• Grade context: UK


Big cliff about 3h away from Nairobi that could be rediscovered. It has a West Face and a East Face (that starts at Sella Tower)



Soitpus is a fine cliff whose profile is a prominent feature to the we of the pipe-line track from Sultan Hamud to Loitokitok. The rock face loo. south towards Kilimanjaro and is over 500 ft. high at its highest point. There are two main groups of buttresses leading up to a western and an east summit. Between these summits is a col with a vague path leading down diagonally towards the west, which is the normal route of descent.

The crags are large and complicated and in the past great difficulty has been experienced in locating routes^ it is often possible to work things out from below, but from close up, especially under the western face, it is not easy to tell exactly where you are. A good landmark is the bead buttress, which looks like the bottom of a boat. The best photograph of the western face available is on display in the Club Library. It is one taken by Peter Campbell from the air land is thus not much use to people looking sharply upwards. The diagrams have, therefore, been drawn from slides taken from below and a little to the east (right) 5 that is from the normal approach route. The diagrams and some of the des­criptions were written some time later from memory. Some of the routes have not been repeated since 1961 and their exact line is not known. On the diagram they are shown by numbers at the top and bottom. The other routes have numbers and a dashed red line.

There is still plenty of scope for new routes and major variations. The plum, if the crest can be gained, is boat buttress. There is scope at two points where unsuccessful attempts have been made to the right of Daphne's Delight. To the west of the main crags is a smaller untouched buttress. To the east are some rather broken rocky areas. If you do a new route or repeat an old one, the description of which is unsatisfactory, please write a new description in the New Climbs Book in the Club House.


Access issues inherited from Around Nairobi

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Approachs The crag is on a hill called Soysamba, 5*679 ft. Drive to Suitan Hamud which is about 70 miles from Nairobi down the Mombasa road. Turn right and cross the railway and follow the pipeline road for about ten miles. The­ road passes over the side of a small hill where there is a watering point on the pipeline and several houses. Turn right here along a small but reason­ able track, (easy to find in the day but a little tricky after dark). This heads towards the main hill and just before the lower slopes it crosses a depression with black cotton soil before passing through a broken belt of trees. Here it swings right and leads to the wrong side of the hill. Leave the track and drive across country to the left, contouring round the base of the hill for two or three miles, and passing a Masai manyatta. Do not g high too.soon as there are rocks and gullys. Only when opposite the very large overhangs on the eastern buttress go almost straight up towards the crag. It is possible to get to camping places within a couple of hundred yards of the steep slope — beware of ticks!


Ethic inherited from Kenya

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History timeline chart

The crag was brought to the notice of club members by Don McCahnan who also first discovered the Kalama rocks. Early visits and climbs were described in Bulletins No. 42 and 43 in 1957* and in Bulletin No. 52 in 1961 Mike Adams, who had led the harder routes, produced a dia­ gram drawn from a slide and gave very brief descriptions of all the routes. Two of these older routes. Central Buttress X.S. and Vajolet Tower Route S. have not been repeated in recent years, the former because nobody has attempted it and the latter because it cannot be located, Robert Chambers wrote a better description of Sella Tower in the New Climbs Book and added a couple of routes. Colin Powell and Martin Harris spent several days getting nowhere attempting new routes, before repeating Daphne's Delight and Sella Tower. Martin wrote new long descriptions of these in 1967 when he and Ian Howell added three new routes on the eastern buttress. Ian returned in 1969 and added a route with Reg Pillinger.


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Grade Route

A route of very difficult standard was put up before 1961 at the western end of the west face. It is not certain if it is marked on the correct buttress as it has not been located. It may be near the lines of routes 2 and 3.

Start - 30 ft. right of a wooded gully with a large tree in it. 200 ft. up is a detached flake.

Start about 40 ft. or so left of the vegetated gully.

  1. 30 ft. Traverse left above overhang then up to a prominent grassy ledge with a small tree and a rock belay. (Same belay as Tick Fever).

  2. 100 ft. Up the centre of the wall above taking the overhang on the left end.

  3. 30 ft.Up the short wall above then left up an easy rib. Through the undergrowth and up an awkward corner onto thenext but­ tress to the left, tree belay on the right 20 ft. higher up.

  4. 60 ft. Up the steep vegetated grot to the foot of an easy face.

  5. 50 ft. Pleasantly up the face to a ledge.

  6. If one's second is willing to have his head stood on the under cut boulder leads to the top. Otherwise a horrid gully finishes the climb.

FA: Dick Metcalf & Dick James, 1966

Start 20 ft. to the left of the bottom of the vegetated gully left of boat buttress.

  1. 80 ft. Up the face pleasantly, generally leftwards to a prominent grassy ledge which is reached by traversing left. Small spindly tree-bush and good quartz knob belay. (Same belay as Celery).

  2. 80 ft. Up to the tree on the right below the small overhang.

  3. 50 ft. The overhang a few feet left of the tree gives a steep problem on good holds. Belay to a tree in the diagonal veg­etated gully above.

  4. 140 ft. (This pitch could be broken). A good pitch. Up from ' the gully on the left hand third of the face above. At 60 ft. (running belays) move airily right onto the nose and mantleshelf. 20 ft, higher easier climbing leads to a tree belay. Then scramble 100 ft. to the Bold Dome.

  5. 30 ft. Up to a flake belay.

  6. 30 ft. (Harder) Straight up above the flake.

FA: Robert Chambers & Colin G. Powell, 1966

Start on the left hand side of the buttress below the end of the roof where there are small detached flakes at the foot of the slabs.

  1. 120 ft. Climb diagonally right to a steep step on the slab, peg in place, then trend back left to a very small stance below the corner crack. «

  2. 40 ft. Climb the crack - crux. Go over the overhang with aid from a small nut. Belay on the platform (tree).

  3. 80 ft. Step up to the left to the foot of asteep flakewhich is climbed until it is possible to make an awkward move back right into the big chimney, which is followed more easily to a large stance with belays.

  4. 40 ft. Climb the crack in the slab on the left to tree belay below a roof.

  5. 70 ft. Step down and round to the right and across to a pleasant crack trending right which leads round to the gully on the right of the buttress.

  6. and 7- Climb the gully to the summit. A better direct finish may be possible.

An attempt was made at a route near the gully to the left of Central Buttress by Alan Owen and Miss C. Brown. There is a tremendous area of unclimbed rock here, but any routes would probably be of a very high standard.

FA: Ian Howell & R. Pillinger, 1969

Start - Middle of the West Face, a large buttress with a wide ledge 100 ft. up, a big fig tree stands at the right hand end of the ledge. Rising traverse left to nettle tree and on to the ledge. The second pitch, the crux, requires an unprotected run-out of 130 ft.

FA: Adams, R.A. Searle & W.M. Adams, 1961

The original description was two lines for five or six hundred ft. The description given is of the line followed by Martin Harris, Colin Powell and A.C. Crabb in 1967. It has had several subsequent ascents and is highly recommended. The route takes the main buttress on the left of the grassy way down in the centre of the cliff. It goes up approximately at the highest part of the cliff. This buttress has a huge sandy wall for the lower 200 ft. at its right hand end, with an enormous ledge with a rectangular overhang above it at the left. The route goes up to the ledge and traverses left across the top of part of the overhang to a tree filled crack leading up towards the top of the cliff. Start At lefthand end of the sandy wall is a large gully leading to the ledge. Start on wall just to right of the gully and left of a large tree.

  1. 110 ft. The righthand arete of the gully gives a sustained pitch, as hard as anything on the climb. First go up the edge to a smooth black slab overlooking the gully. Then move right and go up the wall to large flake holds. Over these to tree belays on ledge.

  2. Approx. 100 ft. Scramble rightwards through trees and bushes to a chimney. Chock belay.

  3. 50 ft. Climb right arete of chimney and enter cavern with large chockstone. Go behind this and chimney up to large tree belay.

  4. 100 ft. Do not continue up the easy grass behind, but step back down from tree and move left in a wide bridging position to reach a small tree growing out of the undercut left wall. Pull up into this tree and follow crack above it. Move leftwards along easy ledges, (now on top of large rectangular overhang). When holds give out a move across to a large bushy platform is made with the aid of a horizontal tree. Up vegetation to two large trees in gully. Second crux.

  5. 100 ft. Step up to lefthand arete of gully. Follow this on good holds to a ledge. Move leftwards and then up in superb position, exposed but with enormous jugs to trees at top. An awkward move is necessary to get over the top into the bushes. Up to better tree belay behind. (The gully could probably be climbed to the same place, but would not give such a good pitch). Easy scrambling for 200 ft. leads to a buttress on the right. A gully on the left could probably enable a scramble to gain the summit. But if you take the righthand branch traverse behind a huge flake to reach a good final pitch.

  6. 100 ft. From the top of the huge flake with the deep cleft behind it mount leftwards up a sloping slab to an arete. Go up the smooth arete which is adorned with hairy patches (lichen). Move left to crack (good nut runner on left) and up to the top. Not a pitch for boots.

FA: W.M. Adams & Miss D.I. Vandepeer., 1967

The R side of buttress climbed by Daphne's Delight. Start 35m R of Daphne's Delight and some 6m. R of a groove leading to a tree with grey roots 30m. above the ground. A thin start leads to good holds which are followed R-wards for 15m. Then a rising traverse L to a tree in a groove (35m.). Climb groove using roots for 10m., then traverse R along sloping ledge to a thin crack; climb this and walls above to tree (30m.). Traverse 6m. L and go up to tree at foot of steep crack; take this and at end step L to blocks, then L again round lichen arete, moving up to a wide diagonal crack rising L. Climb crack and sloping ledges above to terrace (35m.). Ignore a wide gully straight above terrace. Look to buttress on R of the gully. Ascend L arete of buttress for 6m. then traverse R to obvious ear-shaped flake. Now move up L then directly in middle of buttress to a tree (25m.). Behind the belay climb a chock-filled gully for about 15m. to its top at a ledge. A steep thin crack splits the wall on L; climb this with considerable difficulty for 15m. until good holds appear on a lichen bulge. Move up bulge L-wards to grassy terrace (35m.).

FA: Iain Allan & Mark Savage, 1976

This follows the large hush filled gully to the left of the way down and right of the highest point of the crag. The first ascent by Miss A. Horsfall and others followed the gully to about half way up and then broke out left. There may be scope for a good clean route here using this finish which appears to pass through very steep rock, and also a new start to the left of the gully. On the second ascent by R.A. Bennett and others the gully was followed to the top.

To the right of this gully is a very steep unclimbed buttress followed by another lower buttress, which is probably the one upon which Hollybush is situated. The description is taken from the New Climbs Book and so far as I know the route has not had a second ascent.

FA: A. Horsfall & others

Start - There is a large face (which did not feature in the Adams sketch) to the left of the col and above the lower part of the crag's easy way down. At the bottom of the face, to the left of the corner a small block (20 ft. to the right of a dead tree) leans against the face.

  1. 90 ft. Step off the block and climb up left. At 50 ft. traverse right and climb the edge. "Hollybush" belay.

  2. 100 ft. Up to a ledge. Belay to a bush on the right.

  3. 90 ft. From the left centre of the ledge ascend generally on the left to the two holly bushes.

  4. 80 ft. After an energetic move up between the bushes, go straight up to a stance.

  5. 50 ft. Diagonally left onto an easy ridge which leads to a tree.

FA: Robert Chambers & Colette Brown

Start by a tree at the foot of the right hand of the two buttresses divided by a fault. to left of long overhung flake where 20 ft. up a large ledge, with tree roots spreading upwards, leads to an overhang.

  1. 20 ft. Scramble up to the ledge.

  2. 150 ft. Up past tree to below overhang. Traverse right on small holds and up overlapping slabs past a small bush. An awkward mantle- shelf leads leftwards onto the main wall. Continue up to large ledges but no good belays. Traverse leftwards to huge detached flake on arete. Go up onto this, then on straight up above on easier rock. A peg belay was used when the rope ran out.

  3. 50 ft. Scramble up arete through bushes to large block.

  4. 40 ft. Stand on block and gain wall behind by a difficut move. Step up and right on good small holds to the crack at the left hand side of the very big square overhang (the one visible from below). Go up to tree belay on right. Crux.

  5. 100 ft. Straight up above tree steeply to slabs. Traverse left across slabs to corner with small tree. Up this and the following arete to large ledge on left. Up short wall behind to trees.

  6. 30 ft. Scramble up to chimney on right with large chockstone which leads to top.

FA: W.M. Adams & Miss D.I. Vandepeer, 1961

The main tower in the middle of the face. Start - At the right of a narrow gully a steep lichen wall. Up wall and left to gully chimney and on to platform. Route continues through a sentry box high up on the corner of the tower to right above. The sentry box is visible from camp site and identifies the buttress. Prom the description by Adams in 1961, the route has not been found. Prom Adams diagram it appeared to be the right hand of the three towers, but when Martin Harris and Ian Howell climbed this in 196? they could not follow the above description and they found the route V.S. (Route ll). I therefore suggest that it may be the central and more broken of the three towers.

FA: W.M. Adams & Miss D.I. Vandepeer

Bold, exposed and excellent rock. The tower-like crag directly to the left of the main crag has an approach ramp of scrambling that goes from left to right. The climb starts about two thirds of the way up this and keeps more or less to the very edge of the tower. Start - Go up the ramp to a point where there is a weakness leading up the steep wg.ll on the left. This weakness can be easily identified by a root coming down the face which looks exactly like a handrail.

  1. 130 ft. Go up this weakness keeping left and beneath the clumps of vegetation. Once passed the vegetation ascend more easily straight up for some way until just beneath the steep part of the tower, where a tree by your feet offers a belay.

  2. 80 ft. Step right round the corner into a broken groove which leads up into a 'V' shaped corner capped by a triangular roof. Ascend to the roof. Some doubtful blocks and flakes need careful handling. At the roof step left onto the arete on good jugs, up the arete to a slab which leads to a large ledge which cuts the right hand side of the tower. Belay.

  3. 120 ft. Ascend the arete a few feet by mantleshelf, (or the crack a few feet to the right by jamming), to a point where one is stopped by the overhanging wall. Reach over the top of the over­ hanging wall for jugs, (a peg was used for aid here), and swing over onto the arete. Continue to the top keeping as near to the left edge as possible.

FA: M. Harris & Ian Howell, 1967

Between the three towers and the main buttress of the east face is a large gully. This is almost certainly the one described in 1957. (Adams suggested an alternative position between the Sella and Vajolet Towers), Two pitches of moderate standard up the face, followed by fairly strenuous chimney work and a scramble up the top half of the gully lead to the grasslands of the summit. After a recent ascent a party claimed that it was better than it looked.

This route only leads a part of the way up the crag and above the chimney ascent climbing looks impossible. It can, however, be used as a start to Route 12. There are a number of possible starts, hone easy and some loose, leading towards the foot of the obvious curving chimney which leads to a platform. Descend at the back into the gully, (Route 12).

FA: Alan Owen & others

Splitting the right hand end of the enormous arched roof is a wide vegetated chimney. Two lines of weakness lead up to the chimney and the route takes the right hand of these. Start below a tree about 40 ft. up.

  1. 50 ft. Climb up for 25 ft. then move right until one can again move up reaching the tree.

  2. 65 ft. From the tree move left along ledges to below another tree. Ascend to the tree. Step left for 15 ft. to a thin crack leading upwards to an awkward ledge. The crack widens but bulges and an awkward move enables a good jam to be reached from which holds lead to a good ledge and belay, (l peg used).

  3. 40 ft. Continue in the crack line over a bulge that is easier than it appears and on by a tree to a good ledge,

  4. 130 ft. Continue up vegetated gully to the top. Prom this point one can either descend to. the right (down gully between the main buttress and Short Pinnacle), or continue to the top of the hill involving 300 ft. of easier climbing.

FA: M. Harris & Ian Howell, 1967

Beyond the main face of the east buttress and separated from it by a vegetation filled gully is a prominent pinnacle called Short Pinnacle.

Start up the right hand side of the gully and head more or less straight to the top.

FA: Anne Horsfall, Don McCalman, Alan Owen D. Vandepeer., Alan Owen, D. Vandepeer. & D. Vandepeer, 1957

The climb goes out from the gully between the main crag and the onto the arete and continues up the face just right of the arete.

Start in the vegetated gully about 40 ft. below an obvious tree on the face.

  1. 65 ft. Push past vegetation onto the arete. Climb the arete on good holds until faced with an impossible overhang. Swing out right and climb a narrow vertical crack (strenuous) until a horizontal traverse can be made to the tree. Belay, (peg in place?).

  2. 85 ft. Climb the face directly above the tree on small holds. Still on the face mount' an overhang and continue until a horizontal traverse can be made to the right on good holds on a slab. Go round the corner and directly up steep rock, good holds to the top.

FA: Ian Howell & T. Gallon, 1967

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