explore this diverse and rugged landscape. Whilst only experienced climbers with equipment can reach the peaks of Batian and Nelion, Lenana is accessible by non-climbers on foot. Roughly 15,000 visitors scale Point Lelana annually, whilst only 200 reach Nelion and Batian.
There are a number of walking routes culminating at Point Lenana. The view from this lookout point is considered among the best views in Kenya and is not to be missed. Unique spires, ridges and cliffs border a handful of trails, captivating hikers with their scale and beauty.
The most frequented routes are Chogoria, Naro Moru and Sirimon, which all feature staffed gates. The Chogoria route is considered the most striking. It takes walkers from the small town of Chogoria to the Peaks Circuit Path and on to Point Lenana. Passing through areas of forest and moorland, the route takes in stunning views across the Giant’s Billiards Table region.
The Naro Moru route is the quickest way to reach Point Lenana. This rapid ascent, though not particularly picturesque, ensures that those unable to linger in the park at least get to visit its most popular lookout point.
The Sirimon route is popular due to the steady rate of ascent. In fact, many climbers choose to ascend using the Sirimon route, and then descend using either the Naro Moru or Chorogia routes.
Mount Kenya also boasts several ice routes, with the Diamond Couloir and Ice Window routes especially well known. The Diamond Couloir, which was once available year round, is now only climbable during hard winters. It goes without saying that ice routes should only be attempted by practised climbers.
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