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Edinburgh castle

  • Grade context: UK
  • Ascents: 16
11

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Description

Lukenya's premier cliff. The Castle embodies everything that is great about Lukenya climbing... position, quality, exposure, and concentrated difficulty. No other cliff in Kenya has captured the imaginations of past generations of Kenyan climbers as this one has.

Recommended routes: 'Princes Street' — E2 5b 'Committee Wall' — V.S.

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Access issues inherited from Lukenya

Lukenya is owned by the Mountain Club of Kenya and entrance is free for members. Non-members have to pay for a daily membership (KES400 for Kenyan citizens, KES800 for others, payable by Mpesa paybill no 880926. Account: guest fee). No commercial groups are allowed. Some climbs are occasionally off-limits when eagles are nesting (in particular Eagles Nest Face). If this is the case its normally communicated on a notice in the sign-on book at the gate and through a climber whatsapp group.

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Approach

Reach Edinburgh Castle by either bush-bashing up from the top of Window Buttress or driving up to the Lukenia campsite on the top, and walking ten minutes along a good game track to the top of the cliff. The start of the climbs can be reached by a 50m abseil (directly above finish of Golden Anniversary or Committee Wall) or a walk down.

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Descent notes

Abseil anchors direct above the finish of Committee Wall and Golden Anniversary

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Ethic inherited from Lukenya

Lukenya is mostly trad. No bolting is allowed without a special permission from the Mountain Club of Kenya.

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History

View historical timeline

The first attempts to climb Edinburgh castle caused such a scandal in the Mountain Club that the climbing fraternity broke into two factions during the late 1950*s and early 60's. One party attacked the East Face while the other attempted the South Face, each daring tile other to produce the route of quality. Rumours abound but it is said the East Face (Committee Wall) party won, to be followed shortly afterwards by the South Face team, who produced a more technical.... "Gateway to a new era of climbing in Kenya". The story goes that neither party ever spoke to the other again!

Controversy continued in 1961 when a different team, who possibly in an attempt to deflate the decidedly unfriendly atmosphere prevailing in the Mountain Club, suddenly produced a third route on The Castle (Anniversary Climb) which turned out to be a fictional creation. Despite this it somehow found its way into the 1973 third edition of the guide book.

The year 1967 saw more serious trespassers taking an interest in The Castle. Ian Howell probed the area around the intimidating overhangs which lie between the South and East Faces. His attempt ended, however, long before reaching these overhangs culminating in a a 15m fall which persuaded him to call it a day. Next came Iain Allan who successfully pushed the route into the cruxy little wall between the overhangs prior to embarking upon a 30m flight which ended several feet above the ground. Several weeks later Allan returned and took Princes Street through to its end.

Edinburgh Castle lay silent for twenty-one years, when an older and wiser Iain Allan returned in 1989, and with Magnus Karlsen produced two routes of quality: 'Traitor's Gate' and 'Waterloo'.

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Some content has been provided under license from: © Mountain Club of Kenya (Copyright Mountain Club of Kenya)

Routes

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Grade Route

The South face of Edinburgh Castle. Start from the upright flake at foot of the slab.

  1. 27m. Climb to centre of face until shortly before the slab steepens to a wall. Make ascending traverse left to steeply sloping ledge below wall and move left to tree belay.

  2. 38m. Move right from tree onto ledge. After some 10' climb steep wall and rising traverse right into 'pulpit'. Protection pegs in place (as of 1973 TODO check this). From 'pulpit' climb slab above by ascending left wall, move slightly right and up to horizontal crack. With hands in this, traverse left to easier climbing and prominent tree. Up wall to tree and then either ascend wall direct or follow diagonal crack to right to summit.

FA: W. M. Adams & R. Searle, 1960

A delicate exercise in nut placing. This worthy trip takes the left side of the Castle where there is an orange overhang with a steep grey wall above. A 18m doddle up the lower slabs ends at a good belay in horizontal cracks some 5m below the overhang. Up this direct via a slanting flake and the grey wall above is reached by way of a thin vertical crack up on the right. Move up delicately 5m to good pro. Mantelshelf steep wall above and easier ground to top.

FA: Iain Allan & Magnus Karlsen, 1989

A brilliant climb which takes the main South face of the Castle. Start right of a flake on the ground an 50' of easy climbing leads to a point where the lower slab meets the steepening wall. A long pitch leads up right to the right-hand side of a flake, then up aot a prominent quartz-hole. Traverse diagonally leftwards to an obvious niche, then move right and up a cruzy wall to a horizontal crack (fixed peg pro on right). Move left to wall below bolt and make difficult move up to obvious finishing groove. Easier to top.

FA: Ian Howell & Brian Thomas, 1977

This is a variant to the Keep Route. Start up The Keep to the overhang. Traverse right to bolt in overhanging hand traverse. Go up flake to nut runner (crux) and then finish right at abseil ledge.

FA: Richard Sonnerdale, 2002

Probably Lukenia's best. It makes its way up the left side of the left-hand of the two main overhangs, surmounts this then strings together four or five mind-inspiring moves across the wall above. You can look for difficulties in the first pitch but it is easier to simply take 'The Keep' as far as the first belay. A long pitch follows. Move rightwards to the obvious quartz-hole on 'The Keep', then right a few moves and up past a bolt to easier ground below the left-hand overhang. The remainder of the climb is the crux and includes pulling over the overhang past a bolt on the left, up a move, then traverse 5m rightwards across the steep wall above the overhang. Easily to belay.

FA: Iain Allan & Magnus Karlsen, 1989

Intimidating. For many years it was neglected owing to a reputation for lack of pro. Now it has excellent bolt pro. No harder than 'The Keep' but possibly more variety and atmosphere. The route rises steeply to the vertical wall below the left-hand overhang, traverses rightwards across this then surmounts wall in between overhangs in a marvellous position. The original start began left of the start of 'Committee Wall' and climbed the steep wall leading the the left-hand crack of the Committee Wall flake. This is not too hard but unprotected. Many parties will probably take 'Committee Wall' as far as the belay on top of the flake. From here move up leftwards to a bolt, then up with increasing difficulty to a second bolt. Step down right (crux), then up and continue rightwards to easier ground. Move up to foot of wall between overhangs. Bolt on left. Ascend wall with difficulty and hand-traverse right to ledge. Finish easily.

FA: Iain Allan & Roger Higgins, 1968

  1. 30m. Start in a slight recess just to left of large fig tree. A prominent flake lies on the face. Climb to good stance on this flake. Traverse right along ledge. Thread runner in a hole at 6m. Continue traversing at this level round the corner and then ascend 9m to reach the "keyhole". Belay peg in place and thread in back of "keyhole".

  2. 20m. Climb upwards out of "keyhole" until level with a series of cracks running out to the left along the overhanging portion of the cliff. Move out along these cracks. Two awkward moves lead to a wide, grassy ledge. Easy climbing to top.

FA: G. Newham & J. Blacker, 1961

To the right of 'Committee Wall' there is a corner with a wide crack. 5m to the right of this is another crack.

  1. 20m. Up this with peg runner at 5m. Continue up to easier ground. Follow crack, which widens, then make hard move up to 'Committee Wall' traverse.

  2. 30m. From the obvious flake to left of 'keyhole' move up left to bolt in place below overhang. With aid from a sling over lip and easy climbing above.

FA: R. Harper & Ian Howell, 1972

The best easiest way up the Castle, and superior to Committee Wall. Ian Howell first climbed it in 1982 but to this day can't remember who his second was. Some parties belay half-way up in the Committee Wall 'keyhole', but this might not be the best belay in the world. It can be done in one long pitch, but watch your pro carefully for the last thing you want on the final moves is rope-drag. The climb takes the East face of the Castle and starts in a gully where there is a leaning block below and right of the Committee Wall 'keyhole'. From block move up leftwards past a bolt, step left and continue leftwards to the arete. Straight up to 'keyhole'. Move up rightwards some 6m and gain a prominent ledge system which leads up diagonally leftwards. Hold your breath and traverse left along this (crux), until holds allow an exit above.

FA: Ian Howell & ?, 1982

Starting up Golden Anniversary, join Committee Wall at the 'keyhole'

Girdle traverse of Edinburgh Castle.

  1. 15m. Climb Graceful Chimney to tree.

  2. 18m. From tree move horizontally left with increasing difficulty until with the use of aid good holds beneath the 'keyhole' are reached.

  3. 18m. Descend pitch 2 of Committee Wall to flake and belay.

  4. 30m. Ascend 3m above flake, move left and across steep slabs to pegs on Gateway. Climb pitch 2 of Gateway to tree belay.

  5. 20m. Descend left to grassy ledges until vertical crack is reached. Ascend this to top.

FA: Ian Howell & R. Higgins, 1972

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