Mount Kenya is a high altitude mountain. Therefore, proper equipment is vital to a safe and enjoyable climb.
The list below is the minimum I would recommend anybody spending a night or more above 3,000m.
Even with porters to carry their daypacks, every climber should carry some basic equipment with them at all times, including a rain gear, a spare jersey, food, water and a first aid kit in case any emergency situation arises.
FOOTWEAR: Mountain boots, though not essential, will make the walk far more pleasant and keep the feet much warmer on the final ascent which is usually done by night to Point Lenana. Additionally, they will give proper protection to ankles and feet on the descent. Light weight walking boots made with a Nylon or Gore-Tex fabric are excellent. Trainers with high ankle protection adequate. Light weight trainers are useful around the camp. Several pairs of thin wool or wool/synthetic mix socks are better than one pair of thick ones. Try to avoid Nylon or Cotton socks. In order to keep feet dry on the first day, try placing a poly bag in between your layers of socks before putting on the boots.
UPPER & LOWER BODY UNDERWEAR: Thermal underwear e.g. “Polypro” as sold in Europe is ideal. Some types of tracksuit bottoms and tops are okay. Again try avoiding cotton material except possibly on the first day walk as they dry slowly and sweat from the body tends to keep them damp. Polypro “wicks” moisture away from the skin.
SHIRTS & TROUSERS: The specialized synthetics that are now sold overseas are the best, though wool trousers and shirts are almost as good if they are kept dry. Breeches and salopettes are favored by professionals over normal trousers as movement is unrestricted and because of their specialized condition, body ventilation can better be controlled by the wearer. Two thin woolen jerseys are better than a single thick one, though again the modern fiber pile jackets are probable best of all. A down parka is a real luxury to have around the camp.
HEADGEAR: Up to 30% of your body’s heat loss can be through the head and neck area, thus the saying – “If your feet are cold, put on a hat,” is worth noting. A woolen/fiber pile balaclava and a neck scarf are invaluable in helping to keep warm. On the walk up a wide brimmed bush hat will help stop sunburn to the face and lips. Using sunglasses or snow goggles above 3,000m, even in cloudy conditions will help reduce the likelihood of headaches. On snow they are MANDATORY.
HANDS: Gloves or better still mitts, though less important than a balaclava, play an important role in keeping one comfortable and warm in the evenings and early mornings.
RAIN GEAR: Though the weather may be superb, (it usually mostly is), when setting out, it could easily be raining or snowing heavily a couple of hours later on. The dangers of hypothermia, from getting chilled from the rain, sleet and wind can be minimized by using a cajole or waterproof/goretex jacket or trousers.
SLEEPING BAG: Night time temperatures at 14,000’ are often at -10˚C, thus a down or fiberfill sleeping bag, rated to “3 seasons” or better is required. Lately due to the reconditioning of the huts, most have been equipped with mattresses and one with hot water system so an under-body sleeping pad is not needed. However, for the campers, it is mandatory; preferably a Thermo-a-rest or Karrimat.
RUCKSACK: With or without a frame is usually a matter of personal choice. If carrying your own gear, one with a capacity of 65 liters or so will be required. Porters will either carry your pack or you hire one to use, for unlike Kilimanjaro, they do not carry gear on their heads. A day pack of 20liters capacity is recommended for personal effects such as cameras and waterproofs. All gear, whether or not carried by porters is best put inside strong polythene bags, so there is less possibility of getting wet when it rains.
FIRST AID: This will be covered in an article on Mountain Medicine
OTHER USEFULL EQUIPMENT: Gaiters to keep snow or stones out of the boots. Spare socks, shirts and trousers. Torch, camera, film and water bottles. Small towel and washing kit. Plastic bags, map, compass, ski poles.
(For more information contact the Senior Guide Paul on firstname.lastname@example.org)