Mount Kenya is the highest mountain in Kenya and the second-highest in Africa, after Kilimanjaro. It is an extinct volcano created approximately 3 million years after the opening of the East African Rift, which rises to a height of 6000 metres/19,500 feet.
There are several vegetation bands from the base to the peak. 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 16,000 visitors per year.
The majority of animals live lower down on the slopes of Mount Kenya. Here there is more vegetation and the climate is less extreme. Various species of monkeys, several antelopes, tree hyrax, porcupines and some larger animals such as elephant and buffalo all live in the forest. Predators found here include hyena and leopard, and occasionally lion.
Other mammal species are only occasional visitors. Remains of elephants, monkeys and bongo have been found high in the alpine zone, and other sightings are remembered in names such as Simba Tarn (simba means lion in Swahili).
There are at least 160 bird species existing in Mount Kenya National Park, with 53 of Kenya’s 67 African Highland biome species, including the rare and threatened Abbott’s starling. It is home to 6 of the 8 bird species that are endemic to the Kenyan Mountains. The park is also home to several species of eagles that sometimes soar high above.
There is no doubt that Mount Kilimanjaro, in Tanzania, is well known for its walking and climbing activities, but Mount Kenya also offers the same challenges. The majority of climbs involve rock climbing via the easiest route, although some only require a scramble or a walk. The highest peak that can be ascended without climbing is Point Lenana, at 4,985 metres/16,355 feet. Believe it or not, 15,000 visitors to the surrounding National Park annually climb this peak.
For the less skilled, there are eight walking routes up to the main peaks. Perhaps trekking might be a more appropriate word for this activity. The most common routes are the Chogoria, Naro Moru, and Sirimon routes. There is also a Summit Circuit path that circumnavigates the whole mountain in a day or two’s walking.