Kenya. Hiking Mt. Kenya (16,355′) – The approach and lowlands

We decided we would hike Mt. Kenya, partially per advice of a friend (same friend who recommended El Karama, thanks Sarah Lee!), and partly because I thought it would be a great altitude warm up for Kilimanjaro.

My mom has been worried about us hiking Kili – well, sorry mom, but this is the mountain you should have worried about! We had no real idea just how challenging the summit would be, and for 16,500’, it was pretty intense! We didn’t even do the technical summit (rock climb), but still found ourselves on 70-degree pitches and glaciers…

Regardless, it was amazing, and will forever go down as one of our favorite mountains we have ever climbed.

The approach from the valley. 

Day 1: Chogoria gate to Mt. Kenya bandas, 2900m

The first day of this hike was off to a great start, beginning with Griffin’s reaction when he returned from the bank. Let me set the scene: 

We are in Nanyuki, a small town where many people begin their Mt. Kenya hike, as the park entrance is only about 30km from there. Our driver from El Karama has dropped us off, and Griff is at the bank changing money (or trying to, turns out, systems don’t always “work” in Kenya). I meet our guide, who I have paid in full to support us on our hike.

Then, I see at least 7 other people milling about, and get introduced to 5 of them – our cook, our guide, and our three porters. For people who always carry their own gear and are usually self sufficient, this was a bit of a surprise (guess I could have read my itinerary email more carefully). They explain to me that Griff and I will carry a day pack, and they will take the rest.

We all pile into the van, somehow there are 9 of us, and Griff strolls back from the bank and hops in. We get going and I show him our day pack, and say, “You get to carry this, I don’t have to carry anything”. He looks at me, and first goes, “No”. I ask what he means, and tell him that yes, this is really the deal. He looks at me, with concern, and says quietly, “what happened when I was at the bank?”. An amazing moment.

We decided that because none of our USA friends wanted to come with us, it was as if we had hired 5 friends instead. And we treated them as such (and now that our hike is over, we miss them a lot).

The car ride from Nanyuki to the mountain took about 3 hours, and then we were transfered into a Land Rover to get driven up the mountain, to the point where we were to begin trekking. Its a road, but in terrible condition. The car was slipping to every side of the path, and at one point, I was sure we were going over. Eventually we were let out, and began our hike.

An elephant trail, coming out of the bamboo forest. It was dark and scary off the road, and the constant thought of an elephant encounter was enough to keep us moving quickly up the road.

HUGE scours and tracks in the road – and yes, they do drive up this road for supplies, so its not like its closed or anything. My Jeep – which is a pretty good car, most likely could not have done this road.


When we arrived at the bandas, which were a lot nicer than we expected for trekking (even had a hot shower), our crew got to work on making us dinner. We had no idea it would look like this:


Complete with a tablecloth and popcorn, we were served a 5 course meal. We told them we do not eat this well in America and that this was really a treat, and they laughed. We hope they know how impressed we were!

Soon it was off to bed for a night of warmth and happiness. 

Day 2 – to Chogoria Roadhead Camp, 3300m

It rained like crazy all night, with lightning striking the greens by our banda, and knowing we are in the short rainy season, hiking Mt Kenya this time of year is a risk when it comes to being wet and cold. It is possible it could rain the entire time we are on the mountain, making for miserable camping and trekking. But, despite the night rains, we awoke to a gorgeous day.

The night’s rains made some crossings rather difficult.

Did I mention, this place looks exactly like California? Perhaps the fire of a few years ago, which took most of the trees from this side of the mountain…

A neat find: while photographing a flower, I found this little guy.


Our campsite, rather nice, thanks to our porters. We watched the clouds move in at dusk, and spent a very rainy night in the tent (with a slight fear of hyenas, elephants, and cape buffalo, which apparently frequent the campsite).



Day 3 – to Minto’s Camp, 4300m

We awoke, miraculously it seems, again to sunny skies. A beautiful day for a hike, so hike we did.

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