Category Archives: Aberdares Hiking

Rumiriria Hiking trail

Location 
Starting PointMutarakwa forest gate
Ending pointMutarakwa forest gate
Walking Duration8
Prevalent WeatherChilly wind
TerrainMashy animal trails
Elevation Difference600m
DifficultyModerate

despair hill

Location Nyandarua County, Njabini
Starting Point Gatura Forest Gate
Ending point Starting point
Walking Duration 7 hours
Terrain Steep, uphill, slippery and muddy
Difficulty Moderate
Elevation gain 700m

The aim of the hiker is to get to the foot (bottom) of Despair hill.

The original name of Elephant hill,  given by David Thomson was d’Esperey hill. This was in honour of Charles d’Espèrey the Lieutenant-colonel and fellow explorer in Algeria and father General Francois d’Espèrey the WW1 French General (who the British nicknamed Desperate Frankie). The name of the hill started changing during the shooting of Happy Valley when the Elephant image was “discovered”.

The hike is mostly taken as an attempt on elephant hill, but climbing to 3200masl should be a fulfilling achievement for an average trekker.

The starting point for the hike, Gatura forest gate is only 3km from the tarmac and 4km from Njabini/Olkalao Junction. It is one and half hours drive from Nairobi, Thika, Nakuru or Nyahuru. This makes an ideal location for a day hike. The terrain and altitude make this trail suitable for anyone preparing for Mt Kenya or Mt Kilimanjaro trek.  As at this writing, the forest station is shared by both Kenya Forest Service (KFS) and Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS).

Gatura Gate is 2500masl. This is altitude is high enough the hiker to start experiencing the lightheadedness of mountain sickness.  Adequate settling down at the gate is advised before commencing on the hike. For a moderately fit person, the hike up the hill should take 2 to 3 hours and another one and a half hours descending.

When setting off, walk slowly to allow your body to adjust to the altitude. The first 6km of the trail follows a forest road motorable with a 4W vehicle. Dressing in shorts and short sleeves is possible in this section of afforestation of cypress trees. This forest is a jurisdiction of the KFS but after crossing the Electric fence (at 3km), you are in the National park and the jurisdiction changes to KWS. Three kilometres from the electric forest park gate, you abandon the Cypress forest and the motorable road just as the road deeps East and you head due north into the bamboo. The trail is well beaten by animals and human traffic. But the stinging nettles and other undergrowth can be quite hostile. Dress in something the covers your legs.

Once you leave the road,  the gradient changes significantly from 9% in the forest areas to approximately 18% in the bamboo areas.  Expect a toll on your physique and adjust speed accordingly. The animal trail has some treacherous deep holes made by elephant footprints,  filled with soft mud and water.

As the thick bamboo gives way to thin bamboo, grass and traces of giant hither, the trail emerges into a brow of a hill. You will have ascended 700m in all and conquered d’Esparey hill.

The peak offers panoramic views of Murang’a and Kiambu Counties including Ndakaini and Samsumua Dam. Other salient visible from here are Oldonyo sabuk and Ngong hills.

Special precautions:

  • If you travel from a very low altitude, spend at least an hour at the gate to acclimatise.
  • Walk slowly to give your body time to acclimatise
  • The weather can change rapidly for the worse. Temperature can drop to sub-zero. Layer your clothing on this hike. Fog and mist can reduce visibility down to zero. Do not lose sight of a guide (unless you are bushing whacking or navigating using a device).
  • Beware of locals.
  • Beware of animals.

Guide

You may cut the cost of a guide and rely on KWS rangers but it is not advisable if you are in a big group.

Elephant Hill Trail

Location Nyandarua County, Njabini
Starting Point Gatura Forest Gate
Ending point Starting point
Walking Duration 7 hours
Terrain Steep, uphill, slippery and muddy. Tussock grass
Difficulty Difficult
Elevation gain 1100m

The aim of the hiker is to get to the peak of elephant hill.

The Elephant Hill, so named because of its elephant-like silhouette on the skyline, is on the southern end of the Aberdare’s (Nyandarua) mountain range. It is the third highest point on the mountain range. The starting point for the hike is only 3km from the tarmac and one and half hours drive from Nairobi, Thika, Nakuru and Nyahuru. This makes an ideal location for a day hike. The terrain and altitude make this trail suitable for anyone preparing for Mt Kenya or Mt Kilimanjaro trek.

The starting point for this hike is the Gatuura forest gate situated 4km from Njabini town. As at this writing, the forest station is shared by both Kenya Forest Service (KFS) and Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS).

Gatura Gate is 2500masl, which in itself may cause the hiker to start experiencing the lightheadedness of mountain sickness. For a moderately fit person, the hike up the hill should take 4 to 5 hours. However, this time is immensely subject to the weather and one’s tolerance and adoption to the altitude change. Luckily this trail is taken as to-and-fro (non-traverse) such that if something goes wrong one can always turn back. The first 6km is on a motorable forest road mainly going North East through an afforestation cypress trees forest. This forest is a jurisdiction of the KFS but after crossing the Electric fence (at 3km), you are in the National park and the jurisdiction changes to KWS. Three kilometres from the park gate, you abandon the Cypress forest and the motorable road just as the road deeps East and head due north into the bamboo using a well-beaten animal trail. In the Bamboo segment of the trail, the gradient to changes significantly from 9% in the forest areas to approximately 18% in the bamboo areas. The animal trail has some treacherous deep holes made by elephant footprints and during the rainy months, the undergrowth is full of nettles. This bamboo section of the trail is 1.9km long to the foot of despair and an elevation gain of 300m.

Foot of Despair false peak
The Foot of Despair Hill is the first false peak on this trail. It marks the end of the first leg of the hike. At the foot of despair hill, hikers usually take a well-earned break. The thick bamboo gives way to thin bamboo and traces of giant hither. The trail up Despair hill is nebulous as the animals do not seem to follow any particular trail up and down the hill. The gradient raises to about 25%. Although the distance to the peak of Despair hill is short, many a hiker have given up on this stretch. As the giant hither dissipates to give way to moors, the trail flattens at the peak of despair hill. The Peak of Despair is the Launching pad for Elephant Hill.

Elephant Hill
At the peak of despair hill, the Aberdare’s hiker will again want to take a break. The peak offers panoramic views of Murang’a and Kiambu Counties. It is the second false peak on this trail.

The trail flattens somewhat even offering a small descent eastwards then wheels North-West to face the two peaks of elephant hill. Trudge through the heather, on slippery rock surface almost level ground. A short but steep climb through marshy tussock grass passes the foot of the peak of elephant hill to the saddle between the two peaks. The peak to the East is 3610masl while the one to the West is 3581masl and offers great views of the happy valley.

On a clear day, the alluring Kinangop peak, the second highest point on the Aberdare’s mountain range can be seen to the north.

Special precautions:

  • If you travel from a very low altitude, spend at least an hour at the gate to acclimatise.
  • Walk slowly to give your body time to acclimatise
  • The weather can change rapidly for the worse. Temperature can drop to sub-zero. Layer your clothing on this hike. Fog and mist can reduce visibility down to zero. Do not lose sight of a guide (unless you are bushing whacking or navigating using a device).
  • Beware of locals.
  • Beware of animals.

Guide

You may cut the cost of a guide and rely on KWS rangers but it is not advisable if you are in a big group.

How To Prepare For And Make A Success High Altitude Hike.

If you are like many high altitude hikers and climbers, the ultimate reward is successfully reaching the summit. That is why it is imperative that you prepare adequately before departing for the trek and once you commence the trek, do it correctly. We bring you here some of the pitfalls to look out for so you may prepare adequately.

Altitude

In any high altitude hike, your greatest adversary is Altitude sickness. Altitude Sickness, also called mountain sickness is caused by reduced air pressure and lowered oxygen levels at high altitudes. In the early stages, it is mild and manifests as, light-headedness, fatigue, headache, loss of appetite, nausea/vomiting, increase heartbeat rate or Shortness of breath.

As you climb higher the atmospheric pressure decreases. When your internal body (pressure) does not adjust properly to the change in atmospheric pressure you may start showing signs of mountain sickness.

Also, the reduced atmospheric pressure causes the air to get thinner and thus have less and less oxygen. Less oxygen to burn means less energy for body metabolism. Again if your body is unable to adjust rapidly to change in available oxygen, you may start showing signs of altitude sickness.

Anyone, no matter the age, sex or physical fitness can develop altitude sickness. But from the above, you can see that someone who lives at a lower altitude is more prone to this malady if and when they are exposed to high altitude.

To lessen the chances of attack or to ameliorate the effects of an attack,

prepare your body (acclimatise) by climbing and spending time in higher altitudes months before the climb. If you live near sea level then travel to a location near the mountain days in advance of the climb. During the climb, ascend slowly taking, taking five-minute breaks with every ascent of 100m. If climbing past the 400m mark, stop for a day for every ascent of 600m. When stopping for the night, descend to a lower altitude when possible.

Be fit muscle wise so that your body demands less energy.

Attitude

If you consider the trek up the summit as a one-off chore to complete and never ever to be repeated (bucket list), then you may want to change your attitude. Walk frequently to a point where you start to enjoy walking. Walking to the summit will entail walking uphill and downhill for up to seven hours a day for a number of days. Naturally, this can be tedious and boring. But if you enjoy the walk, you will not only like the trip, you will notice and enjoy the many breath-taking sceneries along the trail.

Hydration

In the days running towards the hike, take a lot of fluids daily in order to start to hydrate your body. Reduce alcohol intake as it encourages water loss from the body through urination. Some people have a problem drinking while undertaking strenuous exercises. In this case, practise to take water while walking or running and at worst in the breaks between the long walks.

Fitness

Exercises sufficiently to strengthen the muscles of both your external and internal organs. Walking, running, skipping a rope and doing squats will strengthen your lower body muscles, tendons, and ligaments plus the heart, chest and diaphragm muscles.

If you live or work in storeyed builds, the staircase is a godsend. Avoid lifts and take stairs instead. Cycle or walk to work. Swim frequently to give endurance to your lungs, improve breath timing and to boost your body’s ability to survive on little air. Swimming also helps your body learn to cope with changes in external pressure.

But go slow, very slow, on exercise during the last week of preparation to give your body time to recover.

Diet

During the trek, the body needs to burn more carbohydrate for energy than usual. Eat adequate starchy and sugary foods. Drink water. Your body needs it to create energy. Carry with you high energy snacks.

Humour and Sense of Adventure

Even with all the preparations, things will not go according to plan. Your rain gear may fail and you end up with soggy boots or food. The food may disagree with you and you spend as much time squatting in the bush behind boulders as on the trail. You may have to share accommodation with a snoring giant. Take the mishaps in your stride and find humour in the encounters.

Talk to the fellow hikers you meet. By all means, avoid being grumpy. If there is a bad smell following you around, the culprit is not your fellow hikers. It is you.

Weight

Any weight carried uphill, especially on summit-night/day can me monumental even if that weight is part of your body. Cut your body weight to your optimum weight. Also, pack light; have the bare essentials in your day bag. Water is heavy. Do not carry more than you will consume for the day’s journey.

Walking

Do not over assert yourself when walking; walk at your comfortable pace. Start off early so that you may walk slowly and stop to rest as necessary. At every stop sip some water.

On steep inclines, use short steps. Do not climb over150mm in one step. Zigzag uphill to lessen the gradient. It takes longer but you use less energy.

Attire

Acquire the correct attire for the hike. The mountain climate is capricious. It can change rapidly without notice. Please keep warm on the mountain as developing a breathing complication will definitely cut short your trip. Prepare for wind, rain, sun, hail, snow anything.

Break-in your gear. Boots, socks, day bag, underwear or anything that is likely to start pinching needs to be used by you in advance.

Altitude Sickness

Altitude sickness, also called mountain sickness, is an illness that can affect mountain climbers, hikers, skiers, or travellers at altitudes above 2,400 meters.

Causes

Mountain sickness is caused by the failure of the body to adjust to reduced air pressure and lower oxygen levels at high altitudes. The faster you gain altitude, the more likely that you will suffer an attack. You are also at higher risk for mountain sickness if:

  • You live at or near sea level and travel to a high altitude.
  • You suffer from motion sickness.
  • You have not acclimatized to the altitude.
  • Alcohol or other substances have interfered with acclimatization.
  • You have medical problems involving the heart, nervous system, or lungs.

Symptoms

Mild mountain Sickness

In most cases, the malady is mild. Symptoms of mild to moderate mountain sickness may include any one or more of the following:

  • Light-headedness
  • Headache
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Shortness of breath

The symptoms often disappear when no father altitude is gained or if one descends. However, if one asserts themselves or climbs too fast, the mountain sickness may become acute and life-threatening as it affects the nervous system, lungs, and heart.

Acute Mountain Sickness

Symptoms of acute mountain sickness include:

  • Chest tightness or congestion
  • Confusion
  • Coughing
  • Coughing up blood
  • Decreased consciousness
  • Inability to walk in a straight line
  • Unable to walk
  • Shortness of breath at rest

Treatment

The main treatment for all forms of mountain sickness is to descend to a lower altitude as rapidly and safely as possible. You should not continue climbing if you develop symptoms without allowing for the symptoms to disappear. Extra oxygen may be given, but the patient must still descend to a lower altitude to allow for acclimatisation.

If symptoms persist, seek medical attention. Acetazolamide may be given by a medic.

Prevention

  • Climb the mountain gradually. Walk even if a road is provided.
  • Insert an extra day in your itinerary for every altitude gain of 600 to 1000m.
  • Hike high Sleep at a low.
  • Stop immediately symptoms are recognised and wait for them to subside
  • Drink plenty of non-alcoholic fluids.
  • Eat regular meals that are high in carbohydrates.

3 day Karuru waterfall

 

Location Aberdares
Starting Point Kahuruko forest gate
Ending point Kahuruko forest gate
Walking Duration 3 days
Terrain Motorable road or mashes
Difficulty Easy
Elevation gain 600m and 300m

The objective of the hiker is to spend 3 days exploring the western side of the Aberdare mountain range the includes the feted Karuru falls.  Since it is high altitude hiking all the way, the hike may be suitable for anyone wishing to acclimatise for a higher mountain challenge such as Mt. Kenya or Mt. Kilimanjaro trek.

Day 1. The hike starts from the forest gate at Kahuruko. After zipping boots, you take the tarmac road leading up to the park gate. You walk the afforested part of the KFS managed forest that rapidly gives way to thick bamboo. The road gets lonely and treacherous as it meanders through the thick bamboo forest with deep ravines on one side and steep slopes on the other. The climb is stead gain from 2600 metres asl to 3200 metres asl.
Pitch camp at the park gate for an overnight stay.

Day 2: From the Mutubio park gate whence you walk down a motorable road for half a kilometre then turn right into the moorland. You descend gently towards the catchment of the tributary to the Karuru river and walk along the edges following animal trails till your trail intercepts the road again. Alternatively, if you please, you can walk along the road, but it will be longer.

Once you get to the road, walk along it until you get to the campsite. After a short rest, you walk down a steep path, across the bridges with crystal clear water and up to the viewpoint.

The other alternative is to walk along the motorable road from the gate until you get to the first turning to the right. Take this right turn, then walk along it to the campsite and onwards to the viewpoint.

After a time well spent listening to the music of the waterfalls, you walk back to the park gate for an overnight stay.

Day 3: You start early morning to descend the 10 km to the forest gate.

Guiding
KWS rangers

Fee
Standard KWS park fees
Standard KWS rangers fees

Getting there
Public means:
Take matatus to Kahuruko

Karuru waterfall.

Location Aberdares
Starting Point Mutubio park gate
Ending point Mutubio park gate
Walking Duration 8 hours
Terrain Motorable road or mashes
Difficulty Moderate
Elevation gain  300m

Karuru waterfall

The objective of the hiker is to get to the waterfall overlooking the spectacular Karuru falls and back to mutubio.

The hike starts from the mutubio park gate whence you walk down a motororableroad for half a kilometre then turn right into the moorland. You descend gently towards the catchment of the tributary to the karuru river and walk along the edges following animal trails till you get to the road.

Once you get to the road, walk along it until you get to the campsite. After a short rest you walk down a steep path, across the bridges with crystal clear water and up to the view point.

The other alternative is to walk along the motorable road from the gate until you get to the first turning to the right. Take this right turn, then walk along it to the campsite and onwards to the view point.

Guiding
KWS rangers

Fee
Standard KWS park fees
Standard KWS rangers fees

Getting there
Public means:
Take matatus to Ndunyu-njeru and hire a taxi to the Mutubio park gate.

Private means:
From Ndunyu njeru drive through the earth road up to the forest gate. Then meadre your way into the thick bamboo forest. The road through the forest is tarmacked for the rest of the uphill 10 km journey to the park gate.

.

Hiking the Aberdares mountain range, Kenya

The Aberdares is a mountain range. Being a range, it offers numerous ridges, peaks, valleys and rivers to challenge the peak bagging hikers, professional climbers and outdoor enthusiasts. Most of the mountain range is a National Park under the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS). It is therefore subject to the normal entry requirements and charges. Some parts are under the management of Kenya Forest Service (KFS) and are subject to the KFS regulations and requirements.

It is relatively safe to walk in the Aberdares moorlands. But the rainforest areas have a lot of wildlife are therefore dangerous to walk in. Either way, if you are contemplating trekking the Aberdares, it is advisable to enquire at the Aberdares KWS Park Headquarters in Mweiga regarding any limitations or recommendations, especially regarding armed escort. Established hiking groups and tour operators also may know where to walk and where not to.

The Aberdares attracts many outdoor enthusiasts because of its range of offers.  It offers both game drives and walking safaris. The main attractions to the hiker are the mountain peaks, waterfalls, and caves.

Mountain peaks

The mountain ridge has a number of peaks, each offering its own set of challenges. The conspicuous peaks are Satima, Kinangop, Elephant hill, Kipipiri hill, and despair hill.

Satima

Oldoinyo Lesatima or Satima is the highest peak at (3999m asl). It has two main trails. The Wandare gate trail, the Shamata gate trail and Olborosat trail.

Kinangop Hill

Kinangop at (3906m asl) is the second highest peak. It has three trails; Gatura (Njabini) gate, Mutarawa trail and Mutubio gate trails.

Elephant Hill

Is the third highest. It has one trail from Njabini.

Kipipiri Hill

Is the 4th highest peak at 3348m asl

Despair hill

This is the 5th highest peak and is often tackled as part of the Despair hill-Elephant hill-Kinagop peak trek.

Forests

There are three main distinct eco-systems within the Aberdare Mountains that change drastically with altitude: the dense rainforest where most of the wildlife is, which gives way to dense bamboo forests, which itself gives way to the beautiful high moorland with sub-alpine vegetation.

Caves:

Popularly referred to as Mau-Mau caves, overhangs are dotted all over the mountain ridge. They serve as shelter to the hiker and honey gatherers and help do away with the need to carry tents.

Waterfalls

The park is host to a number of spectacular waterfalls including the

Chania Falls –

Chania Falls, Aberdares. Kenya Tourist Board photo:

Karuru Falls

Karuru waterfall

-With a total height of 273 m. It occurs in three steps of 117 m, 26 m and 130 m.

Zaina –

https://kenyatalk.s3.amazonaws.com/2015/04/71535_c7e8b4faff45d70b81abaa49cc43c6aa.jpg

 

Ragia no. 18 and 17

Ragia forest hiking trail

Gura Giant Falls at 305 m

Ragia forest – Sasumua River Hike

Ragia Forest

Location Njabini
Starting Point Ragia Forest Gate
Ending point Ragia Forest Gate
Walking Duration 6 hours
Terrain Slippery animal trails through a thick bamboo forest
Difficulty Moderate.
Elevation Lowest: Highest:

The objective of this hike is to traverse the bamboo-section of Ragia forest and descend to then ascend from the deep valley of the Ragia’s two waterfalls number 17 and number 18.

The Elephant
A distant view of Elephant hill from Sasumua

The Ragia forest trail may start from Ragia forest gate or from the Sasumua dam depending on the route one takes from Njabini. You walk on a motorable road along the fringes of Sasumua Dam (that supply’s water to Nairobi), from where you will be treated to a spectacular view of elephant hill.

Bamboo trail

About a kilometre from the dam, the trail abandons the motorable road and diverts into the thick bamboo, where you try to make out and follow animal trails until you reach the clearing marking the water pipeline wayleave. Your struggle with the bamboo abates briefly until suddenly the guide turns left into the bamboo again and the struggle resumes but abruptly ends as the trail deeps as dramatically as the bamboo gives way to a rain forest.

From boots to butts

Two metre drop into the Sasumua River

During the rainy season, the place can be serious slippery and many a hiker gives up using boots and reverts to butts. As the roar of the waterfall assaults your ears, the trail drops vertically 2.5 metres into the Sasumua River from where you make a short but exiting riverine walk up to the magnificent Ragia waterfall (waterfall 17)

Your camera comes handy on the centre rock.

Having closer look

Your journey back is as dramatic. Where gravity aided the descent it thwarts the ascent. Butts are replaced by knees and hands (sometimes ladies remember they haven’t paid the manicurist for the last visit). Once you get to the way leave, you decide whether to proceed to waterfall 18 or back to the gate.

The crossing

Getting There

Public means: From Nairobi, take Njabini matatus at the junction of Keekorock road and the Nation House roundabout. Alight at Njabini town. At the Njabini matatu stage you will easily negotiate for a Matatu to Sasumua.

Private means: Drive towards Njabini and take a right turn just before the river Sasumua bridge. Drive four kilometres to the forest gate.

Entry charges:

Category Charge (KSh)
Residents 200
Non Residents 600
Guide fees: 2,000 (every 10 pax or less)
Armed escort 3,000.
Camping

Guide

Local community organisation,

Kenya Forest Service

Make prior arrangement