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On God’s Mountain in central Kenya

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It rests quietly in central Kenya, just south of the equator, around 150 kilometers  north-northeast of the capital Nairobi. It is here where the Kikuyu god, Ngai, resides. It is in this awe-inspiring sight and one of the most impressive landscapes in East Africa, where the name of the country was derived. It has permanent glaciers and is a hotspot for climbing and hiking, attracting several thousand climbers both local and international annually. It could only be Mount Kenya.

An extinct volcano formed a couple of million years ago after the opening of the East African rift (an active continental rift zone in eastern Africa that appears to be a developing divergent tectonic plate boundary). At 5,199 m, Mount Kenya is the highest mountain in Kenya and the second highest peak in Africa after Kilimanjaro. The mountain, visible from skyscraper buildings in Nairobi and from Thika is best seen at the crack of dawn, when the day’s early light perambulating across the equally virtuoso African sky shadows its imposing summit high over the surrounding plains. The highest peaks of the mountain are characterized by steep, pyramidal peaks. Batian (5,199 metres), Nelion (5,188 metres) and Point Lenana (4,985 metres) are some of the peaks. These peaks have an Alpine appearance due to their craggy nature. The base of the mountain lies at some 5,250 feet (1,600 metres). At the 8,000-foot (2,440-metre) contour, the circumference is approximately 153 km. The mountain is located in the Mount Kenya National Park, which is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. Mount Kenya was the second of the three highest peaks in Africa to be seen for the first time by European explorers, with Dr Johann Ludwig Krapf, a German missionary the first European to see it in 1849. The first documented ascent of the mountain was by Sir Halford John Mackinders on 28 July 1899. The members of the expedition reportedly consisted of 66 Swahilis, 6 Europeans, 2 tall Maasai guides and 96 Kikuyu. The mountain has even a more important bearing to Kenya’s walk to independence. Kisoi Munayo (died in 2007) raised the Kenyan flag at the top of the mountain on Kenyan independence in 1963. The flora found on the mountain varies with altitude, aspect and exposure, but very little with seasons. Its ragged series of peaks are crowned with snow, and its slopes are thick with forest. The majority of animals live lower down on the slopes of the mountain. Here there is more vegetation and the climate is less extreme. Many species are endemic to Mount Kenya such as the lobelias, the senecios and the rock hyrax, while various species of monkeys, several antelopes, tree hyrax, porcupines and some larger animals such as elephant and buffalo all live in the forest. There is plenty of wildlife at the base of the mountain and plenty to discover, with a fascinating world of forests making the mountain interesting for trekking and climbing. Mount Kenya is popular with tourists as it presents a tranquil atmosphere for relaxation and game viewing. However, this popularity has contributed to the deterioration of the environment and the litter accumulation. Stakeholders need to create environmental awareness and educate climbers and those living around the mountain on the necessity to conserve the environment on the mountain, lest the serenity of the naturally-made spectacle be lost.

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