A cloud covered mountain ridge towers far above. Elephant Hill peeks in all it’s glory for a moment before the clouds cover it back again. The ever so green forestry glides down its slopes. Above the trees around us, the horizontally striped, sweeping pinnacles of the mountain loom high above. I spin around, view after view taking my breath away in a 360° panorama that is truly one of the most spectacular yet familiar landscape I have ever seen.
We are at what can only be described as a Kenyan winter. This weather will have you wanting to hibernate all season with inside games, lots of baking, and (way) too much screen time. Finding the motivation to get everything together for outdoor activities can be daunting. Maybe you’ve shied away from hiking in the past because it seems like such as hassle. Between dealing with bugs and returning home with muddy shoes, who has the time? I DO!
I’ve been to a handful of hikes but none of them comes close to the experience I had trekking Elephant Hill Aberdares in Njambini. It was after the hike that my friend, Danny, told me that expert hikers use this summit as a test run for challenging climbs like Mt Kenya and Mt Kilimanjaro. Elephant Hill is a part of the Aberdare slopes, a major supplier of fruits and vegetables to Nairobi. The area is already on high slopes so the summit will have you going higher in altitude.
The trek starts at Njabini Forest Gate. The terrain has a footpath leading to the different zones of the mountains. There’s the mushy trail to the bamboo forest that leads to the rocky hills in the Alpine zone before getting to the summit. The trek rates as moderate to difficult and takes about 7 hours. You need to be reasonably fit to do the Elephant Hill summit. This trek was organized by HikeManiak.
The group leaders started us out with full body stretches. It was a cold morning and it looked like it was going to rain. Everyone was dressed heavily prepared for a downpour and backpacks strictly carrying the essentials: 3 litres water, heavy snacks and fruits. Then we began the walk up to the gate leading to the starting point.
It is important to keep on sipping on water. Water helps you adjust to the change in altitude. Please remember to move at your own pace.
The Bamboo trail is the longest, but not the most difficult. Every time the wind blew the trees would clash together making me stop dead in my tracks. Keep in mind that the mountain is well known for Aberdare forest elephants.
We did encounter fresh elephant droppings on our way, but no one sighted any elephants.
POINT OF DESPAIR
True to it’s name, this rocky terrain will have you calling out to your ancestors for a Redbull and a massage. Here is where granola bars and dates come in handy. This point, in my opinion, is the most difficult level of the trek, but the view is amazing.
The rocks are slippery and steep, and you are immersed into the clouds, but you get the view of the township way down below.
THE TAIL & SUMMIT
The tail is the last stretch to the summit. It’s a relaxed trek yet windy, crisp and frosty. A great push to the prized summit.
There is a great feeling of pride and strength that overcomes you once you make it to the summit after such a gritty ascend. It is amazing.
At the summit you can spot the unfortunate crash site of FlySax.
GEAR YOU NEED FOR ELEPHANT HILL
- Sturdy hiking boots. You need sturdy high ankle hiking boots for proper grip. Make sure your hiking boots can stand up to rocky terrain and muddy paths.
- Layer up! It’s best to wear long sleeves, pants and waterproof clothing in addition to insect repellent. You’ll just want to take precautions and stay on trails.
WHAT TO PACK FOR ELEPHANT HILL
Less is more. Here are some essentials for this trek
- At least 3 litres of water.
- Snacks like oranges, sandwiches, granola bars, nuts, biltong, or trail mix.
- Gloves and warm hats.
- Head light
- Match stick
- A change of clothes in your day bag