Saturday, July 2, 2011

Peaks of Mount Kenya

Mount Kenya was a stratovolcano and probably looked similar to Mt. Fuji
Mount Kenya is a stratovolcano that was active in the Plio-Pleistocene. The original crater was probably over 6,000 m (19,700 ft) high; higher than Kilimanjaro. Since it became extinct there have been two major periods of glaciation, which are shown by two main rings of moraines below the glaciers. The lowest moraine is found at around 3,300 m (10,800 ft). Today the glaciers reach no lower than 4,650 m (15,260 ft). After studying the moraines, Gregory put forward the theory that at one time the whole summit of the mountain was covered with an ice cap, and it was this that eroded the peaks to how they are today.

The lower slopes of the mountain have never been glaciated. They are now mainly cultivated and forested. They are distinguished by steep-sided V-shaped valleys with many tributaries. Higher up the mountain, in the area that is now moorland, the valleys become U-shaped and shallower with flatter bottoms. These were created by glaciation.

When Mount Kenya was active there was some satellite activity. The north-eastern side of the mountain has many old volcanic plugs and craters. The largest of these, Ithanguni, even had its own ice cap when the main peaks were covered in ice. This can be seen by the smoothed summit of the peak. Circular hills with steep sides are also frequent in this area, which are probably the remains of small plugged vents. However, as the remaining mountain is roughly symmetrical, most of the activity must have occurred at the central plug.

The rocks that form Mount Kenya are mainly basalts, rhomb porphyrites, phonolites, kenytes and trachytes. Kenyte was first reported by Gregory in 1900 following his study of the geology of Mount Kenya.

The geology of the Mount Kenya area was first proposed to the Western Community by Joseph Thomson in 1883. He saw the mountain from the nearby Laikipia Plateau and wrote that it was an extinct volcano with the plug exposed. However, as he had only seen the mountain from a distance his description was not widely believed in Europe, particularly after 1887 when Teleki and von Höhnel ascended the mountain and described what they considered to be the crater. In 1893 Gregory's expedition reached the Lewis Glacier at 5,000 m (16,400 ft). He confirmed that the volcano was extinct and that there were glaciers present. The first thorough survey by Europeans was not undertaken until 1966.

Name Reason for naming Named by Date named
Batian Named after Mbatian, the chief medicine man (Laibon) of Maasai when Europeans first discovered Maasailand. Mackinder 1899
Nelion Named after Nelieng, the brother of Mbatian Mackinder 1899
Pt Lenana Named after Lenana, the second son of Mbatian and next chief medicine man. Lenana was the medicine man at the time of first ascent of Batian. Mackinder 1899
Coryndon Peak Named after Sir Robert Coryndon, the Governor of Kenya Colony between 1922 and 1925.

Pt Piggott Named after J. R. W. Piggott, the administrator of British East Africa in 1893. He assisted Gregory's expedition to Mount Kenya. Gregory by 1900
Pt Thomson Named after Joseph Thomson, who, in 1863, confirmed Krapf's claim of the existence of Mount Kenya. Mackinder by 1900
Pt Dutton E. A. T Dutton explored the mountain.

Pt John Named by a Scottish missionary after the disciple. Arthur
Pt Melhuish Named after J. D. Melhuish, who was responsible for most of the first maps and photographs of the mountain. Arthur
Krapf Rognon Named after Dr Krapf, who was the first European to see the mountain in 1849. Mackinder
Pt Peter Named by a Scottish missionary after the disciple. Arthur
Pt Slade Named after Humphrey Slade who explored the moorland zone of Mount Kenya. He possibly also made the first ascent of Sendeyo.

Terere Named after Terere, a Maasai laibon. Mackinder 1899
Sendeyo Named after Sendeyo, the eldest son of Mbatian and brother of Lenana. Mackinder 1899
Midget Peak

The Hat

Delamere Peak Named after Rt. Hon. Lord Delamere, who was one of the early explorers of East Africa. He arrived in Kenya Colony in 1897. Melhuish and Dutton
Macmillan Peak Named after Sir Northrup Macmillan, an early pioneer. Melhuish and Dutton
Grigg Peak Named after Lieut-Col. Sit Edward Grigg, who was the Governor of Kenya Colony from 1925. Arthur
Höhnel Peak (The Castle) Named after Lieut. Ludwig von Höhnel, who was the cartographer on Teleki's expedition to the mountain. When he drew the mountain from the Ndoro, to the south, he clearly marked this peak, so Gregory named it after him. Gregory by 1894
Arthur's Seat Named after Rev. J. W. Arthur, who made several attempts to reach the summit. Melhuish
Sommerfelt Peak Named after G. A. Sommerfelt, who climbed Batian with Shipton and Harris on 8 January 1929. Dutton
Three Sisters Named for their appearance. "Three slim columns of rock separated from each other by the merest cracks." Melhuish and Dutton
The Tooth Named for its appearance. Melhuish and Dutton
The Castle (Höhnel Peak)

Gate of Mists Named for its physical appearance, and because "Kenya" is a corruption of the Maasai word for "mist". Mackinder 1899
Shipton Peak Named after E. E. Shipton, who made the first ascent of Nelion and second ascent of Batian in 1929. Dutton
Grand and Petit Gendarmes Named for their physical appearance. Shipton and Tilman 1930
Tilman Peak Named after Tilman, who made many climbs with Shipton in 1930.

Pt John Minor

Thomson's Flake

Western Terminal

Eastern Terminal



Giants Billiards Table (also known as Kilingo) Visually the mountain is very flat topped. Name mentioned on Mackinder's 1900 map by 1900
Kilingo (also known as Giants Billiards Table)

Mugi Hill

by 1926
The Barrow


East Mountain (later renamed Ithanguni)
Mackinder 1899
Highland Castle


The Twins Photographed (and potentially named) by Melhuish.

The central peaks of Mount Kenya are volcanic plugs that have resisted glacial erosion.


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