By Andrew Kaiser-Tedesco, February 2015
After the suffer-fest of Rwot, we woke the next morning in a non-committal mood and made the most sensible decision in such circumstances: to have a scrumptious breakfast! Full bellied, we checked out and resolved to “at least taking a look”. It took about 45min down fairly good road before Amiel finally reared up along the sky line. From a far, the dome is already impressive. We passed several other small but steep granite faces, which may one day hold potential for sport climbing.
On parking under a large tree in Amiel village, we immediately drew a crowd of teenagers and children who offered to lead us to the route. A self-assured youth we named Chief Waragi (because of his branded t-shirt) became our guide and led us around a large funeral rite that was taking place in the center of the village. Though neither of us are attuned to rural Ugandan culture, it seemed like this rite marked the end of the grieving period, as the thumping music was already playing at 10AM and screens demarked a small area which, we can only imagine, allowed the village elders to showcase their more daring dance moves with some degree of privacy.
We had read from other posts, that the cliffs offered a hiding place for Amiel children during LRA raids. This meant that they knew their way up to Puff Adder Parlor very well and we soon found ourselves surrounded by 2 dozen children showing us the way. A small and easy down climb from Puff Adder Parlor led us to the base of a large chimney, where we could rope up in relative peace.
The chimney makes for good and well protected climbing, with several trees and chockstones to throw slings around. The right side of the chimney is preferred, offering cleaner climbing. The chimney system ends in about 35 meters. The 2nd pitch consists of bushy 5.0 boulders, topping out in a wide belay ledge. The 3rd pitch continues up a hand crack and then over a prow to another beautiful hand crack, offering 50 meters of the best climbing so far. Eventually this eases to a well featured pillar streaked by Marabou Stork droppings. Kyle discovered further indications of bird inhabitants when a vulture careened out of a crack just below his belay stance, giving him a fine shot of adrenaline.
The views from the fourth pitch revealed other granite domes, circling storks and Savannah until the horizon. Fantastic! Throughout, our upward progress was accompanied by raucous African pop and regular ululations from the aggrieved down in the village. The fourth pitch is a series of blocks that seem deceptively easy, but on closer inspection are slightly overhung, requiring some more technical 5.8 moves. Though slightly harder, making a straighter line over the blocks will avoid some weaving around trees.
Andrew completed a few technical moves through an overhanging slot and pulled onto the crest of a wide ledge. On his appearance, a dozen nesting Marabou storks let out ugly guttural protests and generally scared him half to death. Stick in hand, he picked his way past them to the far corner of the ledge, at which point the storks seemed to settle down and accept that he wasn’t a threat. Commonly thought to be despicable creatures when in the city, these birds improve little on closer inspection in their more traditional habitat. In short, they seem unnaturally comfortable shitting in their own nests.
We scrambled over some bushes and with some surprise realized that we had made the summit in only 4 pitches. We were pleased with our time. A series of abseils on trees led to a large threadable pillar, where we finally deployed our seat belt tat. (Lacking tat for abseils we struck upon the idea of cutting a seat belt out of an old car. A little research revealed that seat belts are rated to about 25KN). The final abseil starts at the very top of first pitch chimney on a piece of old tat, which is just reachable with a 30 meter abseil.
We were given a warm greeting by the gaggle of local children on our return. However further down in the village we came upon a local official of some description. After some standard greetings, he stood to his full height and began asking directed questions at our purpose, culminating in an accusation that we were “violating the constitution of Uganda for passing on this land”. Quick thinking diverted him towards admissions of his own capacity for hospitality and a reference to the invitation of our guide Chief Waragi, who was thankfully still in the group. His final attempt was to inquire for a precise account of our actions, at which point we produced the MCU route guide and explained that we this was a step-by-step account of our journey, which he could keep in his files. Projecting a little deflation, he settled on demanding that we tip our guide before departure, which we were happy to do.
In a procession towards the car, Andrew was accosted by a man named George who had been celebrating/mourning intensely all day. He was insistent he had an eligible daughter just at the other end of the village, who Kyle and I should come to meet. Andrew remarked on the inconsistency that “George” should insinuate we marry his daughter just after Hussein Emmanuel tried to scam us out of some cash. Kyle opined that, on the contrary, both requests were remarkably consistent, only Mr. Emmanuel was trying to let us off easy!
Only a moment after concluding that subject, Andrew nervously watched as a lady from the funeral rite whirling and ululating towards him intent on having a dance. Refusal was impossible and Andrew soon found himself spinning his new dance partner in a cloud of dust and fermented sorghum. The car proved to be no sanctuary and we were immediately set upon by “the parking guards” and the “sub-county official”, bearing an outdated calendar as witness to his officialdom. He predicated requests for cash on the thinnest of pretexts, while preventing the closure of the Kyle’s door. Kyle, sensibly resigning the battle over his door, elected to start rolling the car at a speed that showed determination without risking harm to the crowd now enveloping the car. A few last requests for money, car rides, and marriage and we were free, speeding south and reminiscing on the best rock climbing yet seen in Uganda.