Translations available

The New Ascentionists

A quest for cultural change and athletic acceptance in Kenya's budding sport of rock climbing. Until recently it was mostly an activity for foreigners and expats, but in the pristine crags and peaks of Kipwa, change is afoot. This story reveals both the schisms and sense of community that climbing can foster.

When I arrived in Kipwa, it was so hot I nearly threw up. It was February, in the middle of summer, just a stone’s throw from the equator, the heat so ferocious it steamed water in a Nalgene bottle, liquified cheese and chocolate, made me want to do nothing but lie down on a bouldering mat — anything other than go cragging. 

I had driven two hours northeast of Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, to this village tucked away at the base of Mavoloni Mountain. The dozens of people who live in manyattas (thatched huts) here enjoy incredible views of the mountain. It was the middle of the dry season, and the shrubs that cover the undulating peaks were parched and brittle, but beautiful nonetheless. 

Then I saw them.

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