The Star (Nairobi)

Kenya Launches Mountain Ladder

Kenya Wildlife Service has unveiled the world's highest mountain climbing ladder at Mount Kenya. The Sh3.5 million ladder, professionally called a Via Ferrata, was launched by WS hairman David Mwiraria and reaches an altitude of 4,985 metres.

A Via Ferrata is a system of cables, ladders, bridges, spikes, and rungs permanently fixed to rock faces or steep terrain to help climbers maneuver. "Last year, we attended the colorful branding of Mt Kenya National Park with the slogan 'Come Touch the Sky.' We are here again on Africa's second highest mountain to launch an innovative tourism product which brings us closer to that promise," Mwiraria said.

KWS said the Mt Kenya via Ferrata, which was christened Olonana, had dethroned the previously world's highest one at Mt. Kinabalu in Malaysia, which is 3,800 metres above sea level. "The facility is the only of its kind in the region. It also builds on the honor bestowed to Mt. Kenya by UNESCO as World Heritage Site in 1987," KWS said in a statement on their website.

Mt Kinabalu's ferrata was certified by the Guinness Book of Records as the world's highest in 2007. It helps climbers experience a route that was accessible only to veteran rock climbers and mountaineers with specialized equipment. KWS said Kenya's ferrata was constructed at a tune of Sh3.5 million and was jointly funded by KWS, Mountain Education Group from the US and Rift Valley Adventures.

Warder in charge of Mount Kenya Simon Gitau said the ferrata was erected at Point Lenana, the third highest peak. "So it is accessible from all routes to the mountain," he told the Star. KWS said other ferratas will be built on other mountains like Mt Longonot and Mt Elgon. "Today's event is at the heart of an ongoing branding programme at Kenya Wildlife Service that began in year 2005," Mwriraria said.

KWS boss Julius Kipng'etich said the ladder will allow novice and professional climbers assent the peak. He urged local communities to take advantage of expected increase in climbers, who would need accommodation facilities. "In the next three years, road network will improve significantly in Mt. Kenya. Besides our innovative Via Ferrata, this will afford tourists a more scenic view of the park which will increase visitation and revenue generation," Kipng'etich said.

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