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No Picnic on Mt. Kenya: Batian Peak North Face Expedition

  • Mazama Mountaineering Center 527 SE 43rd Avenue Portland, OR 97202 USA (map)
 Batian Peak, North Face. Photo: Masa Sakano

Batian Peak, North Face. Photo: Masa Sakano

The Mount Kenya massif is the world's second highest monolith at 17,057', containing many spires and sub-peaks with sheer rock, awesome exposure, and other-worldly scenery. Because of the technical difficulty and its status as only the second-highest African summit, it sees a fraction of the ascents of Tanzania's Kilimanjaro. The first successful climb was completed in 1899, but perhaps most famously, in 1943 Italian P.O.W.s Felice Benuzzi, Giovanni Balletto, and Enzo Barsotti, obsessed with Mount Kenya's hypnotizing beauty, snuck out of their wartime internment camp to attempt to climb the West Ridge without any technical gear, food, or beta, and then sneak *back* into the camp, just for a chance to stand on it's summit. Benuzzi memorialized their fascinating story in the book, No Picnic on Mount Kenya. To commemorate the 75th anniversary of this inspiring attempt, as well as to document how the once common, now extremely rare snow and ice lines and equatorial glaciers of Mt. Kenya are receding at an exponential rate, Ally Imbody set out supported by a Mazamas Monty Smith Expedition Grant to climb to the true summit of Mt. Kenya's Batian Peak. Her two week expedition included a circumnavigation of the massif to climb the North Face Route, a traditional alpine line that includes approximately twenty-three pitches of simul-climbing up to East African Grade V (YDS 5.9). While not the highest, longest, or most technically difficult climb that Ally and her partner had successfully completed, the combination of these factors represented a significant progression of skills for them both.

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Ally Imbody is the Oregon Section Chair for the American Alpine Club and a volunteer leader with the Mazamas. The former chair of the Mazamas Conservation Committee and a passionate advocate for protecting mountain environments, she set a secondary objective for this expedition to help raise awareness of the impacts of climate change on this fragile alpine environment and local wildlife conservation. A weekend warrior with a demanding career in international development that has taken her to over 60 countries, Ally and her partner began climbing in the Mazamas Basic Climber Education Program in 2013 and have taken and instructed Mazamas Advanced Rock, Advanced Snow and Ice, and Canyoneering courses, and led Mazamas outings to Talkeetna, AK and Chamonix, France. She is also one of the original lead organizers of the Portland Alpine Festival, and is excited to step out from behind the scenes this year to share her climbing journey with her local community and inspire others to apply for expedition grants and begin planning trips beyond the Pacific Northwest that push both their climbing and cultural boundaries.

Earlier Event: November 14
Fast & Light Alpinism: Day 1
Later Event: November 15
Good Enough Anchors