An enjoyable introduction to 'high' altitude trekking! My guide was good company but I have to point out the following:
Although a 'trekking' route, my guide should have been better equipped. He was wearing jeans and trainers for the summit day, and carried no first aid kit or waterproofs. This included passing over snow slopes where a serious fall hazard existed.
It's very well that this kind of unofficial 'guiding' for the popular Point Lenana assists the local economy, and 99% of trips are a safe success. Hikers should however be aware of the limitations of such guides and not expect the level of competency of a European guide (for example).
Enjoyable climbing on Nelion - the De Graaf's variation pitch is superb. Technically the route is not difficult, and the main challenge is to move fast on the easy terrain.
We spent the night in the Howell Hut bivi on the summit and attempted to cross the Gates of Mist to Batian in the morning. Unfortunately we were turned back half way by strong and freezing cold winds, that made ice blocks of our hands and feet. :-( Should have taken advantage of the good weather window the previous afternoon. Ce la vie....
"Summitted Nelion via the Ice Window, South Face. A great experience to be able to ice climb near the equator. A true mountain epic, in a harder than thought approach, a superb line taking 16hrs 16 pitches through sunshine and blizzards (Note:Our feelings too is that DC will not be in condition again up by the headwall, also we did not find any ice cave on the IW route). But my thanks to Mr Howell for the hut he built, being able to wake up on top was a superb memory. To add to our 'joys' the abseil took us the wrong way resulting in us climbing Pt Lenana the next evening to finally get to the Austrian hut. Still pondering whether the taxi to Nairobi or the climb was the more dangerous :) A great quest to achieve. "
Andy Humphrey and Dave Locker
25 ropelengths, rated as a V inf, with the keyclimb on Firmin's tower with two ropelengths of 5 sup. According to the book the climb requires 10 hours, which most people really seem to need. Add an hour to reach the base of the climb and descent time and you will see that you are never going to do this in daylight (12 hours all year round). Planning a bivouac might be a good plan when not climbing with an expierienced guide.
Besides the difficult technical climb on Firmin's tower, Shiptons step, consisting of very loose rocks which have to be traversed horizontally and then downward, also posed quite a problem closely to the summit. Going down is quite easy, because you can use a lot of abseils.
We left the Austrian hut 6:30 am, and reached the summit of Nelion 1:30 pm (bad acclimatisation). Because of the regular afternoon snowstorm we stayed in the bivouac hut on the summit of Nelion. Started for the summit of Batian 8:00 am the next morning. After summitting Batian, climbed back to Nelion and rappelled back down (the last part in the afternoon snowstorm)
Some of the best high altitude climbing in the world!