Ascent of Mount Kenya - Point Lenana on 2006-02-09

Climber: Ben Lostracco

Others in Party:Moses the guide
Michael the cook.
Date:Thursday, February 9, 2006
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Mount Kenya - Point Lenana
    Elevation:16335 ft / 4978 m

Ascent Trip Report

I came to Tanzania and Kenya for an extended climbing and Safari trip (Jan 9 to Feb 11). For Trip Reports prior to this one see:
Mount Meru TR dated 2006-01-17
Kilimanjaro TR dated 2006-01-25

After a very smooth enjoyable 7 day safari in Tanzania, I bussed to Nairobi, Kenya, the evening of the February 5 ...... a ridiculously fast and dangerous bus ride on the Davanu Shuttle. I checked-in at the Parkside Hotel, Lisa of WS Safari, Arusha, had made the reservations.
Yesterday morning (the 6th) I was approached, in front of the Hotel, by a "SANA HIGHLANDS SAFARI" representative. He led me to their near-by office, to discuss their 4 DAY PROGRAM FOR A MT KENYA CLIMB. We would leave in the morning (the 7th) and be back to Nairobi late PM on the 10th, in time for my KLM 23h30 hour flight, tight but feasible. I agreed, however I want to meet and discuss the details with the guide and I want them to confirm my KLM flight before signing the contract. I met my guide "Moses" in the PM, all was ok, their driver will pick me up in the AM at 8h00 hrs.
The Kenya cost, of an expedition of this kind, is a lot less than Tanzania, because of the much higher park fees, which I will talk about later in this report.
I made arrangements with the Parkside Hotel (had to talk to the manager who knew WS Safari), for the use of a room for a few hours after I get back from the climb. I'll have to clean up and do the final packing. I'll have the room free of charge.
I called my wife Rose, to inform her of my plans, prepared my gear for the trip and did some preliminary packing for my return flight home. Busy day but all was ok and really pleased with myself "I'm able to equeeze in Mt Kenya".

DAY #1 (February 7) - MT KENYA - OLD MOSES CAMP
I had a hard time sleeping last night, up very early to get ready. I went to the next door restautant for breakfast. Sana Highlands driver picked me up on schedule, on the way to the bus terminal we picked up Moses.
8h30 hrs - The Nanyuki mini-van SHUTTLE LEAVES the congested streets of NAIROBI, pedestrians every where you look. Once out of the city the rich landscape is green and lush, huge pineapple plantations run by "Del Monte". Lots of coffee beans, corn, wheat, forested woods, water available year round. Beautiful farm land and dothing like the dry road Nairobi/Arusha.
On the way to the town of Nanyuki, we passed the "Equator Sign", I was told that the Equator runs right thru Mt Kenya. The government has very strict road rules, enforced by police check points, they stopped our bus, apparently checking for the number of people/driver's license/time of departure time. The speed limit is 80 km/hr.
We lunched at THE TOWN OF NANYUKI (6600') restaurant, Moses looked after the last minute supplies and gear and introduced me to the cook, Michael. Unlike Meru and Kili's 5 man crew, I'll have a 2 man crew for Mt Kenya ...... Moses, the guide will also carry my duffle bag, Michael, the cook will carry my sleeping bag and all of the food. We will be staying in huts c/w all cooking facilities. All drinking water will be boiled, as was the case for the Meru/Kili trips.
14h30 hrs - We left MT KENYA NATIONAL PARK SIRIMON GATE(8700'), after driving here in a mini-van shuttle. Moses registered the group with the park ranger, he paid 30$/d vs 60$ for Meru and 100$ for Kili. We hiked up a dirt access road, easy and moderate, in a lush rain forest, lot of wildflowers and different types of vegetation (contrary to Kili). The road was closed-in for most of the way up, no views, except for the last few km, where the tall vegetation gives way to heatherland and beautifull views.
We arrived OLD MOSES CAMP (11200') after a 3 hour climb, a 6 room bunkhouse with a dining room and a washing sink for clients, another bunkhouse for the porters, plus a kitchen c/w cooking facilities for the outfitters. I was served tea and cookies, I started getting cold so I put on my down parka (best investment I ever made). Socialized with the other climbers. I was in a large room with a couple from MD,USA.
About 1 1/2 hour later DINNER WAS SERVED - soup, steak with tomato sauce, boiled potatoes, veggies, fruit and tea (I am not drinking coffee on these climbs). I shared a table with two Denmark couples with 5 children, going up to 12500'. One couple works and lives in Nairobi, they love it there. The kids were having a good time. They offered me wine.
Moses gave me a briefing on tomorrow's day, he likes to get out early (as I do). Crashed in my bag around 20h30 hours with my touque on, bunks have pads. Oxy reading 88. It was a cool 40-50F, no wind.

Again I had trouble sleeping, up early, to the toilet before the crowd (something I always try to do no matter where I am). Packed up my gear, breakfast of pancakes, french toast and tea, I refused eggs (I'm not drinking coffee on these climbs).
7h30 hrs - Followed Moses out of camp (11200'), trail moderate to easy, confortable, "pole pole". A short break on the East Ridge of Mackinder's valley - the 2nd largest valley on Mt Kenya. The trail stays on the eastside slopes of the valley, more or less horizontal. About 4 hours into the climb we had a good lunch break up the valley.
13h00 hrs - SHIPTON'S CAMP (13800') after a 5 1/2 hour day, located at the top end of the valley, on the foot of Mt Kenya's northside. An awesome menacing site, the equator passes thru here. Overall it was a fairly easy day, but I found it long. Rested in the bunkhouse with the usual routine. I asked for an early dinner because of tomorrow's early start.
Discussed tommorrow's summit day with Moses ..... breakfast at 2h30 hrs, depart at 3h00 hrs. GEAR FOR SUMMIT DAY, top - 3 layers + gortex, bottom - long johns + nylon pant, limmer boots with 2 pair of socks, touque with headlamp, down mitts.
19h00 hrs - Crashed in my bag, I'll get up around 1h30 hrs. Oxy reading 84. I feel good, everything is going well, no complaints. Good food and great service from Moses and Michael.

DAY #3 (February 9) - SUMMIT DAY, POINT LENANA (16350')
Slept about 3 hours, usual AM routine, served tea and cookies, couldn't eat anything.
3h15 hrs - WE LEFT CAMP (13800'), Michael will take a more direct shorter route to Mackinder's camp (today's destination), it was very dark. The trail goes up a gully, up fairly steep switchbacks, around a tarn, then steeply up the final climb, to Point Lenana from the northside (not as long as Kili or as high). A bit of scrambling in a few places, numerous granny stops, huffing and puffing, found it tough cause of my cardio system (always a limiting factor). Boring cause you don't see anything in the dark, we passed 2 groups. It was cold and windy, water froze on the way up so Moses gave me hot tea. My gear worked well.
6h15 - Arrived SUMMIT OF POINT LENANA (16350') before sunrise, very windy and cold. A few others already there. Moses gave me a few cups of hot tea while waiting for the sunrise (he couldn't do enough for me ... super nice guy).
The small summit was soon crowed with bodies, this very old volcano is an awesome area, peaks all over the place. I had a hard time staying orientated, Mt Kenya's highest point is Batian Peak (17058') located west of Point Lenana. A spectacular, very cold, colored sunrise, able to see Kilimanjaro way off in the distance. A heavenly situation, I loved every minute of this summit ... awesome.
After about 1/2 hour we started our descent to the west, past the Lewis Glacier and the Austrian Hut, Batian's huge rocky spire to our right.
A very steep descent of rock and loose scree takes you down to the valley floor, some sliding, very tough on the quads.
8h30 hrs - MACKINDER'S CAMP (13800'), Michael had breakfast ready, had a long 1 1/2 hour rest, tried to nap, I was treated royaly. Our day's destination, Met Station camp, was only 3 hours away so I felt that we should use the afternoon to improve tomorrow's tight schedule.
Moses laid out OUR OTHER OPTION. Descend, past the Met Station camp all the way to Naro Moru Park gate, 20 km. Take a taxi to Nanyuki arriving around 17h00 hours and overnight in a Hotel. In the AM we would take the bus to Nairobi arriving at mid-day, the only extra cost to me was the 17$ taxi ride. Sounded great to me so we set out in short order.
14h30 hrs - Out at NARO MORU PARK GATE (6700') much faster than calculated. The hike down was mostly down hill, easy with a few moderate sections, we moved at a fairly good pace stopping only for a number of short water/snack breaks. The last 10 km was on a dirt road, made good time. Michael, who was ahead of us, had a taxi waiting. Moses registered the group with the Ranger at the gate.
After a 1 1/2 hour ride we were checked in a NANYUKI HOTEL (6600'), a nice clean place frequented by foreigners.
I treated Moses, Michael and the driver to dinner. During dinner a number of their friends joined us at our table. The group had very poor table manners, cleaned their ears, picked their teeth with their fork, dropped food on the floor, cigarette butts and ashes on the floor ..... 3 dinners + 7 beers cost me 13$. We walked around the market area on the way back to the Hotel, Moses seemed to know everyone, I being the only white guy around. I loved my evening and really pleased with this mornings decision.
Back at the hotel I tipped Michael, a real nice guy, he said "thank you, I am happy". By the way Moses looks a lot like Tiger Woods, he stores some of his gear here in Nanyuki, I felt good, no soreness, a bit of a stiff back. Oxy readind 90. All ok, couldn't have gone any better, real super freindly people.

The early AM shuttle took us BACK TO NAIROBI for 12h00 hours. The Parkside Hotel had a room for me, all as promised. Moses will have a taxi pick me up at 18h00 hours. I gave Moses a good tip, I didn't hear "thank you ?". I spent a leisurely PM resting and packing for my return trip. The taxi and to my surprise Moses, showed up on time, to take me to the airport. We arrived with lots of time. I was pleased with yesterday's change of plans, it sure made things much easier today. All went very smooth.
MY KLM FIGHT TO AMSTERDAM left at 23h30 hours, where another KLM flight took me to Montreal, arriving on the 11th at 16h00 hours.
Everything on this Tanzania/Kenya trip went amazingly smooth with great service, you couldn't ask for more.
One experience that I didn't talk about, and I want to record it here, was the day I visited a "MAASAI ANIMAL MARKET JUST OUTSIDE ARUSHA" with my guide Steve. Most of them wearing their traditional Maasai dress. The locals come to sell their animals here. On the way there you see people herding or pulling their animals on a leash, thru fields from all directions in a haze of dust. The place is very crowded and chaotic like (perhaps not to the locals). Lot of dealing going on, everyone was friendly, an amazing cultural experience. I didn't see another white guy there. I loved it.
I brought back a beautiful Tanzanite/Diamond ring for my wife Rose. Everyone happy.

Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:2535 ft / 772 m
    Total Elevation Loss:9635 ft / 2936 m
    Round-Trip Distance:24.2 mi / 39 km
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Scramble
    Gear Used:
Headlamp, Guide, Porters, Hut Camp
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:2535 ft / 772 m
    Distance:12.4 mi / 20 km
    Route:old moses/shipton's camps/summit (3 days)
    Start Trailhead:shipton's camp  13800 ft / 4206 m
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:9635 ft / 2936 m
    Distance:11.8 mi / 19 km
    Route:via mackinders camp
    End Trailhead:naro moru park, taxi to nanyuki hotel  6700 ft / 2042 m

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