Mount Kenya - Africa Point Blog
Mount Kenya is an awe-inspiring spectacle that dominates the central Kenyan highlands. It is perhaps understandable that the Kikuyu people who reside on its lower slopes thought it fit for God's abode. And it inspires people in strange ways. In 1943, Felice Benuzzi, an Italian
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Mount Kenya


Published 1st January 2014
Modified 15th June 2015
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Kenya, Trekking, Mount Kenya

Up High at God's Mountain

Mount Kenya is an awe-inspiring spectacle that dominates the central Kenyan highlands. It is perhaps understandable that the Kikuyu people who reside on its lower slopes thought it fit for God's abode. And it inspires people in strange ways. In 1943, Felice Benuzzi, an Italian prisoner of war held at Nanyuki at the base of the mountain, and two companions, escaped and attempted to scale the summit. With just a few handmade climbing tools, he managed reach Point Lenana, the mountain's third highest peak.

In 1988, the Mount Kenya Rescue Team discovered and retrieved an elder of the Meru people way up at the chilly heights of Peak Nelion (5,188 m). Only experts, with proper equipment and guides reach Nelion. He appeared unaware of the feat he had accomplished and was perturbed by the fuss his rescuers raised. He explained his mission was "going to God". He was kitted in a manner you will not see recommended in any guide book- in a single blanket and open sandals. The animals do weird things too: a few years ago, the frozen bodies of a leopard and colobus monkey were discovered at Nelion.


The mountain is made up of three main zones: the rocky peak region, the afro-alpine moorland with its scattering of giant vegetation, and the extensive lower slopes covered in mountain forest and bamboo. The astonishing ecological diversity is one of the attractions of this giant. The ecological processes that have brought about the afro-alpine flora in particular intrigue scientists. There are 81 species of plants here that are found nowhere else in the world.

In the lower forest zone, there is plenty of wildlife including buffalo, elephant, sykes monkey and bushbuck. The animals are however generally difficult to see. Further up, the animals are even scarcer, however hyena, leopard, buffalo and civet cats have been sighted. The only animal you are likely to see in the upper alpine zones is the rock hyrax. The seemingly humble rock hyrax has some powerful relatives in the animal kingdom and it counts the elephant as its biological kin.

The mountain attracts over 30,000 enthusiasts every year. Point Lenana (4,985 m), the so-called trekkers peak, can be reached by any reasonably fit and suitably prepared person. The summit has the twin peaks of Batian (5,199 m) and Nelion (5,188 m), and is accessible to only those with technical mountaineering and rock climbing experience. This mountain is not an easy one to conquer and each year not more than 100 climbers make it to the twin summit peaks. Mount Kenya is in fact considered to be more technically challenging than the higher Kilimanjaro (5,894 m). But those who make it to the top experience some of Africa's finest rock and ice climbing.

The mountain has many fans and especially fascinates technical climbers. The author and mountaineer, Rick Ridgeway - author of the Seven Summits, declares that of all the worlds' mountains this is his favourite. Halford Mackinder planned and led the first expedition on record to reach the summit in 1899. But if the Meru elder mentioned above is anything to go by, the locals must have long ago been to the mountaintop. The Mackinder trip was a great success and his party discovered many species of animal and plant life then unknown in Europe. A new species of eagle owl, for example, was first recorded by this expedition and subsequently named after Mackinder.


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