Mt. Kenya, February 27 – March 4, 2011

Following a successful and very emotional climb of Kilimanjaro SMI guides April Mayhew and Kurt Wedberg traveled to the country of Kenya for a climb of the peak that bears it’s country’s name.  Mt. Kenya is the second highest mountain on the African continent and one that sees a small fraction of the attention that Kilimanjaro receives.  The mountain is actually the crater rim of an ancient volcano.  It has three summits named Batian, Nelion, and Point Lenana.  While Point Lenana requires stamina to reach its summit, Batian and Nelion require rock climbing skills to reach their pinnacles.  April and Kurt set out on an adventure to try and reach the summit of both of these peaks.

From Nairobi we traveled 4+ hours to to the entrance to Mt. Kenya National Park.

Kurt and April at the Mt. Kenya park gate at 2400m, 7874'

We then set out on a 3-day trek that put us in striking distance of a summit attempt.  On February 27 we began at the park gate ascending through a jungle environment rich with wildflowers, bamboo, exotic bird species, and monkeys.  A 9km, 5.6 mile trek brought us to the Met Station Hut at 3048m, 10,000′.

April and local guide Charles at the start of our trek into Mt. Kenya National Park.

Met Station camp at 10,000' / 3048m in Mt. Kenya National Park. This small lodge has a couple small but clean huts that make for a comfortable place to spend the night in the jungle.

Kurt and April having an afternoon picnic on the porch of the Met Station hut on Mt. Kenya.

Sykes monkey near the Met Station hut.

A dik dik near Met Station. Dik diks are smallest member of the antelope family and prefer the thick foliage of the jungle for protection.

On February 28 our trek ascended above the jungle where the scenery opened up offering breathtaking vistas that were not only beautiful but reminded us of how remote this destination is.  Today we were treated to the sites of many exotic plants that lined our trail and we got some of our first views of Mt. Kenya.  After 5 hours of hiking we arrived at MacKinder’s Camp at 4200m, 13,779′.

The Torch Lily aka Red Hot Poker is one of many exotic wildflowers seen on Mt. Kenya.

Gladiola in bloom on Mt. Kenya.

April arriving above the jungle canopy in Mt. Kenya National Park.

Lobilia plant in bloom at 3350m/11,000' on Mt. Kenya.

Three types of lobilia plants on Mt. Kenya.

Giant Senacio trees provide an exotic foreground as we got some of our first views of Mt. Kenya.

A rock hyrax looks out from its perch at 4260m/14,000'.

Giant Senacio trees decorating the hillside above MacKinder's Camp at 4260m/ 14,000'.

On day 3 we would move up above timberline where plants grow into the alpine environment.  Our goal was the Austrian Hut at 4730m/15,518′.  This hut will serve as our base of operations for making an attempt on Mt. Kenya.  After being on Kilimanjaro for seven days we felt well acclimated.  A move to the Autrian Hut would feel great and put us in good position to prepare for a summit attempt.

April at 4570m/15,000' en route to the Austrian Hut. The Lewis Glacier is in the distance with its turquoise glacial fed lake below.

Kurt sorting gear inside the Austrian Hut.

After getting settled in the Austrian Hut we sorted gear then took a hike to the base of our route.  Reaching our route would require crossing the Lewis Glacier then ascending an open talus slope to the start of the route.  The Lewis Glacier has been receding like many glaciers worldwide.  In the process of recession it has revealed layers of ice that are relatively old.  There are not many crevasses on the Lewis Glacier but the conditions warranted having a good sharp set of crampons and an ice axe.  Along with doing a reconnaissance mission we would also carry gear to the base of the route allowing us to go fast and light when we would approach the route on the day we planned to climb it.

Mt. Kenya from the Austrian Hut.

April crossing the Lewis Glacier during a reconnaissance hike to the base of the route.

April at the base of Mt. Kenya where our route begins.

With our reconnaissance mission complete we returned to the Austrian Hut.  After some weather issues and one false start we would attempt the summit on March 3.  Waking at dawn we left the Austrian Hut, traversed across the Lewis Glacier, and roped up for the climb.

April on lead traversing out on the first roped pitch of the climb.

April enjoying the view after 8 pitches of climbing.

After 10 pitches the climb moved back into the shade. We put on more clothing layers and April takes off on lead at pitch 11.

April leading a chimney on pitch 13.

April topping out onto a ridge line after pitch 15.

It felt great to be back in the sun for the last few pitches of the climb!

April on lead picking her route up pitch 17.

April on lead stemming out over one of the last crux moves of the climb.

With easier climbing above April topping out on the route.

Summit photo on Mt. Kenya.

With the climb complete we returned back to the Austrian Hut and descended out the Teleki Valley to see some new scenery on Mt. Kenya.

Looking back at the north side of Mt. Kenya.

Morning camp on the final day of the trip offering views of the Mt. Kenya massif behind.

One of the many spectacular views on the trip out.

Reflecting back on a great few days. A smile is worth a thousand words!

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