Hike for Hope VI: Ethiopia
In the last week of November, 14 intrepid individuals, including Sir Marcus Setchell and myself, travelled to Addis Ababa and then on to Gondar to trek for 100 miles through the Simien Mountains and to climb Ethiopia’s highest peak in order to raise much needed funds for The Urology Foundation (TUF) and Wellbeing of Women (WoW).
On our first morning we were driven about 100km from Gondar to Debark, where the Simien Mountains National Park headquarters are located. After picking up the rest of our trekking crew, our armed national park scouts, food supplies and our camping equipment in Debark, we were transported beyond the Simien Mountain Lodge. We then trekked along the escarpment were we got our first, very spectacular views over the extraordinarily dramatic Simien Mountain range.
After overnight camping at Sankaber (3250m) we trekked to Geech, traversing along the escarpment before dropping down to get views of the spectacular Geech Abyss into which the Djinnbarr Waterfall drops spectacularly into the valley below. We then crossed the river and ascended through terraced farmland where glimpses of the whole Simien mountain chain came into view, before camping at Geech campsite (3600m) for the next two nights.
The following day we experienced one of the most spectacular parts of the trek along the escarpment to Imet Gogo, which stands at 3925m. The views on this day were truly spectacular and it also afforded us the opportunity to acclimatise for the higher altitude in the days ahead.
The next day we continued our trek through open grasslands and giant lobelias, along the edge of the escarpment to Chenek. Here we thought that we caught a brief glimpse of the elusive and endangered Simien Wolf, and definitely saw a leopard in the far distance. Chenek is one of the best areas to see the endemic Walia Ibex, a large mountain goat unique to Ethiopia, with distinctively patterned fore-legs and large, ridged horns. Groups of Gelada Baboons are also common around Chenek. This area is also famous for birds, especially raptors, in particular the large and powerful Lammergeyer (Bearded Vulture) that we saw in abundance.
On day eight we had a long and exhausting trek as we left for Ambiko at the foot of Ras Dashen. After a steep ascent to Bwahit Pass (4200m), beneath Bwahit Peak (4430m) – the second highest mountain on our route, we took rest in order to take in the incredible outlook across the valley below. From here we got our first sighting of Ras Dashen (4533m), the highest point in a wall of cliffs and peaks on the skyline at the far side of the valley. We then undertook a steep and long descent down to the village of Chiro Leba, before crossing the Meshehe River. A tiring day concluded with a final steep climb to the village of Ambiko.
On day nine we undertook our toughest day’s trek to Mt Ras Dashen. After a 3am start, using head-torches, we climbed to the highest point in Ethiopia – the summit of Ras Dashen at 4533m. We began our slow and steady climb through farmland and giant lobelia forests for about six hours, before a very steep scramble to the summit. On the summit we celebrated, absorbing the spectacular panorama stretching away towards Eritrea. From the top, with the help of our guides, we undertook the same tricky scramble down then continued descending for about 4-5 hours to camp overnight at Ambiko (3100m).
On our last day we trekked our final steps back across the river to Ambiko village to the end of our challenge. In Ambiko we visited a local school, handing out presents of pencils and writing paper to ecstatic children. After loading up, we were transferred back to Gondar. After a well-deserved shower and rest, we enjoyed our celebratory dinner, toasting our achievements and reflecting on our amazing experiences in this stunning part of the world.
The best news of all is that we succeeded to raise a sum of £145,000 to support the important work done by TUF and WoW. Who will join us on our very next exciting challenge: cycling coast to coast across Costa Rica: https://www.dream-challenges.com/challenges/the-urology-foundation-cycle-costa-rica/?
To watch the video of their adventure, please see below.