A few days drive on BiRT will take us south past the tribal lands of southern Ethiopia, into truly remote Samburu territory on the fringe of Kenya’s dusty Chalibi desert. Kenya - a safari paradise, a melting pot of cultures, Mount Kenya - the ultimate mountaineers' mountain, the insane chaos of Nairobi.
Our first encounter will be at the towering unclimbed 500m cliffs at Ololokwe and the nearby pinnacles of the Cat and Mouse, where the odd lion straying from the nearby Shaba game park has to be considered an objective climbing danger. We’ll spend a few days repeating the best of the established routes and perhaps adding a few more of our own. We may camp in a Samburu village and spend our evenings exchanging souvenirs and chatting with the friendly locals. Or maybe we’ll find a wild campsite in the middle of the bush, and enjoy our isolation as the crickets sing us to sleep each night.
The amount of time spent at different crags will be decided in what will become regular post meal votes. The expedition itinerary is very flexible and is ultimately decided upon by you. If people want to spend a few days longer (perhaps to work a project) or leave earlier than planned to get to another area, then this is always taken into account. After our exploits in the Samburu desert, we’ll head to Uganda, with it’s soaring tropical mountains and equatorial ice, gorillas, raging rivers and staggering granite outcrops. Our exploration of Kenyan rock will continue afterwards, hopefully avoiding the rainy season throughout East Africa.
Our first stop in Uganda, after a spectacular drive through the Rift Valley and the highlands of western Kenya, is Jinja. Hot, green and tropical, and situated at the very source of the White Nile, Jinja is the East African adrenaline capital. With 50m bungee jumps, jungle trails, horse-riding safaris, quad-biking, a beautiful campsite overlooking a waterfall and a bar that has become an overlanding institution, Jinja has it all. A day spent rafting the rapids on the White Nile will be an undisputed highlight of any trip.
A short drive from Jinja takes us into the heart of Kampala, the capital of Uganda, where we will spend a day or two relaxing in this quiet, thriving city. As we explore the crazy markets and narrow streets, we’ll stock up on supplies and gear up for some exploratory climbing at our next crag, Wajala. In the ‘60s and ‘70s Wajala was climbed on by the Kenyan Mountaineering Club and a small group of British expats living in Kampala, but more recently the crag has fallen into disuse.
An 80m granite dome on a high rocky plateau, there are some two-dozen routes for us to repeat before we begin climbing new lines and adding to the new routes book. While the granite may be a little dirtier than Yosemite, Wajala comes into its own as a new routing venue. Harder offerings abound, just waiting for a daring soul to take on the challenge on the smeary run-out granite slabs, and there is a scattering of bolted lines too, including ‘Lords Of Hot Rock’ that, at f7a, is Uganda’s hardest route!
We will set up a peaceful bush camp right next to the rocks, and spend a week or more here. It is in places like this that having our own expedition vehicle really gives us the freedom and independence to make the most of things. We have all the food, water and firewood on the truck to stay out in the desert for a week. We'll have the time to climb lots of classics and to find new routes, and we'll have the bolting gear to equip them if necessary. If we want to stay longer, the truck can even do a re-supply trip into Nakasangalo, the nearby village.
A week spent trekking in amongst the other worldly 'Mountains of the Moon' will be a memorable experience. Tropical in the lower reaches and glaciated (but for how much longer?) at altitude, its peaks dramatically topped by rocky ramparts, this mountain range is still largely untamed. Many of the summits, including Africa’s 3rd highest peak Mt Stanley (5109m), can only be reached by easy grade rock climbs, and there is a wealth of exploration waiting for someone to take it on.
If you prefer to stay in the sun and out of the snow, a day spent tracking the Mountain Gorillas is one of the greatest of all African experiences. It is thought that the last remaining 600 Mountain Gorillas live on the slopes of the Virungi volcanoes and in the Bwindi impenetrable forest that spans the borders between the DRC, Rwanda and Uganda. With a local guide armed with pangas to clear a path through the dense rainforests you can trek under the canopy to get your first glimpse of these beautiful docile creatures. It is not uncommon to be within an arms reach of them for up to an hour. Sitting a few feet away from a 180kg (400lb) male silverback is one of the most exhilarating things you can ever do.
We’ll camp in a small village peacefully situated on the shores of the lake. We’ll take boats out to Devil’s Island where we can deep-water solo scores of routes and boulder problems on the 10m crags that surround the island, and more than likely spend the hottest hours of the day plunging time and again into the African waters. On other days we can get our teeth stuck into some more new routing on the unbroken 12km stretch of 2-pitch crag that is not even 20 minutes walk from camp.
From Baringo we’ll drive south to Lake Naivasha, basing ourselves on the shore where hippos and colobus monkeys wander around and the dawn chorus is deafening! From this base, we can set off for the nearby Hell's Gate National Park. Probably one of the only game parks in the world that permits climbing inside, the 150m cracked volcanic walls at the Gate offer routes not un-similar to Devil's Tower in the U.S. Such classics as "Andromeda" 175m (VII-) and "Mr Olympia" 175m (VI+) give fine airy outings as well as the easier range of climbs on Fischer's Tower such as the "Groove" 45m (V+).
On rest days we can go and walk amid giraffes and zebra at the nearby Crater lake, take cream tea on Joy Adamsons lawn, take boats out onto the lake or simply relax in the campsite with the playful monkeys. A great place to enjoy before we continue south to Nairobi and the end of this stage.
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Africa Ethiopia Kenya Uganda Outdoor: Mountain Ranger Mountain/Rock Climbing Hiking & Trekking
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