MT KENYA SAFARIS

Experience East Africa

About Mt Kenya

Mount Kenya is the highest mountain in Kenya and the second-highest in Africa, after Kilimanjaro.The highest peaks of the mountain are Batian (5,199 metres (17,057 ft)), Nelion (5,188 metres (17,021 ft)) and Point Lenana (4,985 metres (16,355 ft)). Mount Kenya is located in central Kenya, just south of the equator, around 150 kilometres (93 mi) north-northeast of the capital Nairobi. Mount Kenya is the source of the name of the Republic of Kenya.

Mount Kenya is a stratovolcano created approximately 3 million years after the opening of the East African rift. Before glaciation, it was 7,000 m (23,000 ft) high. It was covered by an ice cap for thousands of years. This has resulted in very eroded slopes and numerous valleys radiating from the centre. There are currently 11 small glaciers. The forested slopes are an important source of water for much of Kenya.

There are several vegetation bands from the base to the summit. The lower slopes are covered by different types of forest. Many alpine species are endemic to Mount Kenya, such as the giant lobelias and senecios and a local subspecies of rock hyrax.[An area of 715 km2 (276 sq mi) around the centre of the mountain was designated a National Park and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997. The park receives over 15,000 visitors per year.

CLIMATE

The year is divided into two distinct wet seasons and two distinct dry seasons which mirror the wet and dry seasons in the Kenyan lowlands. As Mount Kenya ranges in height from 1,374 m (4,508 ft) to 5,199 m (17,057 ft) the climate varies considerably over the mountain and has different zones of influence. The lower, south eastern slopes are the wettest as the predominant weather system comes from the Indian Ocean. This leads to very dense montane forest on these slopes. High on the mountain most of the precipitation falls as snow, but the most important water source is frost. Combined, these water sources feed 11 glaciers.

The current climate on Mount Kenya is wet, but drier than it has been in the past. The temperatures span a wide range, which diminishes with altitude. In the lower alpine zone they usually do not go below 12 °C (54 °F). Snow and rain are common from March to December, but especially in the two wet seasons. The wet seasons combined account for 5/6 of the annual precipitation. The monsoon, which controls the wet and dry seasons, means that most of the year there are south-easterly winds, but during January and February the dominate wind direction is north-easterly.
Mount Kenya, like most locations in the tropics, has two wet seasons and two dry seasons as a result of the monsoon. From mid-March to June the heavy rain season, known as the long rains, brings approximately half of the annual rainfall on the mountain. This is followed by the wetter of the two dry seasons which lasts until September. October to December are the short rains when the mountain receives approximately a third of its rainfall total. Finally from December to mid-March is the dry, dry season when the mountain experiences the least rain.

Mount Kenya straddles the equator. This means during the northern hemisphere summer the sun is to the north of the mountain. The altitude and aspect of the watersheds and main peaks results in the north side of the upper mountain being in summer condition. Simultaneously, the southern side is experiencing winter conditions. Once it is the southern hemisphere summer, the situation reverses.

 GEOGRAPHY

Mount Kenya is a stratovolcano that was active in the Plio-Pleistocene. The original crater was probably over 6,000 m (19,700 ft) high; higher than Kilimanjaro. Since it became extinct there have been two major periods of glaciation, which are shown by two main rings of moraines below the glaciers. The lowest moraine is found at around 3,300 m (10,800 ft). Today the glaciers reach no lower than 4,650 m (15,260 ft). After studying the moraines, Gregory put forward the theory that at one time the whole summit of the mountain was covered with an ice cap, and it was this that eroded the peaks to how they are today.

The lower slopes of the mountain have never been glaciated. They are now mainly cultivated and forested. They are distinguished by steep-sided V-shaped valleys with many tributaries. Higher up the mountain, in the area that is now moorland, the valleys become U-shaped and shallower with flatter bottoms. These were created by glaciation.
When Mount Kenya was active there was some satellite activity. The north-eastern side of the mountain has many old volcanic plugs and craters. The largest of these, Ithanguni, even had its own ice cap when the main peaks were covered in ice. This can be seen by the smoothed summit of the peak. Circular hills with steep sides are also frequent in this area, which are probably the remains of small plugged vents. However, as the remaining mountain is roughly symmetrical, most of the activity must have occurred at the central plug.
The rocks that form Mount Kenya are mainly basalts, rhomb porphyrites, phonolites, kenytes and trachytes. Kenyte was first reported by Gregory in 1900 following his study of the geology of Mount Kenya.

icon

Mountain Equipment

Please remember to gear up appropriately.

icon

Mountain Tips

Please read our mountain tips very carefully.

icon

Camping Tips

Please be careful when you are out in the wild.

top