We recently did a Mount Kenya climb (Sirimon-Chogoria route) with Dancan Njoroge of equatorial star safaris. Dancan is passionate about Mt Kenya. Founder and owner of equatorial star safaris, he does his job as a labour of love as much as a profession. Found him on tripadvisor and hope that this report will help other people to find him and enjoy Mt Kenya with his guidance as much as we did.
We were a family of three- a 41 year old mum, 12 year old daughter and 65 year old aunt. Dancan had the tough job of adjusting to three paces of hiking but managed beautifully by putting mum and daughter to co-guide John, whilst he paid special attention to my brave aunt. Arrangements were flawless and coordinated.
Day 0- 5th July, Saturday- direct BA flight from Heathrow to Nairobi. Lovely sights of the Sahara and Libyan deserts on the way. Particularly striking where the Sahara meets a deep blue coastline. Visa on entry smooth and hassle free. Luggage takes two hours to come through! Picked up by Dancan and relieved to be dropped off at the hotel. Time for a good night’s sleep which will be our last in a comfy bed for the next five days to come.
Day 1- 6th July, Sunday- the day to start the hike. Slept like babies and never heard the alarm go off! Rush to get ready but the extra hour of sleep was worth it. Quick shower (no more opportunities for next five days!) Breakfast at the Meridian Hotel was great. Samosas and aloo parathas were a pleasant surprise. Duffel bags packed, suitcase left at the hotel storage. We set off at 7:30 am. Along the 4 hour route to Nayuki town, Dancan pointed out various landmarks and answered our never ending queries patiently. Reaching Nayuki we had lunch at a restaurant while Dancan put the last minute touches to preparations for the climb.
After lunch it was off to Nayuki gate to start the Sirimon route. We were introduced to our team of John- the other guide, Edward- our cook, and our team of sturdy porters. Paperwork at the gate was quick as there were no queues at all! A ‘before the hike’ photograph and we were off.
The trail was wide with a gentle upwards slope to begin with. Baboons, black and white colobus monkeys and one bounding antelope delighted us within the first hour. We crossed the Equator into the Southern Hemisphere (as marked by a huge signboard). The vegetation began with heavy rainforest which gradually thinned to grasses and bushes, ending with an abundance of hira bushes near the camp. The floor was carpeted with St John’s wort sprouting bright yellow flowers. After a 3 pm start, a four hour hike brought us to Old Moses campsite. It was our first sight of the bright orange tent which was to be home for the next five days.
Edward had cooked a fine dinner of spaghetti, vegetables and fish fillet, washed down with hot drinks. We cuddled into our sleeping bags drifted off to sleep in wilderness.
Day 2- 7th July Monday- Old Moses Hut to Likii North camp.
After breakfast the trail started through tall grasses and hira bushes. After an hour, the lobelias started to appear- an abundance of water holding and cabbage lobelias, dotted with the ostrich feather lobelia. Alpine chats were abundant. The terrain was undulating and not a steady upward incline. Half way through we caught the first sight of Bation and Nelion peaks. (John tells us that the three highest peaks are named after a Masaai family- Bation the Dad, Nelion the mum and Lenana the son). We then come to a ledge which overlooks a lush vally surrounded by rugged mountains. Our campsite is hardly a dot in a distance. The giant lobelias have made an appearance.
We descend and make our way through squelchy marshland that coats our shoes with slime. A hot meal of pasta and vegetables await us. Hiking was from 8 am to 1:30 pm.
Come evening and it starts getting really cold in the valley surrounded by mountains. We turn in straight after dinner. Our team is still chatting and energetic as our shoes get washed and dried on a campfire. Coldest night of the trip.
Day 3- 8th July Tuesday- LIkii North camp to Shipton camp. Another 8 am to 1:30 pm hike.
The hike starts with undulating hills followed by a sharp descent into Mackinder’s valley. The trail then goes on for what seems endless miles through giant lobelias, rushing streams and our first glimpse of Pt Lenana. The path then goes through a sharp and slightly scrambly rise towards Shipton’s caves. Hyraxes make their appearance, chomping on lush lobelia leaves. The camp appears in the distance beckoning our tired feet. A few more undulating hills and we have reached basecamp for the summit. It is time for as much rest as we can muster before the summit. A look at the path ahead and I try to make myself believe that it is not as steep as it looks!
Day 4- 9th July Wednesday- Summit day and camp at Mintos Hut. D-day arrives very early. Dancan starts off with my aunt around midnight. Wake up call at 1:30 am and ready at 2 am to start off. A hot cup of tea and biscuits to warm us. We have worn several layers of clothing. Flashlight lighting up just as much as we need to see (and John smiles as he tells us that it is an advantage not to be able to see too much) we head off. The path is as steep as it looked and worse in some areas for the volcanic scree. I lost the number of times I slipped until we come to a huge boulder that blocks the way to point Lenana. John navigates around the boulders and asks us to keep as near to the rock wall as possible. As daylight gradually emerges, we see a brown board ahead. It proclaims the world’s highest via ferrata. We make the last climb on iron rungs and we have made it! Slight disappointment as the mist hides sunrise. Icicles have settled into our hair and after twenty minutes we decide to start descending. It is a quarter to 7 in the morning. While descending we meet Dancan and my aunt- not far from Pt Lenana now.
We pass more volcanic scree, crystal clear lakes emerge in a distance. We descend for breakfast to a temporary campsite. It is around 9 am. After a half an hour stop for breakfast we set off for camp again. A 3 hour trek through another beautiful valley and hills takes us to Mintos Hut. Never been so exhausted in a long while! John is very complimentary about my daughter and her resilience, and I am a rightly proud mum! At dinner Dancan prepares us for the last day of walking- 18 Km of trail to be covered.
Day 5- 10th July Thursday- climax over, it is a relaxed hike to the last campsite near Chogoria gate.
The day starts with an up and down trek through rocky territory. Proteas and glandulas break through the stone. Bushes of everlasting flowers add to the natural garden. We have a view of Lake Michalson in the distance and the gorgeous Gorges valley. The lobelias gradually disappear as the hira bushes start reappearing. We ultimately cross a narrow bridge to come to Chogoria Roadhead. An open grass meadow, we flop down to look with relief at the remaining 7 km of wide trail ahead which will lead to camp.
The vegetation starts thickening until we are back to the heavy misty rainforest at the start of our hike. The natural greens form mystical fairy gardens (somewhat reminiscent of Maleficent’s fairy world I kept thinking). Gushing streams, chirping birds, another antelope bounds ahead. The air gets thicker as campsite looms ahead.
My daughter and I hug for an end of the walk photograph. The warm drinks are welcome as always. The jeep, arranged by Dancan, sets out to pick up my aunt for the last part of the way. She has walked for over 12 hours. Brave lady!
Day 6 – 11th July Friday- time to get back to civilization.
A very squashed but very fun jeep ride at 6 am brings us to Chogoria town. It was bumpy and adventurous. We have left wilderness behind. We are treated to a hot breakfast of tea and beef samosas. We say good bye to the team with good wishes and a final photograph. A four hour ride back to Nairobi and the much awaited hot shower beckons at Meridian Hotel.
Day 7- 12th July Saturday- flight back. Hearty breakfast, last minute shopping and it is time to say goodbye to Dancan at the airport. Good bye Kenya till next time!
Have done both Kilimanjaro and Mt Kenya- found Mt Kenya way tougher! Very steep, very slippery, walks between campsites never ending and the terrains are up and down. The rewards are lush and magnificent views. The smooth neatness of Kilimanjaro versus the rugged unpredictability of Mt Kenya terrain- your choice! The paths are much less crowded, the feel a lot less touristic.
The media projection of the trouble in Kenya has taken its toll on the Kenya travel industry. Dancan told us of last minute cancellations and his apprehension that a group like ours, of three females including a child, was likely to cancel. We never felt unsafe. Not in Nairobi and definitely not in Mt Kenya. There was another group of four young women and a young couple who ascended with us, and everyone looked like they were having a great (though tiring!) time. If you want to go in a time to beat the crowds, now is it. Just find people like Dancan and John to look after you.