Andy Latham • Mount Kenya • January 15 - 24, 2007

Andy Latham wrote to Kathy shortly before Christmas this year, saying he would be traveling to Kenya to help with a hospital project a friend and neighbor of his was setting up, and would it be possible to squeeze in a climb of Nelion while he was there? After a bit of research, it appeared it would. So Kathy flew to Nairobi to meet him on January 15, and they headed in to the mountain the very next morning...

Other Recent Trips


Our objective was the "South Face Standard Route" of Nelion (5188m), shown here. The route entails about 15 to 20 pitches of technical rock climbing, with a couple of short 4th class scrambling sections. It tends to stay quite snow-free during the January-February dry period, due to direct morning sunshine on the beautiful rock.


Our first day involves about a 3 and 1/2 hour drive from Nairobi to the Sirimon gate, by way of the market town of Nanyuki where we pick up porters, cook, and supplies. Arriving at the trail head, we sign in with the Park and are on our way to our first hut, at Old Moses camp.


At sunrise the following morning, we get our first glimpse of the mountain, looking rather snowy here on the far right. We leave early for our next stage, to Shipton's camp, in order to avoid getting caught by the afternoon showers that seem to be the current pattern.


One of the great joys of climbing Mt. Kenya is the array of unusual and beautiful plants that we find on the approach.


Passing from heavy forest to moorland to alpine grassland, the variety is wonderful. Actually the variety of plants that all bear the name "Lobelia" is itself rather amazing. Here is one type of Lobelia, the "Cabbage" Lobelia....


And two more: the Giant Lobelia Andy is passing among, and the tall and slender Ostrich Lobelia off the trail.


Porters for several groups soak up some early morning sunshine and friendly banter outside the Shipton hut (4200m) before heading off to their various destinations for the day.


Another view of the outrageous "Ostrich Lobelia" in the morning sun.


Although a bit aggressive of a schedule due to limited time, we headed straight from Shipton's Camp to Austrian Hut (also known as Top Hut), at 4790m, to acclimatize for a day before attempting our climb of Nelion (5188m), shown in the background.


On our "rest" day, Andy climbed Point Lenana at sunrise, while Kathy scouted the way to the base of the climb to facilitate the pre-dawn start the following day. The sunrise from Austrian hut was lovely skimming over the lowland clouds.


The following morning dawned bright and beautiful, and we got a really good start. We were lucky with the crowds, too. Only one other party, three South Africans, were on the route the same day as ourselves, and we stayed well out of each others' way. Andy here enjoys our first (and only, come to think of it!) break, about half-way up the climb. The metal at his feet is the roof of "Bailey's Bivy", a sad little relic of a shelter about 10 pitches up the climb. In the background you can see the track disecting the Lewis Glacier from the hut.


Shortly after, the predictable late-morning clouds came it as we negotiated some more strenuous climbing above. However, for the first time since our arrival, these clouds remained thin and non-threatening. We had not a drop of rain, and it even stayed comfortably warm in spite of the mists.


We reached the summit a little after mid-day, too late for real views, but early enough to relax and enjoy a good visit before heading down.


We took a moment to check out the claustrophobic but often-useful Howell Hut just a few feet from the top. It sleeps four, in theory... though it would be tight, as you can see!


After a long descent (10+ rappels), we arrived back at the Austrian hut just before dark, to find 9 new arrivals, planning their climb for the following day–we congratulated ourselves on our timing. There's plenty of space in the hut, our sleeping and dining room shown here from my perch on the top bunk...


The following day, after a lazy late-morning start, we headed down the Naro Moru route, to the southwest. More Lobelias along the way. The Diamond Glacier is visible in the background.


The route wanders among beautiful rock formations before heading down more steeply through the "vertical bog".


This day's destination is the "Met Station", a meteorological station with a small lodge, just below tree line at about 3000+ meters of elevation. The comfort and charm of the place are welcome after days of rustic bunkhouse living.


A large family of Syke's monkeys were eager to find out if we had anything good to eat or play with.


The following day we finally arrived in "real civilization" after a couple of hours easy walking, and a short jeep ride. Here we are in the Youth Hostel at Naro Moru. Andy has made a couple of new friends from Honk Kong.


A hot shower, comfortable sitting room, and two cold "Tuskers" (the local beer), and we were very content indeed.


Andy poses here with our trail guide, Samuel, on his right, and cook Daniel, on his left.


With a few hours extra to spend on our last morning, Samuel suggested a visit to a local spinners' and weavers' workshop in Nanyuki. Kathy was in heaven! Here a local woman spins fine yarn for shawls.


Another woman weaves the shawls...


Here we're shown an example of the rugs being woven out of bulkier yarn and natural dyes gathered on site.


On our drive back to Nairobi, we couldn't resist stopping for some local fresh fruit. Not quite enough competition for our business! Yikes!


Altogether it was a great mini-expedition, and a really fun day of quality rock climbing, serendipitously fit into a busy winter for both Andy and Kathy.

All images, layout and text ©2007 Cosley & Houston Alpine Guides, All Rights Reserved