15 Fascinating Facts About Mount Kenya

Did you know that the second-highest mountain in Africa is located in Kenya?

In this post, you’ll discover the ultimate list of facts about Mount Kenya, one of the most amazing mountains in the world!

1. Mount Kenya is located in the east of Africa

Mount Kenya is the most prominent mountain in the country with the same name. Kenya is located in the east of Africa is bordered by Tanzania to the south, Uganda to the west, South Sudan to the northwest, Ethiopia to the north, Somalia to the east, and the Indian Ocean to the east.

The mountain is located just 150 kilometers (90 miles) north-northeast of the capital of the country, Nairobi, and covers areas in the counties Meru, Embu, Laikipia, Kirinyaga, Nyeri, and Tharaka Nithi.

The main peak is located just 16.5 kilometers (10.25 miles) south of the equator and one of the most famous lakes in the world, Lake Victoria, is located just a few hundred kilometers to the west of the mountain.

Mount Kenya interesting facts
View of the mountain / Chris 73 / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en

2. The country was named after the mountain, not the other way

The origin of the word Kenya is uncertain but it’s assumed to be linked to some of the Kikuyu, Embu, and Kamba words Kirinyaga, Kirenyaa, or Kiinyaa. These words mean the same in all 3 languages namely “God’s resting place.”

One of the fascinating facts about Mount Kenya is that this name was first used by Europeans in the 19th century to describe the mountain. This means that the country is actually named after the mountain and not the other way around!

Mount Kenya facts
The area / Chris 73 / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en

3. Only 1 mountain in Africa is higher than Mount Kenya

Mount Kenya is the second-highest mountain in all of Africa. Its highest peak has an elevation of 5,199 meters (17,057 feet) above sea level.

This means that just one mountain in Africa is higher which is Mount Kilimanjaro, a dormant volcano that stands 5,895 meters (19,341 feet) above sea level. Kilimanjaro is also the highest mountain in the world not part of a mountain range!

Mount kilimanjaro
Mount Kilimanjaro / Pixabay

4. It’s a volcano which is about 3 million years old

As you might have expected, Mount Kenya is a composite volcano as well which was active in the Plio-Pleistocene period, somewhere between 5 million and 12,000 years ago.

The mountain itself is about 3 million years old and used to be much higher than it is today, with its peak reaching an estimated 7,000 meters (23,000 feet) above sea level. Its main crater was located at an estimated height of over 6,000 meters (19,700 feet).

Mount kenya volcano
The old volcano / Chris 73 / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en

5. It originally looked very similar to a mountain in Japan

One of the most fascinating facts about Mount Kenya is that even though it consists of numerous peaks and rocky cliffs today, it most probably had a very smooth and conical shape before.

This means it’s likely that while the volcano was still active, it looked very similar to one of the most iconic mountains in the world, Mount Fuji in Japan!

Mount Fuji in Japan
Mount Fuji in Japan / Wiki Commons

6. The mountain consists of multiple

Today, the mountain consists of multiple peaks, and most of these are considered to be of a volcanic origin. The highest peaks of the mountain are referred to as:

  • Batian – 5,199 meters or 17,057 feet.
  • Nelion – 5,188 meters or 17,021 feet.
  • Point Lenana – 4,985 meters or 16,355 feet.

The two highest peaks are located just a few hundred meters away from each other.

These peaks are also surrounded by 11 small glaciers which are named Northey, Krapf, Gregory, Lewis, Diamond, Darwin, Forel, Heim, Tyndall, Cesar, Josef.

Mount Kenya highest peaks
The 3 highest peaks / Franco Pecchio / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en

7. The glaciers are expected to be gone by the year 2050

The peaks of Mount Kenya are also surrounded by 11 small glaciers which are named Northey, Krapf, Gregory, Lewis, Diamond, Darwin, Forel, Heim, Tyndall, Cesar, Josef.

One of the most remarkable facts about Mount Kenya is that these glaciers are retreating at a rapid pace, so much that it’s estimated that by the year 2050 there will be no ice on the mountain left!

Mount Kenya peaks and glaciers
Peaks and glaciers / Sémhur / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en

8. Mount Kenya is important for the water supply in the area

Regardless of the glaciers retreating at this pace, the mountain has plenty of sources and will remain one of the most important sources of water in the region and provides water for an estimated 2 million people living in the region.

It forms the catchment area of the two largest rivers in the country, the Tana and the Ewaso Ng’iro rivers. All the rivers that spring from the mountain are tributaries to one of these rivers.

The Tana River also contains multiple hydroelectric facilities and dams which provide electricity for about 80% of the country’s population!

Mount Kenya Lewis glacier
The Lewis Glacier / Wiki Commons

9. The mountain is surrounded by belts of various types of vegetation

Mount Kenya is surrounded by various types of vegetation. This changes based on the elevation which means belts of different types of vegetation zones are formed around the mountain.

All around the base of the mountain, there is fertile farmland that provides food for the people living in the region.

Mount Kenya vegetation map
Vegetation belts / Sémhur / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en

10. A lot of dangerous animals live on the slopes of the mountain

The dense forests as well as the areas around the base of Mount Kenya are inhabited by some dangerous animals. These include monkeys, antelopes, tree hyrax, porcupines, and even elephants.

Some of the most dangerous animals on the planet can also be found in the vicinity of the mountain, including hyenas, leopards, and sometimes even lions!

Most animals live in the lower sections of the mountain, except the hyrax, a mammal that can cope with the extreme weather conditions near the summit.

Mount Kenya Hyrax
Hyrax / Chris 73 / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en

11. There are 4 distinct types of weather seasons each year

The mountain has a distinctive equatorial mountain climate, which means the nights are extremely cold and the days are extremely hot. Therefore it has been described aswinter every night and summer every day.

There are 4 distinct seasons as well, including 2 wet seasons and 2 dry seasons.

The temperatures can vary a lot depending on the elevation, which ranges between 1,374 and 5,199 meters (4,508 and 17,057 feet). In the lowest parts, however, the temperature never drops below 12 °C (54 °F).

Mount Kenya Slopes
Slopes of the mountain / Doron / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en

12. The first European to ascend Mount Kenya did so in 1899

The first European to ever see Mount Kenya was German Missionary Doctor Johann Ludwig Krapf. This happened on December 3, 1849, which was just 1 year after the first sighting of Mount Kilimanjaro.

The first successful ascend happened 50 years later in 1899 when English geographer Halford Mackinder claimed to have reached the summit.

The 8 African guides who joined Mackinder and his crew were later murdered in suspicious circumstances. Some presume they were killed by Mackinder to erase their memory from history, but this story isn’t verified.

Halford Mackinder
Halford Mackinder / Wiki Commons

13. It’s possible to ascend a high peak without any climbing

The mountain is extremely popular with climbers as there are multiple climbing routes based on various levels of experience. Some require rock climbing, others can be reached more easily.

The third-highest peak of the mountain, Point Lenana which is located at a height of 4,985 meters (16,355 feet) doesn’t require any climbing at all as you can simply walk there!

Hut near Point Lenana
Hut near Point Lenana / Mehmet Karatay / http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/

14. Multiple ethnic groups live on the slopes of the mountain

Various ethnic groups are living on the slopes of Mount Kenya. These include Kikuyu, Ameru, Embu, and Maasai, with the first 3 being closely related to each other.

All of the groups believe that the mountain is sacred, and all of these groups only live in the area for a couple of centuries. The Masaai are even semi-nomadic and only use the slopes of the mountain to graze their cattle.

Lake near the summit of Mount Kenya
Lake near the summit / Chris 73 / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en

15. The National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site

The area is being developed and multiple resorts are located at the base of the mountain, including the wonderful Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club which has a total of 120 rooms.

The mountain is part of the “Mount Kenya National Park,” a park that was established in 1949 to protect the fauna and flora of the region. This amazing park covers an area of 715 square kilometers (276 square miles) and has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997!

Mount Kenya Resort
Resort near Mount Kenya / John Hickey-Fry / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en