Published: July 6th 2009February 12th 2009
After spending 10 days in Tanzania enjoying a wonderful trek up Mount Kilimanjaro on the Machame Route and ending my stay in this lovely country with some great safari in Tarangire National Park and Lake Manyara National Park, it was time for some more mountain adventures in Kenya.
The bus-ride from Moshi to Nairobi was supposed to take 6 hours according to the books, but it took me more than 9 bumpy hours before I finally arrived in the capital.
I had been given a lot of warnings about this supposedly crime-hit city before I came here so I decided to be a little bit more careful and use a lot of common sense when walking in the streets downtown. On my descent from Mt.Kenya I actually met a couple who had been badly mugged by four well dressed men in the middle of the street downtown. The guy ended up with a concussion as well !
When I returned to Nairobi that same evening I was also told there had been a massive fire in a shop downtown killing and injurying a lot of people. As I checked a little bit more into this matter I realised that this
was the excact same shop I had been buying my supplies for my mountain-trip just the day before.....................
Early next morning I met up with my guide at my hotel and we walked down to the infamous River Road area where we caught a public express Matatu which took us all the way up to the bustling market town of Nanyuki 200 km north of Nairobi. The ride up here took us 2 1/2 hours- For those walking the Burguret Route or the Sirimon Route up the mountain this is usually the place to start.
In Nanyuki my guide and porter/cook did some last minute preparations before we changed to another matatu and drove about 15 km uphill ,mostly on a dirt road, to Sirimon Gate 2700 m. above sea level. This is the entrance gate for the Sirimon Route up into the mountain. From here you can actually see the peaks of Nelion and Batian in the far distance.
The first leg of walking was on a comfortable dirt road 9 km up to our first camp at The Old Moses Hut 3300 m. above sea level. The walk up here is mainly through forest and if
you are lucky you may encounter wild elephants and buffalos as they inhabit these areas. I was told that the buffalos would sometimes walk up as far as The Old Moses Hut, but we never saw anything except their pooh.....
At Old Moses Hut the forest is overtaken by heathland and the views are spectacular. It is easy to understand why the Sirimon Route is considered to be one of the most popular routes up the mountain.
The hut itself was very basic and simple with dormitory beds available for the few visitors who were up here today. Quite chilly when the sun went down so I was more than happy to have my down jacket with me.
My cook,Wilson, made a great dinner of fish,mashed potatoes and vegetables before I jumped into my sleeping bag knowing that the next day would be even more spectacular.
I think coming straight from Kilimanjaro gave me the benfit of being very well acclimatized for this trip and I think because of this I slept like a rock the whole night waking up to a beautiful sunny morning.
Today we had 12 km of walking ahead og us and ascending a
total of 900 metres to our final camp at Shiptons Hut.
We left the Old Moses Hut at 7.45 am walking at a decent pace on a well trodden trail gradually gaining more altitude.
After a few hours of walking we reached the magnificient McKinders Valley with amazing views straight on to the snow capped summits of Mount Kenya. The fantastic scenery opening up as we were entering the valley was absolutely breathtaking and one of those moments that will stay in my mind for a very long time.
The rest of the walk up to the Shiptons Hut at 4200 m. goes through the McKinders Valley with spectacular views in all directions. The trail is never steep, but goes slowly and gradually upwards. If you are not well acclimatized high altitude symtpoms may hit you in some degree at this stage, so be careful !
Walking up the McKinders Valley was probably the most beautiful part of this whole mountain experience. The combination of all the strange "aquarium-like" trees and plants, crunchy mountain scenery exemplified with by peaks of Terere and Sendeo on your left hand side as you get further into the valley, and the
snow covering the main summits made this a trekking route that I can highly recommend. It is not even close to being as busy as Mount Kilimanjaro and I think Mount Kenya gives almost you just as much in all aspects.
I reached the Shiptons Hut at 12.40 pm, well ahead of all the other people who started at the Old Moses Hut earlier in the day.
The camp itself is very similar as the one we had left in the morning, so if you expect there to be a 5-star hotel waiting for you when you arrive in the afternoon you have definately come to the wrong place.
Shiptons Hut is situated at the very foot of the mountain and you get good and close views up to both Nelion, Batian and Point Lenana if the weather is clear. If you do not think the walking has been steep up until now, I can promise you that will change when you set out for the push up to Point Lenana.
I think we were something like 10 people at the hut, excluding all the guides and porters, with a mixture of people from England,Wales,Australia,Usa,Czech Republic and
me from Norway.
Went to bed at 9 pm and again I benefited strongly on my recent Kilimanjaro-trip and had a great sleep until we woke up in the middle of the night ready to conquer Point Lenana.
A high calory breakfast consisting of coke and cakes is a great way of fuelling the engine and a little after 3 am we set off from Shiptons Hut and started the steep ascent towards the top.
Our Australian friend decided to stay at the camp because of a bad high altitude headache that would slip away and did want take any further risks. Again ! Be careful up here ! The altitude can be very hostile sometimes !
Pole pole-bistarai,bistarai-slowly,slowly :) With each and everyone wearing a headtorch we moved upwards at the lowest possible pace. Quite cold maybe -5 degrees and just a little bit of wind and a perfect clear sky dotted with stars made the conditions perfect. No snow on steep trail, but the ground was frozen and hard with a few potentially icy spots as we got further up.
The Czech guys were wearing jeans and I could see that they were freezing quite
a lot, but I felt really comfortable in my Mountain Hardwear down jacket and extra pair of pants. If the wind had been a little bit stronger I think the Czech people would have had a much more troublesome ascent. My advice is : bring warm clothes !!!
At 6.10 am we finally reached Point Lenana 4985 m. !
The 360 degree view from the top was absolutely incredible. The sun was just about to rise up as we got there and added some really beautiful colours to the amazing scenery. Well worth all the efforts made to get here :)
There were a few people coming up the Naro Moru Route just after we had arrived and to my understanding most of them were doing a charity walk called something like "Mountain of Food" with journalists and a television crew coming along with them.
Point Lenana has supposedly got its name from a Maasai-leader and the technical summits of Batian and Nelion are named after two Maasai-gods.
After spending nearly 1 hour at summit we started the long,long walk down again to the Sirimon Gate. I had a flight that same evening back to Europe that
I had to catch and was really disappointed that I did not have more time to explore this mountain and surrounding areas a little bit more. If I had a few extra days to spend I definately would have walked the summit circuit and descended down again on the Chogoria Route which is supposed to be a very scenic experience.
We made the 24 km walk back to the Sirimon Gate in less than 5 hours, which is really fast indeed !
On the drive back to Nairobi we stopped at the unoffical Equator-line in Nanyuki just to take the mandatory photos. If you need a last minute souvenir from Kenya there are numerous stalls here with a wide selection. Bargain hard !
There are more photos below