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Mount Kenya is the highest mountain in Kenyamarker and the second highest in Africa, after Kilimanjaromarker. The highest peaks of the mountain are Batian ( ), Nelion ( ) and Point Lenana ( ). Mount Kenya is located in central Kenya, just south of the equator, around ( ) north-northeast of the capital Nairobimarker.

Mount Kenya is a stratovolcano created approximately 3 million years after the opening of the East African rift.It was covered by an ice cap for thousands of years. This has resulted in very eroded slopes and numerous valleys radiating from the centre. There are currently 11 small glaciers. The mountain is an important source of water for much of Kenya.

The volcano was discovered by Europeans in 1849 by Johann Ludwig Krapf, but the scientific community remained skeptical about his reports of snow and ice so close to the equator. The existence of Mount Kenya was confirmed in 1883 and it was first explored in 1887. The summit was finally climbed by a team led by Halford John Mackinder in 1899. Today there are many walking routes, climbs and huts on the mountain.

There are eight distinct vegetation bands from the base to the summit. The lower slopes are covered by different types of forest. Many species are endemic or highly characteristic of Mount Kenya such as the lobelias, the senecios and the rock hyrax. Because of this, an area of around the centre of the mountain is designated a National Parkand listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The park receives over 15,000 visitors per year.

Mount Kenya National Park

Mount Kenya National Park, established in 1949, protects the region surrounding the mountain. Initially is was a forest reserve before being announced as a national park. Currently the national park is within the forest reserve which encircles it. In April 1978 the area was designated a UNESCOmarker Biosphere Reserve. The national park and the forest reserve, combined, became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997.

The Government of Kenya had four reasons for creating a national park on and around Mount Kenya. These were the importance of tourism for the local and national economies, to preserve an area of great scenic beauty, to conserve the biodiversity within the park, and to preserve the water catchment for the surrounding area.


European discovery

Mount Kenya was the second of the three highest peaks in Africa to be seen for the first time by European explorers. The first European to see it was Dr Johann Ludwig Krapf, a Germanmarker missionary, from Kituimarker in 1849,a town away from the mountain. The discovery was made on 3 December 1849,a year after the discovery of Kilimanjaro.

Dr Krapf was told by people of the Embu tribe that lived around the mountain that they did not ascend high on the mountain because of the intense cold and the white matter that rolled down the mountains with a loud noise. This led him to infer that glaciers existed on the mountain. The Kikuyu confirmed these happenings.

Dr Krapf also noted that the rivers flowing from Mt Kenya, and other mountains in the area, were continuously flowing. This was very different from the other rivers in the area, which swelled up in the wet season and completely dried up after the rainy season had ended. As the streams flowed even in the driest seasons he concluded that there must be a source of water up on the mountain, in the form of glaciers. He believed the mountain to be the source of the White Nile.

In 1851 Krapf returned to Kitui. He travelled closer to the mountain, but did not see it again. In 1877 Hildebrandt was in the Kitui area and heard stories about the mountain, but also did not see it. Since there were no confirmations to back up Krapf's claim people began to be suspicious.

Eventually, in 1883, Joseph Thomson passed close by the west side of the mountain and confirmed Krapf's claim. He diverted his expedition and reached up the slopes of the mountain but had to retreat because of trouble with local people. However, the first true European exploration of the mountain was achieved in 1887 by Count Samuel Teleki and Ludwig von Höhnel. He managed to reach on the south western slopes.On this expedition they believed they had found the crater of a volcano.

In 1892, Teleki and von Höhnel returned to the eastern side, but were unable to get through the forest.

Finally, in 1893, an expedition managed to ascend Mount Kenya as far as the glaciers. This expedition was travelling from the coast to Lake Baringomarker in the Rift Valley, and was led by Dr John W Gregory, a Britishmarker geologist. They managed to ascend the mountain to around , and spent several hours on the Lewis Glacier with their guide. On his return to Britain, Gregory published papers and a narrative account of his achievements.

George Kolb, a German physician, made expeditions in 1894 and 1896 and was the first to reach the moorlands on the east side of the mountain. However, far more exploration was achieved after 1899 when the railway was completed as far as the site of Nairobi. Access to the mountain was far easier from here than from Mombasamarker on the coast.

Mackinder's Expedition

On 28 July 1899, Sir Halford John Mackinder set out from the site of Nairobi on an expedition to Mt Kenya. The members of the expedition consisted of 6 Europeans, 66 Swahilis, 2 tall Maasai guides and 96 Kikuyu. The Europeans were Campbell B. Hausberg, second in command and photographer, Douglas Saunders, botanist, C F Camburn, taxidermist, Cesar Ollier, guide, and Josef Brocherel, guide and porter.

The expedition made it as far as the mountain, but encountered many difficulties on the way. The country they passed through was full of plague and famine. Many Kikuyu porters tried to desert with women from the villages, and others stole from the villages, which made the chiefs very hostile towards the expedition. When they reached the base camp on 18 August, they could not find any food, had two of their party killed by the local people, and eventually had to send Saunders to Naivashamarker to get help from Captain Gorges, the Government Officer there.

Mackinder pushed on up the mountain, and established a camp at in the Höhnel Valley. He made his first attempt on the summit on 30 August with Ollier and Brocherel up the south east face, but they had to retreat when they were within of the summit of Nelion due to nightfall.

On 5 September, Hausberg, Ollier and Brocherel made a circuit of the main peaks looking for an easier route to the summit. They could not find one. On 11 September Ollier and Brocherel made an ascent of the Darwin Glacier, but were forced to retreat due to a blizzard.

When Saunders returned from Naivasha with the relief party, Mackinder had another attempt at the summit with Ollier and Brocherel. They traversed the Lewis Glacier and climbed the south east face of Nelion. They spent the night near the gendarme, and traversed the snowfield at the head of the Darwin Glacier at dawn before cutting steps up the Diamond Glacier. They reached the summit of Batian at noon on 13 September, and descended by the same route.


After the first ascent of Mt Kenya there were fewer expeditions there for a while. The majority of the exploration until after the First World War was by settlers in Kenya, who were not on scientific expeditions. A Church of Scotlandmarker mission was set up in Chogoriamarker, and several Scottish missionaries ascended to the peaks, including Rev Dr. J. W. Arthur, G. Dennis and A. R. Barlow. There were other ascents, but none succeeded in summitting Batian or Nelion.

New approach routes were cleared through the forest, which made access to the peaks area far easier. In 1920, Arthur and Sir Fowell Buxton tried to cut a route in from the south, and other routes came in from Nanyukimarker in the north, but the most commonly used was the route from the Chogoria mission in the east, built by Ernest Carr. Carr is also credited with building Urumandi and Top Huts.

On 6 January 1929 the first ascent of Nelion was made by Percy Wyn-Harris and Eric Shipton. They climbed the Normal Route, then descended to the Gate of Mists before ascending Batian. On the 8 January they reascended, this time with G. A. Sommerfelt, and in December Shipton made another ascent with R. E. G. Russell. They also made the first ascent of Point John. During this year the Mountain Club of East Africa was formed.

At the end of July 1930, Shipton and Bill Tilman made the first traverse of the peaks. They ascended by the West Ridge of Batian, traversed the Gate of Mists to Nelion, and descended the Normal Route. During this trip, Shipton and Tilman made first ascents of several other peaks, including Point Peter, Point Dutton, Midget Peak, Point Pigott and either Terere or Sendeyo.

1931 to present day

In the early 1930s there were several visits to the moorlands around Mt Kenya, with fewer as far as the peaks. Raymond Hook and Humphrey Slade ascended to map the mountain, and stocked several of the streams with trout. By 1938 there had been several more ascents of Nelion. In February Miss C Carol and Mtu Muthara became the first woman and African respectively to ascend Nelion, in an expedition with Noel Symington, author of The Night Climbers of Cambridge, and on 5 March Miss Una Cameron became the first woman to ascent Batian.

During the Second World War there was another drop in ascents of the mountain. Perhaps the most notable of this period is that of three Italianmarker Prisoners of War, who were being held in Nanyuki, and escaped to climb the mountain before returning to the camp and "escaping" back in. No Picnic on Mount Kenya tells the story of the prisoners' exploit.

In 1949 the Mountain Club of Kenya split from the Mountain Club of East Africa, and the area above was designated a National Park. A road was built from Naro Morumarker to the moorlands allowing easier access.

Many new routes were climbed on Batian and Nelion in the next three decades, and in October 1959 the Mountain Club of Kenya produced their first guide to Mount Kenya and Kilimanjaro. On Kenyan independence in 1963 Kisoi Munayo raised the Kenyan flag at the top of the mountain. He died in 2007 and was given a heroic funeral attended by the Kenyan president Mwai Kibaki . In the early 1970s the Mount Kenya National Park Mountain Rescue Team was formed, and by the end of the 1970s all major routes on the peaks had been climbed.

In 1997 Mount Kenya was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

On July 19, 2003, a South African registered aircraft, carrying 12 passengers and two crew, crashed into Mount Kenya at Point Lenana: nobody survived. This was not the first aircraft lost on the mountain; there is also the wreckage of at least one helicopter that crashed before 1972.

Local culture

Mount Kenya is important to all the tribes living around it.
The main tribes living around Mount Kenya are Kĩkũyũ, Ameru, Embu and Maasai. They all see the mountain as an important aspect of their cultures.


Several tribes that live around Mount Kenya believe the mountain to be sacred.
They used to build their houses facing the mountain, with the doors on the side nearest to it.
The Kĩkũyũ live on the southern and western sides of the mountain. They are agriculturalists, and make use of the highly fertile volcanic soil on the lower slopes. The Kĩkũyũ people believe that their God, Ngai lived on Mount Kenya when he came down from the sky. They believe that the mountain is Ngai's throne on earth. It is the place where Kĩkũyũ, the father of the tribe, used to meet with their God, Ngai.They used to build their houses with the doors facing the mountain. The Kĩkũyũ name for Mount Kenya is Kĩrĩ Nyaga (Kirinyaga), which literally translates to 'the shining mountain'. God's name in Kikuyu is also Mwene Nyaga meaning 'owner of the ostriches'.It can also be construed to mean ' possessor of light/brightness' in reference to the light reflected from the white glaciers on the mountain.


The Embu people live to the south-east of Mount Kenya, and believe that the mountain is the home of their God, Ngai or Mwene Njeru. The mountain is sacred, and they build their houses with the doors facing towards it. The Embu name for Mount Kenya is Kiri Njeru, which means mountain of whiteness.The Embu people are closely related to the Mbeere and Kamba people. They are the settlers of the windward side of the Mountain. This is a rocky semi dry area.


The Maasai are semi-nomadic people, who use the land to the north of the mountain to graze their cattle. They believe that their ancestors came down from the mountain at the beginning of time. The Maasai name for Mount Kenya is Ol Donyo Keri, which means 'mountain of stripes or many colours' depicting the snow, forest and other shades as observed from the surrounding plains. At least one Maasai prayer refers to Mount Kenya:


The Ameru occupy the East and North of the Mountain. They are generally agricultural and also keep livestock and occupy what is among the most fertile land in Kenya. The Meru name for Mt. Kenya is Kirimara (That which has white stuff or snow). Some Meru songs refer to Kirimara no makengi (The mountain is all speckles.) Other poem like songs imply that the mountain belongs to various sub-groups of the community. The Meru God Murungu was from the skies.

Other tribes

The first Europeans to visit Mount Kenya often brought members of other tribes as guides and porters. Many of these people had never experienced the cold, or seen snow and ice before. Their reactions were often fearful and suspicious.

Mackinder's expedition of 1899 met some men from the Wadorobo tribe. They were at about , and are an example of a tribe that use the mountain for normal purposes.


Mount Kenya is a stratovolcano that was active in the Plio-Pleistocene. The original crater was probably over high; higher than Kilimanjaromarker. Since it became extinct there have been two major periods of glaciation, which are shown by two main rings of moraines below the glaciers. The lowest moraine is found at around . Today the glaciers reach no lower than . After studying the moraines, Gregory put forward the theory that at one time the whole summit of the mountain was covered with an ice cap, and it was this that eroded the peaks to how they are today.

The lower slopes of the mountain have never been glaciated. They are now mainly cultivated and forested. They are distinguished by steep-sided V-shaped valleys with many tributaries. Higher up the mountain, in the area that is now moorland, the valleys become U-shaped and shallower with flatter bottoms. These were created by glaciation.

When Mt Kenya was active there was some satellite activity. The north-eastern side of the mountain has many old volcanic plugs and craters. The largest of these, Ithanguni, even had its own ice cap when the main peaks were covered in ice. This can be seen by the smoothed summit of the peak. Circular hills with steep sides are also frequent in this area, which are probably the remains of small plugged vents. However, as the remaining mountain is roughly symmetrical, most of the activity must have occurred at the central plug.

The rocks that form Mt Kenya are mainly basalts, rhomb porphyrites, phonolites, kenytes and trachytes. Kenyte was first reported by Gregory in 1900 following his study of the geology of Mount Kenya.

The geology of the Mount Kenya area was first considered by Joseph Thomson in 1883. He saw the mountain from the nearby Laikipiamarker Plateau and wrote that it was an extinct volcano with the plug exposed. However, as he had only seen the mountain from a distance his description was not widely believed, particularly after 1887 when Teleki and von Höhnel ascended the mountain and described what they considered to be the crater. In 1893 Gregory's expedition reached the Lewis Glacier at . He confirmed that the volcano was extinct and that there were glaciers present. The first thorough survey was not undertaken until 1966.


The main peaks and glaciers of Mount Kenya are near the centre of the mountain.
The peaks of Mount Kenya are almost all from a volcanic origin. The majority of the peaks are located near the centre of the mountain. These peaks have an Alpine appearance due to their craggy nature. Typically of Alpine terrain, the highest peaks and gendarmes occur at the intersection of ridges. The central peaks only have a few mosses, lichens and small alpine plants growing in rock crevices. Further away from the central peaks, the volcanic plugs are covered in volcanic ash and soils. The vegetation growing on these peaks is typical for the vegetation band they are in.

The highest peaks are Batian ( ), Nelion ( ) and Pt Lenana ( ). Batian and Nelion are only apart but separated by the Gates of Mist gap, which is equally deep. Coryndon Peak ( ) is the next highest, but unlike the previous peaks it does not form a part of the central plug.

Other peaks around the central plug include Pt Piggot ( ), Pt Dutton ( ), Pt John ( ), Pt John Minor ( ), Krapf Rognon ( ), Pt Peter ( ), Pt Slade ( ) and Midget Peak ( ). All of these have a steep pyramidal form.

Significant craggy outlying peaks include Terere ( ) and Sendeyo ( ) which form a pair of twin peaks to the north of the main plug. Together, they form a large parasitic plug. Other notable peaks include The Hat ( ), Delamere Peak, Macmillan Peak and Rotundu.
File:Batian Nelion and pt Slade in the foreground Mt Kenya.JPG|Batian on the left, Nelion on the right, and Slade in the foregroundFile:Pt_Lenana_Mt_Kenya.JPG|Lenana, the third highest peak, is the most ascended.File:Krapf rognon and glacier after snowstorm.jpg|Krapf Rognon ( ) and Krapf glacierFile:Hut_tarn_4500m_and_Midget_Peak_Mt_Kenya.JPG|Midget peak can be climbed in a day.File:Terere and Sendeyo.jpg|Terere and Sendeyo are two craggy outlying peaksFile:Mugi_hill_and_giants_billards_table.jpg|Mugi hill and the Giant's Billards Table offers some of the best hillwalking in Kenya.


The Lewis glacier is the largest on Mount Kenya
The glaciers on Mount Kenya are retreating rapidly. The Mountain Club of Kenya in Nairobi has photographs showing the mountain when it was first climbed in 1899, and again more recently, and the retreat of the glaciers is very evident. Descriptions of ascents of several of the peaks advise on the use of crampons, but now there is no ice to be found. There is no new snow to be found, even on the Lewis Glacier (the largest of them) in winter, so no new ice will be formed. It is predicted to be less than 30 years before there will no longer be ice on Mount Kenya.. Glacial retreat and disappearance can be caused by change in temperature trends, or by change in precipitation trends.

The glacier names are (clockwise from the north):
* Northey, Krapf, Gregory, Lewis, Diamond, Darwin, Forel, Heim, Tyndall, Cesar, Josef.

The area of glaciers on the mountain was measured in the 1980s, and recorded as about . This is far smaller than the first observations, made in the 1890s.

Periglacial landforms

Although Mount Kenya is on the equator the freezing nightly temperatures result in periglacial landforms. There is permafrost a few centimetres (inches) below the surface. Patterned ground is present at to the west of Mugi Hill. These mounds grow because of the repeated freezing and thawing of the ground drawing in more water. There are blockfields present around where the ground has cracked to form hexagons. Solifluction occurs when the night temperatures freeze the soil before it thaws again in the morning. This daily expansion and contraction of the soil prevents the establishment of vegetation.


Runoff from Mount Kenya provides water for over 2 million people.
Mount Kenya is the main water catchment area for two large rivers in Kenya; the Tanamarker, the largest river in Kenya, and the Ewaso Ng'iso North. The Mount Kenya ecosystem provides water directly for over 2 million people. The rivers on Mount Kenya have been named after the villages on the slopes of the mountain that they flow close to. The Thuchi River is the district boundary between Meru and Embu. Mount Kenya is a major water tower for the Tana river which in 1988 supplied 80% of Kenya'smarker electricity using a series of seven hydroelectric powerstations and dams.

The density of streams is very high, especially on the lower slopes which have never been glaciated. The ice cap which used to cover the mountain the the Pliocene eroded large U-shaped valleys which tend to only have one large stream.Where the original shape of the shield volcano is still preserved, there have been millions of years for streams to erode the hillside. This area is therefore characterised by frequent deep fluvial V-shaped valleys.

The gradual transition from glaciated to fluvial valley can be clearly observed.

Rivers which start on Mount Kenya are the tributaries of two large Kenyan rivers: the Tanamarker and the Ewaso Ng'iromarker rivers. A lot of Mount Kenyan rivers flow into the Sagana which itself is a tributary of the Tana, which it joins at the Masinga Reservoir. The rivers in the northern part of the mountain, such as the Burguret, Naro Moro, Nanyuki, Liki, Sirimon flow into the Ewaso Ng'iro. The rivers to the south-west, such as the Keringa and Nairobi flow into the Sagana and then into the Tana. The remaining rivers to the south and east, such as the Mutonga, Nithi, Thuchi and Nyamindi, flow directly into the Tana.


Mount Kenya has several distinct ecological zones, between the savanna surrounding the mountain to the nival zone by the glaciers. Each zone has a dominant species of vegetation. Many of the species found higher up the mountain are endemic, either to Mount Kenya or East Africa, and are highly specialised.

There are also differences within the zones, depending on the side of the mountain and aspect of the slope. The south-east is much wetter than the north, so species more dependent on moisture are able to grow. Some species, such as bamboo, are limited to certain aspects of the mountain because of the amount of moisture.


There are distinct vegetation zones around Mount Kenya which vary according to altitude and aspect.
The climate of Mount Kenya changes considerably with altitude. Around the base of the mountain is fertile farmland. The tribes living around the mountain have cultivated this cool relatively moist area for centuries.

Mount Kenya is surrounded by forests. The vegetation in the forests depend on rainfall, and the species present differ greatly between the northern and southern slopes. As time has passed the trees on the edge of the forest have been logged and the farmland has encroached further up the fertile slopes of the mountain.

Above the forest is a belt of bamboo. This zone is almost continuous, but is unable to grow in the north because there is not enough rainfall. The bamboo is entirely natural, and prevents many animals from living further up the mountain. Tracks are common through the bamboo. They are made by large animals such as elephants and buffalo when they fight their ways higher. They do not spend long within the bamboo, as it is all inedible except for tender new shoots. Bamboo suppresses other vegetation, so it is uncommon to find trees or other plants here.

The timberline forest is commonly in cloud.
The trees are relatively small and covered in lichens.
Above the bamboo is the timberline forest. The trees here are often smaller than the trees in the forests lower down the mountain.

When the trees can no longer grow the vegetation changes into heathland and chaparral. Heathland is found in the wetter areas, on the west side of Mount Kenya, and is dominated by giant heathers. Chaparral is found in the drier areas and grasses are more common. The ground here is often waterlogged, but bush fires are still frequent.

As the altitude increases the temperature fluctuations become extreme and the air becomes thinner and drier. This region is known as the Afro-alpine zone. The environment here is very isolated, with the only similar area nearby being the Aberdares, which are away. Many of the species here are endemic, with adaptations to the cold and fluctuating temperatures. Typical plants here include giant groundsels (senecios) and giant lobelias.

The region where the glaciers have recently retreated from is nival zone. It is the area that plants have not yet been able to colonise. On Mount Kenya this zone is not continuous as the glaciers are no longer continuous.


The flora found on Mount Kenya varies with altitude, aspect and exposure, but very little with seasons. Lower down the mountain the air contains more moisture and oxygen, and the temperature is warm all year. As the altitude increases, the plants have to be more specialised, with adaptations to strong sunlight, little oxygen and freezing night temperatures.

Plants in the Afro-alpine zone have overcome these difficulties in several ways. One adaptation is known as the giant rosette, which is exhibited by giant senecio, lobelia and giant thistle (Carduus). These plants have specialist ways of retaining water in the dry air, as well as preventing the water freezing overnight. They also use dead leaves or hairs to protect their buds from freezing. Another adaptation is to flower simultaneously. Plants in cold temperatures do not grow fast, so it is impossible to flower every year. By synchronising their flowering they increase their chances of pollination.

Many plants in the Afro-alpine zone of Mount Kenya tend to be large. This is an adaptation against the cold. However, nearer the nival zone the plants decrease in size again, as there are not enough resources, including warmth, to allow them to grow any larger.


The majority of animals live lower down on the slopes of Mount Kenya. Here there is more vegetation and the climate is less extreme. Various species of monkeys, several antelopes, tree hyrax, porcupines and some larger animals such as elephant and buffalo all live in the forest. Predators found here include hyena and leopard, and occasionally lion.

No animals live permanently in the bamboo zone, although several cross it to access the higher zones of the mountain.

There are few mammals found at high altitudes on Mount Kenya. The Mount Kenya hyrax and common duiker are able to live here, and are very important to the ecosystem. Some smaller mammals, such as the groove-toothed rat, can live here by burrowing into the giant senecios and using their thick stem of dead leaves as insulation. A few larger mammals occasionally visit these altitudes. Leopard skeletons are sometimes found at altitude, and other sightings are remembered in names such as Simba Tarn (simba means lion in Swahili). However, there is not enough prey to allow these animals to live here permanently.

Birds are more common than mammals in the Afro-alpine zone, with many species of sunbirds, alpine chats and starlings resident here as well as some of their predators; the auger buzzard, lammergeier and Verreaux eagle. Birds are important in this ecosystem as they pollinate many plants.


The climate of Mount Kenya has played a critical role in the development of the mountain, influencing the topography and ecology amongst other factors. It has a typical equatorial mountain climate which Hedberg described as winter every night and summer every day. Mount Kenya is home to one of the Global Atmosphere Watch's atmospheric monitoring stations.


The year is divided into two distinct wet seasons and two distinct dry seasons which mirror the wet and dry seasons in the Kenyanmarker lowlands. As Mount Kenya ranges in height from to the climate varies considerably over the mountain and has different zones of influence. The lower, south eastern slopes are the wettest as the predominant weather system comes from the Indian oceanmarker. This leads to very dense montane forest on these slopes. High on the mountain most of the precipitation falls as snow, but the most important water source is frost. Combined, these water sources feed 11 glaciers.

The current climate on Mount Kenya is wet, but drier than it has been in the past. The temperatures span a wide range, which diminishes with altitude. In the lower alpine zone they usually do not go below . Snow and rain are common from March to December, but especially in the two wet seasons. The wet seasons combined account for 5/6 of the annual precipitation. The monsoon, which controls the wet and dry seasons, means that most of the year there are south-easterly winds, but during January and February the dominate wind direction is north-easterly.

Mount Kenya, like most locations in the tropics, has two wet seasons and two dry seasons as a result of the monsoon. From mid-March to June the heavy rain season, known as the long rains, brings approximately half of the annual rainfall on the mountain. This is followed by the wetter of the two dry seasons which lasts until September. October to December are the short rains when the mountain receives approximately a third of its rainfall total. Finally from December to mid-March is the dry, dry season when the mountain experiences the least rain.

Mount Kenya straddles the equator. This means during the northern hemisphere summer the sun is to the north of the mountain. The altitude and aspect of the watersheds and main peaks results in the north side of the upper mountain being in summer condition. Simultaneously, the southern side is experiencing winter conditions. Once it is the southern hemisphere summer, the situation reverses.

Daily pattern

During the dry season the mountain almost always follows the same daily weather pattern. Large daily temperature fluctuations occur which led Hedberg to exclaim winter every night and summer every day. There is variation in minimum and maximum temperatures day to day, but the standard deviation of the mean hourly pattern is small.

In the dry season, mornings are typically clear and cool, but the mountain is hidden in cloud by mid-day.
A typical day is clear and cool in the morning with low humidity. The mountain is in direct sunlight which causes the temperatures to rise quickly with the warmest temperatures occurring between 9 and 12am. This corresponds to a maxima in the pressure, usually around 10am. Low on the mountain, between and , clouds begin to form over the western forest zone, due to moist air from Lake Victoriamarker. The anabatic winds caused by warm rising air gradually bring these clouds to the summit region in the afternoon. Around 3pm there is a minimum in sunlight and a maximum in humidity causing the actual and perceived temperature to drop. At 4pm there is a minimum in the pressure. This daily cover of cloud protects the glaciers on the south-west of the mountain which would otherwise get direct sun every day, enhancing their melt. The upwelling cloud eventually reaches the dry easterly air streams and dissipates, leading to a clear sky by 5pm. There is another maxima of temperature associated with this.

Being an equatorial mountain the day light hours are constant with twelve hour days. Sunrise is about 0530 with the sun setting at 1730. Over the course of the year there is a one minute difference between the shortest and longest days. At night, the sky is usually clear with katabatic winds blowing down the valleys. Above the lower alpine zone there is usually frost every night.


Climbing routes

Most of the peaks on Mount Kenya have been summited. The majority of these involve rock climbing as the easiest route, although some only require a scramble or a walk. The highest peak that can be ascended without climbing is Point Lenana, . The majority of the 15,000 visitors to the national park each year climb this peak. In contrast, approximately 200 people summit Nelion and 50 summit Batian, the two highest peaks.

Batian is usually climbed via the North Face Standard Route, UIAA grade IV+. It was first ascended on 31 July 1944 by Firmin and Hicks. The route is usually climbed in two days. The Normal Route is the most climbed route up Nelion. It was first climbed by Shipton and Wyn-Harris on 6 January 1929. It is possible to traverse between the two peaks, via the Gates of Mist, but this usually involves spending a night in the Howell hut on top of Nelion. There is a bolted abseil descent route off Nelion.

The satellite peaks around the mountain also provide good climbs. These can be climbed in Alpine style and vary in difficulty from a scramble to climbing at UIAA grade VI. They are useful for acclimatisation before climbing the higher peaks and as ascents in their own right.

Walking routes

Map showing the walking routes and huts around Mount Kenya
There are eight walking routes up to the main peaks. Starting clockwise from the north these are the: Meru, Chogoria, Kamweti, Naro Moru, Burguret, Sirimon and Timau Routes.Of these Chogoria, Naro Moru and Sirimon and used most frequently and therefore have staffed gates. The other routes require special permission from the Kenya Wildlife Service to use.

The Chogoria route leads from Chogoriamarker town up to the peaks circuit path. It heads through the forest to the south-east of the mountain to the moorland, with views over areas such as Ithanguni and the Giant's Billiards Table before following the Gorges Valley past the Temple and up to Simba Col below Point Lenana. The Mountain Club of Kenya claims that Ithanguni and the Giant's Billards Table offer some of the best hillwalking in Kenya.

The Naro Moru route is taken by many of the trekkers who try to reach Point Lenana. It can be ascended in only 3 days and has bunkhouses at each camp. The route starts at Naro Morumarker town to the west of the mountain and climbs towards Mackinder's Camp on the Peak Circuit Path. The terrain is usually good, although one section is called the Vertical Bog.

The Sirimon route approaches Mount Kenya from the north-west. The path splits on the moorlands, with the more frequently used fork following the Mackinder Valley and the quieter route traversing into the Liki North Valley. The paths rejoin at Shipton's Cave just below Shipton's Camp on the Peak Circuit Path.

The Peak Circuit Path is a path around the main peaks, with a distance of about and height gain and loss of over . It can be walked in one day, but more commonly takes two or three. It can also be used to join different ascent and descent routes. The route does not require technical climbing.

Image:Mt kenya gorges valley chogoria route.jpg|The Gorges Valley is a major feature on the Chogoria Route.Image:Vertical Bog Mt Kenya.JPG|Vertical bog on Mount Kenya on the Naro Moru Route.File:View into the Mackinder Valley 3900m.JPG|Looking towards the peaks up the Mackinder Valley on the Sirimon Route.


Accommodation on Mount Kenya ranges from very basic to luxurious. The more luxurious lodges are found on the lower slopes, in and around the forest. These lodges have hotel-style accommodation, often with log fires and hot running water. Many offer guided walks and other activities such as fishing and birdwatching.The huts higher on the mountain are more basic. Most have several bunkrooms with beds, and also offer somewhere to rest, cook and eat. Some also have running water. A few huts are very basic bothies only offering a space to sleep that is sheltered from the weather. Beds in the huts can be reserved at the park gates.Camping is allowed anywhere in the National Park, but is most encouraged around the huts to limit environmental impact. It is possible for campers to use the communal spaces in the huts for no extra fee.

File:Mt kenya austrian hut with nelion.jpg|Austrian Hut is found near the Lewis Glacier on the slopes of Pt Lenana. The hut sleeps 30 people, with Top Hut nearby for porters.File:Mt kenya liki north hut.jpg|Liki North Hut is a small bothy in the Liki North Valley. It offers little more than shelter from the weather.File:Mt kenya shiptons camp with sendeyo.jpg|Shipton's Camp is at the top of the Sirimon Route. It has a large communal area and running cold water.File:Mount Kenya 14200ft camp.jpg|Camping is allowed anywhere within the National Park.


Mount Kenya received its current name by Krapf who sighted it in 1849 although the spelling has changed from Kenia to Kenya. It is unclear what native word of which tribe Krapf recorded. Various tribes have different names for the mountain. The Kĩkũyũ call it Kirinyaga, which means "white or bright mountain". The Embu call it Kirenia, or "mountain of whiteness". The Maasai call it Ol Donyo Eibor or Ol Donyo Egere, which mean "the White mountain" or "the speckled mountain" respectively.The Wakamba call it Kiinyaa, or "the mountain of the ostrich". The male ostrich has speckled tail feathers, which look similar to the speckled rock and ice on the mountain.

Krapf was staying in a Wakamba village when he first saw the mountain. Krapf, however, recorded the name as both Kenia and Kegnia. According to some sources, this is a corruption of the Wakamba Kiinyaa.Others however say that this was on the contrary a very precise notation of a native word pronounced .

Nevertheless, the name was usually in English.

It is important to note that at the time this referred to the mountain without having to include mountain in the name. The current name Mount Kenya was used by some as early as 1894, but this was not a regular occurrence until 1920 when Kenya Colony was established. Before 1920 the area now known as Kenya was known as the British East Africa Protectorate and so there was no need to mention mount when referring to the mountain. Mount Kenya was not the only English name for the mountain as shown in Dutton's 1929 book Kenya Mountain. By the 1930s Kenya was becoming the dominant spelling, but Kenia was occasionally used. At this time both were still pronounced in English.

Kenya achieved independence in 1963, and Jomo Kenyatta was elected as the first president.He had previously assumed this name to reflect his commitment to freeing his country and his pronunciation of his name resulted in the pronunciation of Kenya in English changing back to an approximation of the original native pronunciation, the current . So the country was named after the colony, which in turn was named after the mountain as it is a very significant landmark. To distinguish easily between the country and the mountain, the mountain became known as Mount Kenya with the current pronunciation . Mount Kenya is featured on the coat of arms of Kenya.

Names of peaks

Lenana was the Chief Medicine-Man of the Maasai circa 1890.
Pt Lenana was named after him by Halford Mackinder.
Lenana was the son of Batian who was the previous Chief Medicine-Man.
The peaks of Mount Kenya have been given names from three different sources. Firstly, several Maasai chieftains have been commemorated, with names such as Batian, Nelion and Lenana. These names were suggested by Mackinder, on the suggestion of Hinde, who was the resident officer in Maasailand at the time of Mackinder's expedition. They commemorate Mbatian, a Maasai Laibon (Medicine Man), Nelieng, his brother, and Lenana and Sendeyo, his sons. Terere is named after another Maasai headman.

The second type of names that were given to peaks are after climbers and explorers. Some examples of this are Shipton, Sommerfelt, Tilman, Dutton and Arthur. Shipton made the first ascent of Nelion, and Sommerfelt accompanied Shipton on the second ascent. Tilman made many first ascents of peaks with Shipton in 1930. Dutton and Arthur explored the mountain between 1910 and 1930. Arthur Firmin, who made many first ascents, has been remembered in Firmin's Col. Humphrey Slade, of Pt Slade, explored the moorland areas of the mountain in the 1930s, and possibly made the first ascent of Sendeyo.

The remaining names are after well-known Kenyan personalities, with the exception of John and Peter, which were named by the missionary Arthur after two disciples. Pigott was the Acting Administrator of Imperial British East Africa at the time of Gregory's expedition, and there is a group of four peaks to the east of the main peaks named after governors of Kenya and early settlers; Coryndon, Grigg, Delamere and McMillan.

The majority of the names were given by Melhuish and Dutton, with the exception of the Maasai names and Peter and John. Interestingly Pt Thomson is not named after Joseph Thomson, who confirmed the mountain's existence, but after another J Thomson who was an official Royal Geographical Societymarker photographer.

Books about Mount Kenya

  • Sir Halford Mackinder, The First Ascent of Mount Kenya [K. M. Barbour, ed.], (London 1991); the story of the first ascent of Batian, including Mackinder's diary and some of the expedition's photographs. Barbour discusses reasons why Mackinder, who wrote and published other books, did not publish a detailed account of the expedition.
  • E. A. T. Dutton, Kenya Mountain (London 1929); the account of an expedition to Mount Kenya in 1926; illustrated.
  • Vivienne de Watteville, Speak to the Earth - Wanderings and Reflections among Elephants and Mountains (London & New York, 1935); account of the author's sojourn in a small hut in the region of the Ellis Lake and her explorations of the Gorges Valley; illustrated.
  • H. W. Tilman, Snow on the Equator (London 1937); account of the first ascent (with Shipton) of the NW ridge and Nelion; illustrated.
  • Eric Shipton, Upon that Mountain, (London 1943); account of the first ascent (with Tilman) of the NW ridge and Nelion; illustrated.
  • Felice Benuzzi, Fuga sul Kenya (Milan 1947) / No Picnic on Mount Kenya (London 1952); a mountaineering classic, about three Prisoners of War who escape from their prison camp in 1943, ascend the mountain with sparse rations, improvised equipment and no maps, and then break back into their prison camp.
  • Roland Truffaut, Du Kenya au Kilimanjaro (Paris 1953) / From Kenya to Kilimanjaro (London 1957); account of the 1952 French ascent of the N. face of Mt Kenya; illustrated.
  • I.Allan, Guide to Mount Kenya (1981; 1991; many updates); authoritative guide to the routes on the peaks.
  • Hamish MacInnes, The Price of Adventure, (London 1987); includes the story of the week-long rescue of Gerd Judmeier after his fall near the summit of Batian in the early 1970s.
  • I.Allan, C. Ward, G. Boy, Snowcaps on the Equator (London 1989); a history of the East African mountains and their ascents, including the more recently pioneered routes; illustrated.
  • John Reader, Mount Kenya (London 1989); account of an ascent of Nelion, with Iain Allan as guide; illustrated.
  • M. Amin, D. Willetts, B. Tetley, On God's Mountain: The Story of Mount Kenya (London 1991). A photographic celebration of the mountain.
  • Kirinyaga, Mike Resnick, (1989).
  • Facing Mount Kenya, Jomo Kenyatta, (1938); a book about the Kĩkũyũ.

See also


  1. Kenya Broadcasting Corporation, April 11, 2007: An hero is laid to rest
  2. Charter aircraft crashes into Kenya's Mount Kenya., Airline Industry Information, 21 July 2003
  3. Rescue teams resume efforts to recover bodies of those killed in charter aircraft crash, Airline Industry Information, 23 July 2003
  4. Recession of Equatorial Glaciers. A Photo Documentation, Hastenrath, S., 2008, Sundog Publishing, Madison, WI, ISBN 978-0-9729033-3-2, 144 pp.
  5. Alpine Journal, 1945
  6. Alpine Journal Vol. 42

External links

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