Straddling the Kenya–Uganda border, Mount Elgon is hidden in clouds most of the time, its precise outline hard to discern. The name comes from the Maasai Ol Doinyo Ilgoon , meaning “Breast Mountain”, and, like Mount Kenya, it’s an extinct volcano, around whose jagged and much-eroded crater rim the flat-topped peaks crop up like stumpy fingers of an upturned hand. The two mountains are comparable in bulk, but Elgon is lower. It’s below the snowline and less precipitous, which is encouraging if the thought of tackling the “loneliest park in Kenya” was putting you off.
The highest of the peaks, Wagagai (4321m; there’s also nearby Little Wagagai, at 4298m), is across the caldera in Uganda, but the most evocatively shaped peaks (Sudek, 4176m; Lower Elgon, 4301m; Koitoboss, 4187m; and Endebess Bluff, 2563m) belong to Kenya. Part of the east side of the mountain is enclosed within the confines of Mount Elgon National Park. Outside this zone is a forest reserve, with some restrictions on movement owing to the presence of poachers, cattle rustlers, and the conflict between a local militia and the Kenyan armed forces (see Mayhem on Mount Elgon). The park itself, however, is open for business.