Diamond Couloir Still Climbable


Global warming may be melting the snows of Kilimanjaro, but the famed Diamond Couloir on Mount Kenya is still climbable, as long as climbers adopt a modern approach. The Diamond Couloir is a striking ice line that splits the Southwest Face of the 5199-meter equatorial peak, first climbed in 1973 by Peter Snyder and Thumbi Mathenge. In recent years, climbers have deemed it impossible because the bottom portion of the steep ice climb has failed to form.

In August, however, Kitty Calhoun and Jay Smith climbed the full Diamond Couloir, starting with about 30 feet of M7 dry tooling on overhanging volcanic rock, leading to 165 feet of thin WI 5 ice. This long pitch gained the still-formed traditional route, where several pitches of moderate ice led to a two-pitch, WI 4+ headwall, first climbed by Yvon Chouinard and Michael Covington in 1975. The following day, Jim Donini and Brad McMillon repeated the route.

Stay tuned for photos and Jim Donini’s story about Mount Kenya in Climbing No. 246, on sale in January.