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Africa, Sudan, Kassala Area, Various New Routes

Kassala area, various new routes. Lost in the Sudanese East, only a few kilometers from the border with Eritrea, a small island of a dozen granitic monoliths dominate the town of Kassala. Baboons and vultures live there. French climbers Matthieu Noury and I returned from this incredible area enchanted by the country and by the local African tribes we met (Rashaiba, Haddendowah, and Beni Amir), and the routes we opened. Only two known routes existed before our arrival. The first, opened in 1939 by L.W. Brown and R.A. Hodgkin, was described by its first ascenders as the most beautiful climbing in Africa. It allowed them to gain Jebel Taka, the highest point of the granite domes (approximately 1,500m). Two pitons are still in place in a splendid 5+ (5.9) dihedral. The first repetitions took place in November 1981 by a Czech team, and in December 1983 by Tony Howard (U.K.). The second route is near the village of Totil, on one of the additional Turns of Jebel Totil, and was probably climbed by the Czech team in 1981. It offers constant athletic crack climbing at ED-, 6c.

In addition to the free repetitions of these two routes, Matthieu and I opened three new routes during our stay: Mohammed et Mustapha au Pays des Enfants (120m, TD, 6b), with aesthetic crack climbing located above village huts. Chaud Crâne (250m, TD+, 6b) is a broad system of cracks leading to the southern shoulder of Jebel Taka. Khawadja (means “white man”) (300m, TD+, 6b+) climbs a rectilinear crack between two immense smooth and compact flagstones. This crack offers exceptional climbing on carved rock. It is a beautiful route that leads near the top of Jebel Taka.

The climbing area and its neighbors seem to conceal great potential for climbing. The immediate border of Kassala (from north to south, Mucram, Totil, and Taka) consist of 12 principal towers ranging from 100m to 450m, and many other domes from 50m to 100m. Nevertheless, the compactness of the rock offers only rare lines for natural protection. Some faces seem to await generations of climbers to come, as they are stiff and smooth.

David Jonglez, France