The Mount Kenya hike is as challenging as it is enjoyable. The trek to Point Lenana, Kenya’s third-highest peak at 4,985 meters above sea level, is an enriching experience for anyone that attempts the summit push. The climb delivers breathtaking views of the two other peaks, Batian and Nelion, as well as magnificent views across the forest and valleys of Mount Kenya. Yet, getting to the top of Point Lenana calls for some preparation. Below is a detailed guide to help you as you train for Mt Kenya.
Climbing Mt Kenya – what to expect
There are several trekking routes up Mt Kenya. The three main routes to Point Lenana are the Naromoru route to the West, Sirimon on the North West, and Chogoria on the South East. Choosing your preferred route for climbing Mount Kenya doesn’t have to be a daunting task. Let’s first brush through each of the three routes and then delve into how you can choose one.
Mt. Kenya Naromoru Route
The Mt. Kenya Naromoru route is the shortest route to the peaks. The trek starts at the Naromoru Gate on an initial 9km walk on an all-weather road to Met Camp (3,048m ASL).
The second day takes you past a meteorological station, up the vertical bog, and through the Teleki Valley to get you to Mackinders Camp (4,300m ASL) 10 km later. The final 4km scramble to the summit is a near-vertical climb on loose scree, past the Austrian Hut (4,790m ASL), onto the world’s highest via Ferrata to get you to Point Lenana.
Mount Kenya Sirimon Route
The Mt. Kenya Sirimon route is considered the easiest of the Mount Kenya routes. The climb starts at the Sirimon gate off the Nanyuki-Isiolo highway. As with the Naromoru route, the trek begins with an initial 9km walk on an all-weather road to Old Moses Camp (3,300m ASL).
The second day takes you on a moderate 14km trek through valleys and across rivers to get to Shiptons Camp (4,200m ASL). Half the hike is through the beautiful Mackinder Valley, featuring bountiful montane vegetation. The final climb to Point Lenana is a shockingly steep 2.5km climb on loose scree.
Mt Kenya Chogoria Route
The Mount Kenya Chogoria Route climb is the longest, most challenging, yet most scenic of the Mt. Kenya routes. The trek starts at the Chogoria gate (2,950m ASL) through an initial gentle 8km walk on a well-paved road to lake Ellis (3,455m ASL) in the Hinde Valley.
The second day takes you through a significantly challenging, steep 12km climb to Mintos Camp (4,300m ASL). The third day allows you to attempt the 4.5km summit push to Point Lenana, with the option of descending 6km to Lake Michaelson (4,000m ASL), 4.5km back to Mintos Camp, or 12km down to Road Head Camp (3,300m ASL). Either way, you can rest assured of glorious views across the Gorges Valley as you descend before finally tackling the 7km trek from Road Head to back Chogoria gate.
Train for Mt Kenya — Choosing the correct route for you
As you choose what route to use, it’s helpful to think through a few things, such as the following.
• Distance:- The different routes vary in distance to the peaks, with increasing difficulty levels. If you are only concerned with reaching the peak, you can consider the Sirimon Route. If you are looking for a scenic expedition, go for the Chogoria Route. Otherwise, if you are looking for a good challenge, the Naromoru route is your best choice.
• Time of year and weather:- In the rainy season, you want to keep off the Chogoria route, as the access roads are badly dilapidated. Otherwise, as far as the hike goes, the good old saying holds: “There’s never bad weather for a geared-up hiker.”
• Logistics:- Certain hikes need a bit more planning than others. For instance, if you choose a hike that starts and finishes at different routes, you’ll need to plan for pickup and drop-off at the various points. Remember to prepare for emergencies that may force you to exit sooner and ensure you can adjust your pickup and drop-off.
Preparation – Train for Mt Kenya with these critical steps.
Now that you have decided to conquer yourself at Point Lenana, what next? Below are some essential tips to help you prepare for the arduous climb.
Physical fitness training for Mt Kenya
Physical fitness is a vital issue you must tackle as you set your mind on Mt Kenya. Beyond the prep hikes, you can build your endurance and fitness by engaging in cardiovascular exercises in the weeks leading to the climb. Swimming, cycling, and running are excellent cardio exercises that you could consider. Maintaining a healthy diet contributes equally to your overall health and fitness as you prepare.
Preparatory hikes to train for Mt Kenya
Preparation and planning are paramount to achieving your goals. The best way to meet your Mt. Kenya hiking goals is by participating in preparatory hikes. Better yet, consider joining the Beginner to Mt. Kenya in 90 Days training program. This Mount Kenya beginners training program exposes you to new hiking experiences and lessons–and provides a reliable structure as you prepare to climb Mt Kenya.
Most hiking Mount Kenya programs for beginners are structured to enable you to accomplish specific hiking goals. These goals are paramount to mastering mountaineering. The programs offer trail options with varied conditions, including distance, terrain, and altitude.
Key goals of a Mount Kenya training Program
Whether you participate in the Outdoorer Beginner to Mt Kenya program or train for Mt. Kenya individually, the preparatory hikes you undertake should, at the very least, help you in the below ways.
1. Learn to hike:- The more you hike, the more you learn about critical aspects such as proper pacing, hydration, gear layering, ascending and descending techniques, and handling altitude sickness. Start with beginner-friendly hikes and work your way up the difficulty levels as you train on how to climb Mt. Kenya. Further, choose preparatory hikes with varying terrain, distance, and weather conditions to learn how to handle different situations that may arise.
2. Build endurance:- We recommend 2-4 high-altitude day hikes before climbing Mt. Kenya for endurance training and altitude acclimatization. These Mt. Kenya preparation hikes should be spaced out well enough to get you acquainted with being on your feet for increasingly longer distances and spells of time. Building endurance also involves finding a comfortable pace that you can sustain for a long time.
3. Understand altitude sickness:- Mt. Kenya is a high-altitude hike that requires altitude acclimatization. Incorporating high-altitude preparatory hikes in your training allows you to understand how altitude sickness manifests and develops. This way, it will be easy for you to observe and monitor any symptoms of altitude sickness while undertaking the Mt. Kenya climb.
Completing these first steps is key to getting you fit for Mt. Kenya.
Gear and layering – the basics of preparing to climb Mt Kenya
Understanding proper hiking gear and how to layer is essential to any training for climbing Mt Kenya. Hikers must be adequately prepared gear-wise for any eventuality. As you train for Mt. Kenya, layering is a crucial and constant factor you must master. This way, you can strip away some layers when you get too hot or add layers when you get cold. Your innermost layer should include moisture-wicking fabrics that keep your skin dry and regulate your body temperature. Avoid cotton!
Your outermost layer of clothing should be water- and wind-resistant to protect you from the elements, such as wind, rain, and snow. Even on sunny days, it is paramount to carry your rain gear–weather in high altitudes changes fast.
Avoid unpleasant and unnecessary falls by purchasing comfortable hiking shoes that are waterproof, sturdy, and have a proper grip. As you train for Mt Kenya, ensure you break into your hiking boots during the Mt Kenya prep hikes. Brand-new shoes straight to the trail can cause sore feet, blisters, and a great deal of discomfort. In addition to comfortable hiking boots, ensure you have a few pairs of woolen socks.
Finding a team to help you prepare to climb Mt Kenya
During your Mt. Kenya preparation hikes, you must decide whether to hike solo or join a hiking team. Considering the following factors will help inform your decision.
1. Your hiking competency:- If you are a beginner, going at it solo may be a bad idea. It is vital to seek expert help to guide you on all matters as you become a competent, Mt Kenya-ready hiker.
2. Prevailing conditions:- Some preparatory hikes come with tricky terrain and unpredictable weather patterns. In such instances, it is safer and wiser to hike with a team to avoid or mitigate the associated risks. There is always safety in numbers!
3. Personal preference:- A solo hike would be the best option if you are a competent hiker seeking to connect with nature or have a little alone time away from the noise. All the same, be sure to get a support team of guides to lead you and be there for you in an emergency.
The importance of hiking in a team
Experiencing the outdoors alone can give you a sense of freedom and adventure that is hard to find elsewhere. But, it can also be intimidating and lonely at times. If you’re new to hiking, we recommend hiking in a team for the following reasons.
1. Safety:- This is arguably the most critical reason, particularly for anyone in a Mount Kenya beginners training program, as they have minimal experience with trekking and mountaineering. Hiking is not without risks. When hiking with a team, you have easy access to guides, paramedics, and experienced hikers who are well-suited to train and guide you as you learn how to climb Mount Kenya. Guides and more experienced hikers know the trails better and can support you better in case of injury, illness, or a sudden shift in weather conditions.
2. Great Company:- Exploring the trails with like-minded hiking enthusiasts is a great way to push past the fatigue and struggles you may experience as you prepare to climb Mt Kenya. Hiking in a team and sharing experiences is good for the spirit and an easy way to stay motivated up until the very end.
3. Opportunity to learn:- Hiking in a team is a significant learning opportunity, especially for relatively newer hikers trying to get fit for Mt Kenya. Hiking in a group allows you to learn from more experienced hikers on essential aspects of hiking, including pace, foot placement, breathing, and hydration.
The downside to hiking in a team
While hiking in a team guarantees you higher chances of success and keeps you accountable and motivated, it has its disadvantages. If you decide to hike in a group, expect limited flexibility and autonomy as the team leaders decide and set each hike’s pace, itinerary, and start/finish times.
Tip: For an excellent hiking experience in a team, choose a fairly-sized team with an appropriate guide-to-hiker ratio. This way, you still enjoy a personalized, hands-on experience while hiking through the great outdoors.
Mental preparation for climbing Mt Kenya
When taking on a feat such as climbing Mt. Kenya, mental preparation is as necessary as physical preparation. Training your mind is a significant step to contribute to your chances of a successful summit.
Your mind is a powerful force that can help you get things done—or not. It can motivate you or sidetrack you. By preparing mentally and conditioning your mind, you increase the chances of reaching your full potential when climbing Mount Kenya—whatever that looks like for you.
As with physical fitness, you can achieve mental preparation by doing multiple Mt. Kenya prep hikes as you gradually build strength and confidence. Once you decide to train for Mt Kenya, read information about the expedition and various hikes to help settle your mind about the trails you will tackle on your Mount Kenya preparation.
Physiological preparation to be fit for Mt Kenya
We advise anyone training for Mt. Kenya to book a medical checkup in the weeks preceding the expedition. Doing so guarantees you a safe and healthy experience while climbing Mt. Kenya.
Due to the change in altitude and the general strain on your body during the expedition, anyone with underlying health conditions should seek the opinion of their doctor before climbing Mt. Kenya. When hiking, especially during the prep hikes for Mount Kenya, it is crucial to monitor your health and pay attention to changes in your body as you gain elevation.
Medical and evacuation cover
Hikers of all competency levels are affected equally by the risks and dangers of hiking and mountaineering. Common risks encompass medical emergencies from severe altitude sickness, other illnesses, fatigue, hypothermia, dehydration, heat exhaustion, and injuries from slips and falls.
Safety starts long before you get on the trail. With adequate planning, you can mitigate these risks and the ensuing inconveniences and expenses. Part of planning for these risks is by procuring medical and evacuation covers. Forget all things but ensure you get an evacuation cover before climbing Mt Kenya. It could mean the difference between returning home to your loved ones or becoming one more statistic.
In conclusion, as you train for Mt. Kenya, your preparation must be adequate to ensure that you are fit for Mt. Kenya. You can hitch it solo using the tips shared in this article or let a professional team guide you through the journey to unlock your mountain. Should you choose the latter, our Beginner to Mt Kenya program is carefully crafted to meet your needs and get you to Mt Kenya Point Lenana in just 90 days. The course features six prep hikes with increasing difficulty, targeted toward building resilience–and additionally provides remedial virtual training sessions and materials with loads of tips and tricks to implement at every next hike.
All the best as you conquer yourself at Point Lenana–and see you on the trails!
— Posted in collaboration with Wairimu Njuguna. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram. —