Climbing in Kenya has a long history and there are many wild and beautiful locations and routes for both beginners and experienced climbers alike. For a family-friendly climb, Mount Longonot is perfect. Kenya also offers excellent cragging and sport climbing. Here are some ideas for a day-out climbing.
Best of the volcano climbs is Mount Longonot. The mightiest of the Rift Valley volcanoes, Longonot towers some 2,776 metres above the waters of bewitching Lake Naivasha. Technically dormant, but better described as ‘senile’, Longonot is a relatively young volcano, having been formed within the last 400-600 years. And, while seemingly peaceful, only several thousand meters below its surface the ground water seethes at an incredible 304°C (one of the hottest temperatures on earth).
There is a well-defined track that leads, in around 45 minutes of steep scrambling, to the crater rim. The walk is about four kilometres from the car park to the rim, where you gain 700 metres in altitude. Once on top, the view is stunning. You can see both the distant Aberdares Range and the Mau Escarpment. Next you can strike off around the rim. For the shortest route from the crater rim to the summit, follow the rim in an anticlockwise direction for about 10 kilometres – it takes about three hours. The height of the summit is 2,776 metres so the air does get a little thin. A small plateau on the flank of the highest point makes for a spectacular picnic spot.
Longonot is perfect for adults and kids and anyone moderately fit can reach the rim. Longonot stands within its own national park, 90km northwest of Nairobi.
Rock climbing in Hell’s Gate National Park
You don’t need much, if any, rock-climbing experience to scale Fischer’s Tower, the main attraction in Hell’s Gate National Park. Simply pitch up, pay a very modest fee, and the climbing guide will fit you up with ropes, shoes and the other tricks of the trade. And then he/she will teach you how to climb this 25m-high jagged volcanic plug. Fischer’s Tower is all that remains of an ancient volcano, the rock is named after the German explorer, Gustav Fischer, who passed this way in 1883.
According to local Maasai tradition, the rock is the petrified figure of a chief’s daughter. She turned around, against the dictates of tradition, to take one last look at her home before leaving to be married.
Hell’s Gate also offers some excellent big wall traditional rock climbing for the more experienced climbers. Climbs include the Olympian, a well-protected 8-pitch 175m climb.
Hell’s Gate National Park is 100km (an hour and a half by road) north of Nairobi and immediately adjacent to Lake Naivasha.
The Elephant Rocks of Tsavo
Equidistant between Nairobi and the coast (275km from Nairobi), Tsavo is one of the largest national parks in the world. It also promises some excellent remote bush climbs such as Kichwa Tembo and The Elephant Rocks, both of which have documented routes ranging from 100 to 300m long.
Due to the presence of wildlife, especially lions, climbers must contact Kenya Wildlife Service to arrange for accompaniment by rangers.
According to the Mountain Club of Kenya, the most popular crag in Kenya is Lukenya, a group of cliffs located just 45 minutes south of Nairobi. The Club owns the land on which most of the cliffs are located. Access is free for members and arrangements can be made for visitors to get temporary or daily membership. Lukenya offers a variety of climbing routes including face climbs, some jamming cracks, and overhangs in difficulty ratings of up to E4 6b.
Find out more
For more information on climbing in Kenya, visit the Mountain Club of Kenya website: www.mck.or.ke
Note: the MCK is a members-run, non-profit club and does not offer guiding services directly.
Kenya Wildlife Service website: www.kws.go.ke
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