MOUNT KENYA ALPINE CLIMBING
Mount Kenya’s highest summits can only be reached by technical means.
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Climbing Mount Kenya
Mount Kenya sits near the equator, about 200 km northeast of Kenya’s capital Nairobi. This extinct volcano massif is Africa’s second high mountain. But unlike its taller neighbor Mount Kilimanjaro, Mount Kenya’s highest summits can only be reached by technical means.
Bation, Mt. Kenya’s highest summit (17,057 feet) is most often climbed from the north. The North Face Standard route is best climbed Aug. through Sept. This is a serious route requiring 12 hours of technical climbing, with the most difficult pitch at 5.9. Given the alpine nature of this route and difficulty of climbing technical rock up to 17,000 feet, this route is only recommended for fit climbers with experience on long technical routes and be solid 5.9 followers.
Climb Mt. Kenya from the North or South
Nelion, at (17,021 feet) is only slightly lower and is usually climbed from the South. The best time for climbing on the south side is Dec.- Feb. for the greatest amount of sun. We climb the McKinders route, which is easier than the North Face Standard Route. We can expect to belay 15-18 pitches of technical climbing up to 5.7. This route is on a solid, sunny rock and has the feeling of a long rock route, as opposed to the more alpine feel of the North route.
Bation can also be reached from the south via the “Gates of the Mists”. This is a very cool option; traversing from the summit of Nelion by way of steep snow slopes and rappels. This extension to the McKinders route adds significantly to the effort, requiring us to carry crampons, boots and for all the very fastest climbers, an overnight kit.
Beginning at one of the park entrances, we do between 2 and 5 days trekking to the Shipton or Austrian hut, depending on the season and desired pace. We will often also summit Lenana, the trekking, and 3rd highest summit of Kenya for acclimatization.
Because of the technical nature and commitment of these routes, we do a maximum ratio of 2 to 1 client to guide ratio. We do welcome friends or family to join in this beautiful trek.
While the difficulty of climbing required on every trip is different, there are some basic skills that are required on any climbing trip. Every climber needs to be able to put on their own equipment correctly, as well as have basic understanding of climbing jargon adequate to follow your guides directions. Each climber needs to be able to tie a figure eight rethread knot as well as a clove hitch, and have basic belay and rappel experience.
If we are on glacier during the trip, you should have previous experience using crampons and ice axe, as well as training on self arrest. Crevasse Rescue training, while not required on every trip is a good skill every climber should have in their tool box.
This stuff can all be learned in a day or two out with an ITCOG guide or one of our colleagues. Get in touch and set up a training class today.
Each climb has a technical grade ranging from class 1 (hiking) to class 5 (technical rock climbing). Most of our Alpine offerings start at Class 3, which is described as scrambling on rock with the use of both feet and hands. Being comfortable moving in this terrain while being short roped or coached by a guide is our base line.
Many of our Alpine climbs require 5th class climbing, described as technical rock climbing. Terrain where you would not want to fall without a rope. The class is then divided by grades: 5.0 to 5.10 for example. You will need to climb proficiently at the grade of the objective for which you are signing up for. For example: The Matterhorn is rated 5.4, you will need to move at a good steady pace for 8-12 hours , up and down in 5.4 terrain. (please check out our climbing grades comparison chart at the end of this document.)
Most Summit days are big! On our alpine climbs you can expect to be moving at a steady pace for 8 to 14 hours. That’s a big time difference, I know! But that ultimately depends on you! A good guide won’t waste time, he/she sets good pacing and route finding sure! but your fitness and skill level will be the biggest determinate between a big and a huge day. Ultimately speed is safety. The longer you are out the more tired you become. Standard times on mountains are always a consideration and are generally adhered to.
A positive attitude, which includes being mentally prepared goes a long way in the mountains. But determination will only get you so far. I always ask people what their average week of exercise looks like, and what is their biggest day of exercise in the past year. I look for a regular exercise program of 2-3 days a week and many weekends. Having a big activity like; a big hike or a long run, or past experience Alpine climbing and mountaineering are good indicators for adequate fitness.
Many of our alpine climbs are above 14,000 feet. At these elevations the lack of oxygen getting into your lungs with each breath is a factor when considering fitness. The single greatest thing you can do to improve your performance at altitude, is to show up with a
strong heart! If you show up cardio fit. You should be pushing your cardio in the months and weeks prior to your climb. Your strong heart and lungs will adapt to altitude better than they otherwise would.
We have lot’s of experience helping people get fit for trips. The last thing in the world you want is for your fitness to stop you from doing your trip of a life time. We are happy to work with you to establish a training program that fits your goals and lifestyle. If you can make it to Salt Lake City, we would love to take you out and give you an idea of where you are at with your climbing ability and skills, as well as your over all fitness. Don’t forget if you have different abilities or a different agenda, we are always happy to do a private trip for you and your group.