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Africa, Kenya, Mt. Kenya, Diamond Couloir, Ascent

Mt. Kenya, Diamond Couloir, ascent. The Diamond Couloir is an African classic, an elegant ice couloir on the south face of 5,199m Mt. Kenya that was first climbed in October 1973 by Thumbi Mathenge and Peter Snyder. At that time the steep headwall leading to the Diamond Glacier was not well-formed, and the climbers logically cut out left below it to reach the hanging glacier. A direct line up the headwall was climbed in January 1975 by Yvon Chouinard and Michael Covington, and most parties repeating the route have followed this line. The recent and generally increasing desiccation of Africa’s high mountains has led visitors to believe the climb now impossible because the steep entry pitch has failed to form.

In August Kitty Calhoun and Jay Smith climbed the full Diamond Couloir, starting with 10m of difficult M7 dry-tooling on overhanging volcanic rock, followed by 50m of thin WI5 ice [not long before their ascent an Italian party had retreated after the first 15m of scary mixed climbing—Ed.]. This long pitch gained the easier-angled and undulating middle section of the couloir, where several pitches of moderate ice led to the base of the headwall. Two pitches of WI 4+ led them onto to the hanging glacier. The following day, Jim Donini and Brad McMillon repeated the route.

Dougald MacDonald, AAC