Located in Kenya, along Africa’s Eastern coast and just south of the Equator, Mount Kenya is the second highest peak on the African continent. The mountain itself is a massif, a geological feature that consists of a group of peaks clustered together in close proximity. The peaks of Mount Kenya and their respective heights are: Batian at 5,199 meters or 17,057 feet; Nelion at 5,188 meters or 17,021 feet; Point Lenana at 4,985 meters or 16255 feet. Mount Kenya is an ancient extinct stratovolcano, which is the same kind of volcano as famous Mt. Vesuvius and Mt. Krakatoa. First climbed in 1899, Mount Kenya has become a popular attraction since, for both climbers and sightseers alike.
It is estimated that Mount Kenya was formed about 20 million years ago, and that it was originally around 7,000 meters or 23,000 feet in height, which would have made it taller than nearby Kilimanjaro. The reduction in height was caused by glacial erosion over extended periods of time. Mount Kenya has been home to glaciers and an ice cap during its lifetime, though warming temperatures have impacted both of those features. Of the original glaciers, the remaining 11 are significantly smaller than they were as little as 100 years ago. Since Mount Kenya is a significant source of fresh water for the surrounding areas, the eroding of the glaciers is cause for much concern. Though estimates differ, most predict that the glaciers will disappear completely within the next 30 years.
The surrounding areas of Mount Kenya are an excellent example of biodiversity in action, and as such are a popular travel destination. The peaks of the mountain offer challenging climbs for both beginning and seasoned climbers, and guided tours do exist. Although less numerous, tours dedicated to the landscape and abundant wildlife in the area can also be found. One of the most interesting features of the area is that it lies in the migratory path of the African elephant. A number of other animals make their home in the areas surrounding Mount Kenya. Several indigenous peoples in the area believe that the mountain is sacred, and worship of the mountain itself or a god that lives on the mountain figures into their daily lives.
Mount Kenya provides a somewhat unique area of biodiversity, as the area is both a mountainous and savannah region in an equatorial area. The area directly surrounding Mount Kenya is a protected area. It is designated a national park by the Kenyan government and a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Within the park, visitors can expect to see such animals as leopards, buffalo, elephants, and black rhinoceros. The park is also home to several endangered or rare species, like the albino zebra. Visitors to the area interested in ecosystems and biodiversity will find the lower regions of Mount Kenya to be spectacular in nature.
Mount Kenya is also a popular destination for climbing enthusiasts. Many established companies offer guided tours, and although the security of Kenya itself has been somewhat questionable as of late, the areas of concern are located in coastal regions far from Mount Kenya itself. Recently, the government of Kenya has made a concerted effort to increase tourism to the area, so the safety of international travelers is likely to be a primary initiative. Most climbs of Mount Kenya begin at either the town of Nanyuki or the town of Naro Moru. Both are located on the northwestern foot of Mount Kenya. Of the main peaks of the mountain, only Lenana is appropriate for inexperienced climbers, although those who attempt the ascent should be in good physical condition. In terms of the East African grading system for mountain climbing, the Lenana ascent is considered to be scrambling, which means that it is somewhere between hiking and rock climbing. The peaks of Batian and Nelion are technical climbs, which means that they require the use of climbing tools to protect and assist climbers. Several of the technical routes up Mount Kenya are no longer considered safe because rising global temperatures have led to melting and unstable ice.
Whether traveling to Mount Kenya, the second highest peak in Africa, for the spectacular mountain vistas or the climbing experience, visitors are sure to have experience the of a lifetime.
Mt. Kenya on the map:
Nanyuki – accomodation near to Mt. Kenya: http://www.booking.com/city/ke/nanyuki.en.html?aid=359190
Mt. Kenya Climbing: http://www.mountkenyaclimbing.com/mountainclimbing/climbingmountkenya.html