|The Lewis glacier is the largest on Mount Kenya|
The glaciers on Mount Kenya are retreating rapidly. The Mountain Club of Kenya in Nairobi has photographs showing the mountain when it was first climbed in 1899, and again more recently, and the retreat of the glaciers is very evident. Descriptions of ascents of several of the peaks advise on the use of crampons, but now there is no ice to be found. There is no new snow to be found, even on the Lewis Glacier (the largest of them) in winter, so no new ice will be formed. It is predicted to be less than 30 years before there will no longer be ice on Mount Kenya. Glacial retreat and disappearance can be caused by change in temperature trends, or by change in precipitation trends.
The glacier names are (clockwise from the north):
- Northey, Krapf, Gregory, Lewis, Diamond, Darwin, Forel, Heim, Tyndall, Cesar, Josef.
Although Mount Kenya is on the equator the freezing nightly temperatures result in periglacial landforms. There is permafrost a few centimetres (inches) below the surface. Patterned ground is present at 3,400 m (11,155 ft) to the west of Mugi Hill. These mounds grow because of the repeated freezing and thawing of the ground drawing in more water. There are blockfields present around 4,000 m (13,123 ft) where the ground has cracked to form hexagons. Solifluction occurs when the night temperatures freeze the soil before it thaws again in the morning. This daily expansion and contraction of the soil prevents the establishment of vegetation.