Mt. Kenya, Pt. John, new rock routes. December weather is still unstable: sunny warm days can switch with high winds, lots of rain, and snow above 4,000m. My first time on the peak, during the 2002 Christmas break, brought icy conditions on the high peaks, so after doing some of the ice gullies Will Frost and I looked for some steep climbing. The southwest face of Pt. John (4,880m) was an obvious goal. We went for the until-then unrepeated 1975 Allan-Howell route, back then climbed in three days at A3. Our free climbing idea was smashed by the first pitch, and finally we were happy to reach the top of the 300m high and 50m overhanging route after 12 hours of aid (A1) and free climbing (including a 5.11a offwidth chimney). It would take me until 2004 to climb a free route through that face.
In December 2003 I climbed another steep aid climb (180m, 5.9 A1+) on Migiot Peak (4,700m) named Electional Day as it was the 27th—the day Kenya had its first democratic election. On that peak Markus Grisshammer and I added a new route Flying Friends (200m, 5.l0d) in February 2003. It had nice well-protected crack climbing. The best season for the south side of Mt. Kenya is between January and March. In 2003 I spent most of that time climbing some of the great classics on Bation (5,200m), Nelion (5,180m), and Pt. John (4,880m). August and September is the season for the north side of the peak, which also offers superb climbing.
In March 2004 I spent another 10 days on Mt. Kenya (as acclimatization for an Everest expedition). Thanks to Bongo Woodly, the National Park warden, I could train the rescue team of the National Park in climbing. With one of the rangers, Charles Kamau, I climbed a new route on the right-hand side of the Pt. John southwest face. Luckily all the pitches went free (one red- point, the rest onsight), and so the impressive southwest face got its first free climb at a grade of 5.11c. Pitch 1: Starts at right end of southwest face, left of smooth slabs, through a corner to a steep layback, over slighty overhanging bulge (40m, 5.10d). Pitch 2: Traverse face right to join a corner system. Follow that to climb an overhang to less steep terrain (50m, 5.11c). Then two slab pitches (5.9) lead to easier climbing (5.7/8) another 100m to join the southwest ridge.
Felix Berg, Kenya Mountain Club