The dawn was breaking and the strong Sudanese sun would soon be heating up the rock around us. The streets were starting to wake up. Small coffee stalls were lighting their fires and donkey carts were heading off to start their day of work. We picked our way through the vast fields of granite boulders. The occasional grunts of alarm from sleepy baboons that later in the day patrol the granite domes of Jebel Taka would sound from in amongst the boulders. Vultures could be seen soaring on thermals high above as the sun’s rays began to warm the reaching cliffs. So much unclimbed rock, so little time.
The following notes were taken from a research trip I did in 2013. Some of the costs are from my 2015 climbing trip. Some of these will now be out of doubt but these notes will give you a god place to start from if organizing your own trip. In return all I ask is that you let me know how you got on and send any new route info to me so that the next person can enjoy your routes as well as mine.
I have produced a KML file that includes locations of boulders and other points of interest. Please email me if you would like this file. Enjoy...
There are seven large main granite domes in the Jebel Taka massive. The interconnecting slopes are littered with seemingly countless boulders of various sizes, angles and quality. The rock on the domes is a desert exfoliating granite. In areas this can be very lessened you will need to do your best to avoid the worst of it. There are corners and crack systems that cut through the domes providing natural lines to aim for. These are often discontinuous to the summit and may require bold face climbing to complete. But there are a few lines to attempt, varying in length from a couple of pitches to several hundred meters high. When choosing your line to climb on you will have to pay close attention to the small white dots that the climb may go past. These on closer inspection are A) not that small and B) are nest belonging to vultures. These are not the types of birds that, on your approach, squawk and fly off. No, these are very impressive birds that might decide to attack you with their razor sharp beak and talons. The climber will need to have a back up plan if the foe is too large to pass.
The Google Earth image below shows points of interest in Khartoum.
Transport in Khartoum - Taxi from the airport will cost between 40 - 100SDG. There is some room for haggling, but obviously the drivers know your options are limited. It is possible to walk out of the airport (5 mins) and catch a taxi from the amin road, which will be cheaper. Otherwise in Khartoum microbus and tuk-tuks cost 20-40SDG per trip. One taxi driver I used is called Jusef (0121451736). Note that it is hard to get a taxi outside of the Bourgainvilla Guest House to the bus station (Especially in the morning). Taxi from the hotel costs 100SDG(2015 price) this compares with a taxi from the street costing 50-60SDG.
Accommodation - In 2015 I stayed at the Bourgainvilla guesthouse. It cost 35USD for a small single room. 45USD for single occupancy of a twin room. 63USD for a double occupancy twin room. All these rooms have no bathroom , but the cost does include breakfast. This is probably the best mid range hotel in town. The hotel is relatively hard to find. Click here to see a PDF showing instructions how to find it.
Money - The exchange rate (2013) is 7.8SDG to the USD. This was a rate I got from a money changer at a downtown hotel in Khartoum. The rate at the airport's official moneychanger ( on your right just before exiting the airport) was 5.9SDG to the USD. The official bank rate in 2013 was 4.4SDG. But obviously it is common practice to change with unofficial moneychangers as they give significantly better rates. There are ATMs in Sudan, but due to sanctions they do not accept Vias or MasterCard. The best option is to bring USD in cash. Make sure these notes are post 2013, in large denominations (50USD and 100USD) and are in new pristine condition.
Registration - Everyone arriving to Sudan must register within 3 days. I did our registration at the airport (next to the departures hall, on the right there is a small door without any signs on it). It was a fairly straightforward process of filling in a form (per person), pushing through to the desk and handing it in with a corresponding passport. I did not need passport photos or copies of passport/visa, but sometimes you are asked so it is better to be prepared. The cost of the registration was 215SDG pp. In 2015 I paid 380SDG pp, but the recipe showed 308SDG per person. Once paid you will need to wait at least an hour to get the passports back complete with registration sticker. This office is said to be open 24hours a day.
Travel & Photography permits - The Ministry of Tourism office is on Mishtal Street in Riyadh district. It is open 08:00 - 16:00. You need to take a copy of visa and passport, 1 passport photo and 1 completed form. This does not cost anything. Once completed it is recommended to get 5 colour copies of each travel permit, as sometimes you need to give these at police check points. Outside of the Khartoum bus station (see below) I have never been asked for my travel permit. There is conflicting info circulating re needing a photo passport. But the process only takes 5 mins and all you need to do is fill in a form, name the places where you are going and the camera you will use. The papers then get stamped and its easy and free so well worth doing.
Transport to Kassala - The bus costs 115SDG (2013) per person. The bus station where this bus departs is in the south of the city (ref Google Image above) and is called Mina Al Berri Bus Station. This is near the Sahafa cemetery and is at the southern end of Sahafa Sharg Street. A microbus there costs 25-30SDG from Khartoum 2. There are 2-3 early morning busses all departing at around 06:00. So it may be possible to arrive there at 05:30 and just get a ticket. But I booked mine in advance to get good seats and avoid the morning touts. (By the way this bus station was the only place in Sudan that I found touts. The bus journey takes 7.5 hours. The bus stops only once for food/drink/toilet so take your own water and food. The process to get on this bus is seen below:
1 - Go to the bus station and purchase a bus ticket. I booked mine 1 day ahead of travel. (ref Google Earth image below)
2 - On the day of departure, 1 hour before departure go back to the office where you purchased the ticket. They will give you the reg number of the bus.
3 - Go and buy a token from kiosk on edge of bus station. 1.5SDG per person.
4 - Use token to get through turnstile into the bus station.
5 - Go to the desk of the bus provider and find out where the bus is.
6 - Load bags onto bus. Expect to pay 50SDG per person for baggage.
7 - Then go to the police station and give copy of travel permit. They will then sign your bus ticket.
Get back on bus and depart.
Internet - There was slow WIFi available at the YHA and Bourgainvilla Guest House. There are also many other western style cafe's where WiFi can be found.
The Google Earth image below shows the general area of Kassala.
The Google earth Image below shows Kassala town centre in more detail:
Transportation - The main bus station is to the west of the city centre (Ref Google Earth image above). It is a 15 minute drive to the city centre, which cost me (2013) 15SDG. The shared minibus from Kassala to the climbing area costs 1.20SDG per person. Reg google Earth Image above to know where the best place is to flag down the busses that lead to the climbing area.
Accommodation - In 2013 and 2001 I stayed in the Toteel hotel, which a few minute walk from the centre of town. It is run by a nice family and the rooms are clean. Twin room with bathroom and fan cost 50SDG per night. Another option is to stay at the Hipton (Not a spelling mistake) Hotel. I stayed there in 2015. It is very close to the Toteel Hotel. Here the rooms are bigger, have Tv's, bathrooms and western style toilets. There is also a roof top terrace and kitchen that can be used. Double/twin room cost 150SDG (possible to get 130SDG/per room. The hotel owner is called Farou +249 (0)912636070 or +249 (0)411822357.
Eating & drinking - The falafel sandwiches (1SDG) are delicious and sold from small stands on many street corners. In general breakfast is the main meal for Sudanese so meat and beans are available from early in the day. For dinner the chicken restaurants are a great option. Fruit juice stands around the bus station give a great ice cold refreshing drink after a long day climbing in the sun. Lunch in general costs 12SDG per person and dinner costs 30SDG per person. A trip to Sudan would not be complete without drinking their incredible coffee. Coffee costs about 20SDG per pot.
Internet - There is no WiFi in the hotels in Kassala, but there is an internet cafe in town with a surprisingly fast connection. It is on the first floor of a building on the southern side of the bus station. (Ref Google Earth Image above).
Contact details (2015) -
Local time (East African EAT) is +3 hours from GMT
Sudan country code - +249
Khartoum area code - 183
Kassala area code - 41
Emergency services - 999
British Embassy - Off Sharia Al Baladia, Khartoum East. 24hr helpline +249156775500 Email email@example.com
Royal Care Int Hospital. - Burri Aldraisa, Abualgasim Hashim Road, Khartoum. Phone - +249156550150 Fax - +249156550155
Al Faisal Specialist Hospital (Khartoum Teaching Hospital) Isbitalia St, Khartoum 11111. Phone +249183789555
Kassala Teaching Hospital - +249411828282 or +249999203023
Bougainville Guest House - 339 Alryad Block 21 Adbala Altyeb St. Khartoum. Phone +249183222104, Mobile - +249922615445, Mobile - +249912342331. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
The first recorded climbs in the area were in 1941 by R. A. Hodgkin and friends during their time stationed in Kassala. Later on in 1983 Tony Howard and Di Taylor recorded some further ascents (no information available). Then a small French team ventured there before I led a team of climbers there in 2001. Click here to see what routes we climbed. Then 2008 and 2010 Hot Rock climbed there (No information available). I then returned with a team of climbers i 2015 and established 70+ boulder problems. Click here to see a top of these boulder problems. The Google Earth Images show the location of these boulder problems. The Waypoints (WPXX) within the images are referenced in the topo.
Warning - There are trees in the Kassala area that can cause a contact dermatitis rash similar to that of poison ivy (images below). I remember one of these trees at the base of boulder problem 36. If you come into contact with this tree whilst climbing then wash it immediately with soap and water and then treat any rash with Hydrocortisone cream 2.5%.