21-08-2022 by Leni Frau
Whatever road you choose to take to climb Mount Kenya you will not be able to help but see lakes around you.
Not every Kenya lover knows that over 25 lakes dot the different views of the country's highest mountain.
Thanks to their remote location to the northeast of the massif, the "top four" Lake Alice, Lake Michaelson, Lake Ellis and Lake Rutundu offer enchanting scenery where you can enjoy a satisfying solitude and reserved for the few who venture.
Stories of romantic escapes of royalty to Lake Rutundu, former explorers along Lake Alice in search of mythological creatures and a natural whirlpool at Lake Michaelson make these non-small lakes even more fascinating.
The Rutundu, situated in a crater of the homonymous hills, is the fourth largest lake of Mount Kenya, is located at an altitude of 3100 meters and is the furthest from the summit. In 2010 this secluded paradise was chosen by Prince William and Kate Middleton during their holiday in Kenya. In the area, in addition to trekking, you can rent boats and try your hand at trout fishing.
In the morning the ground is frozen, but the sky is often clear. The fogs rise from the lake, obscuring the surface.
Leopards are said to be hiding in these morning haze as they return to their mountain dens after their hunting nights, and the legend of the region's first western explorers also tells of dwarf mountain lions with their well-tended manes wandering through these lands.
Rutundu is only eight kilometres south of the equator, which, together with its altitude, makes most days feel like summer, but the nights are very cold. The altitude implies that the weather can change rapidly and while the summit of Mount Kenya is visible at dawn, the clouds can precipitate suddenly, enveloping the valley in fog and rain, leaving drops on the thorns of the purple thistle.
The walk from Lake Rutundu is exhausting, but the spectacular view and the possibility to see darting trout can keep your mind happily busy. It is a mountain lake with crystal clear water, which offers excellent opportunities for fishing for the delicious lake fish.
Fishing from the shore is difficult, but three launch platforms facilitate the problem. A small rowboat is also available. The lake is very deep, which allows you to regularly catch fish weighing over two pounds. This, coupled with superb scenery and wide views of an endless African landscape, creates nothing less than a fishing paradise. Not only is fishing good, but it is an area of exceptional beauty and there is a good chance that you will see many wild animals nearby. Elephants have also often been seen up there and sometimes buffalos, zebras and kudus also climb.
When the weather allows it, it is a must to walk to Lake Alice. It is a couple of hours of walking through the giant heather, on a small winding path to the lip of the crater of Ithanguni, where it rests. From here, the frozen peak of Mount Kenya rises like a lighthouse in the distance, on the sapphire surface of the lake, broken only by the reflections of the passing clouds and by the shadows of the fishing eagles.
Perched in the Ithanguni Hill crater to the northeast of the main peak, Lake Alice is the largest lake on Mount Kenya.
The explorer Kenneth Gandar Dower, accompanied by Raymond Hook, discovered it in 1935 during his research of the mythical marozi or spotted lion (an extinct breed of lion adapted to existence in the mountains rather than in the savannah, a sort of hybrid between leopard and lion).
Pricipess Alice, Duchess of Glouchester (wife of the third son of King George V, Prince Henry) tried to climb Kenya the year before in 1934 but had to retire to 4300 because of the adverse weather conditions. The lake was named after him after his visit to the mountain and his marriage to Prince Henry that same year.
With the morning lights the reflection of this imposing peak on the calm surface of the lake's water goes through a magnificent transformation, with the first rays of the rising sun the highest rocks are wet, then it advances slowly and at the end the whole wall dives into it.
Lake Alice is therefore another beautiful mountain lake rich in trout and recognized as one of the best places for trout fishing in Kenya. Surrounded by exotic vegetation, such as the huge senecio and giant lobelia... The walk to Lake Alice is a real test of endurance, the last stretch to the edge of the crater is steep, but in a moment you forget the fatigue while the extraordinary blue of Lake Alice unfolds under you. The famous peaks of Batian, Nelion and Lenana form an extraordinary backdrop.
At the southern end of the lake there is a pebble beach and the descent is much easier. Be careful of the weather and the fact that once the sun disappears on the crest, the temperature drops abruptly.
Located below Mugi Hill, Lake Ellis is the third largest lake after Lake Alice and Lake Michaelson. It was named after Thomas Evelyn Scott Ellis, eighth Lord Howard de Walden (he was an English landowner, writer and patron) who accompanied Eric Dutton on his first visit to this lake in 1927. Today it has become a favourite destination for fishermen and a stopover for hikers on their way to the summit through Chogoria Park Gate.
Framed on one side by the 330 m high "Temple" and on the other side by an equally high wall, this beautiful lake at the mouth of the Nithi River is the second largest. The view of the highest peak of Mount Kenya from Lake Michaelson is certainly the most spectacular and privileged, while the view of the lake from the summit is something unforgettable. Halfor Mackinder (he was an English geographer, academic, political, considered one of the founding fathers of geopolitics and geostrategy) called him by the name of a friend of his with whom he shared the organization for the expedition that took place in 1899. The lake is over 70 meters deep and it is said that, fed by an underground river there is also a natural "jacuzzi".
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