My bouldering mate Pete Hoersy agreed to join me on Mt. Kenya. To minimize the walking distance, he used his rally experience to get his Land Cruiser stuck in the middle of the hiking pass right on some big rocks at about 3,400m. After hours of digging, jacking, and pilling rocks, the vehicle still did not move, and so we started hiking to reach Shipton’s Camp just before midnight. On the next day we got a late start. We went up to the first good-looking rock faces. The best way (as we discovered during our second trip up the hill) is to follow the pass toward the Kami Hut and then take the left turnoff to the base of the north face Standard Route on Batian. The first tower on your right offers some good quality, steep climbing on an obvious orange face. We picked the central groove, which takes one pitch to reach and then another two to climb, with the first being the crux with some slightly overhanging layback climbing (Central Groove Line, 120m, 7a). The next day Pete discovered his climbing shoes missing, so we went back to the same face and climbed the overhanging pillar to the right of the previous line. This took four pitches of which two were seriously overhanging and boldly protected trad climbing (Hangender Pfeiler, 140m, 7a+/A2). It took me most of the day to lead those, and even though it was snow-storming, we did not get wet until we reached the easy exit and the summit just before sundown. Luckily we found Pete’s shoes there. From the difficulty (especially the second pitch) and the character of the climbing (only the first route had some gear in place, and that was from a retreat by Alex Fiksman and me in 2005), we assume the routes to be first ascents.
The next day we were on the east face of Nelion, an impressive 400m wall, but due to thick fog it took us a long time to find a line to climb. We followed a crack system up the center, found some old bolts with new white slings, and finally had to retreat halfway up the face due worsening weather. On our fourth day we made an “all free” ascent (on sight and not using the bolts) of the central groove on the Kraft Rognon, a line put up by a German team a few weeks prior (200m, 6b+). Finally we had to get back down and dig out the car, which was hell of a lot of work.
The routes on Nelion are partly bolted, but we did not use the bolts. My dearest request: Please try to keep the mountains as clean as possible, no trash on the paths and on the cliffs, no fixed ropes, and no bolts or other metal in the rock as long as you can survive without them.
Felix Berg, Germany, Kenya Mountain Club