Mt Longonot National Park is situated approximately 90km from Nairobi and provides a wonderful hiking opportunity for the hale and hearty. Labelled by Kenya Wildlife Service as “Sheer Adventure”, it certainly can feel like that as you traverse the narrow track around the rim with very little between you and a steep fall either down the mountain or into the crater.
Located near Naivasha in the Rift Valley Province and Central Kenya region, Mt Longonot covers an area of 52 square kilometres. It rises 643 metres from base (2146m above sea level) to summit (2789m).
It’s a fairly steep ascent for about 3km from the base to the crater rim – it was a volcano. You can then opt to circumnavigate the entire crater rim, which is approximately 7km, before descending back to the base. From the top you have expansive views of the Great Rift Valley and Lake Naivasha. Guides and porters are available upon request.
Being such an easy day trip from Nairobi, one sunny Saturday a group of us decided to go. It was the beginning of a training regime to prepare us for climbing Mt Kenya. I have decided that Mt Kenya will have to wait a while – my (un-) fitness level was embarrassingly revealed on Mt Longonot! On weekends Mt Longonot is a very popular outing for many Nairobians and we saw people of all ages running and walking on the mountain – elderly men, training athletes and a swarm of children participating in a sponsored activity. As a result the path up to the rim was almost like a highway and the first point you reach at the top was crowded. Fortunately most were simply climbing up to enjoy the view from that point and then descending.
As we had all day, and we figured 7 km wasn’t too far, we decided to take the track around the crater rim. I supposed that 7km was not too far on flat ground, and I supposed the crater rim would be somewhat flat. I was wrong on both counts. On the western side of Mt Longonot the rim rises sharply and it is a bit of a rocky scramble to get over it.
Stunning views are the reward for the slog – as you circumnavigate the crater you first see over Lake Naivasha and its surrounding flower farms to the west, then south and east towards Maasai Land and finally north to the Aberdares. My hiking buddy was Agnes and she told me that in years past, this was a place local Maasai men would come to throw themselves into the crater if life became too difficult to deal with.
The track up the mountain is also the only way down. It’s very sandy, and I could not say which direction is easier: two steps up resulted in one and a half steps down as you sink in the sand while one step down resulted in sliding down the equivalent of three steps and worrying about knee joints.
Perhaps I’ve painted an unfairly grim picture of this mountain, but please understand that my sedentary lifestyle means that mountain climbing isn’t awesome for me! My climbing companions loved it and couldn’t wait to do it again.
Photo by Wajahat Mahmood
Photo by mckaysavage