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Main Face

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Description

Main Face is the largest of all the Lukenya crags and dominates the view from the North Picnic Tree. In terms of stature, this cliff is second only to Edinburgh castle at Lukenya. The old Lukenya guidebooks have frequently stated that belays and protections are difficult to find on this face but with modern equipment this is far from the truth, and over the years a few bolts for belays and protection have been added. A number of harder climbs with a couple of bolts at key moments leave from the belay of Drowning in the Shallow End and Arthur's Horror respective first pitches. Given the relative easier difficulty of the first pitches of these climbs a fun day can be had by rappelling back in from the bolted anchors at the top and ticking off several off these second pitches in quick succession. The climbs on the Main Face to the right of Arthur's Horror are various in number and their final pitches tend to merge on the upper slabs where one can in any case wander at will. The route descriptions pinpoint the starts but make little attempt to specify the remainder of the climb. Once past the initial pitches the slab climbing is no more that V.D 4a standard throughout and it is suggested that climbers choose their own lines of exit. Care should be taken here as protection due to doubtful flakes but good, if spaced out protection can be found if looked for carefully. It consists of three sections: South End—the dark vegetated slabs on the far left, the overhang above, the recessed slabs and walls immediately to their right. Main Face—the majority of the face with the longest climbs. North End— the shorter climbs at the right-hand end past the gully.

The routes below are located from left to right on the crag.

Recommended routes: Snake—V.D. Arthur’s Horror—S. Colin’s Caper—S. Bandstand—V.S. Drowning in the Shallow End—HVS Seventh Wave—HVS Hope Floats—HVS The Joker-E2

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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 daily membership (KES400 for Kenyan citizens, KES800 for others, payable by Mpesa Paybill No. 880926, account: guest fee). No commercial groups are allowed without prior agreement from MCK. Some climbs are occasionally off-limits when eagles are nesting (in particular Eagle's Nest Face). If this is the case it is normally communicated on a notice in the sign-on book at the gate, through a climber Whatsapp group and on the relevant page on theCrag. There are many other wild animals that call Lukenya home, including a resident leopard, snakes, hyenas. In general, these will all stay well out of your way, but be aware at night and avoid confrontations with bigger grazers like giraffes or eland. This is a wild place, so treat it with respect, pack out any rubbish, and bury human waste at least 30 cm underground (bring a spade or trowel!).

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Approach

Park below the cliff, then follow some cairns up a good trail. The trail branches off - Right reaches the base of the cliff near Arthur's Horror and leads to all the other climbs right of Arthur's Horror. Left continues further up and around to Bandstand.

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Descent notes

Abseil from one of the two anchors at the top of the wall. One set above Seventh Wave and another above Pier. You'll need two 60 m ropes to get to the bottom from the Pier anchor, but an easier option is to walk across to the Seventh Wave anchor and abseil back to the Arthur's Horror ledge, then another abseil from the anchors a little downclimb from that ledge. One 60 m rope is enough for this, though for the second abseil try and stay on the arete and come off it on the slightly higher ground to your right. If you abseil over the arete into the cave it's likely your ropes will get stuck, and if you trend too far left you'll be hanging a few metres short of the ground.

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Ethic inherited from Lukenya

Lukenya is mostly trad, with some specific sport crags. No bolting is allowed without special permission from the Mountain Club of Kenya - get in touch with them if you think you have spotted a sport route, think there should be an extra bolt on a climb, see some degraded equipment, etc. Avoid cutting down any vegetation beyond a few bush branches - if you think a particular tree poses a real danger to climbers please bring this to the attention of MCK. Don't harass any of the local, sometimes rare wildlife.

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History

History timeline chart

Perhaps the site of the best proper route as modern climbers would understand it in Kenya. Arthur's Horror was climbed in 1936 by Arthur Firmin, a British-Kenyan mountaineer and photographer, who would go on to some proud ascents (a short bio and some of his photos can be found here: https://www.bufordskenya.com/product-category/old-africa-photographs/arthur-firmin/). His climbing partner on the climb was Evelyn Baring, future Governor of Kenya and responsible for some pretty horrendous acts during the Mau-Mau rebellion. After that first flurry of routes, mainly the easier routes right from Arthur's Horror, climbed in nail boots and with hemp ropes, there were two main periods of development; around 1958 by Michael Adams and Alan Owen, and then a raft of harder routes, many now protected with a bolt or two at their cruxes, by the likes of Iain Allan, Clive Ward and Philip Winter.

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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 climb traverses in under the large overhang and then up the corner to the left of Bandstand. Sometimes has hornets.

  1. 30m. Up slabs to left-hand end of roof. Big block to belay from.

  2. 15m. Traverse under roof until ledge narrows awkward step right to ledge; with aid from peg gain second stance of Bandstand.

  3. 15m. Step left across corner and up wall on good holds above overhang.

Or HS A1 without going free

FFA: Emmanuel F & Max Weiner

FA: I. F. Howell & I. Sandilands., 1968

A grand old Lukenia classic and a superb introduction to this cliff. At the left end of the cliffs a prominent crack with a rightwards rising ear at 4.5m. Climb crack and step right around ear. Continue easily up to ledge and left-hand fig tree belay. Climb white-coloured wall left of big groove with a tricky step left onto good position on arete, and move up to ledge & belay. Move out rightwards 3m past small nettle tree, and up to horizontal crack. Up directly over this and up wall (crux) above to obvious recess. Traverse left 3m and straight up to top.

FA: Alan Owen

FA: Michael Adams and, 1958

It has to be admitted that this is a little short on pro, but it is excellent and the few who have led it say provided it is approached with calm and stealth, the need for pro is secondary. Begin 6m right of Bandstand and climb easily for 25m to the right-hand and slightly higher nettle tree. From here up directly to distinct grey ledge at 6m. Awkward move left 1.5m, then up 3m before trending rightwards until directly beneath obvious bulging wall. Straight up bulge (crux), and steep wall above 7.5m to prominent groove. From this point pro is excellent. Climb groove and slightly left to mantleshelf move just below top. Finish up steep wall rightwards on good holds. 2020 edit: It turns out the need for pro wasn't secondary for some - somewhere around 2000 a bolted anchor was added at the grey ledge, with 3 more bolts on the second pitch - the first just above the awkward move left and up and the next two spaced out above.

FA: Iain Allan, Philip Winter & Clive Ward, 1990

A journey to remember! The first pitch is the same as Drowning In The Shallow End, rising easily for 25m to the right-hand and slightly higher nettle tree. Climb 6m to distinct grey ledge. Move up slightly rightwards to bulging dark wall where there is excellent pro in a horizontal slot. Climb holds on right where a tricky move reaches easier ground. Move left to obvious crack and easily up to final overhang and bolt. 1m left of bolt there are holds, so grab the current and use these directly through overhang (crux) to finish.

FA: Iain Allan & Magnus Karlsen., 1990

Start at foot of face to right of main slab in open groove.

  1. 26m. Climb to the cave belay.

  2. From the cave belay. From belay move up leftwards to horizontal break and traverse 3m to foot of steep wall. Climb this direct to recess just below overhang. Traverse left 2m to a point below obvious large rightwards pointing flake, and surmount overhang (crux) just right of this. Step left when possible and up to top of cliff.

FA: Michael Adams, Peter Jenkins & Alan Owen, 1958

From cave belay move up left to brown streak in groove. Climb this direct to steep brown-coloured wall. Up this with ease to overhang. The overhang is split by a prominent narrow ledge, which is gained from the left. Bolt. Move up trending rightwards to top of the cliff.

FA: Herve & Nathalie Sergeraert, 1990

One of Lukenia's best with a ripper finish. Step left from belay and straight up wall on right of brown streak passing a good thread belay/flake at 12m. Above is a bulging yellow wall which is surmounted from the left by a tricky mantleshelf move onto a good ledge below steepening wall. Step right and move up on good holds until flakes (bolt on left), until forced out unabashedly rightwards and up to finish.

FA: Iain Allan, Philip Winter & Clive Ward, 1990

Immediately right of buttress is a large black slab. Start in the middle of this and climb slab direct to steep wall. Up this to good ledge. This ledge is great for attempting the previous climbs instead of the cave belay. The second pitch works its way up the main ridge of the buttress on easy rock to a large belay block beneath the final wall. Climb up flake and step right to small ledge below overhang. A long traverse continues rightwards (crux) keeping under the overhang until a steep wall covered in jugs allows access to the top of cliff.

FA: Arthur Firmin & Evelyn Baring, 1936

Climb first pitch of Arthur's Horror. Start second pitch as far as the traverse right. Just before you climb vertically up towards the exit of Arthurs Horror, you should see a bolt (first of three) at about 2m. Climb directly up past the bolt and slightly left on good hold to reach the second bolt. Continue leftwards toward 3rd bolt, again on good holds. Exit climb slightly left.

Take Arthur's Horror as far as the big block belay below the final pitch. Take the obvious flake up from here and step right to small ledge. Continue up rightwards to a point below bolt. This route thrillingly makes its way up to the right of the bolt, edges leftwards above and up (fixed peg pro), to awkward moves on final few feet of cliff. You'll love every second! Downgrade to E2 6a in 2022.

FA: Iain Allan & Clive Ward, 1990

Start halfway between Arthur’s Horror and Dilemma, directly under a long grass ledge at 20m.

  1. 50m. Straight up to grassy ledge, then climb the face to the right of the huge flake, moving slightly to the right into a black scoop level with the ledge on Arthur’s Horror.

  2. 25m. Straight up from the scoop to a groove at 15m. Either climb the nose to the right of the groove or the wall to its left, traversing right across the groove to finish.

Start at foot of rib to left of crack with nettle tree. Follow rib for 25m, move right to platform. Left-handed to final wall and twin cracks, finish on right of these.

Some 20m left of gully and fig tree is a prominent groove with nettle tree at 3m. Climb groove and buttress on right to platform. Into wide gully. Easy rock to top.

Start on the wall immediately to the right of the gully and fig tree. Climb wall to good ledge by large detached flake at 30m. Climb groove and crack. Finish up wall.

FA: C. Brown, P. Le Pelley & C. P. V. Walker, 1965

Start 15m to right of gully and fig tree in a recess. Up the back wall and exit right onto a rib. Follow a water groove and easiest line to summit.

FA: M.C. Watts, 1973

Start where detached flake rests against small tree at foot of groove with recess on left at 3m. Ascend groove for 6m and move left onto sloping face to platform and tree. Slightly left to small grassy platform. Right and then left to large recess. Aim for right-hand end of summit boulders to finish.

Start at foot of Cobblestones. Climb gully and belay at top. Traverse left and climb to last pitch of Arthur’s Horror finishing just right of this.

FA: Iain Allan & C. Wilson, 1968

Start at foot of buttress bounded by gully on right. Climb to base of crack, then up crack or buttress on right. Ascending traverse right to ledge. Straight up open face to grassy recess. Ascending traverse left to finish.

To the right of the face a slight gully appears. Start a short way up gully on left-hand wall. A broken line leads to a wide grassy ledge which is followed to above eye of gully. Move left and continue to large platform with tree. Left and up to finish.

To the right of Tree Route is a large white rock under the steeper face. Start between the rock and the next tree on the face.

  1. 30m. Straight up the face, turning on the left the grass ledge at 20m. Up crack and slightly right to good belay under second grass ledge.

  2. 10m. Traverse left over thin holds and then up to obvious knob belay.

  3. 18m. Up leaving flake on left and onto grassy ledge. Tree belay.

  4. 12m. About 4.5m left from tree climb to slight overhang. Take this on left and straight up past small tree to finish.

FA: C. Brown, P. Le Pelley & P. Howick, 1965

Start 4.5m to left of overhanging crack.

  1. 15m. Climb up water groove to tree belay.

  2. 12m. Over grass to base of crack. Belay in recess.

  3. 7m. Up crack to finish.

The slanting chimney itself. Climb chimney past chockstones to roof—traverse left on smooth slab to ledge.

FA: M. Harris, B. Forrester & S. Barruso, 1962

Start in crack at foot of wall. Climb straight up to platform for 10m. 3m right and straight up overhang to ledge with good flake belay. Move right and straight over final over-hang to finish. .

The easiest line over the cave at the far right hand end of the crags.

Perfect hands through a horizontal roof and into an overhanging stem slot – great, awkward movement and a satisfying grunt fest for any crack enthusiasts out there!

FA: Vadim Kuklov, 12 Apr 2017

There are various finishes to the traverse of Main Face all of which involve about 210m of climbing. Start along the grassy rake coming in from the right about two thirds of the way up Cobblestones. Cross the face to the large platform on Arthur’s Horror. About V.D. so far. There are now three finishes to the girdle [traverse]. Playtex is the first: Descend groove via tunnel to good stance below old eagle’s nest. Descend an easy crack to ledge. Swing round awkward corner to gain slabs at foot of large cave. Descend slightly along grassy ledge, then up awkward groove and over steep slabs until angle eases and progress can be made to left.

There are various finishes to the traverse of Main Face all of which involve about 210m of climbing. Start along the grassy rake coming in from the right about two thirds of the way up Cobblestones. Cross the face to the large platform on Arthur’s Horror. About V.D. so far. There are now three finishes to the girdle [traverse]. Flying Visit is the second: Up, and left along obvious traverse line across South End face to nettle trees and stance of Bandstand. Climb across corner and follow lip of overhang till wall steepens then finish above.

FA: M. Hill & P. Jones, 1971

There are various finishes to the traverse of Main Face all of which involve about 210m of climbing. Start along the grassy rake coming in from the right about two thirds of the way up Cobblestones. Cross the face to the large platform on Arthur’s Horror. About V.D. so far. There are now three finishes to the girdle [traverse]. Eagle's Nest Traverse is the third: Climb up to small recess and belay. Traverse across semi-detached flake on left and follow line of weakness across South End. Descend in crack to stance above eagle’s nest. Take wall above stance to finish.

FA: Arthur Firmin

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