Mt Kenya is the second highest mountain in the continent of Africa with its highest point at 5199m high. It is an extinct volcano and thus there are many peaks on the mountain itself. Point Lenana is the third highest point on the mountain at a height of 4950m although it is the highest point on the mountain where you can reach without any special equipments and technical climbing skills. The highest and second highest points on the mountain involves technical climbing which only serious technical rock climbers would try.
My journey to Mt Kenya starts at Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, after thirteen hours of flight from Singapore. Nairobi is situated at an elevation of about 1660m in the highlands, and now, being the “winter” season, the weather here is surprisingly cool with night temperature that can goes down to as low as 10 degrees Centigrade. On the streets there are beggers and locals trying to sell things to you and they can be quite persistent. The usual advice for travelers here is, do not walk on the streets alone at night and try to travel in groups as far as possible.
The start of my trek is at Sirimon Gate (2600m) which is about 5-6hrs ride from Nairobi. At this lower altitude, there are still trees by the side of the road although the vegetation quickly changes to moorlands as I trek higher. As my destination is Old Moses’ camp (3300m), it is important that I trek very slowly so that my body can acclimatize to the higher altitude. Once over 3000m, it is possible to get Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) and it may result in death. The route to Old Moses’ camp is gently ascending thus it is just a very slow and easy stroll to the hut.
After 3hrs of deliberate slow trekking, I reached Old Moses’ camp. It consists of a few huts with the biggest one used for lodging. The hut is divided into dormitories with about 4 double storey beds in each dormitory. There is no electricity here but it does have flashing toilets within the hut. A long table outside the dormitories is the dining room shared by all the trekkers.
Shipton’s camp, situated at an altitude of 4200m is the highest camp that I am going to stay in. As it is going to be an ascent of 900m within a day, it is very important that I allow my body to acclimatize as I ascent. Considering that most if not all experts recommend an ascent of not more than 500m within a day, this seems suicidal. However, as there is no hut in between, it is a gamble that I will be taking.
It is going to be a long and difficult trek to Shipton’s camp. From here onwards, it is all moorland and the path narrows to just a feet across. Along the way, there is a valley that I have to descent before climbing up its side to cross over another ridge. After crossing the ridge, I will have to descent once again into another valley that will take me to Shipton’s camp. The whole journey took me about 8hrs.
Shipton’s camp is located in a valley. The high peaks of Batian (5199m) and Nelion (5188m) can be seen from here although Pt Lenana is hidden behind the high ridges that surround the campsite. The constructions of the huts are very similar to Old Moses’ camp. Although there are only two dormitories in the lodging hut, each dormitory can sleep about 30 trekkers. There is also a flushing toilet in each dormitory.
At this camp, it is common to experience some symptoms of AMS, headaches and lost of appetite. However, if the symptoms worsened, it is necessary for the trekker to be evacuated to a lower altitude. During my first night in this camp, an Austrian lady had to be evacuated in the middle of the night due to breathing difficulties.
This day is set as acclimatization day. Going by the rule of climb high and sleep low, I am going to climb to Hausberg col (4600m) and come back to Shipton’s camp for lunch and spend the night. The trail to Hausberg col is a steep ascent up a scree slope. The ascent is very tiring as at such altitude, the air is very thin and each step is an effort. On top of that, the scree, which consists of loose rocks make the ascent more strenuous. From Hausberg col, it is possible to go down the other side of the col where there are two glacial lakes. But the thought of having to climb back up the col to return to the hut is enough to dissuade me from going down to it.
For the summit attempt, everybody had to wake up at 2am in the morning. After some biscuits and hot tea, I begin the long and slow trek up towards Pt Lenana. As the ascent is on scree slope, which in many areas are much steeper than the one to Hausberg col, the ski poles prove very useful as they prevent me from sliding down each time I takes a step. It is so cold that water in any bottle that is left outside the backpack will be frozen in an hour.
The view from the summit is stunning. On a clear day, the top of Mt Kilimanjaro can be seen. But, as the land below is covered in white clouds, I cannot discern the glacial peak of Mt Kilimanjaro from the clouds.
Going to the point is difficult, coming down is worse. The route down seems endless. The scree slopes seems forever and it is impossible to keep my balance on such steep scree slopes. I really wonder I had covered so much ground on my way up. To make matter worse, the destination for today is Old Moses’ camp. I am already thoroughly exhausted when I reach Shipton’s camp but the route to Old Moses’ camp from there is even longer.
Fortunately, my guide had left his van at Old Moses’ camp. Thus, it is possible to spend the night at the nearest town (Nanyuki town). That means hot shower and civilization. Looking forward to the night’s stay in a hotel, I pushed on to Old Moses’ camp where my trip to Mt Kenya ends.
Estimated cost for the trek to both Mt Kenya and Mt Kilimanjaro: S$3600
The exchange rate when I was there is 1 USD = 78 Kenyan Shillings
The cost of food there is quite expensive since all my meals are settled in restaurants. After all, it is not advisable to eat at the road side stalls due to obvious health reasons. The price of a normal meal in a typical restaurant cost between 300 to 500 shillings.
For bottled mineral water sold in normal shopping center, it is about 30 shillings per litre. Of course, those that come in 5 litres bottles are cheaper per litre.
As for the tipping for the guide and porters, it works out to nearly USD50 per trekker for 1 guide and 7 porters for the whole trip. There are 7 of us in the team. We pass all the money to the guide and he will distribute the money himself.
- Sleeping bag (“REI”)
- Fleece top and bottom (bought from Nepal)
- Polypropylene thermal underwear top and bottom (”Everwarm”) for trekking
- Woolen thermal underwear top and bottom (“Britain Wear”) for sleeping
- Sandal (“Teva”)
- Trekking boots (“Nike”)
- Gaiters (bought from Nepal)
- Body powder
- Candles and matches (No electricity in huts)
- Insect repellant (Town use)
- Thermal balaclava
- Woolen socks x 2
- Gloves (“Gortex”)
- Polypropylene liner gloves
- Parkas (“Sherpa”)
- A pair of ski sticks (“Leki Makalu”)
- Waterproofed toilet paper
- Lip balm (“Banana Boat” sunscreen Lip Balm)
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