Top Ten Less-Extreme Rock Climbing Routes

Normal Route, Kenya
By Cameron M. Burns

Normal Route (Southeast Face): Mount Kenya, Kenya

Mount Kenya has the reputation of being the hard mountain, while Kilimanjaro is the walk-up. But that commonly held assessment isn't totally correct. Kilimanjaro boasts many walk-ups, but it also offers the most difficult high-altitude climb in all of Africa (the Breach Wall, first climbed by Rheinhold Messner in 1978). On Mount Kenya, there are plenty of hard routes, but there's also the Normal Route, which offers easy, straightforward rock climbing up to the peak's needle-like, 17,200-foot summit.

Most of the climb is a lot easier than the overall rating of 5.7+. In fact, it's mainly a scramble. But when you throw in a little altitude, and the fact that you'll want to carry a sleeping bag and bivouac en route, Mount Kenya becomes a fun but rewarding challenge.

From the mountain's twin summits of Batian (17,058 feet) and Nelion (17,021 feet), all of Kenya opens up before you, from the distant Aberdare Mountains to the smog-topped metropolis of Nairobi.

The most adventurous aspect of climbing Mount Kenya, however, is the approach hike through the forests. Wandering through bamboo jungles where elephant, rhino, lion, leopard, and buffalo are present is awe-inspiring—if not, at times, a little frightening.

Just the Facts

First ascent: Eric Shipton and Percy Wyn Harris, 1929

Time required: 1to 2 full days

Technical grade: IV, 5.7+, with some easy ice climbing

References: Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya: A Climbing and Trekking Guide by Cameron M. Burns

More on Mount Kenya

Details on Africa's Other Mountains



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