Hot Rock Climbing Expedition 3: Kenya

Cat and Mouse crag.

Cat and Mouse crag.

Entering Kenya feels like entering a typical African postcard. Zebras and giraffes grazed on sweeping grassy plains shadowed by aged sycamore trees, with herds of wild elephants majestically crossing over the horizon. The lakeshores are full of birds often bigger than the mammals. It is like visiting a slightly evolved Jurassic Park. If we traveled back in time in Ethiopia to the middle ages, this time we turned the knob much farther back.

Our first crag was in the midst of a true Lion`s Kingdom In the home of Massai warriors with their traditional loin-cloth and spears, and the occasional lion, we found these granite domes called the Cat and Mouse. The size, shape, and quality of rock strongly reminded me of Tuolomne Meadows.

Once again, a few climbs there were already established by a previous Hot Rock Expedition. Including Death Flake, my warm-up route, with an appropriate name, but otherwise a nice two-pitch chimney/offwidth. Then we ran up a new 5.10a crack, and eventually figured out the moves on an amazingly intricate 5.11 face.


Our second climbing destination in Kenya was by Lake Baringo. A big sign greeted us there: “Camp here at your own risk!” Hmmm. We figured that one out at nightfall, when the large hippos like bizarre prehistoric amphibians emerged from their watery depths, and started munching on the grass around our tents.

A trip across the misty lake at sunrise brought us to a small rocky island for our day of serious deep-water-soloing. Swimming in the water was like soaking in hot springs, and falling off the rock was a perfect fun, too, since the lake is seemingly bottomless, and nobody got their limbs bit off by the crocodiles.

The following days, we spent exploring two basalt crags next to our camp. On one side there is a 30-foot-tall wall, with cruxes in the middle, perfect for free-soloing, occasionally roping up for the more serious problems. Directly opposing it, there is a taller, 300-foot-tall crag making for great two- to three-pitch climbs through natural lines like chimneys, cracks and laybacks.

Next stop: Uganda