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:
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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…
So get out and enjoy this wonderful community-managed conservancy!
by: Ian and Christine
- 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.
In December 2017, Mickael Asser and I decided to run on Mount Kenya. One of our challenge was to find a good reference article or video online to guide our planning. We watched a couple of videos online but they lack details in terms of training requirements, what was the challenge and providing tips for others.
In order to prepare ourselves for the high altitude and steep run on Mount Kenya, we started training on other mountains every Saturday for four weeks. We run on Mt. Longonot, Mt. Suswa , Elephant Hill and Mt. Satima. On our last training on Mt. Satima, we completed the 12km run in 1 hour 50m. This was a good indication for us to set a date for the big run.
On Feb 17, We arrived at Mt. Kenya National Park (Sirimon Gate) at 6:30am. Once done with registration, we drove up to Old Moses camp and started running up to Lenana. The highlight of our run up to Shipton was the expression on the Park’s staff, guides and hikers when they saw us running up to the summit. The common word was “You guys are crazy!”
We reached Shipton Camp, 4,200masl, in less than 3 hours covering 14kms. After two minutes water break, we set off towards the summit in an easy pace. The most difficult part of Mt Kenya is the 3km between Shipton camp and Lenana, which is very steep with lose rocks and scree slopes. We summited Lenana in 4 hours and 48 minutes.
On our way down, we missed our trail and struggled to get back on the right track towards Shipton. After two hours into our decent, we found a trail that led us to a camping site situated at 3,900masl. The guides at the camp informed us that we are running towards Chogoria gate rather than Old Moses. Exausted but determined to complete the run, we had to climb back to 4,400m and descend towards the gate. Despite the set back, we finished our run at Chogoria Roadhead camp site covering a total of 29.5kms in 8 hours 49 minutes.
Proper planning of the trail before hand and packing right for the challenge is critical. Missing our trail after the summit and looking for a way back took our energy. We also run out of water 7 hours into our decent due to our ultra light pack.
On the bright side, Chogoria route is the most scenic and breathtakingly beautiful. We enjoyed every bit of it and if we do it again, I think this will be the route we will take to the summit.
By Tewodros and Mickael.
Report from the third trad training weekend at Lukenya
The vast majority of climbing in Kenya is traditional climbing, where climbers place their own removable protection as they climb. Traditional climbing offers incredible freedom and flexibility to climbers, but can be much more daunting that gym and sport climbing, because of the amount of technical knowledge required. So how do we encourage new climbers to get out and experience all of the amazing routes that Kenya has to offer? Well, we meet up and have a party of course!
This past weekend, a group of experienced trad climbers and eager students got together in Lukenya to learn about gear, anchors, fall factors, rope management, lead belay and lead climbing technique.
We started off the weekend by learning about the types of protection available in trad climbing (active, passive, and natural pro) and got hands on experience placing gear and getting feedback from experienced climbers. The broken boulders at the base of Cakewalk crag provide an ideal playground for practicing gear placements from the comfort of the ground.
Once we understood the nuts and bolts (and cams and hexes) of climbing pro, we moved on to anchors. In essence, a climbing anchor just a way of linking multiple pieces of protection together so that they all share the load equally and provide a strong base for your climbing team. Participants tried their hands at making SERENEA anchors, using different types of rigging and arrangements of protection.
By now people were itching to put their skills to the test by actually getting off the ground, so we headed down to Boulder Crag and Jacob’s Ladder to talk about the whole safety system (harness, belay device, rope, pro, slings, biners, rope, harness),lead belay techinque, and the choreography of lead climbing. In supervised groups, teams practiced placing gear on lead, or mock-lead, depending on experience levels.
All in all, about a half dozen people logged their first trad leads and the stoke was high! It was really great to see so much enthusiasm for climbing in Kenya and to meet so many new, keen trad climbers!
The next day, everyone went out in teams to practice their skills, some getting their first taste of true Kenyan climbing…
We’ve been running these informal trainings for new trad climbers about once every six months, and topics have included:
- Types of protection and placements
- Building Trad anchors
- Lead belay for trad and handling twin ropes
- Mock leading
- Managing climbing lines and rope drag for leaders
- How to fall and catch falls on lead
- Multipitch techniques
- Belaying from above
- Self-rescue skills
- Aid climbing technique
So what would you like to see at the next trad training clinic?
Links to more information:
More info on getting in to climbing in Kenya.
A list of our favorite picks for trad leads of all levels.