Welcome to the Mountain Club of Kenya

The Mountain Club of Kenya is a non-profit members club for people enjoying the outdoors in Kenya and beyond. Members get together to hike, rock climb, and scale mountains.

Join us for trips outdoors, or to one of our social events on the second and last Tuesdays of the month in Nairobi. See the upcoming meets here.

Remembering John Temple

John Temple, May 2015, by Arshad Khan

Former MCK member John Temple passed away in the UK on New Years Eve, after a battle with cancer. John was in his 80s. Iain Allen writes: “John was a major MCK contributor during the 70s, 80s and 90s, and spent a great deal of time on Mount Kenya, making the first ascents (with Ian Howell) of the Diamond Buttress Original Route, and the Northern Slabs Route, both on Batian. John also did many first ascents of bush climbs in Kenya’s remote regions. On Kilimanjaro, John made the first ascents of the Breach Wall East End (with Tony Charlton) and the Breach Wall Balletto Icefield (with Dave Cheesmond).” In addition to his many climbing accomplishments, John is also remembered for his heroic rescue of an injured climber from Shipton’s Notch on Mt. Kenya.

MCK is indebted to John for his contributions to climbing in Kenya and we are deeply saddened by the loss. Our condolences to all of John’s family and friends. If you would like to leave a tribute or remembrance for John, please do so here:

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2 entries.
Arshad Khan from Nairobi wrote on January 26, 2019:
Although I knew John from way back it wasn't until 2009 that I really climbed with him and noticed how fit and competent he was on the rock despite being 75 years old! We climbed that summer in North Wales, with Andrew Wielochowski and my son Sahir, and later in September in the Gran Paradiso, Italy, whilst celebrating his birthday at the Rifugio Pontese.

I remember us two putting up a new route, which he recorded in the hut journal and afterwards sitting out side the hut he would exclaim..."Isn't life wonderful!!"

Rest in peace, John!

(p.s. the profile picture was taken in Sept 2009 during the new climb, not May 2015).
Derek Buckle from Redhill, UK wrote on January 25, 2019:
I have known and climbed with John for well over 25 years since his return to the UK from Africa and he was a constant source of inspiration to me and many others. Being 10 years older, he was my role model during all of this time. John was an adventurous individual, always seeking out new routes, new climbing opportunities and new places to visit. When I retired some 22 years ago John whisked me off to climb on Mount Kenya within one month of my leaving work. We never really looked back and it was a wonderful opportunity. Subsequently we went to the European Alps, to Nepal and then to the Georgian Caucasus, where John eventually realised that his days of high altitude mountaineering were nearing an end. It did not stop him climbing, however, or of going to the lower mountains of the Alps and Kazakhstan. Fortunately I managed to visit John in hospital two weeks prior to his death. He was in remarkably good spirits, despite clearly being ill. He knew that he would not be returning home, but I like to think that our reminiscences helped to sustain him during his final days. He will be sadly missed by me and many others. Derek Buckle

Tribute to Ian Howell

Ian Howell on Mt Kenya; by Terry Burke (June 20th 1987)

Ian Howell on Mt Kenya; by Terry Burke (June 20th 1987)

It is with heavy hearts that we inform you that Ian Howell has passed away surrounded by family on November 26, 2018 in Bath, UK at the well-earned age of 82.

Ian pioneered many climbing routes in Kenya, including at Lukenya, Hell’s Gate, and Mt. Kenya. Astonishingly, he single-handedly built the bivouac hut on the summit of Nelion, in the process completing 13 solo ascents of Nelion in a few week period of 1970.

Longtime climbing partner Iain Allan writes: “He was a climbing force, such as we’ve never witnessed here before… I was privileged to share so many of these climbs with him.” Ian’s impact on Kenyan climbing was enormous and will continue to be felt for generations to come.

We are deeply indebted to Ian for his contributions to climbing in the country, and saddened by the loss to his family, his friends, and the MCK Community.

Please feel free to share stories or testimonies about Ian Howell below. We will keep this page on the MCK website.

 

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Two Girls, Two Days: A Mt. Kenya Climb

Bingaman and Marohasy at Vivienne Falls on the Chogoria Route up Mt. Kenya on Day 1 of their two-day summit push.

MCK members, Lindsay Bingaman and Caroline Marohasy, summited Mt. Kenya’s Point Lenana via the Chogoria Route in just two days this past July, without guides or porters. Lindsay wrote about the trip beta, shenanigans they got into, and other insights in a three-part blog post, with the hope that their story will inspire other women to pursue their outdoor adventure goals, and / or provide advice to those looking to follow a similar route on Mt. Kenya. Read their amazing story here:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3 

Running (and Hiking) Hot: Mt. Suswa

On 27 January a group of us set out to Mt Suswa, a unique double-crater volcano in the Rift Valley, for a short weekend trip to explore the area and hopefully run the trail around the entire rim of the inner crater, starting and returning to the main campsite.

sand traps on the road to Suswa

The drive from Nairobi takes around 3 hours all told, given the poor state of the track after turning left off the tarmacked Narok road, just past the satellite station (look for the Conservancy signs on your left). The ownership of some of the land driven through to access Mt Suswa Conservancy proper seems to be contentious and shifting at times, and at one point we had to drive back 100 m to take a parallel path as the way we were taking had been blocked by a disgruntled Maasai. A 4×4 is needed to access Suswa, as the trail goes from occasionally muddy and sandy (two cars got stuck for varying amounts of time near the road), to steep and rocky before emerging into the rolling fields of the inner rim, punctuated by steam vents bursting through the volcanic soil and ingeniously harvested for water by locals.

Zakayo explaining how natural volcanic steam vents create water for his family

But the views at the top are worth it, with tents set up on the inner rim overlooking a vast crater punctuated by a volcanic plug in its centre, the outer rim providing a wide ring behind.

a campsite with a view!

The first day we set up camp before heading down to some nearby lava caves, an impressive formation of interlinked caverns, the walls sometimes twisted into fantastical shapes as the lava cooled and solidified. At one point, they open up into a grand amphitheatre dubbed the Baboon Parliament, as when returning at sunset the dominant male supposedly sits atop a rocky mound to hold court with the dozens of his cohorts gathered around. As they enter the caves at dusk, thousands upon thousands of resident bats take flight into the penumbra. During the day they can be seen hanging in dark huddled masses on the ceiling, and the stench from their piled dried guano on the ground can be overpowering – a buff to cover the nose is highly recommended!

Caving on Mt. Suswa

The caves are easy to find, but a guide is probably recommended to find your way through, especially as it’s the usual practice within the conservancy. Two of us mountain biked down behind the cars to the cave system from camp – besides a few acacia thorns the tracks were pretty ideal, rock-free and undulating. On the way up Daniel, our guide, took my bike and cycled back up in full shuka, Maasai sword rattling at his side.

Daniel cycling back up to camp

On Sunday the group split into several factions, some to hike around the entire rim, some to hike up to the highest point of Suswa and back to camp. Three of us along with Daniel set out at daybreak to try and run the entire trail. The going was tough at first, climbing for the first hour to the highest peak, standing at 2355 m according to my phone. Within ten minutes we’d lost Daniel, again running with sword and shuka, as well as heavy-looking boots, and had prepared ourselves to trail-finding alone for the rest of the way. To our surprise, just before the peak he came bounding past, complaining that the cycle the day before had left his bum sore!

View of the inner crater, fumeroles, and summit of Mt.Suswa

 View of the plug, inner crater and out crater walls from near the summit. Plus Mt. Longonot and the Aberdares in distance

The trail to this point was pretty well-marked, then descended on rocky slopes slightly away from the rim, to avoid more difficult terrain. After hearing some horror stories about the trail, once past a few hundred metres of tricky descent it flattened out again into nice cattle trails pretty much the whole way back to camp, cutting left and through tranquil homesteads dotted on the green plains. With a couple of stops to drink and eat, it took 3h30 to run the whole way, for a total of 20.74 km according to my tracker, with 679 m of elevation gain (and loss, given the trail went in a loop). Daniel impressively kept up pretty much the entire way, and we arrived back to camp for a well-deserved nap in the shade before the hikers began trickling back from their various adventures, including one unfortunate hiker who was chased off-piste by a swarm of bees…

Suswa summit, looking further around the rim

Tired but happy! The successful rim runners

So get out and enjoy this wonderful community-managed conservancy!

by: Ian and Christine

The Details:

  • Guide: Daniel – 0721357415
  • Distance to the summit: 7km (14km return)
  • Distance around the rim: 20.74 km
  • Highest point: 2,355
  • Elevation gain: 679 m
  • Time to run: 3:30 hours
  • Time to hike: 7 hours
  • Link to tracked trail: https://www.wikiloc.com/running-trails/suswa-rim-trail-run-22378087
  • Campsite facilities: long-drop toilets, fire rings. firewood available for purchase. bring all your own water!

Costs: 500 per day conservancy fee; 500 per night camping fee; 10,000 total for a guide for 2 days, for a group of 15 people (the usual fee asked for is 2,000 per person for a guide per day), though this needs to be negotiated on an ad-hoc basis – mentioning MCK will probably lead to a discount.

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