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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Arshad Khan from Nairobi wrote on December 2, 2018:
I am much saddened by news of Ian passing away. I have known him and had the privilege of climbing with him since 1969 (when he mentored me in rock climbing) and cherish so many fond memories- the last time I climbed with him was in July 2010 at the MCK Reunion in Yorkshire (when he needed crutches to walk to the base of the climb, due to his knackered knees!) and a year earlier in the Grand Paradiso Italy during 75th birthday celebrations for John Temple. I will try and post some pictures on the MCK Facebook. Ian always sent us Xmas cards, by snail-mail, and always included print-outs of pictures the old-fashioned way...

Ian was so modest about his achievements and always ready to help youngsters and newcomers. Some of his early bush climbs are really under-graded and difficult to repeat as Andrew W and I discovered! Talking about Andrew- he mentioned below our Tsavo expeditions (in the early 1980's ) but diplomatically missed out the one trip where Ian's safety precautions proved justified as I rolled the car just a few miles short of the Tsavo river campsite- we managed to get it going, albeit with smashed windscreen and buckled front pillar and drove into camp to Andrews comment: " You do roll into campsite in style!"

Some other funny stories about Ian- like when he was sitting with a bunch of us around a Lukenya BBQ campfire and after a few Tuskers we saw him keel over head-first into the fire, head-torch and all! We quickly pulled him up- no injuries! And another time he needed to uproot a tree stump from his compound and decided on a short-cut of using an old climbing rope and pulling it with his Subaru- it worked, but also shot out like a missile and dented the back of his car!

There are so many other memories...from MCK committee meetings, to his pyjamas and bedroom slippers during MCK supper nights, to the time we were summoned at very short notice to the State House together with our Patron Ken Matiba to meet the President as part of the Everest Kenya Expedition preparations.

I also recall one Tuesday evening him telling me... do you realise I'm 50 years old next month! OMG!! He used to go to the gym regularly to keep his body in trim and also told me that we must do at least one major expedition every year so that we don't degenerate...

Ian had also perfected the technique of freezing Tusker in bottles, so that we had ice-cold beers during our bush-climbing trips, together with the frozen TV-dinners, to be roasted in the campfires....

Those were the days! Rest in Peace my friend, and heartfelt condolences to Ann, Sarah, and other family members and friends.

Baldip and Arshad.