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Expedition, first Ascents and rains in Kenya

Clients taking in the enormity of the African bush on a climbing expedition in Northern Kenya

As we left home in Inverness Storm Babet was about to make landfall bringing with it strong wind and rain. Making our way to Kenya we felt rater smug making a break from the weather to what we thought would be warm sunshine and hot rock. However the El Niño driven rains had other ideas and as we arrived in Kenya we where met with heavy rain. After the prolonged drought though its most welcome, however the amount combined with hitting the hard dry land has led to quite a bit of flooding. Where we have spent a lot of time over the years climbing is Samburu, their annual rainfall is approximately 220ml of rain where 330ml fell in just three days this November. This has made getting about quite tricky however we have managed to get plenty done and its great to be back of course to see the Rift Valley Adventures team and be on familiar ground.

Myself casting off on the vast amount of good quality climbing in Laikipia

We had the first rock foundation course soon after arriving and delivered at the old faithful Ngare Ndare crag and the Nanyuki climbing gym. Five days of effectively becoming a second along with a few other areas covered but this course had a major highlight for me an expedition!! When I first started working in the outdoor industry at Outward Bound Scotland the ‘exped’ was a staple part of an outdoor week and much preferred by me as I wasn’t very good at the barrels and planks stuff and just wanted to be out in the hills. Expeditions have remained something I really enjoy and have on this continent enjoyed them from the Lower Zambezi in Zimbabwe to the Simians in Ethiopia Northern Kenya though seems to offer endless expedition possibilities.

So when given the opportunity to combine a Landcruiser loaded with climbing gear, my fiancee and some willing participants and the wild open country of Laikipia then it couldn’t really get any better!!

There are a world of crags dotted across Laikipia, a very wild and unspoilt landscape rich with wildlife and Masai communities moving about as they have since the beginning. All of whom I would think are pretty grateful for the rainfall with the area suffering from a prolonged drought. After a good solid five day course based out of RVA’s camp in Ethi it was great to then transfer those skills onto first ascents, not something you often get to do. Certainly a good way to cement the learning.

Heading out early doors it was lightly raining which felt a bit like home but this soon gave way to blazing sunshine and the tracks quickly drying out. Winding though the bush and open plains past Masai herders armed with spears and umbrellas we made our way to Hassan’s crag. I have no idea who Hassan is or why he has a crag named after him but its a great crag in a superb situation.

Jo topping out at Hassans on another FA with the group

This superb buttress had only a couple of harder sport lines on it which gave us plenty of options in the lower grades to guide and continue developing peoples skills on. We edged away from the steeper sport climbs to the right and picked a line along with Jo and up we went. We then continued in that vein for the rest of the day. Always topping out to the magnificent huge views in all directions giving the classic vision of the African bush. Semi arid Acacia studded landscapes with lots of granite copies sticking up and stretching out as far as the eye can see. I often find it hard to take a photo of this as you can never really capture the vast scale of it.

Hassans crag, note the round traditional Masai Bomas in the landscape, a thorny round circle to keep their cattle safe from Lions

Plenty of wildlife signs with a lots of elephant dung around and even some trumpeting not that far away. A troop of Baboons circled us at the crag waiting for us to leave and making large barking noises as we headed towards dusk, perhaps their way of asking us to leave now. The crag by night is they're turf as it offers a sanctuary from becoming a big cats dinner. This offers up a new set of risks to negotiate with wildlife both mammal and reptile to think about, you certainly look carefully when dipping your hands in cracks here. After a good night at the camp we had an explore of the numerous boulders and crags set around the camp refreshing skills and having a climb. From there the long road back into Nanuyuki and for the group back to work on exercise. Leaving us to head to the nearest cafe for coffee and cake before the inevitable ‘degunge’ as it was known at Outward Bound and get things turnaround ready for the next adventure.

Jo enjoying fine rock at the Lukenya crags south of Nairobi

We have also managed a few climbs ourselves both at Lukenya a crag I had not visited before despite it perhaps being one of the most established crags in Kenya along with Naivasha which we also went to. The Lukenya crags situated just a few miles south of the capital Nairobi offer a huge amount of climbing. Owned by the Mountain Club of Kenya this ridge of land has hundreds of climbs both sport and trad and of very good quality. Well worth a visit if you're in the area or based in Nairobi as it takes less than an hour to reach.

Outside our usual Banda at Fishermans Camp Naivasha with Hippos coming into graze

Naivasha one of the soda lakes that sit in the Great Rift Valley offers another great venue with plenty of established climbs within the Hells Gate national park. We made what seems to be our annual pilgrimage to the cracks and towers in the park and to our usual banda at Fishermans camp. We managed a good days climbing in the park but the rain stopped play. It seemed like the rains had arrived big time with flooding occurring in various places as the rain fell. It's kept falling since, although its made things quite tricky the transformation on the ground has been stunning with the area turning a lush almost luminous green. I am sure in a few weeks there will be an explosion of fruit and vegetables in the markets.

Peter heading down in 'Minty' Canyon in the currently very lush Ngare Ndare Forest

There has also been some staff training and development up at the main camp in Ethi. Looking at the systems and venues used and also trying to adapt to the weather to allow for adventure training to keep going through the rains. Which we have successfully managed to and things have kept going. It's always great to get out with the team and explore, despite being in the forest for the last decade it still throws up new ways of working and new activities to discover. We spent some time looking in one of the other more easily accessible canyons ‘Minty’ Canyon which as the name suggests has wild lovely smelling mint growing in it.

Delivering rock skills with what was to be the last of sunshine for a while

We have a couple more rock foundation weeks to deliver before a return to the Scottish winter so we shall be making the most of all available dry rock and trying to return with a tan! The film posted below is part 1 of 2 giving hopefully a little insight and inspiration for climbing in Kenya.

It looks like the winter is arriving in earnest at home which in a couple of weeks we will be back home in the Highlands. We still have a few places on winter courses available so feel free to get in touch to make a booking. Have a look at the winter page here for some inspiration and ideas on what courses are on offer.

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