By Andrew Kaiser-Tedesco, February 2015
We rose at 5am but the faulty connection on our car battery foiled our plans for a pre-dawn arrival. The slightest bump would rattle the battery terminals, causing our car to shut off spontaneously. We cursed the cheapness of our rental car owner, while Kyle jumped out a half dozen times to reconnect the battery before we finally made it to Rwot at day break.
We parked on the road just south-east of Rwot at dawn and walked the easy but brushy approach to a col between Rwot and a lesser peak to the south. Kyle worried a bit about the security of the car but there was no better parking than on the main road.
We started the Great Gully route from a tree to the left of the slab which is boarded by a left hand crack. Our presence was immediately greeted by the hoots and barks of a troop of Baboons who stood right on our route. Andrew was a bit intimidated, having just read a Baboon scientist’s memoirs which depicted male baboons as territorial and fearsome fighters. From a belay a safe distance behind, Kyle blithely reassured him that all would be well. The troop didn’t know what to make of such clumsy and slow attempts at climbing and soon drifted up the Great Gully towards the peak. We followed their trail of skat for most of our journey.
Three 50-60 meter pitches revealed the character of the climbing: bushy scrambling with occasional interesting face climbing out to the left. While the face climb provides good quality rock and some enjoyable climbing, often we were forced back to the foliage to find gear placements. Fighting through the branches was the most strenuous aspect of the climb.
On the 5th or 6th pitch, the climb funneled into a steep gully which proved to be the crux. Half way through there is a choice of taking a mossy crack to the left or continuing up a brushy chimney section. Both ways lead to a small seam, punctuated by grass and small saplings, which continues over a lip. Once a little ways over the lip, some 5.9 face moves will carry you back into the trees to the right where you can set up a bushy belay. Be careful not to climb the seam too far as it will eventually peter out into crumbling moss covered granite and insecure grass. Andrew made this mistake and was forced into a tenuous retreat.
From the bush belay, you can pack up the gear and start the scramble through the trees, leaving most of the gear at the most convenient abseil point you find. For us the scramble also marked the onset of dehydration and motivated us to bag the summit as soon as possible. However, the summit lies several hundred meters through thickets and brambles: not a pleasant finale to an already botanical climb. We followed the baboon paths where possible for the clearest line. After several false summits, the feeling of dehydration was becoming overwhelming and we decided that the summit wasn’t worth fighting through a forest so we turned around to start the abseil.
Abseiling through the trees was as tiresome as much of the climbing. In addition, Kyle’s tongue felt like giant piece of cotton wool and Andrew had to make an effort to concentrate on the abseil routine. We were both feeling irritable and a little judgment impaired. Six abseils later we attempted to make one long abseil from the tree at the top of Hurley’s Horror but Kyle was about 10 meters short (one rope was 50 meters) and he had to pendulum over to the right to find a suitable tree.
Attaining the ground, we put gear in packs and zombied back down the col, all the time thinking about kayaking in the cool and wet Nile. Throwing open the car, which had passed the day securely, we immediately set into the spare water, now the temperature of herbal tea. Happy to be slowly rehydrating, we didn’t mind that the car stubbornly refused to stay on and gladly accepted the help of a passing Matatu driver. He was incredulous at where we had been and seemed only partially convinced by our photo evidence. He told us “many people have failed on that mountain” and that “no one went up there except witch doctors in order to get their magic powers.” Disappointingly, we found no magic powers, just a lot of bush and baboon crap.