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The Naro Moru route approaches mountain from west and is easily most popular. The trail is well serviced with rest huts and is fastest way to peaks. It is however steepest and climbers vulnerable to AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) may experience difficulties. The hike will take 4 days, though you may opt for an additional day at summit. You start with a fairly steep 5-hour walk from Park Gate to Met Station (3,050 m). This is where you spend first night and acclimatize to thinning mountain air.
The next day is longest and you will walk, under varying terrain, for anywhere between 8 and 10 hours. You spend night at Mackinders Camp (4,200 m), in vicinity of peak area. You really should have an early night on this day. Very early next morning -2.00 a.m is usual time- you set out to attempt Point Lenana. The mountain is generally clear in morning and stormy in afternoon- so, idea is for you to ascend and descend peak when you have good traction. This is part of hike where some experience symptoms of altitude related ailments.
It will take you about 5 hours to reach Lenana. Here you must take some photos, to show folks back home how you fared at top of God's Mountain. Afterwards, you descend in 3 hours to Mackinders Camp for breakfast. Then ascending back to Teleki Valley via Camel Rocks, you reach Met Station in about 4 hours. The night rest is at Met Station, before final descent to Park Gate.
The Sirimon route has its base at Nanyuki to north of mountain. The route offers easier climbing than Naro Moru trail and is also more scenic. It normally takes 5 days up and down mountain. You start with a 3-4 hours walk through rain forest to overnight at Old Moses camp (3,300 m). Next day after breakfast you hike through moorland and Liki and Mackinder valleys. You reach Shipton's camp (4,200 m) after a 6-7 hour hike. You spend night here before setting out very early next morning to attempt Point Lenana.
The Chogoria route begins at town of same name to west of mountain. This is by far most beautiful and scenic of popular routes. You will enjoy dramatic views of waterfalls, valleys, tarns and rugged rock formations. But trail is not so popular because it is also longest and therefore toughest. It will take you 6 days to ascend and descend mountain. There are no usable service huts along route and you must carry a tent along. Whichever route you use, you can prolong your enjoyment of these heights by taking a day to do Summit Circuit Path.
It is important that you take enough water - about 4 to 6 litres daily- to keep dehydration at bay. Dehydration makes you more vulnerable to altitude sickness and hypothermia. Hypothermia is lowering of body temperature and symptoms include clumsiness and disorientation. Victims of condition need to be quickly provided with a warm and dry environment. At heights above 3,000 m, oxygen levels reduce and altitude sickness stalks trekker. That is why a fast climb is not advised, as you have no opportunity to acclimatize. The symptoms for Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) are nausea, headache, fatigue and general malaise. You should always descend to lower altitude with onset of symptoms.
Other more severe medical conditions that can arise are High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE) and High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE). The coming of HAPE is betrayed by a dry cough and difficulty in breathing. HACE is marked by slurred speech, severe headache and disoriented behaviour. HACE and HAPE are both potentially fatal and you should always descend to lower altitude and seek treatment. To reduce chances of mountain sickness, it is advisable to acclimatize by spending an extra night near Park Gate or at mountain huts above 4,000 m. If you temper your zeal for peaks and take a slow sensible hike you will enjoy adventure and will be all right.
You will generally need a guide and porters so that you can concentrate on hike. Always go for those who have high altitude experience and are accredited by park authorities. They will know routes, and a good one is worth his weight in gold, in event of sickness and other contingencies. The porters shoulder heavy stuff while you carry a daypack with essentials such warm clothing, fire making capability, some food and drinks, a flashlight and first aid kit.
The stuff you must bring along includes: warm clothing, waterproof hiking boots, rain suit, sleeping bags, flashlights, sunglasses and hand gloves. Many climbers find it expedient to buy a Mount Kenya climbing package in order to take advantage of those with local knowledge. Such a package will include transport, accommodation in mountain huts, meals while on climb, park entry fees, services of an experienced mountain guide and porters and cooks.
The main rainy season in Mount Kenya region falls from late March to June, with secondary rains appearing from late October to December. You can climb mountain at any time of year but most comfortable climb is achieved in dry months of January and February and from July to October.
After your climb, you can relax at some of excellent hotels and resorts in Mount Kenya area. Before you leave country, take to heart sentiments of Italian climber Carlo Spinelli, who said: "I consider myself a nature lover more than a mountaineer, and for this reason Kenya has best of both mountain and wilderness". Take time to see wildlife on a Kenya safari in this region or in other parts of country.
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Andrew Muigai is the editor of AfricaPoint Insider online newsletter. It is part of AfricaPoint.com - the Africa travel website that has helped thousands of travelers discover Africa. You can view more info on Kenya safari and tours at the website.