It is the primary water catchment area
for Kenya, supplying the major rivers of the Tana to the south and
the Ewaso Ngiro to the north. The peaks are often covered with snow
and 11 permanent glaciers. As a high altitude mountain on the equator,
Mt. Kenya offers a unique environment for its vegetation.
It is most interesting that 81 of the high altitude plants
found on Mt. Kenya are endemic. They possibly are relic forms of
plants which were once widely distributed during the cold climate
of the Pleistocene period but as the world warmed, these plants
retreated to the cooler climate that now exist on the mountain.
The environment is so unique that the mountain is both an International
Biosphere Reserve and a World Heritage Site.
On Mt. Kenya the temperature falls by an average of 5°C per
1000 vertical metres (3,421 ft). Because of the prevailing
winds from the Indian Ocean on the coast of Kenya, the eastern and
south eastern slopes of the mountain are the wettest. By the time
the air reaches elevations above 4000 m (13,684 ft), most
of the moisture has been extracted and the highest areas are characteristically
The elevation range from the lower slopes dotted with giraffe, to
the icy summit of Batian approximately 3200m to 5200m
(10,947 to 17,784 ft), and demarcates 7 distinctive vegetative
zones: hot, dry grasslands at its base, areas of cultivation, Gallery
Forest, Bamboo, Hagenia Parkland, Giant Heath, Moorland with Tussock
grasses, Giant Senecio and Lobelia and at the uppermost elevations,
rock, snow and ice.
There are over 100 species of wildflowers on Mt. Kenya, so
you will see some in flower whenever you visit the mountain. There
are eight acknowledged routes up the mountain, three of which are
used regularly. Mt. Kenya has smooth slopes on three sides with
a ring of rocky peaks just below the summit. In order to reach Batian,
the actual summit, specialized climbing gear is required as one
must cross glaciers and steep terrain. It is possible to complete
a circular walk around the peaks after a 3 - 5 day climb. The primary
health hazards climbers face are altitude sickness and hypothermia.
Several options exist for supplies, porterage, and climbing tours.
The towns of Naro Moru and Nanyuki, popular starting points for
climbers, are recommended locations for coordinating trips and lodging