Travelogue & Tips for Climbing Point Lenana

Reisebericht & Tipps für die Besteigung Point Lenana
Travelogue & Tips for Climbing Point Lenana

Kenya. There are several routes to Point Lenana, one of the three peaks of Mount Kenya. Two of the most beautiful and scenically spectacular are the routes Chogoria and Sirimon. Over a length of about 67 kilometers, the mountain massif is crossed from east to west and there are about 3,000 meters of altitude to overcome. Here you can find out what our daily stages looked like and you also get a lot of practical tips.

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Mount Kenya - Chogoria-Sirimon Route zum Point Lenana
From the third day on, the landscape resembles a lunar landscape.

Stages of the Chogoria-Sirimon route to Point Lenana

  1. to Meru Bandas Camp at Chogoria Gate (2950 m) 3 hours, 10 km, 950 m ascent
  2. Meru Bandas - Chogoria Roadhead (3.300 m) 3 hours, 9 km, 350 m ascent
  3. Chogoria Roadhead - Camp Mintos (4.300 m) 4 hours, 12 km, 1000 m ascent
  4. Camp Mintos - Austrian Hut (4.700 m) 4 hours, 7 km, 400 m ascent
  5. Summit day: Austrian Hut - Point Lenana - Camp Moses (3.300 m) 8 hours, 20 km, 285 m ascent - 1.400 m descent
  6. Camp Moses - Sirimon Gate (2660 m) 2,5 hours, 9 km, 680 m descent

Tip: Many hikers also climb Point Lenana in 5 days. This is doable, but means that stage 4 and 5 are combined. Start is then at 2 o'clock at night and arrival at the camp around 7 or 8 o'clock in the evening. That means one of the most beautiful parts of the route you walk in the dark and see nothing! Doing the tour in 6 days is much more relaxed. And for acclimatization, an extra day is also an advantage.

A look back is worthwhile.

Day 1: to Meru Bandas Camp at Chogoria Gate

Ausgangspunkt der Chogoria Route ist – klar – das Chogoria Gate bei der Stadt Chogoria. Am Chogoria Gate befindet sich auch unser erstes Camp “Meru Bandas”. Eine holprige Piste führt durch dichten Bambuswald bis hierher. Doch unser Land Cruiser bringt uns nur ein Stück, die restlichen 10 Kilometer laufen wir. Ab jetzt geht es nur noch bergauf. Das Camp liegt bereits in 2.950 Meter Höhe, aber noch merken wir nichts von der dünnen Luft.

Mount Kenya - Chogoria-Sirimon Route zum Point Lenana
The Meru Bandas Camp at Chogoria Gate is in a particularly idyllic location and invites you to take short walks.

Did you know? Even after acclimatization, your fitness level drops by about 10% for every 1,500 meters of altitude!

At the huts of the camp lives also a troop of monkeys. They inspect everything they can get their hands on. There are also buffalos that roam the camp from time to time. Therefore, it is mandatory that you do not leave your hut at night.

Tip: If you don't want to start your altitude acclimatization at zero, spend two days in the Ol Pejeta Conservancy at an altitude of about 1,800 meters beforehand. There is a lot to discover there.


Day 2: Meru Bandas - Chogoria Roadhead

Before we leave, there are a few things to take care of: All visitors to the national park have to register at Chogoria Gate. And since we are traveling in the middle of Covid time, everyone also has their temperature taken.

Mount Kenya - Chogoria-Sirimon Route zum Point Lenana
On day two the trekking tour really starts and the landscape becomes more and more beautiful.

On the second day the landscape becomes more interesting. We first still follow the dirt road that leads up to Lake Ellis. It goes through forest and over lush green meadows. The trees are densely covered with lichen, which indicates particularly clean air.

The trees of the cloud forest are densely covered with lichen.

At about 3,200 meters we have reached the tree line. Now begins a scrubland with perennials and tall grasses. A long time ago there was a big fire here. We still see charred remains between the green bushes. Some charred flowers look like small works of art.

The fire has transformed the flowers of the bushes into small works of art.

Later we turn off the track and walk a trail with a picturesque view. Our destination is Camp Chogoria Roadhead at an altitude of 3,300 meters.

“Go high, sleep low”

Climbing high and sleeping low is excellent for acclimatization. Therefore, after arriving at camp and having some refreshments, we took a walk of about 1.5 hours to Lake Ellis. It is located about 150 meters above our camp and is a real gem.

The small stream at Camp Chogoria Roadhead was our last source of water until we reached Mintos Camp.

Day 3 - Christmas Eve: Chogoria Roadhead - Camp Mintos

Wir folgen einem Bergkamm immer weiter den Berg hinauf. Unterwegs bieten sich immer wieder fantastische Ausblicke über das dramatische “Gorgeous Valley” und die Moorlandschaft. Je höher wir kommen, desto mehr verändert sich die Szenerie. Ich muss unwillkürlich an eine Mondlandschaft denken. Die Büsche, die noch am Lake Ellis wuchsen, sind nun Lobelien und Greiskraut gewichen. Die Wolken hängen tief über den Bergen. Was für eine mystische Atmosphäre! Kurz vor Erreichen des Camps fängt an zu hageln. Merry Christmas!!! Gut dass die Träger unser Zelt schon aufgebaut haben und wir gleich hineinschlüpfen können.

Mount Kenya - Chogoria-Sirimon Route zum Point Lenana - Camp Mintos
Since we drank incredibly much for the altitude adjustment, we had to constantly go to the toilet. Fortunately, it was not far from our tent.

Camp Mintos is located at an altitude of 4,300 meters. We had an ascent of 1,000 meters, which is clearly too much. Above an altitude of 2,500 meters, the overnight altitude should be increased by no more than 500 meters each day. We have a slight headache, rest and do breathing exercises. We also drink like world champions. With the result that we crawl out of the tent 6 (!) times during the night. It is starry. In front of us we can make out the contours of Point Lenana. A row of small lights moves up the mountain. I'm tired, but my stomach is tingling with anticipation.

Christmas 2020 - Hot tea, Popcorn and Ibuprofen

Christmas Eve is always special. You get cozy and eat something delicious. The two Christmas holidays are usually similar, but it's all about sitting and eating. Maybe you go for a little walk.

After the day's hikes, we were treated with hot tea and popcorn by the cook.

How was our Christmas in 2020? Exactly the same. Only our walks were a little longer and steeper. We made ourselves comfortable in the tent. And when we weren't being spoiled by our cook with delicious food, hot tea or popcorn, we were wrapped up warm in our sleeping bags. We ceremoniously unwrapped the Ibuprofen tablets - and that was it with the presents. No, wait. The gift we gave ourselves was the trip itself. And it was especially precious in 2020, because we were traveling during the Covid pandemic.

Why we were traveling during the pandemic?

First, my partner and I have a long distance relationship Germany - California. To see each other, we have to travel. Second: one can also travel responsibly, which means FFP-2 mask on or keep distance, wash hands. And just don't go to crowds and beach parties. Third: my heart bleeds when I see how much the whole tourism industry suffers and everything that is connected to it. Last but not least: we had a terrible wanderlust.

DRINK! One of the most important rules in mountaineering.

The daily water requirement is normally 2.5 liters, but at very high altitudes this can increase to 5 to 8 liters! This is due in particular to the increased breathing activity. This is because the body loses a lot of fluid during the necessary humidification of the usually cold and dry breathing air at high altitudes.

Kleiner Trost für alle, die nachts “raus” müssen: Vermehrtes Wasserlassen gilt als Hinweis für gute Höhenanpassung.

What happens if you drink too little? Our body reacts at altitude with an increased production of red blood cells. Combined with insufficient fluid intake, this can lead to thickening of the blood and therefore to a danger to life due to the formation of blood clots.

Mount Kenya - Chogoria-Sirimon Route zum Point Lenana
Christmas Eve at Camp Mintos in a mystical atmosphere.

Attention: between Camp Chogoria Roadhead and Mintos there is no water source. So you have to take all water with you. For this you need enough bottles. I had only two 1 liter bottles with me. That was not enough. Our guide was very kind and gave us an extra bottle.

Who wants to steal my breakfast?

Day 4: Camp Mintos - Austrian Hut

Wir beginnen den Tag mit einem Abstecher zum “Tempel”. Dies ist eine 150 Meter hohe vertikale Klippe. Ihren Namen hat sie von der Position, die Besucher oft einnehmen, wenn sie über den Rand schauen – sie sehen aus, als würden sie beten.

Mount Kenya - Chogoria-Sirimon Route zum Point Lenana
Der “Tempel” am Mount Kenya.

We continue along steep rock faces and reach the alpine zone. Here no more grows. The steep climbs are only going up at a snail's pace. Even the hail that starts does not manage to drive us. Only when it starts to thunderstorm, we go faster. We are unprotected on the mountain flank.

Signpost on the way to the Austrian Hut.

A sign shows us the way: another 400 meters to the Austrian Hut. There is no path, we climb over snow-covered rocks and are amazed at how far 400 meters can be. But the joy when we arrive at the hut is all the greater: we have it all to ourselves and there is already hot tea and cookies. And the best: my headache is gone. But now my hands are swollen. But even that gets better after a while.

Mount Kenya - Chogoria-Sirimon Route zum Point Lenana - Austrian Hut
The Austrian Hut with a view of the peaks of Mount Kenya. Point Lenana is the smaller peak on the right of the picture.
Coziness at an altitude of 4,700 meters.
Mount Kenya - Chogoria-Sirimon Route zum Point Lenana - Austrian Hut
Panoramic view from Austrian Hut.

Day 5 - Summit Day: Austrian Hut - Point Lenana - Camp Moses

Our summit day starts at 4:30 with cookies and coffee. Breakfast is later, after the summit. I am excited. We leave at 5:00 so we can reach Point Lenana at sunrise. It is dark. Only our headlamps light the way. That is - there is no path at all. We climb over snowy rocks and I follow the footprints of our guide John. He knows every rock up here and could probably climb the summit with his eyes closed. In the upper section it gets steeper. Here, cables are stretched, to which we can hold on.

Mount Kenya - Chogoria-Sirimon Route zum Point Lenana
The last few meters of altitude are stretched for safety wire ropes.

Why am I doing this?

A brief review: On the third day of our tour, we climbed from 3,300 meters to 4,300 meters. With every meter of altitude, a question took up more space in my head. Why am I doing this? Why am I climbing this mountain? It's exhausting, at altitude one feels terrible, one hardly sleeps and has a headache. Besides, it's cold, especially at night when you have to go out for the sixth time. Why?

Mount Kenya - Chogoria-Sirimon Route zum Point Lenana
The first rays of sun just before the summit Lenana.

Kurz unterhalb des Gipfels stoppen wir und blicken nach Osten. Der Himmel ist schon kräftig orange gefärbt. Langsam steigt die Sonne als glühender Ball am Horizont empor und gibt der schwarz weißen Landschaft darunter eine Kontur. In der Ferne sehen wir die Wolken, die über dem Kilimandscharo hängen. Die Sonne hat auch eine Antwort auf meine Frage “Warum?” mitgebracht. Ich sehe die Antwort ganz klar vor meinen Augen. Jedenfalls solange, bis mir die Freudentränen in die Augen steigen. Es war genau dieser Moment, der mich auf den Berg zog, der mich alle Anstrengungen vergessen läßt, der mich verzaubert und mit Freude erfüllt.

Mount Kenya - Chogoria-Sirimon Route zum Point Lenana
Once at the top, you are rewarded with a fantastic view. On the horizon, the summit of Kilimanjaro can be seen.

I try to capture this unique moment with my camera. But one thing you can not see in the photos: I have tears of joy in my eyes. I have rarely seen anything so beautiful!

When we reach the summit, other groups are already posing for summit photos. We line up and enjoy the wide view over the mountain. After what feels like an eternity, we manage to tear ourselves away and begin the descent to breakfast at Shipton's Camp at 4,236m.

Done! What a great feeling!

Downhill to Christmas Breakfast

But it still takes a while until breakfast, the descent is long. First we climb down over the rocks, then it goes steeply down in serpentines. The snow makes the path slippery and I am glad that my two trekking poles give me some grip. From up here we overlook the enchanting Mackinder Valley. It is a surreal sight, an unreal landscape: under the towering white peaks grow lobelia and giant groundsel, partly covered with snow. A small mountain stream flows next to the path, gently babbling away. All the time we can see Shipton's Camp as a small dot in the valley. Only slowly it takes shape.

Mount Kenya - Chogoria-Sirimon Route zum Point Lenana
Down in the valley, breakfast is waiting for us. But until then it is still a long way.
A Christmas breakfast like out of a picture book.

After a hearty breakfast, we continue downhill for about 5 hours to Old Moses Camp. The trail is easy to walk and offers enough time to enjoy the fascinating landscape. To celebrate, we surprise our cook and porters at the camp with Tusker beer.

Mount Kenya - Chogoria-Sirimon Route zum Point Lenana
On the left of the picture is Point Lenana.
Mount Kenya - Chogoria-Sirimon Route zum Point Lenana
Giant lobelias and giant groundsel thrive even under extreme conditions.

Day 6: Camp Moses - Sirimon Gate

Our last day. From Old Moses Camp we walk through high moorland, heath and bamboo zone and finally reach a dense mountain forest. A herd of buffalo crosses the road in front of us and quickly disappears into the thicket again. 

We leave the park at Sirimon Gate and start our safari tour through several national parks in Kenya. Now it's wildlife time! But we often look back - Mount Kenya can still be seen on the horizon for a long time.

On the last day we will take the asphalt road to Sirimon Gate.

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Would I repeat the Ascent of Point Lenana?

Trekking through the Mount Kenya countryside and climbing one of the highest points in Africa was an intense and incredibly rewarding challenge. Would I repeat the tour? Absolutely! If there weren't all the other beautiful mountains in the world. Barely a day after we were down from Mount Kenya, we couldn't wait to make plans to discover the next mountain.

Mount Kenya
The landscape never lets you go.

More Tips for the Ascent of Point Lenana

The route Chogoria-Sirimon is well doable for fit hikers, you should be surefooted and free of giddiness. Technical climbing skills are not necessary. On the mountain it is windy and cold, in the afternoon it can rain - therefore good equipment is indispensable. Have a look at my Packing List for Mount Kenya. as well.

Drinking water: Either fresh water from streams with water disinfection tablets Micropur Forte or boiled water. PET plastic bottles are not allowed in Mount Kenya National Park. We each used two 1-liter Nalgene bottles.

Electricity: On the way up the mountain there is no electricity to charge phone / camera. Spare batteries or a (solar) powerbank will ensure power supply. In particular, the batteries for the headlamp should still be sufficiently charged on summit day. Batteries discharge faster in the cold, it is best to take the batteries with you in your sleeping bag at night.

Temperature: from 3000 meters the daytime temperatures are between 5 and 15 ° C, at night there can be frost. Night temperatures at the summit are well below freezing.

Toilets: In the camps there are simple toilets, that is a hole in the ground. On the way there are bush toilets. Be sure to stay at least 50 meters away from water sources. More importantly, put your used toilet paper in a trash bag you brought with you!

Step by step it goes further and further up.

Book recommendations for Kenya

You want to know where the journey goes? Then I can recommend these books* about Kenya.

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Recommendations for further Reading

Do you love mountains as much as I do? Then you might also be interested in my articles about a Trekking Tour around Mount Kailash in Tibet or about Climbing the Half Dome in Yosemite National Park, California.

Trekking um den Mount Kailash
Trekking around the Mount Kailash
Besteigung des Half Dome im Yosemite Nationalpark
Climbing the Half Dome in Yosemite National Park

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