Mount Kenya is the highest peak in Kenya and the second in Africa after Mount Kilimanjaro of Tanzania. This mountain is located in the central province along the equator. The mountain is an extinct volcano formed millions of years ago.
Although the mountain is located along the equator, it has permanent glaciers throughout the year. The mountain has three peaks namely: Batian (5199m), Nelion (5188m) and Lenana (4985m). While Lenana peak can be reached by any climber, the other peaks are accessed only by technical climbers. The magnificent glaciers and cliffs protects the three summits. The mountain is believed to have been 7000m high but this reduced to the way it is now as a result of glaciation for many years.
The Mountain is situated within Mount Kenya National Park which was established in 1979. The national park was created by the government of Kenya mainly for four reasons.
1. To protect the water catchments area, which is a source of water to about 50 percent of the country’s population.
2. Promote tourism, both local and international.
3. To preserve the scenic beauty of Mount Kenya and the surrounding.
4. To protect and preserve the bio diversity within the park.
The mountain and the park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997. Mount Kenya is important to all the ethnic groups living around it. The Kikuyu community live in the southern and western side of the mountain. They depend on the volcanic fertile soils of the mountain for agriculture. The Embu community live in the south-east while the Meru people occupy the east and northern side of Mt Kenya. In the northern side of the mountain, the land is occupied by the Masai community. The Masai use the land for grazing.
The Kikuyu, Embu, Meru and the Masai communities believed that God lived on Mt Kenya. The mountain was a sacred place and, the communities prayed and offered sacrifices facing the great mountain. They also built their houses facing Mt Kenya.
Mt Kenya vegetation varies with altitude and rainfall. The lower part of the mountain is cultivated and forested. The base of the mountain is occupied by Mt Kenya National Park. The park is a home to many wildlife species such as the elephant, lion, buffalo, leopards, antelope, monkey, porcupines and the tree Hyrax, Duiker and the groove-toothed rat.
There are three routes used to climb Mt Kenya namely; Chogoria, Naromoru and Sirimon. The Naromoru route is the fastest and most popular compared to the other routes. Chogoria route is the most scenic. Climbers using this route are able to view the sheer cliffs, valleys and lake Michaelson. The Sirimon route is on the dry side of mountain and, it is the least used compared to the other routes.
Mt Kenya climbing is best done during the dry season. This is between January-February and August-September. All routes leading to the summit are congested during the dry season. Mountain climbers are recommended to book their booking early. Climbing the mountain during the rainy season is very difficult. The routes are very slippery and muddy. Mount Kenya receives two rainy seasons. This is from April-June and October to December.