Key information: Chogoria Route
- Arguably Mount Kenya’s finest ascent: enjoy spectacular, ever-changing scenery as you climb to the dramatic summit of this ancient volcano.
- Climb through a range of ecosystems (forest to moorland to alpine to rock and ice) in this World Heritage Site.
- One of Walkopedia’s favourite walks.
- Walkopedia rating92
- Natural interest19
- Human interest5
- Negative points3
- Total rating92
- Note: Negs: Altitude
- Length: 4-7 days return
- Maximum Altitude: 4,985m
- Level of Difficulty: Difficult
The highest mountain in Kenya (and second-highest in Africa) is a huge stand-alone extinct volcano, last active some 2.6 million years ago. Its mass is some 70km across, and its trekking peak is 4,985m, so it is a whopper in every sense. It is walking and climbing heaven. Walkopedia has yet to meet someone who has walked both it and Kilimanjaro and prefers the latter.
There are several outstanding routes, which all reach the Summit Circuit Path, a… er… circuit of the peak area. Walkers should take different routes up/down if they can, thus traversing the mountain and viewing different aspects of his most remarkable place.
All the main ascents treat you to an extraordinarily interesting selection of vegetation zones and landscapes as you ascend. They all start in thick forest, climb out of the treeline into unique moorland and alpine areas. Then it is the rocky drama of the peak area.
The Chogoria route, from the east, is generally agreed to be the most beautiful approach, and Walkopedia concurs. It starts lower than the other routes, at 1,700m, and ascends to the Summit Circuit Path at the Austrian Hut at around 4,800m, which is substantially higher than the points where the other paths reach it, although this is done in 3 days rather than the 2 usually taken on the other routes. You sleep higher than on the other routes, if you stick to it all the way. (Note that you can turn north to Shipton’s Camp, which at 4,250m is quite a bit lower than the Austria Hut.).
While some claim that it is the best ascent route from the point of view of altitude, it therefore appears to be arguably a better descent route, as you get the beauty and interest with reduced altitude risk, especially if you do the other routes in 3 days rather than 2. Walkopedia descended it, making a huge first day to down to Nithi, then diverting to a nearby waterfall and walking on to the Meru Bandas. We walked down a bit of the track below the Bandas on Day 3, getting picked up to rush off for our flight home. See William Makesy’s account here.
Day 1 – Park Gate to Meru Mount Kenya Lodge (Bandas): This is a bit of a slog up a dirt track, gaining 1,300m to 3,000m in some 10-11 hours. The compensation is the very varied forest you will see, from the thick primary montane forest lower down to an even thicker bamboo zone, to the beginnings of the gorgeous rosewood zone. There is a lot of big game living here: Walkopedia came across fresh buffalo dung, fresh-ish elephant doings and leopard tracks on our descent. So, beware, and know what to do if you meet said animals. It is possible to get driven some or all of the way to the bandas, but this will not help with acclimatization.The bandas are charming old wooden cabins in a remarkable position on a ridge with 3-way views over open tussocky areas where game is often seen (see our photos) and Sykes’ monkeys hang around the perimeter. They have a colonial feel and log fires to fend off the cold.
Day 2 - Meru Mount Kenya Lodge (Bandas) to Minto’s Hut. This is in Walkopedia’s view one of the most beautiful and interesting day’s walking in the world, although it is a lot to ask acclimatization-wise, another 1,300m ascent to 4,300m, taking some 6-7 hours. You start by ascending through wide fields of tussock with clumps of trees and thick undergrowth. Then it is cedars dripping with old man’s beard, with lower grassy gladey ground, then a tree line of rosewood trees, surprisingly large and fine specimens for trees at the top of their range, scattered among the lower plants. You then climb gradually along a track which winds through heathy heath, to Nithi camp, then begin a delightful long ridge walk on the northern flank of the famous Gorges Valley, climbing gradually from the vivid heather lands of the massif’s mid slopes, enjoying huge views across valleys and moorland to lesser mountains, volcanic forms and lakes, and occasionally reaching viewpoints over the Gorges valley, now looking up its stepped journey into the heart of the mountains.. At a higher, broken ridge, you turn southward with the Gorges valley and begin crossing obvioudly volvanic ridges and plains to Minto’s Hut, where you will need to camp. Hall Tarn, behind a low ridge by Minto’s Hut, is simply gorgeous.
Day 3 – Minto’s Hut to Austria Hut (or Shipton’s Camp). This is a shorter day (2-3hrs) but tough, crossing the high Tooth Col to spend the night at Austria Hut (4,800m). You cross futther rough ground to the Temple Flats, a mix of dry and damp areas, the world again of senecio and lobelia, with low scrubby plants and fine clumps of delicate grasses as complements to their height and bulk. Turn south-west at the junction at Temple Fields for the long climb to the Austria Hut, or due west for the puff up to Simba Col and the lower Shipton’s Camp.
Day 4 - Austria Hut (or Shipton’s Camp) to Lenana and down. The ascent from the Austria Hut is a short (under 1 hour) scramble up the south-west ridge. Stay above the glacier. You then start your descent by whichever is your chosen route. See below for the ascent from Shipton’s Camp.
Altitude: Mount Kenya is very high and rises quickly, so it poses a classic risk of altitude misery or worse. The slower you ascend, the better chance you have of avoiding the worst. The Sirimon and Naro Moru routes ascend to the Summit Circuit Path at around 4,200m in 2 days, but climbing this fast will really increase the risk. You are well advised to take at least 3 days to get to the peak area. The Chogoria route takes 3 days but ends up substantially higher. It is a very good idea to get to the base area the day before and do an acclimatizing walk that afternoon. If you can, try to “walk high and sleep low”, ie make sure you have made an acclimatization walk above where you will sleep on the way up.
The best weather tends to be in the mornings, so start early!
Walkopedia’s expedition was organised by Tourdust, and we were absolutely delighted. Carefully selected and planned options, very efficient and nice to deal with. Now our partners, and highly recommended.
Have a look at the dreaded TripAdvisor so you may get good, current views on this area.
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See our Mount Kenya page for further details on the mountain, photos and practical information.
WILLIAM MACKESY'S ACCOUNT
of this walk
Day 1: summit and start descent
The eastern horizon is a long band of bright orange, the sky paling by the second; Kili is visible on the southern horizon – so Elija says, although it is hard to discern, to be honest: it is some 300km away. To the west, the great face of 5,188m Nelion is a quiet grey: the world is emerging from the gloom, the melancholy remains of the Lewis glacier already the whitest thing around even though it is a dingy grey in reality. It is a long way below us, but I have seen a photo from just a few decades ago by Walkopedia’s.....READ MORE
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