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Africa, Mount Kenya, Diamond Couloir, Chouinard Variation, Solo

Mount Kenya, Diamond Couloir, Chouinard Variation, Solo. In May, Wade McKoy and I traveled to Mount Kenya, where I wanted to snowboard the Diamond Couloir. Due to icy conditions I aborted that idea and soloed the Chouinard Variation in three and one-half hours. At the Gate of the Mists, the clouds were building and rolling through. Taking one axe, I ascended Batian, finding the climbing beautiful and interesting. On the summit I could not see the Gate and stayed only a moment. Without a rope or crampons the descent of Batian proved to be quite a challenge; I was forced to negotiate many icy sections. Back at the Gate I donned my crampons for the short ascent up Nelion. On top, it began to snow. The descent turned out to be very dangerous. I got off route, and descended what I believe was (a very loose) Mackinder’s Chimney. I descended a scree slope for many hundreds of feet and basically circumnavigated half the mountain, returning to camp at dusk to a worried Wade.

The ice is diminishing at an alarming rate and according to Ian Wade, author of the guide book, it will be nonexistent in five to 10 years.

Stephen Koch