In Nairobi we’ll say farewell to those leaving and spend some time getting to know newbies before embarking on a 4-week tour. We’ll start with two excellent crags near Nairobi before driving north to Mountain Kenya for the grand finale - an attempt at Africa’s 2nd highest but surely most beautiful mountain.
First though, we’ll pop into The Mountaineering Club of Kenya for a boulder and a few beers at their Nairobi clubhouse. Occasionally, we get the opportunity to talk and climb with the most active local climbers, and the MCK is one of the most active clubs in Africa. They'll make sure we don't miss any gems and we'll be making every effort to help them out with developing their crags.
Just 30km outside Nairobi, Lukenya is deservedly one of our favourite crags anywhere. It consists of several outcrops up to 100m high, of just off-vertical granite. The climbing is solid, positive, airy and exciting, and offers everything from exposed V Diffs (5.4) to hard E4 trad routes. And there is great potential for more. On one previous trip, much to our terror, a couple of guys with bows and arrows marched up to our campsite at dusk.We proceeded to share a few beers and they demonstrated their not inconsiderable archery skills with us.
After spending more than a week ticking the classics of Lukenya, we’ll take a short drive into the heart of Maasai land to a crag called Frog. The rock at Frog (a crag first found and developed by a French expatriate) is somewhat like a bigger Burbage North with trade routes, sport routes, Maasai farmers and big game. Situated in a low fault valley with giraffe and zebra wandering around, we will base our camp near the crags.
There are over a hundred routes along the edge, from moderate to sport 8c’s, and there is the potential for quite a few more. So it’s time to crank up the Hilti and get new routing on the masses of compact sandstone. Great routes to aim for include ‘Sitini,’ a real 3* low-grade classic, and Rich Heap’s “Maasai Burning” which at Aus 28 is East Africa’s hardest sport route.
We will have 4-5 days to explore these cliffs and entirely burn our fingers out before heading north to the Mountain. Climbing Mount Kenya is a big undertaking and we will give ourselves plenty of time. We will base ourselves at the comfortable Timau River Lodge, an oasis of calm with log cabins, wandering peacocks and wonderful Indian food, perfect for gearing up for our attempt on the mountain. The eroded and jagged peaks of Batian and Nelion can only be reached by Severe (5.5) and above multi-pitch rock climbs such as the reasonable-grade but long Mackinders and North Face Standard routes.
For our alpinists, a number of Scottish grade IV-VII ice routes exist, including the simply stunning Diamond Couloir. July is rock-climbing season on one side of the mountain and ice-climbing season on the other so there will be something to suit all tastes. Climbs start from the comprehensive network of high altitude mountain huts, and successful summitry are rewarded by the out-of-this-world view from the top. Sat in snow on the equator having completed 30-odd pitches of challenging alpine-style climbing, looking over the savanna and deserts below is an unforgettable experience.
Besides the two main peaks of Mount Kenya, there are numerous outlying rocky peaks to be climbed by a variety of routes. From the top huts the trekking peak of Pt. Lenana at just under 5,000m can be reached, and many of the other surrounding peaks offer excellent climbing. Routes range from the easy 200m V Diffs on Point Peter, to ‘Slab and Tickle’ (HVS 5a) on Point Dutton which M19705 made the first ascent of in 2005, to the selection of bold traditional E4’s and E5’s on the headwalls of Chogoria Valley, first climbed by a British team in late 2004, to name just a few.
There is a choice of trails up the mountain, depending on the objective, that usually take 2-3 days. The comprehensive Mt. Kenya guidebook by lain Allan can be brought in most bookshops for further info, and we'll obviously have a copy in the truck library too Meeting up back at Timau River Lodge we will celebrate our successes (with a bit of luck), and head back to Nairobi for the final time.
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