Kenya lies just a few miles north of the Equator, and on its lower reaches
the climate is often warm and wet. But the peak also reaches to over 17,000
feet in altitude, and high on the peak are glaciers, occasional snowfall
and alpine winds.
approach begins in the forest belt surrounding the mountain at about
8000 feet in elevation. Here days are warm, nights cool. Intense sun
in the beginning of the day often gives way to gathering cloud in the
afternoon and rain showers are not uncommon.
the forest belt is the moorlands, grassy open areas dotted with giant
lobelia and other exotic, hardy, high altitude plants. In the moorlands
the nighttime lows often reach the freezing level. The days can be comfortably
warm, but in the shade of afternoon cloud a sweater or other light layer
is usually needed. The moorlands extend from about 3600 meters in altitude
to perhaps 4400 meters. Our base camps are located in this zone, often
at about 4200 to 4300 meters in elevation.
the moorlands lies the alpine zone, where there is little plant life.
Nights are cold and daytime weather and temperatures vary tremendously.
Calm sunny days can be very comfortable, but in cloud or wind the temperatures
are much cooler. Generally, midday temperatures seldom drop below freezing,
and are usually a few degrees above, though it can feel warmer in clear
sunshine. At night and in the shade things are colder and snow remains
well frozen. Afternoon cloud is common and can drop the effective temperature
clothes that you might use on the higher peaks of the Alps or Canadian
Rockies during the summer climbing seasons will also be a good choice
for Mount Kenya.
the summit day of Mount Kenya is a highly technical rock climb, you
will need to travel light, at least for that day. Clothes need to be
selected with an eye toward efficiency, and extra gear and weight kept
to a minimum.
the trekking days we will have porters to carry our extra clothes, sleeping
gear and other odds and ends. In general, when we are on the move, we
will not have access to this gear during the day (the porters are often
not close to us), but can get to it once we reach camp.
note that if your flight to Nairobi originates in Europe, you may be
limited to a total checked baggage allowance of only
23 kilos (50 pounds). If you check your baggage from the US all the
way through to Nairobi (or the reverse) you'll be allowed the more generous
North American limit of two 50 lb. bags. Chec k with your airline to
confirm you baggage allowance.
is little equipment available in Nairobi, so plan to bring all your
gear with you.
shoes - For most of this trip we will wear hiking shoes, for our
approach to the peak, circumnavigation, and time spent around camp.
The hiking is rough, sometimes on scree or steep dirt, so you'll want
something that can handle these challenging walking conditions. Different
folks have different opinions here. You should go with whatever walking
footwear you feel is best. We tend to like low-cut lugged hiking shoes,
but admit they offer little in the way of ankle support.
considerations for Nelion
climbed via the MacKinders route is best done in rock shoes. Lightweight
boots can be used to cross the glacier on the approach, but unless you
are planning a continuation to Batian, they can be left at the base
of the technical pitches. You'll need to fit crampons on your boots
for the glacier, but simple strap-ons are fine.
considerations for Batian
Shoes - On Batian, what to wear on the feet for the summit climb
is not a straightforward question.
1 - We prefer to start from camp wearing a very light rock/mountaineering
boot which we will wear up through the initial pitches of climbing
to the Amphitheater. Good, lightweight examples of this sort of
boot are the Sportiva Trango "S", or the Salomon Pro Rock
- both quite rigid, with low profile soles. If you adopt this strategy,
be sure that you can climb 5.7 rock in these boots.
the Amphitheater, we switch to loose-fitting rock shoes, leaving
our boots at the Amphitheater. Rock shoes make the climbing go faster
and more enjoyably. Be sure your rocks shoes are comfortable for
many hours on end of climbing. On the way down, we switch back to
our boots at the Amphitheater.
the route high on the mountain is snowy, we may choose to bring
our mountaineering boots to the top as they perform well in these
2 - You can also wear rock shoes right from the start of the
technical climbing. In this scenario, you can hike up to the start
of the climbing in your walking shoes, switch to rock shoes at the
first pitch and remain in them for the entire climb, up and down.
This makes the climbing a bit faster, but can be cold on the feet
in the predawn pitches, and tiring or painful after a long day.
Also, the scrambly, somewhat loose nature of the first few pitches
is not as well suited to rock shoes. But they'll work and be fun
to climb in.
disadvantage of this option is that potentially snowy conditions
in the upper mountain can make for slippery and cold feet, if all
you have are rock shoes. To deal with this you may need to carry
your walking shoes to the summit. This works, but such shoes may
not perform well on the occasional rock moves high on the peak.
3 - There are many "hybrid" rock/approach shoes out
there as well, and these can be a good choice so long as you can
climb well in them at difficulties of 5.8 and 5.9. These shoes have
the added advantage of light weight, a bit of warmth and good scrambling
- For fitting your hiking and climbing boots.
pants - A light pair of synthetic pants are ideal for the hike in
and for around base camp.
Pants - For the summit climb we recommend some kind of light synthetic
pant with a hard finish. The Patagonia Guide Pants are a good example.
There are good models by Arcteryx, Millet, Eider, Mammut and others.
Pants - Normally we'll climb Mount Kenya in our synthetic climbing
pants described above. If the weather turns foul, however, you will
need a pair of very lightweight waterproof rain pants to keep you dry.
Our favorites are extremely light weight two-ply Gore-Tex. Our pants
weigh 8.5 ounces.
Parka - Again, go for extreme lightweight.
Underwear Tops - Light synthetic. 2 pair will allow you to change
to a "fresh" shirt.
- For the hike in and out. A collar helps keep the sun off your neck.
fleece shirt- Something about the weight of Polartec 100, (very
heavy synthetic underwear).
sweater or jacket - More and more of these are seen on the market.
The original, and still a good choice is the Patagonia Puffball.
- A lightly insulated glove with a leather palm is probably your best
choice. You will want to be able to rock climb in them (the leather
palm helps with gripping) and a bit of insulation keeps you warm. Mark
prefers to climb (and rappel) in leather work gloves, carrying another
very light pair of WindStopper gloves in the pack.
Hat or Balaclava Sun hat -
clothes and shoes -
- for the pool at the Fairview hotel.
- Most modern rock climbing harnesses are great. A belay loop is a good
helmet - Almost any UIAA approved helmet will work fine, but again,
go for lightweight. Be sure you can fit your warm hat under it.
device - Such as an ATC or similar.
carabiners - bring 2.
sling - helpful for racking gear as you clean a pitch.
- Needed for the approach to the MacKinders route on Nelion. These can
be lightweight or aluminum strap-on.
Food - During the trek meals are prepared by our cook, including
lunch. However, during the climb and on hiking days, some folks like
to have a bit of their favorite potion, drink mix, Goo, protein bars
pack - A simple pack with a capacity of about 25 to 35 liters capacity
is recommended. In this size range, you should avoid packs with any
sort of internal or external frame. A good example of this type of pack
is the Cold Cold World Valdez. Remember, you will be climbing 5.9 rock
wearing it. We will never need to carry our own overnight gear.
poles - Trekking poles are handy on the steep ups and downs of the
hike around Mount Kenya and our climb of Point Lenana. Leki makes a
great compact and lightweight model.
bottle or bladder - We normally carry only about a liter of water
on Mount Kenya (Mark actually brings only a pint). A couple of 2 liter
bottles should be plenty for all you needs.
- You'll need your headlamp around camp and also for the climb. For
Mount Kenya, we start one or two hours before dawn and hopefully finish
before evening dusk. For these climbs we like to use a lightweight Petzl
Tikka. Plan on starting out the climb with a unused fresh set of batteries.
knife, optional - Keep it simple and light. A good model is the
kit - There is not much that will need to be repaired. A Therm-a-Rest
repair kit may come in handy.
kit - Moleskin, athletic tape. Spenco Second Skin is worth the price.
Glasses - With 100% UV protection. Look for a sun glass that gives
good coverage around the edges and sides.
- High SPF. Consider a couple of containers, one larger bottle for the
entire trip and a smaller one to carry on the ascent. Lip Protection
- with sun screen.
- We all have our favorites. Consider a toothbrush, paste, hand soap,
a bit of shampoo, some Handi-Wipes, a small hand towel, and if you like
a bit of hand sanitizer.
and film - (optional, of course) It is very helpful to have a camera
that can be hung around the neck, attached to the pack, or stuffed in
a pocket so that it is handy, but doesn't interfere with climbing.
bags - You'll want to have a small bag of street clothes, etc. that
you can leave in Nairobi at our hotel. Label it well with you name and
the trail, 2 smallish duffles are ideal. The porters will carry these
as they are - they don't own backpacks. So duffles that have some
sort of shoulder strap option are best.
locks - Small padlocks for your duffles.
bag - A 3-season bag will be adequate if it is toward the warm end.
Temps at night at our camps dip a bit below freezing.
pad - As we age, we have found the Therm-a-Rest Luxury Series inflatable
mattresses to be just the ticket. Our porters will be carrying these
as we work our way up the mountain.
bags - Bring 3 or 4 large plastic garbage bags to help keep your
gear dry inside the duffles in the event of rain.
- Handy for sun as well as afternoon showers. A small folding one is
Aid Kit - We will be supplying a major kit for the expedition but
you should have a few personal items such as:
Repellent - There's a chance you might want it for the approach
the Base Camp.
Purification - Potable Aqua tablets or a purifying filter.
Bags - A few assorted stuff sacks to help organize your gear.
Selection - (Optional, of course): Paperbacks, journal, games or
- You can bring this with you on the trek, or if you prefer, make a
photocopy (front page as well as page with Kenya visa) and bring that,
leaving the passport at the hotel. We'll leave credit cards and plane
tickets in the hotel as well.
- The currency in Kenya is the Kenyan Shilling, worth about 70 to the
US dollar (93 Kenyan Shillings per Euro) in 2006. Nairobi has ATM machines.
US dollars are widely accepted, however, and this is how we carry most
of our cash.
the trek you will want to bring about $100 in small denominations
for staff tips, plus a bit of extra for "whatever". $5 and
$10 dollar bills are fine. Also, if you plan on doing much shopping
in Nairobi you'll need a bit more to cover this. You'll need $20 US
for the airport departure tax. And if you plan on getting your Kenya
visa as you arrive at the airport, bring another $50 as well as a
couple of passport photos.
at the hotel can be signed to your room and paid with a credit card
when you check out.
pouch - Nairobi is notorious for pickpockets and petty thievery.
Bring a discreet pouch and wear it under your clothing. When going out,
carry what cash you think you need separately in a handy pocket in order
to avoid having to dip into your main stash, hidden in your pouch.