Before getting to the mountain, when I was researching the topic online I found contradictory information – that people have done it without a guide but in a group of at least two, and that it is not anymore possible. Once I came to Naro Moru town, everybody said that it is not anymore allowed, but I couldn’t believe them totally because most of them just wanted to offer me their guiding services. I called different Kenyan authorities, and they all said that it is not anymore allowed. However, I prepared for a trip and went to the Naro Moru gate to National Park, but lady at the ticket office repeated that I’m not allowed to go alone.
She said that before it was allowed to go without a guide, but in a group of two, at least, but now even that was not allowed anymore, and it is obligatory to have a guide. I asked her to talk to her boss, and told him nicely that I climbed many mountains in the world alone, and that I walked to the South Pole alone, unassisted and unsupported, and that I came to Kenya because of summiting Mt.Kenya alone, and he allowed me to go. I didn’t bribe him, I never do that. I hate it when foreigners from “developed” countries scold politicians for being corrupted, but in the same time find it funny and cool to bribe authorities in less developed countries. I just used nice words.
So I managed to enter, but i guess everybody who attempts that in future must count that maybe that won’t be allowed. Maybe if there was some other guy on the gate, I wouldn’t be allowed in. But if you are ready to risk it, like I did, you might be lucky.
I did a whole thing in two days, without much problems. I must say that even though I did solo, 47 day trek to South Pole, and even though I climbed many mountains in the world (highest 6400m, and none technically demanding), I am not a pro climber. I never ran a marathon. Furthermore, I have climbed Mt. Kenya during my big trip around the world with my wife (check our project: “Love around the world”), and being on the road for last 9 months before climb, I didn’t have almost any chance to train.
Athletes who do ultra-marathons, treks and trail running, might as well do the whole climb up and down in one day. From the gate to the peak Lenana it is 24 km, and 2600 vertical meters.
After the gate, tarmac goes another 9 km to Met station, at 3000 m, so you can even cut that with a vehicle. I walked it, nevertheless. I walked first day from gate at 2400m to MacKinders hut at 4200m, in 8,5 hours including stops. I slept over there, and went up next day in the morning. I made it to the summit in 2,5 hours, and then down to the gate in additional 6,5 hours, including stops.
Navigation is easy. Maps.me has the route well, all the way until Austrian hut at 4800m. From there you can see the summit. It’s a closest peak to the hut. Via ferata under the peak is a joke, no real need to grab any of the holds. Vertical bog (at 3500 m) is also a joke, it’s neither vertical nor a bog. Well maybe it is when there is more rain, but I didn’t have rain and it was pretty dry. Actually it was a blessing for tired legs to walk on that soft soil when I was going downhill.
There is freshwater around MacKinders hut. There is also few mountain rescue guys there who have a radio station (I don’t know if they are there all year long). Temperature there at night went down to 0*C. In my opinion there is no need to go to the summit before dawn, unless you really want to freeze just to see sunrise. I went up with the sunrise, and still managed to descend all the way to the gate before sunset. I didn’t have the big heavy mountain boots, I did the whole walk in good snickers.
Regarding debate about responsible tourism, I like to contribute to local community by hiring guides and porters when I’m going with other friends, and when we are going more to enjoy outdoor time at expedition, and not so much for the sport of it. If I just want to be alone, independent, carry my own gear and go by my own tempo, then I prefer to go without a guide/porter.
I think a 156 USD entrance fee is big enough contribution to the authorities and the local community. Hopefully, well, if any of that money ends back in the local community. But I respect other opinions on that matter and I strongly recommend hiring guides and porters to everybody who wants to contribute more to the local community and to everybody who doesn’t feel fully confident at their own capabilities of summiting the mountain alone and without a guide.
If you are interested in my Polar adventures and South Pole expedition you can check more about it here. You can get my book “Polar dream” about this cold and demanding, but also very inspiring project here. Another of my books is translated into English, about the travel philosophy – “The Journey’s magic”. You can get it here.
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Thank you, and may the sun be in your face and the wind upon your back! ?