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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Julian Bedale from Kingston, Surrey, UK wrote on December 28, 2018:
I was very sorry to learn yesterday of Ian's death a month ago.

My first contact with him was in 1999, after I had submitted an article to the MCKJ about the climbing history of the little-known East Face of Mawenzi. Ian very kindly got in touch with me about it, & then (even more kindly) sent me photocopies of the articles in the EA Standard of July 1968 about his expedition there. He certainly didn't have to go to the trouble of doing all this, but the fact that he did spoke volumes about the sort of person he was.

This expedition was probably one of Ian's more intrepid - & was certainly the one that most caught my imagination ! Its aim was to ascend the terrifying 7 mile long Great Barranco gorge (walls 2000+ ft sheer either side in the middle section, and its base only av 75 ft wide), & then climb the 5000 ft East Face from its head. Well, the expedition (which has never been repeated) was stopped half-way up the gorge by ever taller waterfalls & large pools of near-freezing water, but (more importantly) Ian (as its leader then aged only 32) got all his people in & out of this very dangerous place without mishap.

He & Roger Higgins as a substitute objective then made the first & only ascent of the East Face via the Middle Buttress between the two Barranco gorges. When showing me his slides of this climb in c 2001, Ian wryly mentioned the point where the Buttress narrowed to only 3 ft wide as it joined the East Face, with 3000 ft vertical drops either side !

Although we only actually met twice, he & I used to have regular lengthy phone calls about the EA mountains. He obviously knew Mt Kenya better than anyone alive, & was truly a worthy successor to Arthur Firmin at the very top level of EA climbers. The thing that struck me most, though, was his unfailing modesty, despite his many achievements - a true gentleman. My deepest sympathies to Ann & Sarah.