It’s reputedly the easiest, and certainly the fastest, way up Mt. Kenya. The Naro Moru Route is also the most popular. But take the words “easy” and “fast” with a grain of salt: at 16,000 feet, give or take, nothing comes without a good deal of effort. Africa’s second highest mountain has plenty of challenges.
The Naro Moru River Lodge
The starting point for most treks up the western side of Mt. Kenya is the Naro Moru River Lodge, a resort that offers a wide range of accommodations, everything from bunkhouses for backpackers on a budget to nicely appointed cottages, as well as a swimming pool, tennis courts, a sauna, and two restaurants. The lodge is located on 20 acres at 7,100 feet, just 10 miles south of the equator.
The lodge also has an extensive operation for equipping and guiding climbs. Guides and porters can be booked and gear rental is available, making this the most practical option for people who want to trek, but didn’t cart a full complement of backpacking gear to East Africa. It’s also a good choice for trekkers who would like to hire guides to assist on an attempt to summit the technically demanding peaks of Batian and Nelion (Mt. Kenya’s true summits, which require technical rock climbing skills; Point Lenana, 700 feet lower, is the more common goal for trekkers.) .
Desctiption of the Naro Moru Route on Mt. Kenya
The Naro Morru route is the quickest route up the mountain. Most hikers start by booking a ride up the 13-mile dirt road to the western park entrance, then hiking another 5 miles to the meteorological station (although some four-wheel-drive vehicles will go up this far). Typically, hikers camp at the so-called Met Station (9,840 feet), then hike the next day to MacKinder’s Camp (13,645 feet). This section of the hike features the unforgettable so-called “vertical bog” which can be compared to hiking cross-country up a steep ski slope covered with a combination of humpy tussock grasses and mud.
From MacKinder’s it’s typical to take an “alpine start” (about 2 a.m.) so as to be at the summit by sunrise. The trek to Austria Hut – every step of it uphill – takes between 4 and 5 hours; from Austria Hut, it’s another half-hour to the summit via a 700-foot rock-scramble.
Note: Because it is possible to gain elevation so quickly on this route, altitude sickness is a very real possibility. Hikers should be aware of the symptoms of mountain sickness, and be prepared to stop and take an extra day to acclimate before proceeding.
The return to the Met Station can take one or two days. Warning: Doing it one day is utterly exhausting, and by the time a tired hiker arrives there, the “vertical bog” can seem endless.
Whatever the itinerary and schedule of a Mt. Kenya trek, the Naro Moru River Lodge at the bottom offers welcome respite and rest from the rigors of Africa’s second highest mountain.