Aberdare Mountains



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Aberdare Mountains 3999m

This range forms a natural north-south barrier between Mt Kenya and Kikuyu country to the east, and the Rift Valley to the west, rarely dropping below 3000m over the entire 60km length. The steep western slopes over-looking the Rift Valley floor are a complete contrast to the eastern side where game-filled forests drop gently down to fertile cultivated foothills and valleys. The higher regions are moorlands covered by marshes, tussock grasses, heathers and small bushes; as a result, away from the main paths and game trails, the going is generally tedious.

Most of the area is a National Park subject to the normal enttry charges (see Mt Kenya section). It is generally open to walking in the moorland zones but it is best to inquire at Park HQ in Mweiga (tel. Mweiga 24) for any restrictions. The highest summit, Oldonyo Lesatima, or Satima (3999m), is approached most easily from the south-east; the alternative approach from the north involves tougher walking and the access is more difficult, though the fine, remote mountain scenery and unusual rock formations make this a rewarding trip. Kinangop (3906m) is located in the southern part of the range. The walk up to it from the south is rather tedious on account of extensive bamboo forest then pathless tussock grasses.

The world famous game-viewing lodges Treetops and The Ark are both found in forests on the east side of the range. Though very expensive they are well worth a visit. Camping is permitted at Park Gates and at recognised campsites (see map); it is best to obtain permission to camp elsewhere. Two huts provide very simple shelters; one is on the approach to Satima from the south, the other just below The Elephant. A pleasant, simple forestry rest house with campsite beside it provides a good base for the walk up to Kinangop; permission to use this facility for a nominal cost should be obtained from Forestry Department Offices in Nairobi. Under an overhang below the Western Twin there is a cave shelter (3400m). This provides a fine base for the ascent of Satima.

Access. Nyeri can be easily reached from Nairobi (147km). For the Wandare Gate, continue 20km north to Solio and turn left onto a sign posted dirt road leading in a further 13km to the gate (ignore the first sign-posted track left shortly after Mweiga which is poorer). The track climbs west through forests for 12km where it swings south and becomes level (3240m); at this point a steep track continues west and leads in 4.5km to a saddle (3600m) on the south ridge of Satima. 500m from the turn-off, at 3280m, there is a hut offering a basic shelter and a camp site.

To reach South Kinangop village take the more easterly road to Nakuru (the Uplands road) and just before the turn-off to Naivasha (150km) turn right to reach the village in a further 20km on tarmac. From the village take the Thika road for 2km to where it winds down to the Kiburu River bridge; 400m beyond this a turn left leads to the forest rest house.

From Nairobi drive to Nyahururu (185km). Take the Nyeri road for 5km before turning south onto a dirt road which leads to the Shamata Gate in 25km. From the gate it is possible to drive a further 10km towards Satima. Matatus and buses serve Nyeri, Naivasha and Nyahururu regularly. From these Sollo, South Kinangop and Shamata respectively can be reached by public transport. From Solio it may be possible to get a lift to the Wandare Gate. It is advisable to telephone. the park HQ for permission to walk up from the gate. Petrol and garage facilities at Nyeri, Naivasha and Nyahururu. Water is available at all park gates.

Oldonyo Lesatima from the south.
From the 3600m saddle, a path north for 750m, then north-west for 4km follows the ridge avoiding minor hilltops to their left; the last 500m leads from a rough flat hilltop (3880m) to a slight col (3850m) in 1h45. The next one km is rocky and leads over another slight col (3860m), then up a steep slope to the summit plateau, 30 rain.

The summit (3999m) lies 600m to the 5(10min). Allow an extra 1h30 if walking up from the hut/campsite. In descent, about 1h45 to the saddle, 2h30 to the hut.

Oldonyo Lesatima from the north. Gain the highest point accessible on the track 2km south-east of The Twins (3560m); 45mm walk from The Twins. Use buffalo trails to walk south-east and traverse, at about 3650m, to the head of a valley (draining west) below a west-facing cliff (2km, 45 mm). Continue south for one km till the ridge of cliffs ends (3720m). Now a broad, gentle ridge leads in 2km to a short, steeper step which leads south-east to the summit plateau (1h30). The summit lies 600m south (10min).

Kinangop from South Kinangop. From the Rest House (2550m) follow the track north then east for about 4km; the first 3km is driveable (1h4 5). At 2940m the track levels, turns SE and starts to drop; here there is a large clearing on the left which marks the start of the path up the ridge to The Elephant. Once on the ridge the path is well defined to the hut (3540m), which is just above the bamboo forest; no water (2h30). The 4 summits of The Elephant (3591m) now lie a short way north. Pass between the two west-most summits and drop down the other side for 200m, turn left down a steep gully then take the ridge north toward Kinangop. Keep on this, ignoring the main south ridge of the Kinangop which lies to the right (east). 3.5km from The Elephant, at 3700m, strike up right to join the south ridge (just below a volcanic outcrop) and follow it to the summit (3906m), 3h from the hut. Allow 4h back to the rest house.

Traverse of the watershed. 3 to 4 days should be allowed for this major walk. Animal trails can be found most of the way, generally following the main watershed ridge. In bad weather this would be a very serious undertaking on account of the cold and possible problems with route finding. If paths are not followed the going is quite tedious. Overhangs provide good shelters at various points; if found these could save carrying tents. All recorded traverses so far have been carried out from The Twins, over Satima and Table Mountain to the Mutubio Gate, then over the Kinangop and Elephant to South Kinangop. Limited water on route.

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The material here comes either from the existing "East Africa International Mountain Guide" of from "East Africa Mountains" to be published in 2000 by West Col Productions. Any suggestions or comments about the content are most welcome.
Copyright © 2000, EWP and West Col Productions.
Andrew Wielochowski 2/9/2014