Rock climbing in Kenya makes for a memorable experience. You get to climb in amazing locations with stunning views and an opportunity to intimately experience the Kenyan wildlife and outdoors.
It also gives you an opportunity to climb and interact with members of a small but growing climbing community and enables you engage with friendly local communities in the climbing areas you visit.
Here are some 3 things you must know before rock climbing in Kenya:
1. Rock Climbing In Kenya Has A Rich History
Climbing in Kenya has a long history and it is more than 100 years since Halford Mackinder did his amazing first ascent of Batian, the highest summit of Mount Kenya. Over the last 50-60 years, the Mountain Club of Kenya (MCK) has made huge strides in the exploration, development and documentation of Mountains and crags in Kenya. Some of the major players included Eric Shipton, D. Cheesmond, P. Wyn-Harris, R. Tillman, A. Firmin, M. Harris, R. Caulkwell, P Snyder, Ian Howell and Iain Allan.
Most recently, the MCK has developed and facilitated access to new climbing areas like Baboon Cliff in the Lukenya, Ndarua stadium and bolting at Kilimwana/Mavoloni, which has opened up more climbing options for rock climbers.
Although rock climbing has been present in Kenya for over a century, the rock-climbing community is almost exclusive to expatriates and climbing tourists. To enable more local Kenyans play an active part in contributing to Kenya’s rich climbing history and it’s promising bright future, Climbing Life Kenya, an initiative by local Kenyans who are passionate about promoting rock climbing and contributing to its growth in Kenya, is reaching out to local Kenyans and creating an inviting and welcoming space where they can connect with rock climbing.
2. There Are Numerous Rock Climbing Destinations In Kenya
Kenya offers a diversity of rock-climbing opportunities. From classic trad climbing and four-meter-high boulders in Lukenya, crack climbing at Hell’s Gate National Park, 700m high icy big walls on the Mt. Kenya massif to remote big wall climbing at Mt. Ololokwe. Though there are a number of bolted climbs in most of these locations, the style that will get you the furthest is trad climbing given most established routes can be protected this way.
Kenya boasts of over 1,241 established routes. Majority of the routes (over 813 routes) are traditional climbing routes, with about 43 sport climbing routes and 170 boulder problems. There are also about 25 top rope climbing routes that have been set up in the Laikipia East area. Climbers are guaranteed that there’s something for everybody to enjoy.
There are also indoor climbing gyms in Nairobi (Climb Bluesky) and in Nanyuki (Mt. Kenya Climb) which provide training opportunities for rock climbers in Kenya.
Below are a few areas to give you an overview of the rock types and styles of climbing in Kenya:
Lukenya Ridge: This is an outcrop of gneiss origin, composed of quartz, alkali-feldspar and mica arranged in parallel layers. The climbing is characterized by slabs and walls with small holds. Most of the established routes are traditional climbing routes. The sport climbing routes often have crimpy starts, with some juggy flakes. There are also numerous bouldering problems to be enjoyed by climbers of all skill levels.
Hell’s Gate National Park: In the heart of the Rift Valley lies Hell’s Gate. Being surrounded by towering cliffs with rock towers and gorges in between makes it a climbers’ playground. Climbers can enjoy thrilling multi-pitch climbing on Main Wall, which is the biggest cliff near Nairobi, crack climbing at Entrance Wall and some easy fun climbing on the imposing Fischer's Tower.
Mt Kenya: Mt. Kenya offers high altitude climbing on volcanic cliffs formed from the hard core or plug of a volcano, as well as towers, all made of basalt with some obsidian occasionally mixed in it. There is excellent rock and ice climbing of a high standard to the twin summit peaks of Batian (5,199 m) and Nelion (5,188 m).
There are many more rock-climbing areas that can be found on thecrag.com.
A lot of climbing in Kenya is yet to be explored. If interested, you can contribute to the development and documentation of new crags with the guidance of MCK bolting and grading policies.
3. The General Good Weather In Kenya Allows For Rock Climbing All Year Round
Climbing on Mt Kenya, however, is seasonal and is based on the position of the sun in relation to North or South facing routes. Northern facing rock routes are in season between June and October while South facing rock routes are in season from Christmas to mid-March. Climbing is rare in the months between these seasons due to heavy rain and snowfall.
Oh, And One More Thing…
Here are some great tips to take into consideration when planning your rock climbing excursion or expedition:
Most rock climbing in Kenya is in remote areas of the country. Being a self-sufficient climber who is conversant with self-rescue practices is critical to ensuring a great rock climbing experience in Kenya. It is also important to have evacuation and healthcare covers.
A 4WD vehicle is the best option when travelling to the remote rock-climbing areas as it will make the less accessible areas more accessible.
Single-use plastics are banned in all protected areas in Kenya, that includes national parks, beaches, forests and conservation areas. So, do not carry any with you when venturing to your rock climbing destination! Remember to play your part in conserving our wildlife and outdoor areas by practicing Leave No Trace principles.
Camping is the most practical accommodation option in most rock climbing areas. Prepare accordingly.
There is a very limited selection of climbing gear in Kenya. The options available for purchasing new gear is Decathlon in Nairobi or by asking someone coming into Kenya from abroad to bring you what you need. Used climbing gear can be sourced from other climbers leaving Kenya and who may be selling on their equipment here. Due caution must however be exercised when purchasing second hand climbing equipment.