Words and photographs by Mwangi Kirubi At 3,470 metres high on the eastern slopes of Mt Kenya, Lake Ellis is the last accessible point by vehicle. In this photo essay, Mwarv shares his experience of a recent camping trip there.
1. Pack well. You’ll need to be entirely self-sufficient when camping at Lake Ellis. Embu is the last place you can buy supplies from if coming from Nairobi, or Meru if you’re coming from north of Mt Kenya.
2. The road from Chogoria to Mt Kenya National Park’s Marania / Chogoria Gate is murram and can be driven on by any car. Past the Gate, the road turns into a 4WD-only track up the mountain. You’ll need a 4×4 with good ground clearance to navigate the 7 km stretch to Lake Ellis, and a skilled driver to scale the last very rocky ascent to the campsite. The road isn’t well marked so get directions from any KWS Ranger at Chogoria Gate.
3. Temperatures constantly fluctuate during the day; you can be in a tee one minute and singing ‘Man’s Not Hot’ as you cling onto your winter gear the next. So pack clothes that allow you to layer up or down as desired. Avoid jeans as denim is a poor body heat retainer.
4. Carry lots of firewood to help you keep warm and keep conversations going during the night. When the fire dies down and sleep beckons, make sure you have a good sleeping bag and thermal wear to keep out the near-freezing temperatures and make the cold night more bearable.
5. That streak in the night sky is the International Space Station shuttling above Lake Ellis. Carry a sturdy tripod if you plan to shoot long exposures.
6. During the day, you can take a hike around the lake on the clear foot path, or just sit at camp and enjoy the unspoilt beauty that will have engulfed you. Clouds may cover your night sky in the early evening. But as the night progresses, they will most likely clear for amazing views of the Milky Way. The little heat the day might have held quickly gives way to temperatures that will call for extra firewood at the campfire.
This is as far up as one can drive on Mt Kenya. The views and crisp air at Lake Ellis make the tough journey there well worth it.