Climbing Mount Kenya: a great alternative to trekking Mount Kilimanjaro

discoverafrica 25 April 2018
Part of the Kenya Safari Collection
Back to the Our Blog

Mount Kenya is the second highest peak mountain in Africa, with its highest peak standing at approximately 5 199 meters above sea level (abbreviated as mamsl). It also serves as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a realm of the mythical Kikuyu god known as Ngai. The ancient Kikuyu people built their customary homes facing this sacred peak as they believed it was a place of light; hence the name Kirinyaga.

Located in the Mount Kenya National Park, the mountain is easily accessible by car or charter flight. Mount Kenya comprises three magnificent peaks namely Nelion (5 188 mansl), Lenana (4 985 mansl), and Batian (5 199 mansl), all of which offer various degrees of difficulty when it comes to mountain climbing. These peaks also provide wildlife and birds with distinctly different environments and landscapes, thus making them unique ecosystems that can be vastly different from one another. You can expect rainforests, African moors and rocky terrain. The mountain flaunts a ragged series of peaks crowned with snow that creates crystal clear pools of fresh water at the base of the slopes. The best time to get a fascinating view of the mountain is at dawn when the early light of day silhouettes its stunning summit high over the plains surrounding it.

Wildlife to enjoy in the Mount Kenya National Park

Your introduction to Mount Kenya will begin at the Mount Kenya National Park. Lakes, glaciers, tarns, and pristine wilderness with a variety of geological phenomena can be found here. Mount Kenya National Park is also home to the Big Five (elephant, lion, cheetah, leopard, and rhino) and troops of baboons and monkeys whose fascinating behaviour is a joy to observe. You will also be able to see such animals as waterbucks, tree hyrax, elands, and the white-tailed mongoose. Expect birds in abundance, with owls, eagles, nightjars, ibises, hawks and sunbirds taking centre stage.

A sunbird in the Mount Kenya National Park | Image credit: Ken Behrens

Getting there

From Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya, you can access the mountain park via the Nanyuki or Naro Moru route that only takes a mere two hours. Transfers are included in the cost of your safari itinerary with the option of a fly-in transfer, although most people do transfer by road. It is recommended that you include an overnight stay in Nairobi on the first leg of your journey to appreciate the sights and sounds of this bustling city.  

Climbing Mount Kenya vs Mount Kilimanjaro

Although Mount Kenya is the second highest mountain in Africa, climbing this majestic natural monument is by no means as gruelling as trekking Mount Kilimanjaro. The climb is technically not as involved as climbing Mount Kilimanjaro (which involves sophisticated gear, training and months of preparation), but rather a slow yet fascinating ascent that can be done at your own pace, with a reasonable level of fitness. If you are able to walk for about six to eight hours a day at a steady pace then this will be a breeze for you.

It is important to remember that ‘mountain sickness’ or altitude sickness is a reality for explorers climbing Mount Kenya. A professional guide will make sure you stay hydrated and ascend at a steady pace to allow your body to adjust to a higher altitude. It is recommended that you only climb Lenana point if you’re a first-time mountaineer.

What about the weather?

The sunniest months in Kenya start from December to March, and this is the best time to visit Mount Kenya. The rainy season begins from March to June while drizzles kick off from early October to early December. Cloudy periods and rains restrict clear views. While Mount Kenya National Park is open for visitors all year round, your mountain climb will be affected by the weather. Bear in mind that the temperatures on the mountain can drop to below 20°C (even on Lenana which is at a lower altitude compared to the other two peaks) and the early mornings and nights are literally freezing. However, with the exception of the rainy months, Mount Kenya enjoys plenty of sunshine during the day throughout the majority of the year.

Will I need to use a professional guide?

It is highly recommended that you enlist the services of a professional and reputable mountain climbing safari company should you wish to enjoy the perks of climbing Mount Kenya. This is for your own safety and for the experience of seeing the landscape, wildlife and birds through a passionate and experienced eyes. We are able to make all the necessary arrangements for you and find out which mountain safari company provides all the equipment you require, or if you have any particular needs.

Some related info

Five safari destinations for first-time travellers

You've seen the documentaries of African deserts, waterfalls and wildlife. However, nothing compares to being there in person. Safaris promise unique cultural encounters, captivating wildlife adventure and spectacular scenery. Here are five of the best safari destinations for first-time travellers. Kenya Kenya is a co-host to the great wildebeest migration, one of the ‘seven natural…

Camp Review | Sala’s Camp, Masai Mara

Under a canopy of trees, overlooking the Sand River is Sala’s Camp. Renowned for their warm hospitality, service excellence and outstanding field guides and trackers, Sala is the ideal camp for wildlife seekers of all ages. Accommodating twenty guests at a time, the seven luxury tents with glass-front windows include full en suite bathrooms. Choose between four luxury tents, two family…

The top three places in Africa to see the Big Cats

One of the main reasons why so many travellers head to Africa each year is to witness the Big Cats in their natural habitat. It is becoming more and more popular under travellers, this is partially due to the current African safari prices. If you’re planning an African safari and want to see these beautiful species in the flesh, here are the top three places in Africa to see the Big…

Angama Mara Free Night Special

Stay for three nights and only pay for two at Angama Mara! Terms and conditions This special is only valid in the following Standard Season months:  2018: 1 November - 20 December  2019: 7 January - 31 May  2019: 1 October - 20 December See you in 2019 with style in the middle of the Masai Mara bush. For more: ...

Interview with actress Rula Lenska - Saruni Rhino’s first guest

Listen to Rula's review of Saruni Rhino and being the first ever guest to stay and take part in black rhino tracking on foot.    .embed-container { position: relative; padding-bottom: 56.25%; height: 0; overflow: hidden; max-width: 100%; } .embed-container iframe, .embed-container object, .embed-container embed { position: absolute; top: 0; left: 0; width: 100%; height: 100%; } ...

The Loita Migration arrives in the Masai Mara

Image by: Wolfgang H. Thome's Blog There is a lesser known movement or migration of up to 250 000 wildebeest and zebra on an annual journey from Loita Hills, to the northeast of the Masai Mara - into the Masai Mara itself - and its neighbouring conservancies.  The herds have arrived in the Masai Mara and we are happy to report that our people on the ground confirmed that herds up to…

You Might Also Like

 | 10-day wilderness safari in Kenya, Zambia and Zimbabwe

10-day wilderness safari in Kenya, Zambia and Zimbabwe

Experience the best of the migration and wildlife in Kenya, then travel to Zambia to witness Victoria Falls, ending your adventure at Hwange National Park....

 | Kenya family safari - Bush and Beach Itinerary

Kenya family safari - Bush and Beach Itinerary

It's easy to see why so many visitors flock to Kenya from around the world to experience a truly unique African adventure in one of the world’s most pristine safari destinations....

 | Migration Safari in Kenya and Tanzania

Migration Safari in Kenya and Tanzania

See the beauty of nature's greatest wildlife spectacle on one of the grandest stages of them all...

 | Masai Mara safari adventure

Masai Mara safari adventure

Explore the jewel in Kenya's crown; the wildlife-rich Masai Mara National Reserve...