About Mt. Kenya
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About Mt. Kenya

At 5,199 meters (17,058 feet), Mount Kenya is the second-highest peak in Africa (exceeded only by Kilimanjaro), and consists of two towering summits, Batian and Nelion, separated by an icy gash, called ‘The Gate of the Mists’.  Batian is the higher of the two – Nelion being only eleven metres (36 feet) lower than Batian. The third-loftiest crest, called Point Lenana, at 4,985 metres (16,355 feet), is the highest point normally reached by non-technical climber, Mount Kenya was formed by volcanic action associated with the creation of the Rift Valley approximately three millions years ago. Its last eruption is thought to have taken place about two million years ago.
 Mount Kenya is a volcano in an advanced stage of decay. What we see as the central peaks of the mountain is in fact the ruined stump of the original volcanic core – a plug of extremely hard rock that solidified deep down in the volcano’s vent. When the softer surrounding rock was eroded away, only the resistant core remained


Examining the fall-out from erosion, geologists have come to the conclusion that in its infancy Mount Kenya was a lot higher than Kilimanjaro, and might well have risen to over 7,600 metres (25,000 feet) – approaching the height of Mount Everest!
 The name, Mount Kenya has an interesting history. It is derived from the Kikuyu word Kee Nyanga (sometimes spelt Kiinya), which means ‘Mountain of Brightness’, or ‘The Mountain that looks like an Ostrich Feather’ – the white of the glaciers, contrasting with the dark volcanic rock of the mountain, resembling the speckled plumage of the male ostrich. Even today the Kikuyu often refer to Mount Kenya as the ‘Mountain of the Ostrich’, and believe that their god, Ngai, lives among its high peaks and sleeps on a bed made of a very fine white powder called ‘ira’ – the snow. White is therefore the ‘sacred’ colour to the Kikuyu and is used by medicine men when adorning themselves on ceremonial occasions and by children during initiation ceremonies.


The tribes people, living in the foothills of the mountain, traditionally build their dwellings with the front doors facing Mount Kenya; and bury their dead, not looking towards the sunrise, but rather at KeeNyanga – the home of their Creator. When Jomo Kenyatta, the leader of Kenya’s independence movement in the 1960’s, published his autobiography, he chose for its title the words Facing Mount Kenya, acknowledging the significance of the mountain in the lives of his followers. The Kamba people have a slightly different accent and pronounce “Kirinyaga “as “Kinyaa”. Being the first people to encounter the inquisitive European explores when they sighted the majestic mountain, the European used the Kamba version to name the mountain, and Mt.Kenya The country was later named after the mountain.


Mount Kenya is the highest mountain. The twin summits Batian and Nelion require technical climbing on rock or ice,  The ordinary hiker, however, finds plenty to satisfy his tastes for there are many lesser summits that can be climbed, and the high alpine zone, dotted with glacial ‘tarns’ (small glacial lakes) and afro-alpine style vegetation, provides an endless variety of fascinating scenery. Indeed, there is the summit contour path, known as the Grand Traverse, which circles the entire upper region of the mountain. Below this, there are paths that lead through terrain that is as diverse as barren volcanic scree, as opposed to grassy meadows crowded with lobelias, tree-groundsels, and other strange gigantic mutations of plants (including the rare ostrich-feather lobelia) whose counterparts elsewhere in the world are small and unpretentious but which on Mount Kenya reach a height of two metres or more.

'Exceeding your Expectations'

University of Nairobi