Chasing the cat and mouse – rock climbing in Kenya…
By Dan Goodwin…
We have been busy developing areas for rock climbing in Kenya and establishing new climbs over recent weeks, and of course just enjoying being out in the wild. Rock climbing has been gaining popularity in Kenya with more and more interest over recent years. Many often think of rock climbing as the preserve of those like Alex Honnold who can be seen dangling by his finger tips over a perilous drop with no rope but in fact climbing is accessible to all. It also sometimes suffers from what’s described as perceived risk and actual risk. This means many see it as dangerous when in actual fact it can be very safe. Certainly at RVA we maintain a very high standard of safety. It is, without a doubt, far more dangerous to take a drive along the Thika highway than to scale a cliff in Northern Kenya!
Climbing doesn’t need to be about how strong or bold you are but much more about the spirit of adventure and just getting into the outdoors and enjoying it. Whether that’s on hard climbs or easy scrambles the main requirement is that you are keen to have a good time.
Ngare Ndare Forest
We first spent some time looking at the Ngare Ndare forest crag which is used the most by RVA clients. We updated the existing bolts with Petzl’s new removable Couer Pulse bolts. RVA has always kept its eye on the latest developments in climbing safety adopting the latest in technology and safety developments as they happen. We added numerous new lines making the crag suited to a wide range of groups. The newest addition is the School house area which offers a nice selection of easier climbs suited to groups visiting who are new to the sport and can get a good friendly introduction to climbing and for those that take to it right away, you can just move right onto the main wall and test your skills on the harder climbs.
Sabache – the old man of the mountain and a cat and a mouse…
Once we had completed that and some free days presented themselves we turned our attention to what lies further North in the Ololokwe area. This area lies around Ololokwe which is a mountain that RVA have used for many trekking and camping trips but over recent years there has been more and more interest in the rock climbing possibilities here. This is testament to the growing interest in climbing in Kenya. The North home to Ololokwe, the Mathews and Ndoto Ranges offer a huge amount of rock and adventure climbing. We headed North with a loaded land cruiser full of equipment and keen instructors heading past Isiolo and Archers post to where things get hot and the crags large. It has a very wild feel to it and is a venue true to the phrase ‘adventure climbing’. We set up camp in the valley below the main track to Ololokwe’s summit – a path we have all trodden many times but this time we were looking for something a little different, which we certainly found.
First up we looked at a recently developed area known as Animal Farm, a crag which sits above the campsite and gives numerous climbs of all grades. All well bolted and on sound rock we were able to work along the wall enjoying the climbing. We added a couple of fun abseils coming off the top of the wall and giving airy views out across the plains beyond.
From the road from Archers and off to the right sits two very eye-catching towers known as the Cat and Mouse. This had always been something we had wanted to take a closer look and now was the time to do so. There are some hard climbs on here which where established recently by visiting rockstar Alex Honnold. As is often the way climbers come and explore new areas paving the way for further climbs and exploration. We headed out along the track through dense bush to a point where vehicles have to be swapped for feet to get any further. With some bushwhacking we found the base of the wall and edged our way round linking up numerous ledges, chimneys, short scrambles and awkward steps to gain the top slabs which put us on the summit of the Cat. A real adventure day out with all sorts of obstacles and decision making to be done. With some well earned nyama choma we finished our adventure and returned to the cooler climbs of Laikipia.
Rock Climbing in Kenya
With the creation of two climbing walls one in Nairobi and one at RVA’s office site and a variety of climbing venues getting attention across the country the future is looking bright for Kenyan climbing. Kenya has it all with bouldering, sport (bolted) climbing, single and multi pitch crags and the giant big walls of Ololokwe and Mt Poi in the Ndoto (dream in Swahili) mountains.
RVA certainly looks forward to a bright future of introducing many more to the delights of Kenyan climbing and our new developments for those who want to try and develop their current climbing skills or just have a great day of adventure in the wild.